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Microsoft Surface Pro 3

In order to successfully deploy the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with SmartDeploy, you'll need to use SmartDeploy version 1.1.5010 or later. Additionally, this UEFI Class 3 device automatically adds a BCD firmware entry for any present bootable USB media on each boot. This means that even with the UEFI "Alternate System Boot Order" set to "SSD Only", the machine will still boot to a bootable USB device on each boot. Therefore when deploying the machine via offline USB media, the machine would reboot back to SmartDeploy once the image had been applied and the machine rebooted for the first time. Not only is this not desired, but it causes an issue with the deployment if you then remove the USB stick, reboot the system, and let the deployment continue. To this end SmartDeploy 1.1.5010 adds an additional Deploy Wizard advanced feature to shutdown the machine when the Deploy Wizard ends. By selecting this, it will provide a chance to remove any bootable media, and then power on the machine. The deployment will then continue and complete successfully. If you use PXE boot either from the USB dongle adapter or the dock, and there is no USB boot media present, then you can let the machine reboot as normal. If you have any issues, please contact us at SmartDeploy Support.

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

SmartDeploy Enterprise v1.1.2010 – VMware Notes

If you are using VMware virtualization products to build reference computers with SmartDeploy, and you want to create a Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 image, you'll need to follow these instructions. Through testing, we have noticed inconsistent shut down results from within VMware products. When using the Capture Wizard to subsequently capture an image of that machine, the resultant image file does not contain full metadata. If you then attempt to deploy this image, it will result in the following error. "The Platform Pack has support for this computer manufacturer and model, however it does not contain support for this operating system." As such, prior to capturing an image of a SmartDeploy reference computer that was created using VMware products, you need to do one of two things: Preferred method If you are using the Capture Wizard while the machine is powered off you must first perform a full shutdown of the VM. From a command prompt, run “shutdown.exe /s /t 0”. Or, you can use the Settings charm, Power, and then hold down the Shift key while clicking Shut down.
Most customers use VMware Player or Workstation in this fashion.
[*]Alternate method If you are using the Capture Wizard while the machine is powered on, you must first license and activate the virtual machine.
Many customers use VMware ESX in this fashion.

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

Additional Regional Setting Support

In SmartDeploy Version 1.1.1980 we have added additional regional setting support to the Language/Culture drop down in the Deploy Wizard, as well as an advanced answer file change for more granular control. Additional Language/Culture Listings: In previous versions of SmartDeploy we only had Language/Culture support for the main language packs and language interface packs offered by Microsoft. This led to some confusion when wanting to use a specific language, say English, with a standard locale, like United Kingdom. In version 1980 you will now see a more comprehensive list of Language/Culture pairings when deploying languages. You can find a full list of Language/Culture pairings here. Custom Language/Culture Support: We have also added a new section to the SmartDeploy answer file that will give you the option to specify a custom set of UI Language, System Locale, User Locale, and Input Locale much like you would see in the unattend.xml that is created from Windows System Image Manager. This obviously requires the use of an answer file during deployment. The additional settings will give users the ability to specify any standard locale code (i.e. en-US, 0409, or English (United States)) for any of the four options above. To use this setting you will need to edit the SmartDeploy.xml answer file that is being used with deployment. Examples below. Standard regional settings in answer file:   <regional_settings> <time_zone>(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US and Canada)</time_zone> <input_locale>English (United States)</input_locale> </regional_settings>     Extended regional settings in answer file:   <regional_settings> <time_zone>(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US and Canada)</time_zone> <input_locale> <ui_language>en-US</ui_language> <system_locale>en-US</system_locale> <user_locale>en-US</user_locale> <input_locale>en-US</input_locale> </input_locale> </regional_settings>     As you can see you will need to add nested nodes for each of the four regional settings under the default <input_locale> node. This will cause the Deploy Wizard to use what is entered in the answer file rather than a standard region that is defined in the wizard itself.

Erik

Erik

 

Windows 8 Deployment

With the recent release of Windows 8 we have had a number of inquires about Windows 8 deployment support in SmartDeploy Enterprise. To group some of those questions and corresponding answer together, I wanted to add a brief information entry about SmartDeploy Enterprise and Windows 8. The Windows 8 Deployment Process To jump right in and address the main question, "does SmartDeploy support deploying Windows 8?". I am happy to say that with the release of SmartDeploy Enterprise Version 1.1.1980 we have officially added support for deployment of Windows 8. What this means is you can now deploy Windows 8 following the same process you would with Windows 7 or Windows XP. Create a virtual reference machine with Windows 8 installed.
Shutdown and capture the virtual reference machine using the Capture Wizard.
Build boot/deployment media.
Walkthrough the Deploy Wizard selecting the newly created Windows 8 image.
Gotchas and Other Considerations Although the deployment process for Windows 8 remains the same as previous versions of Windows, there have been quite a few changes to Windows 8 that present some potential considerations. Creating and capturing the virtual reference machine.
Most virtualization software has been updated to support Windows 8 virtual machines, there are however some SmartDeploy supported virutalization platforms that do not support Windows 8, like Windows Virtual PC. Please be sure to create your Windows 8 virtual reference machine on a virtualization platform that supports the operating system.
Currently we have seen some issues with VMware Workstation/Player. When shutting down Windows 8 normally in VMware it seems as though the OS doesn't power off correctly. This causes an error in the Capture Wizard stating "Unable to locate a system volume...". This behavior seems to be related to the new power features, like kernel hibernation, in Windows 8. If you experience this behavior please use the command prompt and "Shutdown.exe -t 0 -s" to power off the machine. At this time we have tested the capture process using virtual machines created from Hyper-V, VirtualBox and VMware Workstation/Player, at this time only VMware Workstation/Player exhibit this behavior. [*]Driver support As of posting this there isn't a lot of Windows 8 driver support provided by the computer manufacturers. This will obviously change in the coming months. As computer manufacturers begin to officially release Windows 8 driver support you will see the SmartDeploy Platform Pack library updated as well. In the mean time you can deploy Windows 8 images without a Platform Pack and update the drivers manually, or extract the Windows 7 drivers from the Platform Pack and re-import them to a Windows 8 node. This will need to be tested to ensure all Windows 7 drivers work with Windows 8 on the particular device.

