Monday, August 03, 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade Procedure and Free Documentation Log

Today's topic is "How to make sure you don't lose a bunch of money on Windows 10 updates." Really, it's a great example of using processes to make your business more efficient and profitable. And it demonstrates how new processes evolve from your existing standard operating procedures.

Note: This post includes a free download for documenting your Windows 10 Upgrade experiences. It also includes links to download the W10 bits and troubleshooting tips for the most common issues - so far.

A Few Policies

Policy: We will not upgrade any machine that is not Windows 7 or Windows 8.x.

Policy: We will not upgrade any machine that is older than 36 months.

Policy: We will recommend that all clients with Windows 8.x upgrade those machines first to determine whether they like the W10 interface better.

Policy: We will recommend that clients only upgrade Windows 7 machines if they have a reason to do so.

Policy: All version upgrades to operating systems are billable as an "Add/Move/Change" item.

Policy: We will create one service ticket for each machine to be upgraded.

I am happy to debate these policies endlessly, but these are immovable policies for any upgrade. It needs to be billable. It needs to be common sense. And, as the Bible says, no one pours new wine into old wine skins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wine skins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wine skins.

Moving from Unknown to Known

With any new operating system, you literally have no idea how long it will take to upgrade. You also don't know if this will vary based on RAM, processor speed, etc. You don't know what snafu will arise that you need to be aware of for other clients.

I'm going to give you some information and tips that should move some info into the "known" category. But you really need to do your own documentation so you set you set your own benchmarks.

Remember: you can't create accurate estimates until you have SOME idea how long this will take and what the possible pitfalls are.

My Best Guess: My first two installations were 80 minutes and 90 minutes. One was trouble free afterward. The other has an activation issue and I spent an hour researching that. In all that I developed the documentation process outlined here. If I were to give a client a guess, I would guess 1.5 to 2.0 hours per machine and inform them that there may be troubleshooting after that.

My third upgrade was the newest, fastest, beefiest machine of all. It took almost exactly 120 minutes. And when it was done, the second monitor (HDMI) wasn't detected. Turns out there's no drivers for the newest machine. So now I think I'll tell clients two hours for install, plus possibility of troubleshooting.

Known Issue: Activation Doesn't Always Work

I've already seen references to this online. There are various reasons for this. One is DNS. Another is that the license key has to be a specific kind of OEM key in order for the activation to succeed (see Machine Two notes, below).

The process seems simple until your product key doesn't work. Not the one on your box. Not the one on the OEM sticker. Yikes. For this issue, I HIGHLY recommend that you use Belarc Advisor or you RMM tool to grep the Product Key from inside the registry. Print it out and use that one when it's time to activate. But, again, see notes for Machine Two.

[ Editorial Update: ]

[ Early activations are overwhelming the servers. There is no valid key you can enter into the activation process other than a Windows 10 Product Key. If you are upgrading from Windows 7 or 8, you won't have such a key. The promise is that a legal, activated Windows 7 or 8 machine will eventually be activated in a few days. This was the case with both of the problem machines I had.

See the link with explanation in the comments below. ]

Known Issue: Driver Updates

One of the major reasons that old computers should not be upgraded is that there may not be drivers for the old hardware. More and more Microsoft is getting better with this. But it's not always Microsoft's place to create drivers or mini-drivers.

And even with newer machines, the way hardware interacts with the O.S. may be different than it was in previous generations. Graphics cards are particularly picky. Luckily, almost anything will "work" nowadays. But you may not have the resolution or the ability to get that second monitor. So be sure to have the driver web sites ready.

Of course, you can always do the research to see whether driver updates are available for all the components on your computer, but that can take forever. One option is to image the machine (because there's no rollback) before you do the update. But you need to tell the client it might be a four-hour round trip and you'll be back where you started.

Even then, you HAVE to charge for this. Don't start giving away labor. Inform the client and let them choose. Then collect what's fair. None of this is maintenance. It's an upgrade. So it's billable.

Document Your Upgrades

I have prepared a three-page documentation form you can download for free. Go to the "Free Stuff" page at SMB Books.  

Please note that "free" orders have to be pushed manually through our system. There's a lot of free stuff there, so feel free to grab it all. But please be patient until someone can process your order. Thanks.

This form is a combination of other forms we use. One is the Machine Spec Sheet, where we gather all the  basic machine info. The other is our TSR Log (troubleshooting and repair log). As you can see, once you have the documentation process in place, it's easy to combine these and create a new document that does exactly what you need.

