Complete Guide to the Windows Technical Preview

Everything you need to know, all in one place

Paul Thurrott

October 9, 2014

23 Min Read
Complete Guide to the Windows Technical Preview

I've been writing about Windows 10 since last year, but with the Windows Technical Preview now available, it's time to consolidate everything I've written—and will write—about this important milestone into a single location. This guide provides access to everything I've written about the Windows Technical Preview, and will be updated as I publish more articles in the days, weeks and months ahead.

More soon!

Note: I'm serious about Windows 10. So serious, in fact, that I'll also be writing the Windows 10 Field Guide over the next several months. Stay tuned for that, but enjoy what's unfolding here on the SuperSite in the meantime.

Install Guide

The Basics

Interested in testing the Windows Technical Preview? No problem: Microsoft is making this important milestone build of the next version of Windows available to anyone who wants it. Here are the first steps for getting started with the Windows Technical Preview.

Upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8

Most people who install the Windows Technical Preview will probably upgrade an existing Windows 7 or Windows 8.x-based PC to this prerelease version of Windows 10. The good news is that there are no surprises, and that this process works exactly as it does with Windows 8. Even better, most of my upgrades have been trouble-free.

Clean Install

Since I dive head-first into every conceivable software release imaginable, my desktop PC often gets into an unstable and unreliable state. And with it hitting record lows in the wake of the third Windows Technical Preview build, I figured it was time for a clean install. I'm glad I did so, but some things have changed over the course of the preview, so I watched this install a bit more closely than usual.

Windows 10 Tips (Pre-release)

Pin Items to the Start List

With the return of the Start menu in Windows 10, we sudden have a wide range of places in the UI where we can pin frequently-used items for easy access. Which of these you use will depend on how you work, of course, and some options may be superfluous to one user but be indispensable to the next. The Start list in the new Start menu is one such example.

Disable Desktop Animations

Annoyed by the jarring window animations on the desktop in build 9860 of the Windows Technical Preview? No problem: All you need to do is dust off your old desktop skills and change a single option to stop that from happening.

Share from File Explorer

The Windows 10 File Explorer has evolved slightly from its Windows 8 incarnation. Key among the new features is a Share button that lets you share files directly from your file system using the Share contract that also debuted in Windows 8, further evidence of the merging of the two previously separate desktop and Modern environments.

Clean Up the Home View in File Explorer

One of the weirder—and I have to think unfinished—changes we see in the Windows Technical Preview is the new Home view in File Explorer. This view presents what one has to assume Microsoft believes is useful information—your File Explorer favorites, frequent folders, and recent files—but I find it to be quite cluttered and borderline useless. Fortunately, you can clean it up a bit.

Pin Universal Apps to the Desktop

One of the under-appreciated new features in Windows 7 was the ability to pin web apps and access them as if they were native applications. In Windows 10, you can do so with Universal mobile apps. And while it's obvious that we can now pin these apps to the taskbar and Start menu/Start screen, here's a less well-known tip: You can pin them to the desktop and elsewhere as well.

Put the Recycle Bin on the Taskbar

In Windows 8, Microsoft made it possible to pin the Recycle Bin to the Start screen, and that capability carries over to Windows 10 and of course works with the new Start menu too. But here's something new: Now you can pin the Recycle Bin to the taskbar as well.

Control Which Apps and Services Run at Startup

While modern versions of Windows have largely overcome the performance rot problem that was once the bane of users, it's still possible for applications to silently add auto-run utilities that slow down your PC's boot time and overall performance. Here's how you can manage which applications and services run when Windows 10 starts up and, more important, figure out which are necessary or useful.

Display Universal Apps in a Full Screen View

With the Windows Technical Preview focused largely on desktop PC use, anyone using Universal apps—formerly called Modern apps—will notice that they now run in windowed form on the desktop. But that's true whether you're using a traditional PC or a tablet or other touch-based device, and it may not always be ideal. Fortunately, you can switch in and out of a true full-screen view at any time.