Erik

Erik

 

Windows 8 Features

Microsoft is doing some pretty cool things within Windows 8 to allow you to Refresh and reset your PC to a known good starting point. This should be a much cleaner WinRE implementation than the PC Manufacture's implementations with Windows 7. It also appears to have given us USMT Hard-Link Migration for the masses. In this related article, talking about improvements in Windows Setup, and more specifically about the new web based purchase/download/upgrade process... they mention the following: “After this optimized package is created we compress it using an improved compression algorithm specifically for Windows 8 setup, which provides an additional 28% savings. In this example (using the Windows 7 x86 ISO) the size of the download would be reduced from 2.32GB to 1.51GB.” Considering that the install.wim is nearly 90% of the ISO size, this seems incredible. There has to be some new .wim trickery, since modern compression algorithms run against .wim only produce low single digit percentages. Interesting! -Allen

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

SmartDeploy Version 1.1.1950 Now Available

SmartDeploy Version 1.1.1950 is now available for download from SmartDeploy.com. The new release contains some customer bug fixes as well as a new Capture Wizard that is developed in Silverlight. Some notable fixes are listed below: Media Wizard - Update to how USB media is built. As an initial requirement for the Media Wizard we made the product to be nondestructive when using USB media. This was mainly to protect user data in the event that the wrong USB drive was used. This behavior has changed with the new release of SmartDeploy. If the USB device that boot media is being created on is not formatted NTFS the user will be warned that it will be formatted, if they continue it will be formatted as NTFS. Media Wizard will now also check the current state of the USB device to ensure that the partition containing SmartPE is set to active. This will help to resolve issues where USB media will not boot. Capture Wizard - Capturing a virtual hard disk with a Raw volume. Previously if the Capture Wizard detected a Raw volume on the virtual disk it would present an error and exit. The behavior in this release is to grey out the Raw volume allowing the user to capture any properly formatted partitions that may have an operating system install. Deploy Wizard - WDS Multicast Deployment. Previously an attended answer file would not automatically populate the WDS credentials for multicast. This has been changed and the credentials will automatically be filled. Deploy Wizard - Deploying Wipe and Load to a BitLocker encrypted disk. When deploying an image with Wipe and Load to a disk that is encrypted with BitLocker (protection suspended) the deployment would fail with a BCD error. A task is now run after sysprep is kicked off that will update the BCD to work correctly with BitLocker deployments.

Erik

Erik

 

SmartDeploy Enterprise 1940 - Released!

An update to SmartDeploy Enterprise is now available for download! For SmartDeploy Enterprise version 1940 we have release a few new features as well as addressed a few customer bugs. Please see the lists below for further information on both. Features   Build Wizard: The Build Wizard is a new application that is installed with SmartDeploy Enterprise to aid in the creation of a virtual reference machine. Build Wizard can create a VM for VMware Workstation and Player, Windows Virtual PC and Oracle Virtual Box and apply custom settings. The Build Wizard is a Silverlight application that requires a new prerequisite check during SmartDeploy Enterprise installation. We now require that the technician computer have both Silverlight and .Net 4.0 installed prior to installing SmartDeploy Enterprise. If these prerequisites are not met the installer will try to automatically install them. Microsoft does not support .Net 4.0 installation to Windows XP SP2 and below, causing us to adopt this requirement as well. If the system you are installing to does not meet any of these requirements you will be prompted to make the proper changes. Overtime you will see more of SmartDeploy Enterprise transition to using a Silverlight code base making these requirements even more important. Ability to deploy Install.wim from a Windows product DVD (Vista and higher): Previously SmartDeploy Enterprise would not create the BCD when installing images that were missing the store. This has been changed to allow for the deployment of the install.wim to speed up testing and deployment of a vanilla image to computers. Please note that when using the Install.wim from a product DVD you will need to access the Advanced options of Deploy Wizard to enable the Administrator account. Updated SmartDeploy Enterprise boot environment (SmartPE): We have updated SmartPE to Windows PE 3.1 and included hotfix KB982018. This update will allow SmartDeploy Enterprise to make better use of advanced format disks. For more information on this update and the impact of advanced format disks please see the knowledge base article. Added ability to capture VMware ESX virtual hard drives offline: SmartVDK (the virtual disk connection utility used by SmartDeploy Enterprise) has been updated to allow the offline capture of VMware ESX virtual hard drives. The virtual hard drive will need to be exported from the VMware ESX server prior to capture.   Fixes   Updated credential prompts: The credential prompts in SmartPE have been updated to be more straightforward. The prompts went from a 4 line to 2 line entry model.

1930 Credential Prompt

1940 Credential Prompt More informative domain join dialog: We have updated the dialog you see when attempting to join a computer to a domain. The new text boxes contain a title stating to use the FQDN of the domain and distinguished name of the OU. Large Platform Pack causing overflow: Under certain circumstances users would receive an overflow error when attempting to use a large Platform Pack. We have updated the Deploy Wizard to allow for more file entries in the Platform Pack to fix this issue. %SmartDeploy_Media% causing tasks to fail: In version 1930 of SmartDeploy Enterprise a check to ensure the file being called from a pre or post image task exists was implemented. The check was not resolving the %SmartDeploy_Media% variable correctly however, causing a false positive. This has been updated to pre-resolve the variable before enacting the check. Default file name when saving answer file: When exporting an answer file form the Deploy Wizard the name will now be automatically populated with SmartDeploy.xml.  

