DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

Does Windows 10 Professional Support DirectAccess?

This is a question I’ve received on more than one occasion. For some reason there seems to be a persistent rumor on the Internet that Windows 10 Professional is now a supported client for DirectAccess. I’m not sure where this rumor got started, but I’ll put it to rest right now – Windows 10 Professional is NOT a supported DirectAccess client! DirectAccess still requires Enterprise edition (with two exceptions) to take advantage of DirectAccess for secure remote access.

Supported DirectAccess Clients

The following is a complete list (as of this writing) of client operating systems that support DirectAccess.

  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Windows 10 Education
  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Ultimate

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

If you are running a version of Windows that is not Enterprise edition (with the exception of Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 10 Education) DirectAccess will not work. Be careful, because you can still provision non-Enterprise SKUs such as Windows 10 Professional for DirectAccess. All of the DirectAccess settings will be applied without issue and everything will look perfectly normal, but DirectAccess won’t work. The telltale sign on Windows 8.x and Windows 10 clients is that you won’t be able to start the Network Connectivity Assistant (NCA) service (NcaSvc). When you attempt to do so you will receive the following error message:

Failed to start service 'Network Connectivity Assistant (NcaSvc)'

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

Identify OS Version

You can verify the operating system SKU by looking at the output of systeminfo.exe or by going to the control panel under System and Security and clicking System.

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

Upgrade from Windows 10 Professional to Enterprise

A new feature introduced in Windows 10 allows you to easily upgrade the product SKU without having to perform an in place upgrade or reinstall the entire operating system from scratch. So, if you have Windows 10 Enterprise licenses and you want to upgrade a Windows 10 Professional device to Enterprise (for example you want to enable your new Surface Pro 4 to use DirectAccess!) you can simply provide the enterprise product license key in Windows 10 to upgrade. You can provide a new product key by navigating to Start | Settings | Update & Security | Activation | Change Product Key, or run changepk.exe from the Run dialog box or the command line.

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

Enter your Windows 10 Enterprise product key and then click Start Upgrade.

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

After the system reboots it will have been upgraded to Enterprise edition and now work as a DirectAccess client.

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional

DirectAccess and Windows 10 Professional
Summary

With Windows 10, it’s easy to upgrade from Professional to Enterprise edition by simply providing the Enterprise edition product key. This works great if you have just a few machines to upgrade, but if you are planning to upgrade many machines I would recommend creating a deployment package using the Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer (ICD), which is included with the Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) and can be downloaded here. Once you’ve upgraded your Windows 10 Professional devices to Windows 10 Enterprise you can begin provisioning them for DirectAccess!

DirectAccess consulting services now available! Click here for more details!

Enterprise Nirvana with Surface Pro 4, Windows 10, and DirectAccess

Introduction

DirectAccess and Windows 10 - Better Together

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 was made available for sale to the public on October 26, 2015. The latest in a line of powerful and flexible tablets from Microsoft, the Surface Pro 4 features a full version of the Windows 10 desktop client operating system and includes more available power, memory, and storage than previous editions. Significant improvements were also made to the keyboard and pen. The Surface Pro 4 is designed to be an all-in-one laptop replacement, enabling users to carry a single device for all of their needs.

Surface Pro 4 and the Enterprise

Microsoft is pushing the Surface Pro 4 heavily to large enterprise organizations by expanding the resale business channel and offering the device through companies like Dell and HP. In fact, Microsoft has made the Surface Pro 4 available through more than 5000 business resellers in 30 global markets. This new enterprise sales initiative strives to deliver world class service and support for enterprise customers adopting the new Surface Pro 4, and includes a new warranty offer and a business device trade-in program designed to promote the adoption of Surface and Windows 10 in the enterprise.

Enterprise Nirvana with Surface Pro 4, Windows 10, and DirectAccess

In addition, Microsoft will have a training program for IT management and support professionals as well as new Windows users that will help streamline the deployment of the Surface Pro 4 and Windows 10. Organizations are rapidly adopting the Surface Pro 4 and Windows 10, as Microsoft has already signed on a number of high-profile companies in the retail, financial services, education, and public sector verticals. Today, Microsoft has deployed Windows 10 to over 110 million devices since it was released in late October 2015, making it the most rapidly adopted operating system in their history.