Use Multiple Desktops

While Windows has long supported "virtual" desktops, Microsoft had declined to make this feature available to users until Windows 10. Now, in the Windows Technical Preview, you can easily create and manage multiple desktops, which you can use to separate related tasks into their own workspaces.

Customize the Start Menu and Customize the Start Menu (Part 2)

On traditional PCs, Microsoft will provide a new Start menu rather than the full-screen Start screen that debuted in Windows 8. This move will be welcomed by all kinds of users, but the new Start menu isn't exactly like the one you may remember from Windows 7. Here's quick guide to customizing it to work the way you want.

Master New Keyboard Shortcuts

With Window 10 and its renewed focus on the desktop, Microsoft is expanding the already-broad collection of keyboard shortcuts in Windows to address new features and functionality. Not surprisingly, many of them are related to multitasking.

Switch Between Open Apps and Desktops

In previous versions of Windows, ALT + TAB ("Windows Flip"), WINKEY + TAB ("Switcher," "Windows Flip 3D") and their touch-based equivalents were used to quickly switch between running apps. These shortcuts and actions are still available in Windows 10, though they've changed and improved yet again.

Move Apps Between Multiple Desktops

In Windows 10, Microsoft is finally providing access to multiple desktops so you can group apps as you see fit. But it's not immediately obvious whether you can move apps between these desktops. As it turns out, you can. Here's how.

Swap Between Start Menu and Start Screen

As I currently understand it, which Start experience you receive in Windows 10 will depend on a number of factors. Those with traditional PCs or 2-in-1s will get the Start menu by default. Those with tablets will get the Start screen by default. And those who upgrade should receive whichever Start experience they were previously using. But it doesn't really matter, since you can switch between the Start menu and the Start screen at any time.

Colorize the Start Menu

While many are heralding the return of the Start menu in Windows 10, the truth is that this interface is in many ways all-new, with functionality taken from both the Windows 7 Start menu and the Windows 8 Start screen. And here's one of the neat new things you can do with the Start menu: Change its color.

Windows 10 Feature Focus

Windows Technical Preview Feature Focus

As you might expect of a major new Windows version, Windows 10 provides a number of new features and improvements over previous releases such as Windows 7 and Windows 8. In this series, I am exploring these features as they appear in the Windows Technical Preview. I'll be updating this series regularly going forward.

Hands-on with the Windows Technical Preview

On the Road with Windows 10 Build 9901

I'm on the road this week and figured the trip might be a good way to stress test the recently leaked Windows 10 build 9901. And stress is perhaps the right word: In using the build regularly this way, it's become obvious that this build isn't ready for prime time despite its initial sheen of quality.

Windows 10 Build 9901: New Settings

Not surprisingly, some of the biggest changes in Windows 10 build 9901 can be found in Settings, the new Modern replacement for PC Settings. Here, I take a quick look at some of the settings changes I see in this build. If you've been following the trajectory of this release, you won't be surprised to learn that many of them come straight from Windows Phone.

Hands-On with Windows 10 Build 9901

As expected, this newly leaked build of Windows 10 features a ton of improvements over what we've seen officially in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. And it makes me wish we could go back to the old days of weekly builds during Windows betas.

Microsoft Offers a Workaround for Windows 10 Build 9879 Update Issue

I promise you that someday I will stop writing about Windows 10 build 9879. But for now, at least, this prerelease version of Windows 10 continues to bedevil many of the users who are testing it, including me. So here's a new update in this long-running drama: Microsoft is now offering a workaround—not a fix, but a workaround—to help get the recent and crucial update installed.

Windows 10 Build 9888 Leaks

It's always exciting when a build of a pre-release version of Windows leaks out of Redmond. And so it is with Windows 10 build 9888, a post-Windows Technical Preview build of Microsoft's next desktop OS. Cautiously installing it in a virtual machine—yeah, I'm still a bit burned by build 9879—what I see, unfortunately, is not a heck of a lot of difference. This is no Consumer Preview build.