Erik

Erik

 

Creating Unattended Answer Files with SDE 1.1.1920

SmartDeploy 1.1.1920 introduced a new feature that allows the user to create an automated answer file with ease. In this short blog I’m going to explain how this new feature works. 1. Boot to SmartPE and select Deploy an image. 2. Select Next to proceed to the Welcome to the Deploy Wizard page. 3. Proceed through the Deploy Wizard as you normally would, and proceed to the Summary page. 4. To create an unattended installation, please check For use as an unattended installation. This option attaches the <deploy_wizard mode="Unattended"> tag in your answer file so you do not have to manually edit your answer files anymore for unattended installs. Quick and easy! 5. Select Export and save your answer file. 6. Open SmartDeploy’s Media Wizard and proceed to the Optional Components page. 7. Browse to your unattended answer file that you saved in the above steps. 8. Complete the Media Wizard as you normally would, and create your media. 9. Boot from your newly created media and you will notice a countdown. Once this countdown is done, your unattended install will start. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us. You can download SmartDeploy here.

Devon

Devon

 

SmartDeploy 1.1.1920

Here is a list of some of the changes and enhancements in the SmartDeploy 1.1.1920 release. 1803: Ensured all Deploy Wizard, Advanced Options, System Properties work properly. 1812: Allow for multiple Domain's & OU's in answer files 1813: Fixed crash when selecting an image file for deployment that was being copied to 1819: Added messaging if attempting to capture Virtual Box with guest additions installed 1849: Fixed post image task pointing to a missing file causes error 1815: Provide better driver injection status during deployment 1836: Enhanced error messaging when handling corrupt platform packs 1858: Fixed first logon task not running on Windows XP in certain scenarios 1837: Resolved warm capture not working with certain partition layouts 1844: Resolved program self-repairing under certain conditions 1817: Resolved License Wizard false expiration errors in certain conditions

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

Listing Multiple Domains and Organizational Units in the SmartDeploy Answer File

In SmartDeploy version 1920 we have added the feature to list multiple domains and OUs in an answer file. You can then choose from this list during deployment. I am going to take a minute to explain how to set this up with an existing answer file. By default when specifying a domain and exporting the answer file you will get something that looks like this:   <network_identification> <computer_name/> <!-- 0 = Domain, 1 = Workgroup --> <membership>0</membership> <domain>SmartDeploy.Local</domain> <domain_options><option></option></domain_options> <organizational_unit>Cn=test,cn=computers,dc=SmartDeploy,dc=local</organizational_unit> <organizational_unit_options><option></option></organizational_unit_options> <workgroup/> </network_identification>     If you wish to add another domain or OU to this list you can simply add the next entry in the option node. For example:   <network_identification> <computer_name/> <!-- 0 = Domain, 1 = Workgroup --> <membership>0</membership> <domain>SmartDeploy.Local</domain> <domain_options><option>Prowess.Local</option></domain_options> <organizational_unit>cn=test,cn=computers,dc=SmartDeploy,dc=local</organizational_unit> <organizational_unit_options><option>cn=test,cn=computers,dc=Prowess,dc=local</option></organizational_unit_options> <workgroup/> </network_identification>     The resulting options in Deploy Wizard will look like the picture below. If you wish to add more options you simply need to add another <option> set. For example:   <network_identification> <computer_name/> <!-- 0 = Domain, 1 = Workgroup --> <membership>0</membership> <domain>SmartDeploy.Local</domain> <domain_options><option>Prowess.Local</option><option>Test.Local</option></domain_options> <organizational_unit>cn=test,cn=computers,dc=SmartDeploy,dc=local</organizational_unit> <organizational_unit_options><option>cn=test,cn=computers,dc=Prowess,dc=local</option></organizational_unit_options> <workgroup/> </network_identification>    

Erik

Erik

 

SmartDeploy 1.1.1910 Platform Pack Information

SmartDeploy stores the device drivers for Windows PE in the platform pack for a given model, where necessary. This is to help easily facilitate creating boot or deployment media that supports the network and mass storage for that device. SmartDeploy versions prior to 1.1.1910: -Dell --Latitude E6410 ---Windows PE 2.1 SmartDeploy 1.1.1910: -Dell --Latitude E6410 ---Windows PE We only add Windows PE drivers if necessary for a given model. This is because many models are covered for both networking and mass storage by the in-box drivers in Windows PE. When we changed from Windows PE 2.1 to Windows PE 3.0, many of the old Windows PE 2.1 drivers were simply removed from the platform packs because Windows PE 3.0 now has in-box support for those devices. Other packs had their Windows PE drivers updated to Windows 7. The Windows PE node of a platform pack is only used during the Media Wizard, when you are creating boot media or offline deployment media. The other actual OS nodes of the platform packs, i.e. Windows XP or Windows 7 did not change. FAQ Q: I installed SmartDeploy 1.1.1910, and created boot media using my existing platform pack. When I boot my target device, there is no networking. Why not? A: You need to download and use latest platform packs available from SmartDeploy.com and re-generate boot media with the Media Wizard. Q: Will my existing combined platform pack work with SmartDeploy 1.1.1910? A: Since the OS nodes did not change, deployment will work fine. However, you'll need new platform packs if one of your devices requires networking or mass storage support, and it is not present in your boot media. Q: Will the new platform packs on SmartDeploy.com work with versions of SmartDeploy prior to 1.1.1910? A: They will work for deployment, but not for creating boot media or offline deployment media with the required networking or mass storage support. Q: I've spent a lot of time making my single combined platform pack support all my models? What do I need to do update it for use with 1.1.1910? A: Explore your combined platform pack and see how many "Windows PE 2.1" nodes there are under each one of your models. These are the models that will need to be updated. You can delete these from your existing combined pack, download the new versions, and import them into your combined pack.