Notice that there's some very important information on page one of this form. Of course it has the client, the technician, and the service ticket number. But it also has a place to put the existing Product Key, the local admin password in case you need it, the speed of the machine, and more.

Fill out all this information. It will be a way to stop yourself from jumping right in. Belarc will give you all of this information. Your RMM tool may give you some or all of it. Choosing Properties about "My Computer" will give you most of it.  Make sure you have it!

The form gives tips about good processes and documentation. It should be clear enough for you to give to an entry level technician. In return, they can document the entire installation process.

There are two primary benefits of documenting every upgrade this way, especially early in the release cycle when we don't know what other gotchas will arise. First, you will be able to document how long the installation process actually takes your technicians, working with your clients' machines.

I can give you my estimates, but three machines is not a valid sample of anything outside my office.

Second, if something DOES go wrong, you will know exactly where it went wrong and where you were in the process. If you have to call tech support from Microsoft, Dell, HP, or someone else, you can tell them everything.

And of course, if something goes wrong, you can simply use the log sheet to keep track of every single thing you did to fix the issue. In that way, if you have the same problem again, you will have begun the documentation of how to fix it!

Nitty Gritty Bits (and Bytes)

OK. So let's look at the technical side.

Machine One is an Asus Vivo VM40B. Intel Celeron 1007u @ 1.5 GHz with 4 GB RAM. 64 Bit. Connected to a domain. Install time to successful logon: one hour, twenty minutes.

I love this awesome little machine. It could be half as high if it had an SSD drive. I bought it at the low end because it's just for testing things out and playing music, plus converting LPs to MP3s.

This machine has been my Windows 10 Preview machine and performed well, except for one update that nuked the start menu. Anyway, I used one of my Microsoft Action Pack licenses to install the release version of Windows 10.

I copied the ISO image to the local C:\!Tech directory and simply ran it from there. Because W10 Preview reads ISO as file folders, it worked perfectly.

TIP: When asked to check and see if there's a newer set of setup files, do not say yes. Maybe someday. Today, you'll just waste about three minutes and there's nothing new.

The setup occasionally goes to a totally black screen for long periods of time. Be patient. Notice the hard drive light almost solid on.

The operating system would not activate after setup was finished. The version was Windows 10 Enterprise, so I had to manually enter the Multiple Activation Key instead of a product key. It did not recognize the MAK as a product key.

Instructions for this are in KB 929826. Basically, you run Command Prompt with Admin privileges and enter the command
     slmgr -ipk 12345-ABCDE-67890-FGHIJ-12345
     (replace 12345... with your MAK)

Machine Two was a Compaq 6000 Pro SFF. Intel Core 2 E8500 @ 3.16 GHz with 6 GB RAM. 64 bit Windows 7 Pro SP1. Connected to a domain. Install time to successful logon: one hour, thirty minutes.

This is an OEM machine with an OEM sticker that has not been upgraded from another operating system. The product key is correct on the sticker and in the registry. Since I should be eligible for the free upgrade, I didn't want to use one of my Action Pack licenses.

BUT . . . and here's where you have to make sure you don't get confused . . . the free upgrade widget that everyone talks about is NOT an installation pack or an upgrade. It is simply a download engine for the new O.S. And even though a lot of messaging from Microsoft suggests that you could turn the download option on, the Windows 10 troubleshooter ( says you cannot run the "Get Windows 10" app on a domain.

So then you have to go find the install bits for the free upgrade. I did that at, although you can also go straight to for the media creation tool for x64 edition. The media creation tool will ask whether you want to stick that on an ISO or USB. I chose ISO.

Interestingly, when I ran an Office 2013 application on this machine the first time, it started an Office 2013 configuration program that ran for awhile. I'm not sure what it did.

This is the machine where activation failed. I need to call Microsoft, BUT their troubleshooting screens are incorrect. I am not given an option to go to the store and I am not given an option to phone in for activation. So that's going to be a bit of trouble. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Machine Three is an HP Envy 15 Notebook. Intel i7-4700MQ @ 2.4 GHz with 12 GB RAM. 64 bit Windows 7 Pro SP1. Connected to a domain. Install time to successful logon: two hours.

This is another OEM machine. A workhorse laptop.

Install was uneventful. I am curious why the fastest, newest machine of the three, with the most RAM also took the longest.

One clue is that the video drivers for the HDMI slot did not install properly. Have to call HP about that. Site has no driver updates.

Also will not activate. Interestingly enough, the Product key on the OEM sticker is different from the product key reported by Belarc. Neither one will activate. Again, I'm sure MS has a way to deal with this. Just a pain for me.