Top User Requests for Windows 10, Take 2

In early October, I published the results of a script-based analysis of the top feedback requests for Windows 10 in the Windows Technical Preview. Here's a second peek at this data, updated after almost two months of testing. As with the initial posting, the most popular requests are again an interesting mix of common sense ideas and superficial changes.

Build 9879: The Morning After

So I think it's fair to say that we've taken a major step back in this latest build of the Windows Technical Preview. Obviously, there are some nice improvements here—and the seismic shift that's happening with OneDrive—but the big news here, perhaps, is that this is the first build that isn't stable or reliable enough to use regularly. And unless this is fixed soon, I may have to take the unusual step of moving back to a previous build, or to Windows 8.1.

Windows 10 is the Most Audacious Release in the History of the Platform

To date, most of the conversation around Windows 10 has focused on surface-level niceties like the new Start menu and the ability to run Universal mobile apps on the desktop side-by-side with other applications. These are important changes, to be sure. But other advances in Windows 10 rival and even surpass anything that Microsoft has ever attempted in the past. And with this in mind, it is very clear that Windows 10 isn't just another major new Windows release. It is inarguably the most audacious release in the history of the platform.

Here's a Fix for Some OneDrive Problems in Windows Technical Preview Build 9879

If you're experiencing problems with OneDrive syncing after updating to the latest Windows Technical Preview build, I might have received a fix for you. Microsoft contacted me after I started complaining at this problem on Twitter, and it seems like the fix they provided will work.

A Quick Look at Windows Technical Preview Build 9860

Now that I have finally updated all of my PCs to the latest Windows Technical Preview version, I can take a quick step back and see what we have here. In short, nothing profound, but a couple of nice functional additions, or more realistically, the start of a couple of nice functional additions. As Microsoft promised, the preview is coming in hot, and this build is not polished in any way.

Here are the Top User Requests for Windows 10

A reader has sent along the results of his script-based analysis of the top feedback requests for Windows 10 in the Windows Technical Preview. And it won't surprise you to discover that the most popular requests are an interesting mix of common sense ideas and superficial changes.

Is Microsoft Offering the Windows Technical Preview to Windows 7 Users Via Windows Update?

I've received some incredulous emails from readers who claim that Microsoft is actually pushing the Windows Technical Preview—an early, pre-release version of Windows 10—to them via Windows Update. But that's not what's happening. Instead, you'll only see that update in Windows Update if you've already signed up for the Windows Insider Program and indicated you're interested in the Preview.

Next Steps for Windows 10

Most people seem pretty impressed by the Windows Technical Preview and the deft way in which Microsoft has combined two previously incompatible user experiences—desktop and Modern—into a single, cohesive desktop environment. And we're told that the next milestone in this journey to Windows 10 will be a consumer preview that will presumably offer a clearer view of the touch/tablet side of this product, and hopefully a peek at a combined Windows RT/Windows Phone. But I feel like there's still lots of work to be done on the desktop side. And here's what I'd like to see before Windows 10 is complete.

Windows Technical Preview is Microsoft's Alchemy Moment

Having now installed the Windows Technical Preview on several machines both physical and virtual and using both upgrades and clean installs, it's perhaps time to take stock of what's happening here. This first pre-release version of Windows 10 has the very specific goal of convincing Windows 7 users that there is a future for them that includes the best parts of Windows 8 with none of the tomfoolery. And on that note, it succeeds mightily.

Getting Started with the Windows Technical Preview

Exactly 20 years ago, I received my first beta version of Windows from Microsoft (Windows 4.0, which became Windows 95). And boy have things changed over that time. Microsoft moved from floppies to CDs to DVDs to ISOs and digital delivery, and the size, complexity and functionality of Windows has ballooned to match. But if there's one thing that hasn't changed in the slightest—for me, at least—it's the excitement I feel at the start of a new beta. It's time to mess up my PCs. And I couldn't be happier.