Enterprise Requirements

One of the primary motivating factors for enterprise organizations migrating to the Surface Pro 4 is cost reduction. The Surface Pro 4 functions as both a full PC and a tablet, eliminating the need for users to carry two devices. More importantly, it eliminates the need for IT to procure, manage, and support two different hardware and software platforms (for example a Windows-based laptop and an iPad). Additionally, IT organizations can leverage their existing Windows systems management infrastructure and expertise to deploy and maintain their Surface devices.

DirectAccess and the Surface Pro 4

For organizations seeking to maximize their investment in the Surface Pro 4 with Windows 10, implementing a secure remote access solution using Windows Server 2012 R2 DirectAccess is essential. DirectAccess provides seamless and transparent, always on secure remote corporate network connectivity for managed (domain-joined) Windows clients. DirectAccess enables streamlined access to on-premises application and data, improving end user productivity and reducing help desk costs. DirectAccess connectivity is bi-directional, making possible new and compelling management scenarios for field-based assets. DirectAccess clients can be managed the same way, regardless if they are inside or outside of the corporate network. DirectAccess ensures that clients are better managed, consistently maintained, and fully monitored.

Enterprise Nirvana with Surface Pro 4, Windows 10, and DirectAccess

Windows 10 and DirectAccess

The Surface Pro 4 with Windows 10 provides full support for all enterprise features of DirectAccess in Windows Server 2012 R2, including automatic site selection and transparent fail over for multisite deployments, as well as scalability and performance improvements. In addition, supportability for Windows 10 clients is much improved with DirectAccess GUI integration and full PowerShell support. Additional information about how DirectAccess and Windows 10 are better together, click here.

Additional Cost Savings

Enterprise Nirvana with Surface Pro 4, Windows 10, and DirectAccess

DirectAccess does not require any additional software to be installed on the client, and does not incur per user licensing to implement. Another benefit is that DirectAccess can easily be deployed on most popular hypervisors such as Hyper-V and VMware, eliminating the need for expensive proprietary hardware-based remote access solutions and taking full advantage of current investments in virtual infrastructure. Additionally, existing Windows systems management skill sets can be leveraged to support a DirectAccess implementation, eliminating the need for expensive dedicated administrators.

Note: Windows 10 Enterprise edition is required to support DirectAccess, and it is assumed that large organizations will be deploying Surface Pro 4 with Windows 10 Enterprise.

Summary

The Surface Pro 4 is the thinnest, lightest, and most powerful Surface tablet ever. It features Windows 10, and it can run the full version of Office and any other applications you need. The Surface Pro 4 is aimed squarely at large enterprises, governments, and schools. Not coincidentally, these verticals are also excellent uses cases for DirectAccess. DirectAccess is the perfect complement to the Surface Pro 4 and Windows 10 in the enterprise, as it helps organizations address the unique pain points of large scale enterprise adoption of Windows devices. DirectAccess allows the Surface Pro 4 to be much more effectively managed, while at the same time significantly improving the end user experience.

To realize the full potential of your Windows 10 and Surface Pro 4 deployment, consider a DirectAccess consulting engagement. By leveraging our experience you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you have deployed DirectAccess in the most optimal, flexible, secure, and highly available manner possible. For more information about a DirectAccess consulting engagement, click here.

DirectAccess and Surface Pro for the Enterprise

DirectAccess, Windows 10, and Surface ProToday Microsoft announced a new partnership with Dell to deliver the Surface Pro and Windows 10 to enterprise customers around the world. This new initiative addressees the specific needs of large enterprises, whose increasingly mobile workforce places unique demands on IT to provide high levels of security and consistent platform management. This partnership will ensure that Dell’s enterprise customers have access to the Microsoft Surface Pro along with Dell’s enterprise-class service and support offerings.

