Deploying new Windows devices has traditionally been entirely in the hands of IT. Custom images are built, maintained and applied to get it all ready for new users, despite having a perfectly fine OS installed.
What follows is hours of manual setup of applications, drivers, policies, settings, usually for each and every new or re-purposed device - time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Sound familiar?
Windows AutoPilot is a new cloud-based technology quietly transforming this typical provisioning process from manual and tedious into automated and user-friendly. With this approach, deploying devices requires just two steps:
- Connect to a network to establish an Internet connection
- Verify your credentials
Everything else afterwards is all pre-configured by Windows AutoPilot from the cloud and done for you.
It's an incredibly straightforward yet valuable capability, yet there is a surprising lack of coverage on the many advantages AutoPilot offers, especially for businesses deploying hundreds of Windows devices on a regular basis.
Xello has worked with customers interested in leveraging AutoPilot to its fullest, and our team has outlined 5 major benefits we’ve found that make it essential to achieving a modern device deployment and management process.
1. Eliminate OS image re-engineering
As we've outlined previously, AutoPilot eliminates the need to re-image new devices or manually set up settings.
Yes, that includes installing apps and drivers, managing infrastructure, and setting policies.
With smart pre-configuration, you can set all of these things once, set it to an AutoPilot profile in Microsoft Intune, and automatically have it applied to all Windows devices under that profile. All of this is achieved using the cloud.
Without the need for re-imaging each device, your business can:
- Simplify the entire new device setup process for both IT and end-users
- Save valuable time and resources, freeing up IT for other initiatives
- Significantly reduce the cost and complexity involved with custom imaging
2. Customise the out-of-box experience
Windows AutoPilot allows your business to customise the out-of-box experience (OBBE) for new Windows 10 devices ahead of time, helping users get through the new device setup process faster and easier.
After you set OOBE to your organisation’s liking, when your new Windows device reaches the end-user they can skip entire sections that previously required manual input - and start using the device for work without the hassle.
Presently, you can configure the following OBBE settings on Windows 10 (1703) onward:
- Prevent accounts used to set-up the device from having local administrator permissions
- Skip Home or Work selection
- Skip OEM registration
- Skip Cortana and OneDrive
- Skip privacy settings
Additionally, you can customise the following from Windows 10 (1709) onward:
- Skipping EULA (starting with Windows 10, version 1709)
You can also have personalised company branding (logo and custom colour schemes) to appear during the OOBE by configuring the setting in Azure Active Directory first. With these settings, your organisation can provide a more consistent look-and-feel across your devices that can align with other Windows apps you use including Office 365.
3. Self-deploy your devices off-the-shelf
Windows AutoPilot is constantly updated with new features and one of its most compelling is Self-Deploying mode.
This mode takes the streamlining a step further by enabling any new Windows 10 device pre-enrolled in the Windows AutoPilot program to be business-ready off-the-shelf, zero-touch or IT interaction required.
All you have to do with a device registered under Self-Deploying mode is power it on, connect to a network and wait.
Self-Deploying mode then automatically joins your device with your company’s Azure AD tenant, performs MDM enrolment with Microsoft Intune and provisions all of your pre-set applications, certificates, policies and profiles without any need for additional IT input - aside from having to ensure the device has an active Internet connection.
The Windows 10 OBBE is essentially handled for you ahead of time. A quick breakdown of how Self-Deployment mode works is as follows:
- System admins only pre-configure basic settings (language, keyboard and region) rather than the wider OBBE and assigns them to an AutoPilot profile
- User turns on the new or reset Windows 10 device assigned to this profile and connects it to a network via Wi-Fi (if not on Ethernet)
- The new device setup process runs automatically
If your business has a significant number of new Windows 10 devices to deploy, Self-Deployment mode ensures greater efficiency and makes it easier to have everything ready. While it’s still in preview and only available with Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17672 and later, it’s expected to be the headliner of the program as it evolves.
4. Reset your devices for faster re-use
Windows AutoPilot Reset is another new feature that makes it easier to prepare devices for re-use and get them into a business-ready state more efficiently using a remote reset.
Via Microsoft Intune, all you have to do is access your devices tab, tick the target devices and select AutoPilot Reset.
It then automatically removes apps, files and settings while still maintaining its Azure Active Directory and MDM enrolment information so it remains managed.
Once the reset is complete, you can look forward to a re-purposed device with:
- All of its settings (language, keyboard, region) already configured
- Network credentials already provisioned
- Everything ready and simple for new users
A local reset using admin credentials and a keyboard shortcut is still available (previously called Windows Automatic Redeployment) but is now folded under the AutoPilot Reset moniker.
AutoPilot Reset is currently in Windows Insider Preview and available for users with Azure AD Premium and Microsoft Intune. It’s an efficiency game-changer that makes resetting and re-deploying hundreds of devices laughably simple and turns it into a task anyone can do, freeing up IT for other initiatives.
5. Pre-configure policies and ensure security with enrolment status
Windows AutoPilot’s enrolment status feature makes it easier to ensure your Windows devices are fully configured, compliant and secure before users can actually access the desktop.
System managers can check the status of each device in Microsoft Intune and know exactly which stage in the Windows 10 OBBE they’re at in real-time, allowing your IT team to:
- Keep devices in OBBE until all of your configurations and policies are provisioned via MDM
- Set custom messages if errors occur
- Choose actions that users can perform if failure occurs
- Specify the length of time a device should wait for enrolment status to complete before displaying an error
Greater control over user access allows IT to breathe when unexpected errors occur, and gives your team enough time to identify whether everything is properly set up before your users access the full device.
Windows AutoPilot: How to get started?
Xello understands the many capabilities of Windows AutoPilot - here is a list of our resources that can help you get started on learning how to enrol devices in the program and assessing whether or not it's a fit for your organisation.
- Get a Windows AutoPilot Assessment: Our Modern Workplace consulants can provide a detailed assessment on the best opportunities to modernise your device deployment process with Windows AutoPilot.
- Read our how-to-guide: Learn the basics of the Windows AutoPilot program, including how it works, how to get enrolled and how managed services can help your organisation achieve modern device deployment objectives.