The world of computing is always evolving, but lately I would argue the changes are so earth shaking, it could be compared to how the Internet changed the world of computing some years ago. An area I am highly interested and involved with is the Windows desktop experience, and how companies are looking to offer flexibility to their user experience in ways that were not possible even five years ago. I have helped numerous customers deploy modern versions of Windows via Configuration Manager, but with bring your own device (BYOD) campaigns and choose your own device (CYOD) scenarios, new ways of enabling users to do their work are springing to life.
Provisioning packages for Windows 10 came to my attention a while back and continue to be intriguing to me. For those that may not be familiar, I would describe provisioning packages as bundles of settings for a Windows 10 PC that an administrator has predefined.
Here are some of the benefits of a provisioning package:
- Quickly configure a new device without going through the process of installing a new image.
- Save time by configuring multiple devices using one provisioning package.
- Quickly configure employee-owned devices in an organization without a mobile device management (MDM) infrastructure.
- Set up a device without the device having network connectivity.
- Provisioning packages allow you to control computers when those computers are not managed by something like Configuration Manager or Microsoft Intune. These provisioning packages can be:
- Installed using removable media such as an SD card or USB flash drive.
- Attached to an email.
- Downloaded from a network share
The cool part is what you can configure with provisioning packages:
- Bulk enrollment into MDM
- Connectivity Profiles
- Enterprise Policies
- Data Assets
- Start Menu Customizations
- Other things such as lock screen wallpaper
I wanted to provide a simple example of using a provisioning package here in my blog, and also provide some thoughts. Provisioning packages could be handy in a scenario where a travelling sales representative is on the road and their laptop or tablet crashes. Let’s pretend they have a presentation the next day, and in order to complete that presentation they need to configure their system according to company standards. This would be a great time to send them to the store to pick up a Microsoft Surface Pro so that they can get up and running quickly with a provisioning package that will do much of the heavy lifting of getting them properly set up.
I realize that the provisioning package in this case could contain a good fifty or more configurations, but we are going to keep our example simple. My goal is to create a provisioning package that can upgrade a Windows 10 Pro machine to Windows 10 Enterprise.
So let’s create a provisioning package first.
Creating the Provisioning Package
In order to work with Provisioning, you will need to download and install the Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer, which is part of the Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit. Download that Kit from here: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=526740
Once you have installed the Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer, you will find it on a Windows 10 computer under Start > All Apps > Windows Kits. You will be presented with some options as seen here.
Click the New provisioning package option to get started.
The Designer will have you do work under a project that you choose the name for. I have chosen to call my project a name that reflects what the package does, Upgrade to Enterprise Edition. My example is simple but in a real world scenario you might call your provisioning package Sales Laptop Configuration or perhaps Provisioning Package of Awesomeness. Anyway, provide a Name for your provisioning package, a Project folder to save it in, and a Description if you want (probably best to do so in real-world scenarios).
Now that you have that out of the way and have clicked Next, you will be presented with the following screen. The options here are very interesting. Windows 10 is able to run not just on desktops, but mobile phones and IoT Core devices. So depending on your scenario, you can choose the proper radio button below, and click Next. In our case, we are going to choose the top option of settings Common to all Windows editions.
If you have a previous provisioning package that you want to use as starting point, here is your chance. In our case we are going to just click Finish.
At this point your Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer should look something like.
We are going to browse through the tree on the left side to find the appropriate settings. We are going to start with Runtime settings, then EditionUpgrade, and finally we land on UpgradeEditionWithProductKey.
Next to UpgradeEditionWithProductKey we will enter our product key in the typical format of XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX.
Since we are keeping this example simple, we are going to say we are done with configuring settings, and we are going to click Export, then Provisioning Package.
Next, we will fill in some basic information about our Provisioning Package such as Name, Version, and Rank. Then we will click Next.
On the next page you can choose to Encrypt and Sign the Provisioning Package for additional security. In this case, we will click Next.
Now, choose a place to save the Provisioning Package by clicking Browse and navigating to your location of choice. Click Next.
The next page of the wizard will allow you to review your choices, then you can click Build to create your Provisioning Package.
In your Provisioning Package’s save location you should see two files, similar to this. One is a file with extension CAT and the other has the extension PPKG.
To distribute your Provisioning Package, you can place the files on a flash drive, zip them and email them to a user, or perhaps a web server that requires authentication.
Running the Provisioning Package
For our example, we are going to use a Windows 10 Pro machine named Win10-2.
On our test machine we are going to launch the Upgrade to Enterprise Edition.PPKG file to start the provisioning process.
User Account Control (UAC) will prompt if enabled, and you may say Yes to this message.
The Provisioning begins! The Provisioning Package will first confirm that you received this Provisioning Package from somebody you trust. Click Yes, add it.
You will now see the package Preparing for upgrade.
Next, you’ll be told that you are about to be signed out. Quick! Save your work! 🙂
And now we’re Restarting.
And now we are back at the logon screen.
As a side note, if you run the same Provisioning Package a second time, nothing will happen.
After logging back in, we see our wonderful Windows 10 wallpaper.
Finally, we get the prompt that our Provisioning Package successfully upgraded our Windows Edition!
Doing a check, we can confirm the successful upgrade of our edition to Enterprise.
I am excited about the current capabilities of Provisioning, and the capabilities that will no doubt be added in the future. Currently, Provisioning Packages can be applied only to Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions. I would love to see this extended to other Windows 10 editions, such as Home edition. In our example scenario above, let’s pretend a Sales person’s device died at a critical time and we need them to pick up a new Windows tablet from Best Buy. Best Buy does not sell very many Windows 10 Pro devices. A quick look on their website shows two Windows 10 Pro Tablets, and eight non-Pro edition Windows 10 Tablets. Further, it may be difficult to explain to the Sales representative that they must get a device running Windows 10 Pro. Sure, they could ask for a Best Buy employee’s help, but that may or may not go well depending on the employee’s experience.
Provisioning has strengths and weaknesses, like any technology, and I can’t wait to see what Microsoft does with it next. My goal is to share some thoughts and hopefully some readers of this blog will share theirs. It is an exciting time to be working in the Information Technology world!