Microsoft News – 13 March 2015

Quite bit of stuff to read since my last aggregation post on the 3rd.

Windows Server


Windows Client


Office 365



Microsoft News Summary-28 May 2014

It’s been a slow few days for news. Here’s what popped up overnight.

Using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit To Deploy Servers

I’ve started using MDT 2013 Preview to deploy the physical servers and template VMs in the lab at work.  I’ve never really used this free imaging + task sequence solution for anything other than desktop OSs so this was a first for me.

Note: In a larger environment, you should use System Center 2012 R2 to deploy your servers.  For example VMM 2012 R2 now deploys hosts and Scale-Out File Server clusters (including the nodes). 

Using MDT means I can push out customised deployments very quickly.  I have a single WS2012 R2 Datacenter image that I will update with patches from time to time.  I have imported drivers, e.g. Chelsio and LSI, into MDT  to plug and play during deployment.  And I have multiple task sequences for different types of machine.  Each task sequence is configured to add roles/features:

  • Plain one for a preparing a template VM
  • Domain controller with DNS and DHCP
  • File server with failover clustering, dedup, VSS support, DCB, MPIO, etc, for use as a SOFS node – I actually have one for physical and one for virtual
  • A Hyper-V host with Hyper-V, failover clustering, DCB, MPIO, etc

I use WDS for the boot image, so I can run MDT bare metal deployments over the network, initiated by PXE boots.

Over time I’ll probably add some scripts to the MDT deployment share that will enable further customisations during the task sequences, such as configuring NIC teams, setting Jumbo Frames, etc.

If you want to learn more about MDT then I have to recommend Deployment Fundamentals, Vol. 4: Deploying Windows 8 and Office 2013 Using MDT 2012 Update 1 by Johan Arwidmark and Mikael Nystrom.  They’re the best at this stuff.  I bought it to update my own knowledge and to pick up some more on advanced concepts:

You can get this book on:

Take the time and have a look at what MDT can do for you.  If you have a lab it can be a time saver.  If you’re a consultant, it can be installed in a VM on Windows 8 or 8.1 Client Hyper-V and used on multiple client sites to rapidly provision servers (make sure you use the customer’s volume license product key).  MDT is free and powerful, and that makes it something worthwhile.

Windows 8 Deployment Resources

These resources apply to Windows 8 but you could also use them in a Windows Server 2012 deployment or cloud.

Windows XP Support ends on 8th April 2014 AND THERE WILL BE NO EXTENSIONS no matter what the penguin-hugging activation-fearing “genius” you know at the bar says.  This means no more security patches or hotfixes for XP after that date, and also means that the support statements of 3rd parties will become meaningless.  It’s time to start planning an upgrade or become a breeding ground for malware.

Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit

A free tool that is an important first step in discovering what it is that you have on the network.  Honestly, it’s a good tool.  But, if your XP network is as shagged as many I’ve encountered, then remote admin will be broken on half the PCs and MAP won’t work.  I have found that the push capability of the System Center Configuration Manager agent will get you the same information via hardware audits and Asset Intelligence.

Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK)

This is a single free download that contains most of the tools you might use to plan, facilitate, and implement a Windows 8 deployment:

  • Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT): The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) helps IT Professionals understand potential application compatibility issues by identifying which applications are or are not compatible with the new versions of the Windows operating system. ACT helps to lower costs for application compatibility evaluation by providing an accurate inventory of the applications in your organization. ACT helps you to deploy Windows more quickly by helping to prioritize, test, and detect compatibility issues with your apps. By using ACT, you can become involved in the ACT Community and share your risk assessment with other ACT users. You can also test your web applications and web sites for compatibility with new releases of Internet Explorer.
    Deployment Tools: Deployment tools enable you to customize, manage, and deploy Windows images. Deployment tools can be used to automate Windows deployments, removing the need for user interaction during Windows setup. Tools included with this feature are Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management (DISM) command line tool, DISM PowerShell cmdlets, DISM API, Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM), and OSCDIMG.
    User State Migration Tool (USMT): USMT is a scriptable command line tool that IT Professionals can use to migrate user data from a previous Windows installation to a new Windows installation. By using USMT, you can create a customized migration framework that copies the user data you select and excludes any data that does not need to be migrated. Tools included with the feature are ScanState, Loadstate, and USMTUtils command line tools.
  • Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT): The Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) enables IT professionals to automate and centrally manage the activation of Windows, Windows Server, Windows ThinPC, Windows POSReady 7, select add-on product keys, and Office for computers in their organization. VAMT can manage volume activation using retail keys (or single activation keys), multiple activation keys (MAKs), or Windows Key Management Service (KMS) keys.
    Windows Performance Toolkit (WPT): Windows Performance Toolkit includes tools to record system events and analyze performance data in a graphical user interface. Tools available in this toolkit include Windows Performance Recorder, Windows Performance Analyzer, and Xperf.
    Windows Assessment Toolkit: Tools to discover and run assessments on a single computer. Assessments are tasks that simulate user activity and examine the state of the computer. Assessments produce metrics for various aspects of the system, and provide recommendations for making improvements.
    Windows Assessment Services: Tools to remotely manage settings, computers, images, and assessments in a lab environment where Windows Assessment Services is installed. This application can run on any computer with access to the server that is running Windows Assessment Services.
    Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE): Minimal operating system designed to prepare a computer for installation and servicing of Windows.

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT)

MDT is a free download.  Think Ghost .. but with MUCH more functionality, e.g. capture user settings & files, blast the machine with a new image, install some software, patch it, and restore the user settings & files … all while you drink your coffee.  MDT is so good that it’s considered an essential extension to Microsoft’s corporate solution: System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1.

Free: who can argue with free!?!?!  Who needs Ghost!?!?!

Deploying Windows 8 with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1

ConfigMgr + MDT gives you the best OS image deployment solution available.  It simply blows people away when they see it in action.

BTW, Microsoft has the driver thing sorted so you can do the single-image deployment that a sector-based image, such as Ghost, hasn’t a hope of matching.

Deliver and Deploy Windows 8

This is an aggregation of content from all across Microsoft.

Johan Arwidmark

The Deployment God of the North is a must-see if he’s presenting at an event near you.  This guy has forgotten more deployment wizardry than we mere mortals will ever learn.  He’s also the author of Deployment Fundamentals, Vol. 4 “Deploying Windows 8 and Office 2013 Using MDT 2012 Update 1” available on:

In fact, for just $9.99, I thought it was such good value that I’ve just bought the e-book myself Smile

Group Policy: Fundamentals, Security, and the Managed Desktop

You’ll want to manage and control those new deployments using GPO.  Jeremy Moskowitz writes the book on the subject:

That should be enough to get you started!

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012 Download

Microsoft has released the new 2012 download for the free task sequence based imaging solution for deploying Windows (and it integrates into System Center 2012 Configuration Manager).

Deploy Windows 7, Office 2010 and 365, and Windows Server 2008 R2 with the newly released Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012. MDT is the recommended process and toolset for automating desktop and server deployment. MDT provides you with the following benefits:

  • Unified tools and processes, including a set of guidance, for deploying desktops and servers in a common deployment console.
  • Reduced deployment time and standardized desktop and server images, along with improved security and ongoing configuration management.

Some of the key changes in MDT 2012 are:

  • Comprehensive tools and guidance to efficiently manage large-scale deployments of Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 365.
  • An enhanced user-Driven Installation (UDI) deployment method that utilizes System Center Configuration Manager 2012. UDI lets end users initiate and customize an OS deployment on their PCs—via an easy-to-use wizard.
  • Ease Lite Touch installation through integration with Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolkit (DaRT).
  • This release provides support for deploying Windows 8 Consumer Preview in a lab environment.

