Here's how Microsoft is handling the Windows 10 launch, online and off

The days of folks lining up for a copy of Windows are long gone, but Microsoft isn’t giving up on the old-fashioned launch day hoopla for its release of Windows 10 this week.

Many of the company’s retail stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will be hosting hour-long workshops to familiarize users with the new operating system starting on July 29. Some stores will also host special small business breakfasts to help business owners come to grips with Windows 10.

Microsoft won’t be offering boxed versions of Windows 10 when it starts distributing the operating system on Wednesday, opting to only make it available for download at first. People who own a PC or tablet that runs Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 will be able to upgrade for free over the course of the next year by downloading a copy of the OS through the Get Windows 10 app.

A handful of Microsoft stores will also have Windows 10 “experience zones” that will feature demos of the new OS, along with giveaways for visitors. Those zones will open July 29 and stick around through Aug. 9.

Users won’t be able to buy a physical copy of the operating system until after launch day. Newegg is taking pre-orders for a disc to install a version of Windows 10 designed for manufacturers, but those won’t ship until July 31. People can pre-order a flash drive containing the consumer version of Windows 10 from Amazon now, but the online retailer says it won’t ship until August 30.

Ten Microsoft stores will host special sessions with celebrity guests. Members of the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national soccer team will be taking photos with fans in Virginia, New York and Washington, while other locations will have appearances from sports stars including the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala and boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard. To top it all off, the Microsoft store in Lone Tree, Colorado, will be hosting a concert by pop band OneRepublic.

The first 50 Windows Insider program members to visit each store starting on July 29 will get a free T-shirt to thank them for testing Windows 10. They’ll also get a 20 percent discount on PC hardware and accessories via a coupon Microsoft is distributing inside the Insider Hub, which comes pre-installed on the version of the operating system that has been sent out to testers.

Microsoft is also hosting some private celebrations for invited Windows fans around the world, including parties in New York, Sydney, New Delhi and Beijing. Those gatherings will include “hands-on opportunities, experiential demos, entertainment and opportunities to meet the Windows team.”

While the party starts on July 29, users may not actually get an upgrade to Windows 10 until later. When Microsoft launches the operating system on the 29th, it will first be available for download by members of the Windows Insider program. After that, the download will be put out in waves to people who have reserved an upgrade through Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

The Windows 10 installer will assess whether or not a particular computer’s configuration is suited to Windows 10 (though it may not always get that right) and prevent users from installing the new operating system unless it believes their hardware is compatible.

In addition, users will be notified before they decide to update if some software that they use will be removed as part of the upgrade process. Importantly, Microsoft has done away with Windows Media Center in the latest version of Windows, so people who really want to keep that around will need to avoid upgrading, or find other applications to take its place.

Business and education users will also have at least a few extra days to wait before they get their hands on the new OS. While the Home and Pro versions will be available on Wednesday, the Enterprise and Education versions of Windows 10 won’t be open for download by Microsoft’s volume licensing customers until August 1. Certain features like Enterprise Data Protection and Business Store for Windows 10 won’t be available until later this year, either. 

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