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

SmartDeploy Enterprise 1.1.1910 - Bug Fixes

Now that the latest version of SmartDeploy Enterprise has been release I want to take some time and talk about a few of the bugs that have been addressed in this version. Below you will find a list of bugs, a brief description and the action that was taken. In addition to the bug fixes below version 1910 also underwent a major update from a boot media perspective. Allen talks more about this update in his blog titled SmartDeploy 1.1.1910 Platform Pack Information. Media Wizard Error 76 "Path Not Found": When you create deployment media using Media Wizard from a user account that is 16 or more characters in length you will receive an error stating the path is not found. This was due to path lengths in one of the command calls.
Setting a Static IP from SmartPE: It was found that when entering a number over 232 in the first octet of the Subnet mask you would receive an invalid subnet error. The input restraints for this field have been updated.
"Unable to deploy to the volume containing the virtual reference machine." Error When Deploying from USB HDD: This condition exists when the target device has an unformatted hard drive and the image file being used resides on the volume labeled c:. Essentially a check to ensure an image cannot be applied to the disk in which it resides is unexpectedly triggered. This behavior has been update in 1910.
Error Joining a Domain with Hyphens: When joining a domain that contains a hyphen an error will be returned stating "Please enter a valid domain name". This check has been updated to include a hyphen as a valid domain character.
Joining a Domain from a Client with a Static IP: When specifying a static IP and domain from Deploy Wizard the target will not be joined to the domain during the deployment process. This is due to the domain join process taking place before the static IP has been set. This behavior has been updated in 1910 and the static IP will now fully apply before the domain join process can start.

Erik

Erik

 

Editing SmartDeploy.xml on the Fly

The SmartDeploy Media Wizard enables you to quickly build boot media that includes a custom answer file. When you create boot media with an answer file it is stored at the root of your SmartPE media (CD or USB) as SmartDeploy.xml. This answer file has several important items that you may want to modify on the fly including: .WIM file being deployed
Platform Pack (.ppk) being selected
Windows Deployment Services (WDS) compatible image files are a good companion for a custom answer file because of the number of questions involved in the setup process. One method I have found that works well is using a free virtual CD daemon to modify the SmartDeploy.xml file on my SmartPE ISO images. You can have separate SmartPE media for each image path or platform pack variation. However, most would probably agree that it is more desirable to have different answer files (SmartDeploy.xml) and quickly swap them out as needed. Download your virtual CD daemon of choice. I like PowerISO. The unregistered version will allow you to create or edit image files less than 300MB which works effectively for WinPE ~204MB. This program allows me to quickly mount my SmartPE media and view the SmartDeploy.xml file. If you want to edit the answer file. Simply copy the file to your desktop. Edit the parameters to match the path to the platform pack and image file you need. Then copy the file back to the screen replacing the original file. You will have your new SmartPE ISO file with an updated SmartDeploy.xml as soon as you click save. Another useful idea is to use your mounted ISO to create a new deployment USB drive. Optionally, you can use the Media Wizard to perform this task. First, open SmartDeploy Enterprise Command Prompt. Then run the following commands: diskpart select disk 1 clean create partition primary select partition 1 active format quick fs=fat32 assign exit xcopy V:\SmartPEiso\*.* /e f:\ Note: where F:\ is the drive of your USB drive and V:\ is your virtual CD daemon drive. Remember, you can edit the SmartDeploy.xml file on your USB boot media that you have created quickly without needing to mount an ISO image. You may want to keep copies of various answer files that reference different paths to image files or platform packs on your network or WDS folders. If you name them logically (XP_answers, Win7_answers.xml) you will be able to swap out answer files on the fly in either the ISO or USB SmartPE media you are using. Enjoy IT, Aaron Lines IT Consultant

aaron.lines@gmail.com

aaron.lines@gmail.com

 

Which logs are useful for debugging deployment issues?

Here are some handy logs and locations to check out if you run into any deployment issues. You can always view the following logs in: C:\Windows\Debug - Deploy.log is created by SmartDeploy Enterprise and will show you deployment errors that may have occurred with SmartDeploy. - Netseteup.log will show any issues with the deployed machine joining the domain. If you are running windows 7, the windows setup logs are located in C:\Windows\Panther If you are having issues with drivers on your deployed machine, be sure to check out C:\Platform\Dism.txt. This log will show you what occurred during driver injection. Of course, if you run into any issues when using SmartDeploy Enterprise, we'll be glad to help!

Devon

Devon

 