Of course DirectAccess on Windows Server 2012 R2 complements this initiative quite nicely. Using DirectAccess with it’s always on functionality ensures that remote Windows devices like the Surface Pro are always managed and consistently updated, providing IT administrators greater control and visibility for their field-based assets than traditional VPN is capable of providing. In addition, DirectAccess connectivity is bi-directional, allowing administrators to “manage out” to their connected DirectAccess devices. This opens up compelling use cases such as initiating remote desktop sessions for the purposes of troubleshooting or conducting vulnerability scans to determine the client’s security posture.

In addition, Windows 10 now supports the full enterprise feature set of DirectAccess on Windows Server 2012 R2, including geographic redundancy and transparent site failover, along with significant performance improvements over Windows 7 for perimeter/DMZ deployments. DirectAccess with Windows 10 is also easier to manage and support.

For more information about the Microsoft/Dell partnership, watch Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s message here. For assistance with the planning, design, and implementation of a DirectAccess solution, click here.

DirectAccess on the Microsoft Surface Pro

At Microsoft TechEd North America 2013 I had the privilege of (finally!) acquiring both a Microsoft Surface RT and a Surface Pro. I’d been wavering back and forth on which one to purchase for many months. As it turned out, my indecision (and admittedly some procrastination!) paid off. As you are probably aware, Microsoft was offering the Surface RT 64GB for $99.00 USD and the Surface Pro 128GB for $399.00 USD to TechEd attendees and third-party speakers. Needless to say I purchased both! I love the Surface RT for general Internet use like web browsing, e-mail, etc. The battery life is great and having Office apps is tremendously productive. However, as a technology geek I really like the power and flexibility that the Surface Pro offers. Since it is a full-fledged PC, I can install whatever software I like on it.

Being able to join a domain and enable DirectAccess would, of course, be the icing on the cake. The Surface Pro comes pre-installed with Windows 8 Professional, which means I can join a domain but unfortunately it doesn’t support DirectAccess. My plan was to wipe the device and reload Windows 8 Enterprise when I returned from the conference. As luck would have it, I ran in to my good friend and fellow Microsoft MVP Jordan Krause, and I was surprised to find that he had already upgraded his Surface Pro to Windows 8 Enterprise, joined it to his domain, and had enabled DirectAccess right there at TechEd! How did he do this so quickly? It turns out that it is as simple as mounting the Windows 8 Enterprise ISO and performing an in-place upgrade by launching setup.exe. And no, contrary to what some have said, you can’t simply input your Windows 8 Enterprise license key and magically turn Windows 8 Professional in to Windows 8 Enterprise. It will of course activate, but it will still be Windows 8 Professional unless and until you perform the actual upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise using the installation media.

So, upon returning home from TechEd I promptly upgraded my Surface Pro to Windows 8 Enterprise using the steps Jordan outlined here. Worked like a charm! I was able to join my lab domain and successfully establish DirectAccess connectivity on the Surface Pro. I did encounter a few issues when I attempted to refresh the device, however. To reset the device, I clicked Settings on the charms menu (swipe-in on the right or Window Key+C) and clicked Change PC Settings. Next I selected General and chose the option to Refresh your PC without affecting your files and received the following error message:

Insert media. Some files are missing. Your Windows installation or
recovery media will provide these files.

Insert Media on the Surface Pro

Selecting the option to Remove everything and reinstall Windows yielded the same error. Fortunately it was easy enough to resolve. To begin, I created a folder on the C: drive called WinRec. Next, I mounted the Windows 8 Enterprise ISO, navigated to the \Sources folder and copied install.wim to C:\WinRec. Finally, I opened an elevated command prompt and executed the following command to register this file as a recovery image:

reagentc.exe /setosimage /path C:\WinRec /target C:\Windows /index 1

Now when I select the option to Refresh your PC without affecting your files or Remove everything and reinstall Windows the process continues normally. Once the process is complete, there will be a few drivers missing which you can download here. After that everything was good to go! Obviously the solution I’ve described here is only really effective for one-off deployments of Windows 8 Enterprise on the Surface Pro. If you’re considering an enterprise-wide deployment, have a look at the Surface Pro Enterprise Deployment Guide [PDF], which includes detailed, prescriptive guidance for deploying Windows 8 Enterprise on the Surface Pro.

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