So . . . bookmark those links. Download the bits. Download the free documentation log. And GO SLOW. Right now it looks like you'll run into someone troubleshooting with activation and drivers.

Commit to making this a very profitable adventure. It's not your fault that Microsoft is pushing out a new product, promising a beautiful free experience, and then having issues. You do not work for Microsoft. You don't have to take a financial hit.

Good luck - and post your experiences below!

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You may not implement everything exactly as I lay it out, but I discuss the issues and why you might create one policy or another. Then I propose some policies you can take and mold to fit your company.

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Sorry, Clash. You posted "Download New Windows 10 Keygen/Crack Free Working Here" many times. I can't click on a link like that and don't want others to either. If you have some discussion of it or want to point to another source describing that, I'd be happy to have that.

    - karlp

  3. my quickest computer to upgrade so far, an HP 7" Stream, atom processor with 1gig ram, about an hour.
    my longest, an i7 Acer laptop, 6 gigs ram, standard Hard Drive, started at 9am, when we left at 4pm it was at 20%. Fully upgraded after the weekend.

  4. I took a back up image of my Thinkpad T430, which is my daily workhorse loaded with W8.1 Pro and restored it to a test box. Then, I ran the W10 update from an thumb drive. The update ran perfectly so I RDPd into the test box for 24 hours with no problems. I could use the new interface but I still installed Classic Shell to get rid of the Microsoft attempt at a Start Menu.

    Next, I tried to update the T430 from an ISO file on a second drive within the T430 and the update stopped pretty quickly with an unknown failure. The update ran fine from the thumb drive.

    Raxco PerfectDisk cannot run on W10 and cannot be uninstalled. There is no Pro version available yet for W10. My Brother laser and Canon inkjet work OK. I have tried to use Microsoft Edge but it just isn't as usable as Chrome.

  5. Thanks, Gjeret and Charles. I'm finding that Edge just stops responding on some web sites. I like the option to switch to Explorer, but I think I'll stick with Chrome - except for the web sites that don't behave well with Chrome. Like my payroll service.

  6. Here is a super helpful update on the activation issue:

    Basically, the only legitimate activation key is a Windows 10 Activation key. Your old Windows 7 and 8 keys won't work - ever - because they're not W10. He says the servers are overwhelmed right now (of course). If you upgraded from a legitimate and activated Windows 7 or 8 platform, your machine will eventually automatically update.

    Lots of details. I recommend reading the post.

  7. So far I have only done Lenovo B50-45 15.6" Notebook - AMD E1-6010 1.35GHz, 4GB DDR3L, 320GB HDD, 15.6" HD Display.
    Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E555 Notebook PC - AMD Dual-Core A6-7000 2.20GHz, 4GB DDR3L Memory, 500GB HDD, DVDRW, 15.6" Display So far it has only taken 45 minutes. HP 280 G1 Desktop PC - Intel Core i5-4590S 3.00GHz, 4GB DDR3 Memory, 500GB HDD, DVDRW took about 70 minutes. So far so good I have had no issues. thanks for Sharing Karl.

  8. Karl the free document is great - thanks!

    I have upgraded several systems, with the fastest update being a Toshiba tablet running an Atom processor with 1GB of RAM - go figure. Prior to upgrading I would have a couple recommendations:

    1) If you want to upgrade, do it on a personal or test machine first, not a production one. Get used to W10 and where things are located and how the OS works before upgrading a production environment system.

    2) Make sure your AV product is compatible with Windows 10 - some are not playing nice in the sandbox. Contact your AV manufacturer and find out if they are recommending upgrading to W10 yet. If they say it is fine to upgrade then I would uninstall their product first, perform the upgrade, run Windows Updates, then reinstall your AV.

    3) If you have software that you use daily (or occasionally but need it) make sure it is compatible with W10. Contact the manufacturer to ensure compatibility.

    4) Make an image based backup of your system before attempting the update to W10. Better safe than sorry!

    5) Although I have not had issues with upgrading, I have read that upgrading from Windows Updates is causing the dreaded BSOD in some cases. I would recommend downloading the W10 ISO and running the upgrade from the download. The ISO can be found here:

    I really like W10, but am recommending to my clients that they hold off on upgrading until Microsoft has released several updates that produces an even more stable environment than is available now. Probably September or October.

  9. Thanks for the info, Juliette and Tom.

    I knew things would get clearer as more installs happen. The weekend's big update for W10 caused a few problems for people. But overall, I think most people are having a smooth experience.

    Good advice all around, Tom.


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