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Microsoft Issues Windows 10 Baseline Tool for IT Pros, Tweaks Insider Program

Microsoft has rolled out a new baseline tool for IT pros to help with Windows 10 Group Policy settings. It also announced plans to implement some name changes to the Windows 10 rollout process, continuing a tradition of changing the desktop operating system's nomenclature and potentially adding confusion to IT pros' already-complicated upgrade tasks.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced the publication of its Windows 10 Update Baseline tool, which offers help for IT pros on customizing Group Policy settings for various Windows 10 security and administrative activities.

The announcement compared the Windows 10 Update Baseline tool to Microsoft's security baseline recommendations for Windows 10. The new tool is described as a sort of best-practices aid, with recommendations on Windows 10 settings for "configuring deadlines," "restart behavior," "accounting for low activity devices," "delivery optimization" and "power policies."

Windows 10 has support for more than 3,000 Group Policy settings, Microsoft indicated. The Windows 10 Update Baseline tool is conceived as helping IT pros get through that complexity. Its advice is said to be based on "real-world best practices."

The announcement also mentioned a document announced back in March, called "Optimizing Windows 10 Update Adoption," which apparently is related to the Windows 10 Update Baseline tool. This document does list recommended Group Policy and mobile device management settings for Windows 10 at the back (pp 37-44). There are recommended settings for things like "velocity and compliance," "accounting for low activity devices" and "deployment policies."

Windows 10 Feature Update Name Changes
Also on Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it's planning slight name changes for its Windows 10 feature updates. The name changes will start with the next release in the fall or the second half of this year (maybe in September). It'll be called "Windows 10 version 20H2" (instead of something like "Windows 10 version 2009").

Incidentally, Windows 10 version 20H2 is already released for Beta channel (Slow ring) Windows Insider Program testers, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

Microsoft plans to use this first half (H1) and second half (H2) nomenclature for organizations getting the twice-per-year (spring/fall) Windows 10 feature updates. However, for consumers, Microsoft still plans to retain a more "friendly" name. For instance, the last Windows 10 feature update was called the "May 2020 Update," and Microsoft expects to use that sort of descriptor for consumer Windows 10 users.

Microsoft also reiterated a few details about the coming fall Windows 10 feature update, now known as Windows 10 version 20H2. For users of the Windows 10 May 2020 Update (version 2004), it'll install quickly, like a monthly quality update, and apparently the installation will just involve one reboot to complete.

Microsoft's announcement didn't explain the quick install aspect, but it seemed similar to the faster upgrades possible when going from Windows 10 version 1903 to Windows 10 version 1909 via a so-called "enablement package." Essentially, with enablement package technology, the spring release of Windows 10 contains the features of the fall release of Windows 10, except they are in a dormant state, Microsoft had previously explained.

Organizations using the Enterprise or Education editions of Windows 10 may not want to take advantage of the faster move from Windows 10 version 2004 to Windows 10 20H2 because they get 30 months of support if they stay on the fall branch release cycle. For that reason, those organizations possibly avoided installing Microsoft's spring feature updates, including Windows 10 version 2004. A spring Windows 10 feature update release is just supported for 18 months.

Microsoft is also touting the coming Windows 10 version 20H2 feature update as ushering in the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser. It'll replace the EdgeHTML-based Edge browser.

Windows Insider Program Name Changes
Microsoft has a Windows Insider Program for people wanting to try out its early releases before a commercial release. Microsoft wants to get the feedback, but it has also touted this program as a way for IT pros to see in advance if a coming Windows 10 feature update release might break things.

On Monday, Microsoft announced it was changing the names used with its Windows Insider Windows 10 releases from "rings" to "channels," and aligning the nomenclature closer to other software release programs, such as those programs associated with Microsoft Office, Edge and Teams. Windows Insider Program testers will start to see the new name changes in "builds later this month." They don't have to take any action as they'll get automatically switched.

Here are those new Windows Insider Program channel release names:

  • Dev Channel (replaces "Fast" and "Skip Ahead" rings)
  • Beta Channel (replaces "Slow" ring)
  • Release Preview Channel (replaces "Release Preview" ring)

Notably, Microsoft indicated that the new Release Preview Channel is deemed to be a "supported" build, which suggests it's somewhat stable and that Microsoft will try to fix issues. Microsoft recommended the Release Preview Channel for organizations.

"The Release Preview Channel is where we recommend companies preview and validate upcoming Windows 10 releases before broad deployment within their organization," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Although these are just name changes for Windows Insider Program releases of Windows 10, Microsoft's announcement suggested that the changes were associated with a new approach that "pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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