A First Look at the Windows Technical Preview

In less than two weeks, Microsoft will begin revealing information about the Windows Technical Preview, the first pre-release look at the next version of Windows. The actual Preview won't be out until October, I'm told. But there's no reason to wait: Here's what you're going to see.


Leaked: Windows 10 Dark Theme and Spartan Browser

An interesting leak on a China-based tech blog shows off two features coming in the Windows 10 consumer preview: a dark theme—really background color—that appears to mimic a similar UI in Windows Phone and the Spartan web browser.

Microsoft's Missed Opportunity with Internet Explorer in Windows 10

Two separate reports from people I know and trust detail Microsoft's plans for Internet Explorer in Windows 10: The software giant will actually build two versions of its flagship web browser, each with its own unique version of the Trident rendering engine. And while this is all very interesting, the real story here is Microsoft's missed opportunity to drop Trident all together and use WebKit, the rendering engine developers prefer, instead.

Windows 10 Preparation Tool for Windows 7, Windows 8.1

Microsoft has quietly released a Windows 10 Preparation tool for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 which ostensibly makes sure your PC is ready for the new OS. But I'm pretty sure all this tool does is alert users when the latest preview build is available for download in January.

Microsoft Explains Lack of New Windows Technical Preview Builds

When Microsoft suddenly revealed a month ago that build 9879 would be the final pre-release build it would deliver in 2014, tech enthusiasts who were testing Windows 10 were understandably disappointed. But the firm today explained why it halted the releases when it did.

Windows 10 Build 9901 Leaks with Numerous Changes

I'm installing build 9901 as I write this, but this newly leaked build of Windows 10 provides a glimpse at a lot of changes, including a full Cortana implementation, several new apps, some new UI treatments and an evolving new Store experience. For anyone still struggling with build 9879, this new build is a reminder that things are about to get a lot better.

Microsoft to Hold Windows 10 Consumer Event on January 21

Microsoft will reveal the next major milestone for Windows 10 at a press and analysts event at its corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Set for January 21, 2015, this full-day event will focus on consumer-oriented features coming in the next Windows.

Yet Another Update for Windows 10 Build 9879, But This One's a Doozy

If you're brave or foolish enough to still be using the latest build of the Windows Technical Preview, you won't be surprised to hear that Microsoft plans yet another update fix, this one aimed at fixing a security problem. But there's also a twist: If you try to install this fix with Office 2013 installed, the install will fail. So you'll need to uninstall Office, install the fix, and then reinstall Office.

Windows Technical Preview Users Should be Able to Upgrade to RTM Version of Windows 10

Oddly enough, this is a question I'm asked very regularly: If one were to participate in the Windows Technical Preview, would they be able to upgrade to the final, RTM version of Windows 10 when that becomes available? This week, Microsoft actually answered that question with a qualified yes, which is somewhat surprising in its own right. But my advice is to not worry about such things: When the RTM version of Windows 10 comes out, you'll want to do a clean install anyway.

Windows 10 Build 9879 Heads Out to Slow Ring Testers

Microsoft says that those testing the Windows Technical Preview on the default slow ring will now be prompted to download Windows 10 build 9879, the third milestone release of the pre-release OS. But here's the weird bit: According to the firm, fully 90 percent of testers are in that slow ring.

Microsoft Issues Windows 10 Build 9879 Available as ISO, Plus One Fix

Microsoft improved the latest Windows 10 pre-release build of 2014 in two important ways today. It made the build available via downloadable ISOs, letting testers clean install this build directly to a PC or VM, without having to first install the previous preview builds over each over. And it issued a fix for build 9879 that it says addresses a major BSOD error.

Microsoft Confirms that Windows 10 will also be Version 10 Internally

It may seem like an esoteric subject, but the recent rumors about Microsoft changing the version number of Windows 10 are true: In this release, the software giant will align the name of the product with the version number, the first time it's done so since the mid-1990s. And that could impact application and even web site compatibility in the new OS.