Automating WDS Image Deployment

SmartDeploy now fully supports OS image capture for deployment using Microsoft's Windows Deployment Services (WDS). Devon's blog does an excellent job of over-viewing the process to capture a WDS compatible SmatDeploy image file. The process is wizard-driven and truly extends the capability of the product. In a large computer lab settings, it is very desirable for you to be able to automate the deployment wizard using an answer file. For example, some of the large labs I support include upwards of 40 systems of a single hardware type requiring the same platform pack. I will discuss how to integrate an answer file into your SmartPE media to create a fully automated method of deploying a specific SmartDeploy Windows image file to a large number of computers that require the same image with the same platform pack. Below is a screen shot from the Summary page of the Deployment Wizard. This is step 16 on part 7 of Devon's How To Integrate SmartDeploy With WDS blog. Now go ahead an export your answer file using the 'Export' button. Then create a new SmartPE image file using the Media Wizard that incorporates your WDS answer file. This is the screen shot from step 7 of Part 2: How To Integrate SmartDeploy With WDS. Click the 'Browse' button to import your WDS answer file. Then complete the wizard creating your new SmartPE media. Now you will have be able to re-import your new SmartPE media containing the answer file into your WDS to further automate image deployment in a lab environment. Similarly, image deployments that require the same Deployment Wizard answers (including the image file and platform pack) could merit their own SmartPE boot image that contains each unique answer file. I recommend naming the PXE boot image a specific file name to make it obvious it contains an answer file and for which configuration (e.g. image file + platform pack + Lab_Name). You should be able to judge how many SmartPE boot images containing various answer files based on the frequency you use an image file and platform pack for deployment. The more frequent you use an image set, the more likely you will want a boot image that answers the wizard questions for you. Things to keep in mind: You can use the Platform Manager to combine multiple platform packs which could further limit the number of SmartPE boot images required for your scenario.
If anything needs to change (path to the image file, platform pack, etc.) then you may want to edit the answer file and create a new SmartPE boot image for that different imaging task.
Finally, if you don't specify a platform pack it will automatically integrate one named DEFAULT during the deployment process. By storing platform packs for specific models in the root image directory on your WDS then naming it DEFAULT, you could avoid changing the answer file except in cases of image path differences.
Final thoughts. Integration of WDS is a leap forward for SmartDeploy and image deployment professionals. I welcome more time saving tips and walk-throughs to reach further development our community's best practices with SmartDeploy Enterprise. Aaron Lines IT Consultant

aaron.lines@gmail.com

aaron.lines@gmail.com

 

Differencing Images: Making the Difference!

One feature that I have started to utilize in SmartDeploy Enterprise is differencing images. This technology is currently available for you to reduce your image development time, decrease the amount of space required for OS image storage, and improve the change management process of 'certifying' OS images in your IT organization. A simple way to think about differencing images is that they represent only the changes (delta) between image ‘A’ and image ‘B.’ Most IT shops have at least a dozen different images they are supporting and maintaining which hogs valuable network space and more importantly takes up unnecessary time in capturing or deploying large image files during development. For example, if I want a Windows 7 image for each of my departments (HR, Finance, and IT) then I need 3 different images right? Yes and no. No, we do not need 3 huge 10GB images containing all the Windows base OS files and customized software for each of our three departments. First, we can capture a standard base image containing our basic applications (anti-virus software, web plug-ins, and Office). Then we can capture separate ‘differencing’ or delta (the changes) images between our base image and our customized software and settings for each of our three departments. Follow along: I captured a base image, aka a standard .WIM file of Windows 7 which ended up being about 5.8GB. Now I want to customize my image file to be specific for IT Professionals. So, I booted my VMware Workstation file of Windows 7 which I had recently captured. Then I installed two programs that all of my IT Professionals need, the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and VMware Workstation 7. Next, I shut down the virtual machine and run the Capture Wizard again. This time I point to my original .WIM file (from my first capture run of the base image file) and create a new .DWM file with a similar name. Now I have two image files: Win7x86_GI_2-1-10.wim and Win7x86_GI_IT_diff_2-1-10.dwm that are saved in the same folder/directory. This aspect is important because when you deploy a .DWM image file you need to have the master image file residing in the same directory for the image deployment to complete successfully. My new .DWM or differencing file is only 3GB which saves about two-thirds of the space required to store the entire IT Department image. My base image was almost 6GB. If I had created a new traditional WIM, I would have had a new 9GB image for my IT Department. In total, the traditional method would require 15GB, with differencing images it only requires 9GB. This process can be continued to create .DWM files for each variation of your base image. To do this easily, you could have 3 separate virtual machines of the same base Windows 7 OS. Then customize each virtual machine with the different applications and settings for your 3 departments. Typically, I save these virtual machines to revisit at a later date to re-capture after more recent patches and security updates have been released for various applications. From a change management perspective, differencing images allow you to control the image certification process. You can distribute a 'certified' master image that gets a rubber stamp of approval every couple of months. Then encourage IT support staff to focus on developing differencing images while they await the quarterly or semi-annual master image. Overall, I like using differencing images with SmartDeploy Enterprise and I think you will as well. Please see me next post for a detailed screen shot based approach on how to 'difference' image step-by-step and for some .DWM file deployment best practices. Aaron Lines IT Consultant

aaron.lines@gmail.com

aaron.lines@gmail.com

 

Time Saving Tips for SmartDeploy Enterprise

We all need some time saving tips. I want to share a couple of time saving tips that I have developed while working with Smart Deployment Enterprise. The tips alone are not revolutionary, but they are valuable and will help new SDE adopters get even more out of an already valuable imaging suite. Part of being super efficient in image development is to use a virtual reference computer for gathering your base image (see my earlier post and Devon's post on creating a reference VM). I have a simple shortcut to share with you. I use a specific technique to capture and deploy .WIM files from my host computer while developing my OS images using Smart Deployment Enterprise in combination with VMware Workstation 7. In this scenario, I have just captured a newly minted Windows 7 SYSPREPED image from a VM using the SDE Capture Wizard. Next, I want to test deploying the image to a VM to verify SYSPREP works as desired. After creating a blank (image-less) 40 GB VM file to test my Windows 7 image, I use the following steps: I boot my blank (imageless) 40 GB VM with my SmartDeploy Enterprise PXE Media ISO
At the SDE Splash screen I enter Shift + F10 for command prompt (per on-screen instructions)
Using the net use command I map a Z: drive to my local machine using the computer name
Net use Z: \\ocoitpc224c\B$ Enter the user name for ‘ocoitpc224c’ : Workgroup\Administrator Enter the password for ‘ocoitpc224c: **Also, the command line netuse functionality is available using a GUI from the Deploy Wizard. Click on the 'Advanced' button. Then click the 'Browse' button located on the 'General' tab. On the 'Open' window you will see the 'Network' button in the bottom right. Click the button to bring up a standard windows Map Network Drive windows. Then map a network drive to your local system using your local computer name. Note: I have to use the local admin account instead of my current user session for the drive mapping to complete successfully. Since I am not copying images back and forth to a network server and just using my local resources this useful shortcut saves me valuable development time with faster copy speeds. I have a 1.5 TB ‘B’ drive on my local computer which offers plenty of space for testing capture and deployments of my OS images. After my image testing is complete, I will copy my image to my network file server for added redundancy. My second tip suggestion is to use solid naming conventions so you can easily identify your .WIM files completely from the file name. I enjoy using the image description field to help describe my images, but you need to use the SDE Deploy wizard to view that info. Of course, you could use the IMAGEX /INFO command to view the architecture type (x86 or x64) of the image file which is an additional step. My naming convention is as follows: Windows Version + Architecture + Image Acronym + Date. For example: Win7_x64_GI_2-1-10.wim or XPSP3_x86_BI_1-1-10.wim The image acronym GI and BI stand for Generic or Base Image. I can quickly and easily identify if it is the base vanilla Windows image with no add-ons or my 'generic' image that has all of my company specific applications installed. Furthermore, I can read the Windows version, processor architecture type, and the date I created the image file all from my file name. I used to add the computer model to the file name, but SDE enables me to have hardware agnostic image files which I can blow on a variety of platforms as previously discussed in an earlier post. Overall, I think you will find that using the net use command for capturing .WIM image files locally and applying a solid naming convention will help you be more efficient in rapid Windows XP-7 image development with SmartDeployment Enterprise for your IT organization. Stay tuned for how to use differencing images for even more efficiency gains in my next post. Aaron Lines IT Consultant

