BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
The Windows 10 Technical Preview has given users and administrators a chance to try out Microsoft's next operating system and provide feedback on which features still need work. We've already looked at initial problems with system firmware updates and new device drivers. Other areas to watch out for include display compatibility and Windows 10 updates for applications. Remember that the OS is not yet finalized, so expect to find lots of little glitches.
Look for visual and graphics issues
Windows is a highly visual platform, and a huge array of display sizes, graphics resolutions, graphics hardware and GPU device drivers have evolved to accommodate this proliferation of display hardware. Since displays and graphics are so integral to Windows, many new graphics and display drivers are already available with the Windows 10 Technical Preview.
But display quality and graphics driver compatibility is far from guaranteed. For example, some Windows 10 Technical Preview users report poor text quality and input control difficulties using relatively small tablets.
In other cases, multi-monitor support may be problematic -- displays are simply duplicated rather than extended. And some previously working graphics adapters may not be properly identified, or some graphics features, such as advanced anti-aliasing, may be unavailable.
Installing the proper graphics or display drivers may fix many of these issues, so check with the graphics vendor (such as Nvidia or ATI) for suitable Windows 10-compatible driver updates or patches. Future Windows 10 Technical Preview releases may include new graphics and display drivers as a matter of priority, but going directly to the graphics vendor may help overcome immediate problems rather than waiting for future Windows releases.
Remember that some vendors may not have new drivers available. For example, ASUS doesn't yet provide Windows 10 Technical Preview drivers for its K551LB-series laptops. While this will almost certainly change as Windows 10 evolves, it's a good idea to check with your current graphics or system vendor to see if Windows 10 drivers are available or coming before installing Windows 10 for testing.
Look for app and Windows 10 update disruptions
Applications often have some level of dependency on the underlying operating system, so an OS update can have unforeseen consequences for those applications. If key business apps are affected, the effect on user productivity can be enormous. It's a good idea to test Windows 10 Technical Preview with the most important programs that employees use.
Some users have reported disruptions in enterprise software, such as Office 2010, when running Windows 10 Technical Preview. Don't simply assume a compatibility problem. Many application problems can be resolved by simply running the product's "repair" tool, or by uninstalling and reinstalling the afflicted app. If problems persist, check with the software vendor to see if there is a patch, update or workaround that can alleviate the problem.
Windows 10 is supposed to update automatically as new builds become available, but some users have reported problems with the updater. These problems are typically attributed to registry-corruption problems, and Windows 10 forums provide guidance for finding and fixing Windows 10 registry problems that can disrupt auto updates. Remember that new build releases can really bog down the update servers, so be patient while waiting for new build content to download and install.
One other application note: Don't forget about your system's antimalware software. It's important to update your antimalware software for Windows 10 as soon as possible. Otherwise, any compatibility problems may prevent the security tools from working properly, possibly leaving your system exposed to infection or attack.
Windows 10 Technical Preview users may need to rely on Windows Defender, which is included with the OS, until the antimalware software is properly updated. Enterprise systems management tools may also need updates or patches to properly detect inventory and manage Windows 10 systems, so contact your management software vendors for any details about their update plans.
Look for appropriate expectations
The most important thing to remember is that Windows 10 is not yet a final product. It's currently in development, and it will continue to evolve through the development cycle leading up to its general release late in 2015. This means testers should have appropriate expectations during the test period. Microsoft developers aren't releasing versions of Windows 10 updates out of the goodness of their hearts.
Testers should try the latest builds against a myriad of different hardware and software configurations to find and fix problems before the final release. For example, some users have identified problems with the Start Menu not opening as expected, and other users have complained about Wi-Fi connection dialog schemes they felt were clunky or cumbersome compared to other versions of Windows. The point is that the road will be bumpy. There will be performance problems, glitches, crashes, compatibility issues and other headaches.
Take careful notes and use the Technical Preview forum to post objective details about problems and issues, but don't just grouse because something doesn't work. At the same time, you get the benefit of becoming familiar with Windows 10 updates and positioning yourself to provide solid expertise and guidance to other users across the business.
Windows 10 is coming, and the Technical Preview period is an excellent opportunity for users to help Microsoft develop the best possible product. But the OS still has a long way to go before its final release. Users can't expect a flawless, fully-functional product at this point.
If you're principal interest is in gaining experience with Windows 10 before its release, wait a little while longer until the build is more mature and stable. However, if you can't resist the urge to dig in and weed out the problems, you know where to find the most common problem areas.
Compare Windows 10 features with those of its predecessors
Windows 10 Task View attempts to give native virtual desktops
Windows Defender satisfies certain desktop security needs
Review speculation about Windows 10 (formerly Windows 9)
Windows 10 to address unified apps and the cloud