Provisioning Packages are small executables that prepare one or more devices for corporate use. When devices are common between office and personal use, there should be certain rules in place, that prevent causing mix up of data. Though we have the Enterprise Data Protection feature in Windows 10, it is still a good idea to provision Windows 10 devices with rules so that the devices are fit for both office and personal use. This post looks at building provisioning packages in Windows 10 and deploying them.
Windows 10 Provisioning Packages
Provisioning packages can be considered a group of command that make a device ready for use. Though intended for commercial use, these packages can also be used to restore devices for personal use. The provisioning packages can be used to program multiple devices so you can put it to a variety of uses instead of restricting the usage to offices. For instance, you can provision your mobile phone and tablet to have same set of rules related to lock screen, wallpaper and apps etc.
With Windows 10, you can create provisioning packages that let you quickly and efficiently configure a device without having to install a new image. This can result in a significant reduction in the time required to configure multiple devices in your organization, says TechNet.
You can configure the following using a provisional package:
- Applications: you can chose what apps to install and what rights do the apps enjoy;
- MDM – Mobile Device Management: You can use provisional packages to automatically enroll devices into Microsoft Intune or other MDM services;
- Certificates: you can install and manage certificates using provisional packages in Windows 10;
- Connectivity: you can create and install WiFi profiles to Windows 10 devices without having to set them up on each device manually;
- User Rights: you can specify the privileges for apps and data access using the Windows 10 provisioning packages; the same provisioning package can be used to provide same user rights on different devices;
- Data: you can also provision documents, videos, music and images if need arises
- Start menu and other customization: you can select what all features should be available to users while building the provisioning packages and then use it to customize the start menu, lock screen etc.
Provisioning packages can be used via an email, a SD card, direct PC to device connection (recommended) and USB Flash drive.
Benefits of Provisioning Packages in Windows 10
With services such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Bring Your Own Service (BYOS) gaining momentum in corporate sector, you have to configure each device properly so that the corporate data is not at risk. You can apply rules manually but that would be a tedious task if you have many employees.
To counter this, use the provisioning packages for Windows 10 devices. You can build a provisioning package using the Provisioning Package Wizard and then use the Wizard to deploy the rules etc. to different devices just by running the package on each device. This saves tremendous work and time.
You can configure a new device using the provisioning package thereby eliminating the need for imaging. You can quickly configure an employee-owned device without having to go for Mobile Device Management or Enterprise Data Security in Windows 10.
In short, provisioning packages are key to saving time and effort when it comes to configuring or re-configuring devices used by employees – whether the device is provided by the company or is employee owned.
Building a Provisioning Package in Windows 10
You will have to use Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer (Windows ICD) to create and configure devices. A provisioning package will have an extension as .ppkg and will contain the customizations you will choose using the Windows ICD.
- To create a new provisioning package, select New provisioning package from the Windows ICD start page
- In the next page, enter the name of project and location where you wish to save the ppkg file
- Click Next and select the edition of Windows for which you are creating the provisioning package; by default, it will be Windows Common but since we are talking about Windows 10 here, select Windows 10
- Click Finish to start adding rules to the configuring package.
The provisioning page will look somewhat like the image below. From the set of available options in the left pane, when you select one, you will see the rules in right pane. Select the ones what you wish to include in the provisioning package.
Note that the components available will be based on the edition of Windows you select. It is not necessary that you will see exactly the same window options in your Windows ICD as shown in the image. It will differ for different editions so you need not worry if you can’t find an option.
- Once you are done with configuring the package and adding customizations to it, click on the Export button.
- Select Provisioning Package from the drop-down menu that appears
- You will encounter a page asking you details about the project; these are same as you entered in step 2; if you wish to make any changes, you can do so or else, simply proceed to next page
- This step is optional too; you may choose to encrypt the provisioning package or leave it unencrypted; I would recommend you to encrypt the package so that no one can break into it to alter the configurations
- On the next page, select the destination where you wish to save the ppkg file and click Next
- Click on Build; it will take a while to build the provisioning package so you may go and get yourself a cup of coffee meanwhile
Applying the Provisioning Packages to Windows 10 devices
At the moment, since the final build is not yet out, you can experiment with the Windows Insider program. You will have two options: configure a PC or configure a phone.
To configure a PC, you can apply the configuration during deployment or during runtime. The latter is easier as you just have to double click the provisioning package and click on Allow to let the package configure the device. To configure a PC during deployment, you will have to use Windows ICD command line.
For mobile phones, you cannot use the provisioning package at deployment. You have to use it at runtime and it is similar to the method for PC. Just connect the mobile device to PC using a USB cable and double click on the provisioning package. Click Allow to let the package configure your device.
You can see how easy it becomes to set up and configure devices with provisioning packages in Windows 10. You do not have to do it manually for each device and in case of large organizations, you save plenty of days provisioning the devices that the employees use.