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 (http://aka.ms/diag_gw10app
) 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 http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10
, although you can also go straight to http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=616936
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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