This content is part of the Essential Guide: Windows 10 guide for IT administrators

Gird for battle with potential Windows 10 test problems

Windows 10 is coming, but the road to release includes a lot of potential potholes that IT staffers should be ready to find and handle.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview is available for download and testing. This allows millions of users to ferret out bugs, compatibility issues and performance problems. They can even weigh in on questionable design choices that can so often plague major software releases.

Enterprise IT departments are particularly interested in a Windows 10 test because it provides early experience with operating system installation and troubleshooting. But Windows 10 is still far from perfect. As the Technical Preview continues to evolve, let's consider potential problem areas that savvy Windows users should be ready to wrestle with.

Look for Windows firmware updates

System firmware -- the basic input/output system or BIOS -- provides a critical interface between the OS and the underlying hardware. It allows the same OS to function on many different motherboards and other devices. As Windows evolves, it often embraces new features and functionality, but this may also require a firmware upgrade to ensure proper compatibility.

Windows 10 is no different, and some Technical Preview users have reported problems with certain hard drive configurations. For example, intermittent drive-detection errors have been reported with Windows 10 on certain Toshiba 320 GB hard drives installed on a Lenovo T230; the drive itself passes internal diagnostics properly.

Testers have also reported common problems with switching hardware into, or out of, power-conservation modes and with orderly system shutdowns.

When device errors are reported from firmware, or previously working devices behave intermittently or generate errors with Windows 10 installed, check with the hardware vendor (not Microsoft) for any possible Windows 10 firmware update.

Take the time to read any release notes before applying a firmware update, and verify that the update will actually address any issues that you're encountering with a Windows 10 test.

Also, be sure to create a suitable backup copy of your current firmware before applying the update, and be prepared to roll back the firmware if unintended consequences occur.

As a final alternative, you might also delay further Windows 10 testing until a later version of the Technical Preview is released, which might work around the problem instead.

Look for new drivers and control schemes

All Windows versions rely on device drivers to recognize and operate the myriad peripherals that firmware simply won't touch. Windows 10 is no different, but a large number of device-specific drivers can be missing from the Technical Preview as manufacturers try to prepare new driver releases.

When Windows 10 fails to identify devices that had been properly handled by Windows 8 and earlier operating systems, chances are that the afflicted device may need updated drivers from the particular manufacturer.

For example, a tester reported that their Musical Instrument Digital Interface (midi) device wasn't working under Windows 10, causing all related playback items to be missing or blanked out. Other reports suggest that certain gaming keyboards -- such as Logitech K1200, Logitech G105, MSI GX70 and Corsair K70 -- experience trouble with number lock and caps key lighting. In other cases, certain network adapters, such as Intel's 1218-VLAN adapter, were experiencing serious problems with driver installation.

It may be adequate to simply open Device Manager and opt to update the driver. In other instances, an entirely new driver tailored specifically for Windows 10 may be needed. If the previously-working device cannot be identified, check with the device vendor for new drivers.

Drivers rarely may need alternative installation approaches. For example, installing from an executable file rather than a conventional driver download may solve the particular problem.

Remember that some external devices may need to be turned on and working for Windows 10 to find them. For example, Bluetooth headsets should now be compatible with Windows 10 -- and new drivers may be required -- but the headset will also need to be on and discoverable in "pairing mode" for Windows 10 to find it.

In my next installment, we'll look at potential graphics and update issues, plus managing Windows 10 test expectations.

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