First Windows 10 Consumer Preview Leaks Appear

If you're following along with the development of Windows 10, you know that the current Windows Technical Preview builds are geared towards businesses and tech enthusiasts. But in early 2015, Microsoft will release a Consumer Preview for Windows 10, and those builds will provide a better look at many new end user features. This week, the first Consumer Preview builds allegedly leaked online, so here's a quick peek.

Microsoft Will Try to Fix Windows 10 Build 9879

I've got some good news for tech enthusiasts who are beta-testing Windows 10 through the Windows Technical Preview: Microsoft intends to fix the incredibly buggy and unstable third milestone release of Windows 10—build 9879—with a "bugcheck hotfix." And this fix will be included in the version of the build that "slow ring" testers will get soon.

Here's What's Really Happening to OneDrive in Windows 10

Microsoft today issued a public statement about its plans for OneDrive in Windows 10, and confirmed that they are removing the smart files functionality that debuted in Windows 8. Instead, the firm will provide some key smart files features over time, and will focus OneDrive on reliability, consistency and key usage scenarios. Here's a rundown of what's happening.

Microsoft Releases Windows Technical Preview Build 9879

The third release of the Windows Technical Preview—the pre-release version of Windows 10—is now available. And it adds a ton of nice new features, including some that have been requested by testers. If you're using the Windows Technical Preview, you can upgrade to the new build immediately.

Microsoft Details Windows 10 TrackPad Gestures

If you're familiar with Windows 8, you may know that Microsoft added trackpad gestures in that release and that, on most portable PCs, the experience is more accidental and annoying than it is useful. So they're going to fix that in Windows 10, as is the case with so much else that went wrong in Windows 8. But contrary to what I've read elsewhere, Microsoft isn't copying Mac OS X trackpad gestures at all.

Microsoft Preps Partners for Windows 10

It's no surprise that Windows 10 is coming, and that with this important release we're seeing a bit more convergence between PCs, tablets, phones, video game consoles and other devices. But for Microsoft's partners, Windows 10 is as much an about-face as Windows 10 is for Microsoft. So the firm has provided a set of resources for its U.S. partners that I think many others would be interested in as well.

Microsoft Delivers First Update to the Windows Technical Preview

Delivering on its promise to provide Windows Technical Preview users with frequent updates, Microsoft today provided the first new release of this pre-release Windows 10 version, build 9860. The new build includes Action Center (the Windows 10 notification center), new animations, and a way to more easily move apps between multiple monitors.

Over 1 Million People Have Downloaded the Windows Technical Preview

Over the weekend, the one-millionth person registered to sign-up for the Windows Insider Program and download and install the Windows Technical Preview, Microsoft says, and unprecedented level of pre-release involvement for Windows. That this comes less than two weeks into the availability of the preview is a positive sign for the future success of Windows 10.

Microsoft Announces Windows 10

Microsoft finally surprised us all: At the eagerly-awaited first briefing for the next Windows, the firm revealed that they had decided to skip the 9 and call it Windows 10 instead. From a features perspective, we only learned about a few minor new features that hadn't already leaked. And as promised, the technical preview won't ship until October. Which starts tomorrow, by the way.

Live from San Francisco: It's the Future of Windows

The original tagline of this site—it's the future of Windows ... today!—will be truer than ever tomorrow when Microsoft holds its eagerly-awaited one-hour briefing about coming enterprise features in the next Windows and elsewhere. I'm in San Francisco now and will be covering tomorrow's event live. Here's how to follow along.

It's Official: Microsoft to Unveil "Next Chapter" for Windows on September 30

Well, the invite has finally arrived, and as expected, Microsoft will discuss what's next for Windows at a press and analyst event in San Francisco on September 30. This event will be enterprise-focused, as rumored, Microsoft told me.

Windows Technical Preview leaks

Windows 9 Technical Preview Virtual Desktops and Notification Center Video Leaks: An Analysis

Not surprisingly, the leakers who have been dribbling out details about the Windows 9 Technical Preview have provided a few more videos over the weekend. These show the new virtual desktop and notification center functionality in Windows 9. So let's take a look.