aaron.lines@gmail.com

aaron.lines@gmail.com

 

Step By Step: Capturing Using SmartDeploy Enterprise

So you have installed SmartDeploy Enterpise, and are ready to capture your first WIM? Great! Here is a step-by-step guide on how to capture a virtual machine and turn it into WIM (Windows Imaging Format) using SmartDeploy. 1. Open the Capture Wizard by going to Start– All Programs – SmartDeploy – SmartDeploy Enterprise – Capture Wizard. 2. Select Next on the Welcome to the Capture Wizard page to proceed to the Virtual Hard Disk page. 3. Select Browse and browse to your virtual disk file. SmartDeploy supports the following file formats. a. .vhd b. .vmdk c. .hdd d. .vdi 4. Once you have selected your virtual hard disk, select Next to proceed to the Select Virtual Disk Volumes page. If you click the Details button, that will show the Disk number and Partition number. 5. Select Next to proceed to the Operating System page. 6. Enter the product key for the operating system that you want to deploy. This is also your chance to enter your local administrator account password. Note: Un-checking Mask password allows you to see your password to prevent creating an account with a password you didn’t intend on using. Note: These fields are not required during the capture process and you will have a chance to enter the product key during the deployment phase. However, if you enter the product key during this step you will not be prompted again during deployment. 7. Select Next to proceed to the Image Type page 8. You now have two options, choose Standard image if you wish to capture an image to a new or existing .WIM file. This guide only provides instructions on creating a new .WIM file. 9. Select Next to proceed to the Save Image page 10. Click Browse and select a location where you want to save the .WIM file. Be sure to use a descriptive name. When creating multiple .WIMs, a standard naming convention is recommended. 11. Create an Image name for your .WIM. 12. Create an Image description for your image (optional). 13. Select Next to proceed to the Completing the Capture Wizard 14. Select Finish to start the capture and create your .WIM. You have now successfully created a .WIM file ready for deployment using SmartDeploy Enterprise! If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll be glad to help.

Devon

Devon

 

Step By Step: Creating Offline Deployment Media

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to create offline deployment media for SmartDeploy Enterprise. Following these steps will quickly get you a basic offline deployment CD/DVD. 1. Open the Media Wizard by selecting Start – All Programs – SmartDeploy – SmartDeploy Enterprise – Media Wizard. 2. Select Next to proceed to the Select Task page 3. Select Create offline deployment media. This option allows you to create offline deployment media containing all components required to boot and deploy target computers. 4. Select Next to proceed to the Select Image page 5. Select Browse to browse for the WIM you have created. 6. Select Next to proceed to the Platform Pack page 7. Select Browse to browse to a platform pack that you have created. Don’t have one? Get a Platform Pack here. 8. Select Next to proceed to the Optional Components page. For now let’s keep the defaults. 9. Let's select CD / DVD disc as the type of media we would like. SmartDeploy Enterprise supports spanned media, so really you can pick any option. It just depends on how big your image is and what media you select! 10. Select Next to proceed to the Save Options page. 12. Select Browse to select a location where you want to save the SmartDeploy ISO. If you would like to burn the .iso to media now, click the Burn now checkbox, otherwise just click Next and burn the media later. 13. Select Finish to start the media creation process. You have now successfully created offline deployment media with SmartDeploy Enterprise! You can now boot from this CD and/or DVD to start SmartPE and begin the deployment process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and we will be glad to help.

