Windows Cloud Download is another step towards modern management

Get back to work quicker with Cloud Download, which helps you avoid the fun of updating for days after reinstalling.

At the end of August, Microsoft unveiled the Windows 10 20H1 test build 18970. Much of the focus of the update is the new tablet layout for 2-in-1 devices. However, a new recovery feature did catch our eye, called Cloud Download. It looked like yet another step along the path of cloud-enabled modern management, so we decided to take a quick look.

What is Windows Cloud Download?

Microsoft added the “Reset this PC” feature in Windows 10 that allowed users to install a clean copy of the OS from files already on the computer. Cloud Download is a new addition to Reset this PC, which downloads Windows 10 installation files from the cloud. One perk to downloading from the cloud is that you get the same build, version, and edition of Windows 10, meaning you don’t need to spend any additional time updating Windows 10—though you will still need to reinstall applications.

When you want to reset your Windows machine, go to either Reset this PC from Settings or through the recovery menu, if Windows can’t boot up. From there, select whether you wish to delete everything or save personal files, and then select Cloud Download. You can customize a little further at the next screen, with the option to clean and remove files instead of a complete reset, and again decide if you wish to do a cloud reset and not install from device. (It’s a little weird you select this twice.)

One thing to note is that the current build, as of the publication of this article, has some issues and Cloud Download doesn’t work if some other Windows features are installed:

  • EMS and SAC Toolset for Windows 10
  • IrDA infrared
  • Print Management Console
  • RAS Connection Manager Administration Kit
  • RIP Listener
  • RSAT tools
  • Simple Network Management Protocol
  • Windows Fax and Scan
  • Windows Storage Management
  • Wireless Display
  • WMI SNMP Provider

This cloud reset option isn’t completely brand new for Windows devices as some Surface devices could do this through Windows Recovery Environment already. Additionally, macOS already offered a similar feature.

What’s the enterprise angle?

My first thought when learning about Cloud Download is that it seemed weird to download something already on your computer. I could see the value in having a way to re-install Windows 10 should the restore files get corrupted or deleted, but I wanted to see what Cloud Download does or could provide the enterprise.

I reached out to Microsoft MVPs to get their perspective and spoke with Peter Egerton, who graciously offered his thoughts. He explained that Cloud Download fits into Microsoft’s modern management, but can also be a good option for those with SCCM, too. Through Intune, admins could send out a reset command to a device and have users back up and running quicker—avoiding the long update wait after reinstallation.

He also had some ideas on where Microsoft might go in the future—maybe they will or won’t. Peter said he sees Cloud Download fitting well with Windows Autopilot; send the device out to the user and then it hooks into MDM. While it might be for restoring Windows 10 devices at the moment, maybe Cloud Download could serve as a way to improve the actual update process (something that might make at least a few people happier). 

It might not be the most revolutionary new feature for Windows 10, but I’ll be interested to see where Microsoft goes with it in the future.