Windows 9 Technical Preview Video Leaks: An Analysis

One of the original Windows 8 Technical Preview screenshot leakers has now posted a short video showing the new Windows 9 Start menu in action. As with the screenshots, the video pretty much confirms what we already knew and doesn't provide any major new information. But it's always interesting to see something in action as opposed to just reading about it, and there are a few minor new things.

Windows 9 Technical Preview Screenshots Leak: An Analysis (Part 2)

Two German technology blogs have leaked screenshots of the upcoming Windows 9 Technical Preview, which is billed as build 9834. Here's a further analysis of the shots and what they reveal about the next Windows.

Windows 9 Technical Preview Screenshots Leak: An Analysis (Part 1)

Two German technology blogs have leaked screenshots of the upcoming Windows 9 Technical Preview, which is billed as build 9834. The shots depict the new Start menu, floating Modern app windows, a notification center, multiple desktop workspaces, a flat new design for the desktop, and many other changes that we've long expected.


Windows ... TH?

While we've had hints about a naming change for Windows 9 for much of this year, the early Vegas line was that Microsoft would dispense with the numbers and just go with the more general "Windows" name for this release. Maybe not. A Microsoft web site—since pulled—says the name, or at least the codename, will be Windows TH. Which is obviously an homage to me.

Start Menu Will Replace Start Screen in Threshold

To date, our understanding of the new Start menu that's coming in "Threshold," the next major Windows release that may or may not be called Windows 9 when it ships next year, is that it would augment the existing Start screen as an option of sorts for desktop users. But here's a surprise: That's not how it's going to work.

Getting Windows to the Threshold

With Windows 8.1 Update 1 behind us and the fate of certain post-Update 1 features in flux, questions inevitably turn to what happens next. According to the best information we have, there will be at least one more update bundle for Windows 8.1—which we'll call Update 2 for simplicity's sake—and then of course the major release that's currently called "Threshold." But how do we get from here to there?

New Start Menu Delayed Until 2015?

Mary Jo Foley is reporting that Microsoft now expects to deliver a new Start menu to Windows in the 2015 "Threshold" release, rather than in a presumed Windows 8.1 Update 2 later this year. That was of course the original schedule for the Start menu, so it appears that Microsoft's efforts to speed up the delivery of this much-requested feature have perhaps run into a roadblock of some kind.

Threshold Revealed: Microsoft Talks the Future of Windows

Microsoft on Wednesday confirmed my previous reports that it would ship a Windows update that brings back the Start menu as an option and lets users run Modern apps on the Windows desktop in floating windows. What's interesting about this development, however, is that the firm was deliberately vague about how and when this update would ship. Is this happening next April in Windows 9? Or is a Windows 8 Update 2 in the works?

"Threshold" to be Called Windows 9, Ship in April 2015

At the BUILD developer conference in April 2014, Microsoft will discuss its vision for the future of Windows, including a year-off release codenamed "Threshold" that will most likely be called Windows 9. Here's what I know about the next major release of Windows.

Further Changes Coming in Windows "Threshold"

After previous revelations about Windows "Threshold," a release we might think of as Windows 8.2, some more information has emerged about Microsoft's plans for the future. And if you were worried that Windows 8.1 didn't go far enough in appeasing desktop users on traditional PCs, I think I have some good news for you.

Microsoft to Take Windows to the "Threshold"

After Microsoft separately delivered Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows Phone 8 and other major product updates, it set down a path to more rapid releases, with a next set of updates, codenamed Blue. But according to Microsoft insider Mary Jo Foley, the rapid releases will only continue post-Blue, with a set of updates Microsoft has codenamed "Threshold."

About the Author(s)

Paul Thurrott

Paul Thurrott is senior technical analyst for Windows IT Pro. He writes the SuperSite for Windows, a weekly editorial for Windows IT Pro UPDATE, and a daily Windows news and information newsletter called WinInfo Daily UPDATE.

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