Devon

Devon

 

Screen Capture: The Windows Snipping Tool

For years people have struggled with the best way to capture and share dialog boxes or other objects they see on their computer screen. The old tried and true method: PrtScn & Alt+PrtScn The PrtScn button by default captures the entire desktop, and using Alt+PrtScn captures only the active window on the desktop. This is a good start to get what you want captured. You can then open the Microsoft Paint application (mspaint) and paste in what you have captured. The trick here is to make the area in Paint that you’re about to paste into smaller than what you are pasting, this way the resulting image will be exactly what you captured and not have any white space. This works fine, but what if you want more than one window, but not the whole desktop? You have to capture the whole desktop, paste it into Paint, then select just the area you want, copy that, create a new instance of Paint and paste it in. So, it can be done… but it’s tedious. The obscurity of this process and the desire to have more functionality has led many people to purchase 3rd party software like Snagit. While these 3rd party tools aren't that expensive and provide a lot of functionality, I think many people end up purchasing them just for basic functionality. Microsoft steps in: The Windows Snipping Tool With Windows Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft includes a handy utility for screen capture called the Snipping Tool. It's installed by default in almost all versions of Vista and 7, other than the basic and lower editions. Its part of the “Tablet PC Components” so if you can’t find it, be sure those components are installed under Windows Features. The easiest way to launch the Snipping Tool is to use Windows Vista and Windows 7’s built in search. Click the Start Button, type in “snip” and it should be at or near the top of the list. Or, if you really just want to go to it, it sits under All Programs, Accessories. By default the Snipping Tool opens to a rectangular snip, in which you can draw a rectangle around anything you want and it will capture it. There are other options… The Windows Snip option is much like Alt+PrtScn, but can capture any window you hover over and highlight. There are also configurable options… With Windows Vista, probably the first thing I like to change is that by default all captures have a red ink boarder. So if you uncheck the "Show selection ink after snips are captured”, that won’t happen anymore. In Windows 7, this is unchecked by default. Also, here lies another neat feature. By default the Snipping Tool is set to “Always copy snips to the Clipboard”. With this, if you really just want to paste what you’ve captured into another program, you don’t have to save the capture first because it’s already in the Clipboard. For example, you can snip something and then just paste it into an IM conversation or email to share it with someone. Editing tools after capture are fairly limited. You can highlight, use a pen to draw, or directly email the capture. Beyond this is where you would really need a more fully functional 3rd party application if you wanted to resize, add text, or other graphics. In Windows Vista both Paint and the Snipping Tool default to saving their files as JPEG’s. However, in Windows 7 they have switched both to default to PNG’s. Microsoft has always bounced back and forth on this, but I prefer PNG’s, so I like that they have gone that direction with Windows 7.

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

Windows 7, BitLocker and WinRE: Part 2

In a follow-on to my previous “Windows 7, BitLocker and Recovery” blog, I was wondering what would happen if you installed Windows 7 to an existing partition so that you ended up with a single partition instead of two, and then ran the BitLocker wizard. Or, if you made a 300MB active partition in the beginning of the disk and then told Windows setup to install to the free space. In the “Hardware requirements for BitLocker Drive Encryption” section of the Windows 7 Help and Support, it states that the system partition must be at least 200MB. Then in the “Set up your hard disk for BitLocker Drive Encryption” section it states… “If your computer does not have a system partition, the BitLocker wizard will create one for you using 200 MB of available disk space.” Yet the BitLocker wizard follows the Windows PE User’s Guide recommendation of 300 MB. Plus, it moves and reconfigures the Windows Recovery Environment from the boot drive to the newly created system drive. Let’s summarize what you end up with the 3 scenarios: Perform a clean install from the Windows 7 product DVD, enable BitLocker after installation. Install from the Windows 7 product DVD to an existing single partition, enable BitLocker after installation. Pre-create a 300MB active partition, have Windows setup install to the free space, enable BitLocker after installation. These are significantly different outcomes. It really makes me think that it was a mistake not having Windows setup create a 300MB system partition and locate the Windows Recovery Environment there from the beginning. Or, maybe Windows setup shouldn’t even bother pre-creating the 100MB system partition. What is funny is that all SKU’s of Windows 7 create it, yet only Enterprise and Ultimate contain BitLocker. BitLocker is the one product feature that really requires two partitions. I could see if the Windows Recovery Environment was located in the 100MB partition by default, but it isn’t. Having the 300MB active/system partition at the beginning or end of the drive could really be personal preference. If you ever wanted to have a recovery image stored locally on the machine, much like the OEM’s do, then having the 300MB at the beginning makes some sense. This allows you to then have a third partition at the end of the drive large enough to hold your image. I’m going to go with a 300MB system partition at the beginning, and then the BitLocker Wizard doesn’t have to shrink an existing partition later.

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

Windows 7, BitLocker and WinRE

Windows 7 has greatly improved and simplified the process of setting up BitLocker and the Windows Recovery Environment. In fact both the separate partition structure required for BitLocker, and the automatic failover to the Windows Recovery Environment are setup by default in Windows 7. With Windows Vista neither of these were setup up by default. With Windows Vista the guidance from Microsoft was to create a 1.5GB system partition for BitLocker, and this is exactly what the BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool did. 1.5GB was plenty big to hold the system files plus a Windows Recovery Environment. But, it oddly still fell short of being able to hold a recovery image of any kind since the base install.wim for Vista Enterprise 32-bit is over 2GB in size. Now with Windows 7, the automatically created “System Reserved” partition is just 100MB. This is an interestingly small size, because the Windows Recovery Environment is too big to fit on this partition. The included Windows Recovery Environment, Winre.wim, in Windows 7 is 138MB. The Winre.wim is located on the boot partition in a Recovery folder, and is set as the default recovery sequence in the Boot Configuration Database for the boot partition. This all works great, but things start to get interesting when you enable BitLocker. Enabling BitLocker on Windows 7 causes the Windows Recovery Environment to be removed. The Winre.wim and boot.sdi are removed from the Recovery folder and the BCD entries are deleted. This actually causes errors with integrated features of Windows 7. If you go to Recovery in the Control Panel, and click on “Advanced recovery methods”, you will receive the following error. One interesting aspect of automatic failover with the Windows Recovery Environment is that once you enable BitLocker it will no longer be a seamless process. Meaning that when the system went into failover mode and booted to the Windows Recovery Environment it would prompt for the BitLocker recovery password to first unlock the drive, instead of automatically running the recovery agent. This makes automatic failover not as useful once BitLocker is turned on. Maybe this is one of the reasons that led to the removal of the Windows Recovery Environment when you enable BitLocker. Having the Windows Recovery Environment located in the boot partition has some drawbacks, because you have to read the Winre.wim file from the Windows partition that might need fixing. Thus, if the MBR or partition table becomes corrupt, you can’t boot to the environment that could fix those issues. In the Windows PE User's Guide for Windows 7, it suggests having the Windows Recovery Environment on the first partition on the disk, which would be the active/system partition, but makes it 300MB. So, the roughly 30MB of system files along with the Windows Recovery Environment fits no problem. This seems to make a lot of sense, and I don’t see why Windows 7 wasn’t setup this way by default. I also don’t see why the Windows Recovery Environment is automatically removed when you enable BitLocker.

