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Within the past few years, Microsoft launched a variety of Windows 10 tools and features that help IT administrators easily manage desktop deployments and troubleshoot applications.
From Windows Autopilot or Admin Center to Sandbox, these Windows 10 management tools each offer their own unique capabilities, such as automation and testing and assessing applications. Here's what IT administrators need to know about these tools and their key features when trying to simplify Windows 10 management.
It takes a lot of time for admins to set up a virtual machine that tests an unknown executable file. Windows Sandbox is embedded into Windows 10, so it eliminates the need to set up a virtual machine. This Windows 10 management tool creates a temporary desktop environment within the operating system for IT administrators to isolate any actions in that sandbox.
Microsoft launched the Windows Sandbox feature in the May 2019 Windows 10 update for Enterprise and Professional users. The feature is based off of Windows Containers and uses Microsoft's hypervisor to isolate Windows Sandbox from the host operating system. The sandbox environment wipes out once the developer or admin is done using it. Then, it resets with a clean installation of Windows when the admin opens it again.
Windows Sandbox eliminates the need for a virtual hard disk. Admins only need to enable the host machine's I/O system to run Windows Sandbox. The feature is also lightweight and can compress down to 25 MB while consuming no more than 100 MB of the host machine's memory.
Windows 10 admins know that creating and maintaining a deployment image is a long and arduous task. Even with tools such as Windows Deployment Workbench, IT administrators must manually set up these deployment images, which is especially difficult when they need to deploy a large number of machines.
Windows Autopilot reduces this pressure by automating the Windows 10 provisioning process through zero-touch enrollment. The service reduces the time and total cost IT would spend on deployment and lifecycle management. Organizations can purchase Windows devices that meet hardware and software requirements through Autopilot so they're enterprise-ready when shipped. Since Windows Autopilot launched in April 2018, Microsoft added partner support for devices from Dell, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba.
Once the admins receive the machines, they can go online and enter a list of the devices' identification numbers. Windows Autopilot recognizes the devices once they are powered on. The online Windows 10 management tool automatically joins devices to other management tools such as Intune and System Center Configuration Manager so that they are ready for end users. The tool also includes features to clean and reset the device for a new user.
Windows Safe Mode
Since Windows 95, Windows Safe Mode is a quick and easy boot option IT admins can use to diagnose a potential software problem. Accessed through the Windows Advanced Boot Options menu, Safe Mode disables nearly all drivers and applications that might cause the system to crash, leaving only what's necessary to run the operating system. IT admins can boot a desktop with only the software and drivers for the mouse, keyboard and display modes.
Once in Safe Mode, admins can enable specific drivers and applications to see which ones are causing problems. Once the operating system fails, admins can remove that problem driver or software in Safe Mode and replace it with a clean installation. Safe Mode is especially useful for troubleshooting Windows applications such as Office 365 apps.
Admins can enable specific extensions and add-ons that could potentially cause the application to slow down and delete them in Safe Mode as well. Some third-party applications may not work in Safe Mode, however, so administrators should check with vendors.
Windows Admin Center
Windows Admin Center allows IT to manage any remote Windows 10 endpoint through a web browser. The tool is catered towards Windows Server machines, but it works well as a Windows 10 management tool as well. IT can deploy Windows Admin Center locally, without the need for Azure or cloud connectivity. The tool is fairly new, and Microsoft continues to invest in it by adding increased functionality and support.
Organizations that don't have robust Windows 10 management tools such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager can turn to Admin Center as a compact alternative. Windows Admin Center works with virtual machines and cloud desktops as well as physical desktops. Through the interface, IT has access to specific tools to each machine such as firewall, registry, applications and network. Some features are still in preview, but a key feature of Windows Admin Center is PowerShell support. Admins can instantly open a shell on any computer connected to Admin Center and view PowerShell scripts. There, IT can access the desktop as if it were local.