I have an unhealthy addiction to tablets. Within arms reach right now, there are five working tablets with a screen size of 8-inches or smaller.
Think about that: five, just on my desk, right here. Yep — I'm addicted. I need to talk to a medical professional.
But for now, let's talk about how these tablets relate to Windows 10. The Windows 10 builds, and I'm running Win10 on a couple of boxes, haven't been very good for tablets.
Win10 for the longest time has had a tablet mode, which is nice, because one of the problems with Windows 8 was that it was all for tablets. Then Windows 8.1 came out and they added a bunch of desktop stuff, but everyone was still mad.
If It's Not One Thing ...
So they said they were going to make Windows 10 better for the desktop — which was terrible for tablets, because Windows 8.1 was great for tablets, very finger friendly.
That's why I've resisted putting Windows 10 on these tablets. But Recently Build 10166 came out and I started putting it on some tablets this past week, with varying degrees of success.
One thing that made me feel better about it is that my friend Paul Thurrott was trying to do the same thing at the same time and having very similar problems. So I felt a little better about getting my butt kicked by that.
The first thing about all these tablets is they don't have optical drives. Some of them use WIMBoot (Windows Image Boot), a Windows 8.1 feature that was genius. It allowed you to take small devices with as little as 16GB of storage and create a recovery partition, and allowed the box to boot off of that recovery information.
The problem: They don't upgrade very well. But that's the joy of using previews.
First I tried the Windows 10 Insider Program. I signed up and tried to do the upgrade. The upgrade would stop and reboot and all that, and then say, "We need more room to upgrade, There's not enough space."
But there's a dropdown, which let you pick removable drives for it to do all its temp stuff with. What I assumed it was going to do was copy stuff, resize the partitions and then upgrade Windows 8.1 to Windows10 on the device.
'I Think I Can, I Think I Can'
It would try. Oh lord, did it try.
Like I said, this box has just 16GB of storage and a crappy Atom Z3735 processor. So it went pretty slow.
I used a thumb drive so I could see it flash, but it couldn't pull it off.
My next thought was "OK, I'll do a clean install and see how that works." That worked a little better, though I had to fight with it some.
Now I had to boot from media, and that's were things got ugly.
You've been able to create USB boot media since Windows 7 and that was one of the crazier things because I'm just a big nerd. When the W7 previews started coming out, I told myself that I was never going to burn windows to physical media again. Never was I going to install windows from a CD or DVD again.
So, to that end, I have Windows deployment services installed on a server. So if I have a machine that can boot off of a network, I can install windows over my network without media. The other thing I do is use USB drives.
I didn't want to fuss with trying to boot one of these tablets off the network. So I decided to create a Windows 10 USB boot media drive. The directions for that have been out forever.
Microsoft has a tool that creates them. But it didn't work for me either.
There's Gotta Be a Way
I couldn't get the device to boot off my media. But this tablet has a unique feature in that it has a full size USB port. Most of these tablets just have one USB port for charging and for guest USB devices.
It's called USB OTG or USB On-the-Go. It can get a little weird, but I've had pretty good luck with it. But this time I couldn't get it to boot off my media.
I tried doing it again and it didn't work. Turns out this tablet and most new devices these days don't use BIOS the way we're used to. They use a thing called UEFI, stands for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, sort of the new version of BIOS.
To boot directly, I had to have a (GUID Partition Table) GPT partition and the file system had to be FAT32.
I was using a tool called Rufus, a utility that helps format and create bootable USB flash drives. It's super simple. You say, "Here's the USB drive, here's the ISO file, make with the booting."
But the defaults for this weren't working, so I had to go through several combinations of tests to make it work.
When I hardcoded GPT and hardcoded FAT32, then it would boot. I was able to boot my tablet to the Windows 10 installation thing and install Windows 10.
So a clean install was the only way that I could go, and it went very, very, very slow. Very slowly.
Mission Accomplished, Sort Of
When it was done, I had Windows 10 on the tablet, but a bunch of things didn't work. For whatever reason, I cannot get a bunch of the drivers to work.
The big one: The touchscreen doesn't work, which on a tablet is sort of the kiss of death. So I started using my little gyroscopic mouse and all that.
That was another thing. I had the USB drive in there and booted to it, but the touchscreen wasn't working so I couldn't actually do anything.
I ended up having to use a USB hub and hook a keyboard and mouse to it. That worked.
Paul Thurrott has an article on what the upgrade process looks like. The funny thing about that is at the same time I was struggling to update a tablet, Paul was trying to upgrade his, having the same terrible luck.
Windows 10 does not have the WIMBoot stuff that works in Windows 8.1, which is too bad because again it was pretty clever.
Aw, Come On
With Windows 10, they offer a compact install. It doesn't install as many things and uses file level encryption to safe space on the disk.
For whatever reason though, the Windows 10 installer doesn't default to that automatically. It doesn't say, "Hey this drive is smaller than 32GB" and do that automatically, at least it didn't look like it did.
You have to kick off the setup with a parameter. If you're doing a fresh install, there's nowhere to put this in.
Since this tablet had this UEFI interface I couldn't just mash on F8 to boot from USB, So Windows 8.1 was running and I went in and typed boot.
It said boot-up options, and then asked, "How do you want to boot up?" I said I want to do an advanced boot. And the machine reboots.
Then it comes up and says, "Hey what do you want to boot off of?" and I'm like "The USB." Click. USB hard drive. Click.
It boots up off the USB drive once you get it setup correctly. Then it comes up and says "Hey you want to install Windows?"
It was trying to do an upgrade and I needed to pass it this compact parameter to do this compact install. So instead of installing Windows, I told it I wanted to repair windows. This is where it gets crazy.
It brings you back to the boot page and says, "What do you want o boot off?"
If you hit shift+f10, you get a command prompt but the Windows install is still running in the background, so if you try to run setup/compact it just kicks you back.
And if you close that setup, it just reboots your box, so you have to boot and tell it you're going to install, then repair, and then shift+f10.
So it was kind of an interesting thing.
No More Builds for You
What's a little frustrating is that Microsoft has been marching towards getting Windows 10 out around July 29. Because of testing and all that stuff it'll be locking down the build of Windows 10 any day now, if it hasn't already.
In fact, the Windows 10 team released a blog post this week that notes Microsoft has suspended Windows Insider builds, which was kind of crazy and kind of disappointing.
What that means is that whatever build of Windows 10 you're on, if you go onto Windows Update and check for updates, that build will show as current. No more updates through Windows Update.
They're going to remove the ISO downloads for all of the builds, too. And for you cheeky buggers like myself who already have ISOs downloaded, the third thing they're doing is removing the activation for all of the pre-release keys.
Even if you had the ISO downloaded and had the key saved locally, if you try to install it will not activate.
So now you cannot get Windows 10 anymore, which is sort of sad because I worked through a bunch of the issues on this tablet and was going to try another one. Now I can't.
And Moving On …
Ok, we have more for you in Podcast 253. So if you're tired of reading, watch the podcast or listen on iTunes. The time stamps will link to the location of the content.
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