Allen Marsh

Allen Marsh

 

Where's your 'Golden Image' today? OS image life cycle Best Practices

For years, IT departments have been searching for a method to maintain a perfected Operating System image which can be quickly and easily deployed to the majority of the computer models supported throughout the organization. This 'golden image' should contain all the necessary OEM drivers for the hardware to work without any secondary steps to manipulate the device manager or otherwise update drivers after the initial image deployment. I have personally experienced high levels of frustration from hours of development time trying to design the correct scripts to conduct INF file injection PRE or even POST SYSPREP for an elusive 'golden image' because the payoff would be well worth it. Finally, there is a product on the market which achieves the perfect image end game. By leveraging the scripting and single-instance storage available in SmartDeploy Enterprise (SDE) I now have the 'golden image' at my proverbial deployment fingertips. In the past, my methods were tiresome. I would get a new model computer and visit the vendor site only to download, extract, and install each individual driver for the hardware components then move on to other add-ons. The alternative is to use the vendor baked-on image, but in IT circles that is blasphemy to most professionals due to the unnecessary add-ons, trial software, and general sluggishness of vendor supplied images. There are several advantages to adopting the SmartDeploy Enterprise software to serve as a new model for your Operating System image management. First, you are able to use the Platform Manager component within the SDE software to create single-instance storage files of all the drivers you need for a specific computer platform or model. These are known as Platform Packs. Secondly, Prowess the makers of SDE host a freely accessible database of Platform Packs that can be quickly queried to deliver a fully functional driver pack for each of your computer models. Each contains the collection of needed drivers and INF files needed for your model and conveniently organized by Windows version. The process is simple. Download the Platform Packs from the website for the supported models in your organization. When you open the pack with the SDE Platform Manager component you can quickly make additional customizations to the driver sets if desired. For example, I downloaded a pack for an Optiplex 745. Then opened it with Platform Manager. The drivers are organized logically by OS and then by hardware device as you can see. In this example, I needed to add an additional high-end audio driver for a specialized sound card that we use. To make the changes to a platform pack: I start by extracting the driver files for the manufacturer and model that I need to modify to a new folder on my computer. Then I delete the operating system that I just extracted and subsequent driver files (from the Platform Manager console). Next, I make audio driver file additions to my new local folder. Finally, I re-import the folder containing the updates into my modified platform pack file and re-save it. For exact steps on how to do this follow the Smart Deploy Enterprise User's Guide below. Add or remove drivers in a platform pack 1. Go to Start > All Programs > Prowess > SmartDeploy Enterprise > Platform Manager. 2. Click File, and then click Open. Browse to the platform pack (.ppk) that you want to modify, and then click Open. 3. Expand the tree to the manufacturer and model you want to modify. 4. Right-click the operating system you want to modify. Then click Extract. 5. Browse to an empty folder or create a new folder for the extracted drivers. Then click OK. The device drivers are extracted to the folder. Caution The next step deletes the entire operating system tree under the selected manufacturer and model. This includes all custom filters, tasks, and settings for the device drivers and supporting software. Make sure you are working from a copy of the original platform pack, and take a few minutes to note this information so that it can be easily re-entered when needed at the end of this section. 6. In the Platform Manager, right-click the operating system you just extracted, and then click Delete. Click OK. 7. Open Windows Explorer to the folder where the drivers were extracted. Do one of the following: To add drivers, add the desired files and/or folders.
To remove drivers, delete the desired files and/or folders.
8. In the Platform Manager, expand the tree to the manufacturer and model you want to modify. 9. Right-click the computer model, then click Add. The Add new software dialog will appear. 10. In the Target operating system list, select the same operating system you just deleted. 11. Click Browse, and then select the platform folder that contains your device drivers. Click OK. 12. Browse the device driver tree and confirm your device drivers have been added. 13. Go through the device driver tree, and re-create the custom filters, tasks, and settings. 14. When you have finished your changes to the platform pack, click File, and then click Save. As I mentioned, this process is simple. You can even import one Platform Pack into another if you need a single pack to contain drivers across multiple chipsets if desired. Below are the instructions from the Smart Deploy Enterprise User's Guide. To combine platform packs into a single file: 1. Go to Start > All Programs > Prowess > SmartDeploy Enterprise > Platform Manager. 2. Click File, and then click New. Browse to where you want to save your combined platform pack. Type a name for the combined platform pack; for example, Default.ppk, and then click Save. An empty platform pack will be created. Note If the platform pack is named Default.ppk, and it is located in the same folder containing your images, it will automatically be processed by the Deploy Wizard at deployment time. 3. Click File, and then click Import. 4. Browse to the place where you downloaded the platform packs. Select a platform pack. Then click Open. For each platform pack you want to include in the file, repeat steps 3 and 4. When you are done importing platform packs, close the Platform Manager. Our 'golden image' attainment is closer than ever before. Next, we will choose to deploy our Operating System with the desired Platform Pack to our destination computer. I plan on discussing how easily image deployment occurs in V2V or P2V environments in my next post. Aaron Lines IT Consultant

aaron.lines@gmail.com

aaron.lines@gmail.com

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