70-681 (Windows 7/Office 2010 Deployment) Exam Preparation

I’ve been asked several times during the last week about how to prepare for 70-681, the exam on deploying Windows 7 and Office 2010, so I thought it was worthy of a blog post.  The issue is that there is no guidance from Microsoft on how to prepare for it in terms of materials.  And that is because it pulls in information from all over the place.  Think about it; Windows 7 deployment can include:

  • MAP
  • ACT
  • WAIK/ImageX
  • WDS
  • MDT
  • ConfigMgr OSD/Zero Touch

That’s 6 different products.  By the way, we cover all that in Mastering Windows 7 Deployment.  And that’s just Windows.  This exam also covers Office 2010.  They typically go hand in hand, which is why the exam includes both topics.  And this certification will be mandatory from May 2012 for the Microsoft partner Desktop competency (new and renewing partners).

If you want blogs/websites to read for preparation then check out:

From time to time, Microsoft is known to run classes for partners on training.  Your registered partner contacts in your company should be getting email announcements from the local MSFT partner team with any such information.  These courses are usually anywhere from free to very economic.  This is just a starting point to get the attendees on the ladder.  A course cannot be a complete exam prep.  And folks like Rhonda Layfield (USA) and Johan Arwidmark (in Europe but also USA) are known to run their own deployment training classes which can be attended by the public (for a fee).

In the end, most of the OS deployment stuff centres on a few things like WinPE, WSIM, SysPrep, and drivers.  I did the Vista/O2007 exam and Office deployment questions asked about evaluation/migration stuff.  To be honest, nothing prepares you for this exam like doing a lot of work in a lab.  That’s where your MSDN/TechNet licensing and a virtualisation host come in really handy.  You can get a little prep work done also in the TechNet Labs for Windows 7.

Mastering Windows 7 Deployment is Published

I’ve just recived an email from Sybex to say that the third book that I’ve been involved with, Mastering Windows 7 Deployment, has just started shipping from their warehouse(s).  Right now, is still on preorder but that will likely change in the coming hours or days.  The Wiley (Sybex is part of the Wiley group) site is live right now.

Who contributed?  Me, Darril Gibson (trainer/consultant, also of Mastering Windows Server), Kenneth van Surksum (Dutch MVP and well known blogger), Rhonda Layfield (deployment MVP, author, speaker, trainer), not to mention deployment MVPs/gurus Johan Arwidmark and Mikael Nystrom.  It was quite a cast to work with!  Big thanks to anyone I worked with on the project, especially those in Sybex who worked on the project.

The book takes a very practical look at how to do a Windows 7 deployment project.  It starts out by doing the assessment using MAP.  From there, issues with application compatibility are dealt with.  You learn about WAIK, using WDS, MDT, user state transfer, and even how to do zero touch installations using System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (including R2/R3).  I’d buy it if I wasn’t one of the contributors 🙂

Sample Chapter: Mastering Windows 7 Deployment

Last year was pretty busy.  Not only did I write Mastering Hyper-V Deployment (with MVP Patrick Lownds helping), but that project was sandwiched by me writing a number of chapters for Mastering Windows 7 Deployment.  That Windows 7 book is due out somethime this month.

If you browse onto the Sybex website you can get a sneak peak into what the book is like.  There is a sample exceprt from the book, along with the TOC.

The book aims to cover all the essential steps in a Windows 7 deployment … from the assessment, solving application compatibility issues, understanding WAIK (and digging deeper), learnign about WDS for the first time (and digging deeper), more of that on MDT, and even doing zero touch deployments using Configuration Manager 2007.  A good team of people contributed on the book from all over the place … and the tech reviewers were some of the biggest names around (I wet myself with fear when I saw who they were).

Give it a look, and don’t be shy of placing an order if you like what you see 🙂

Community Event: From The Desktop to the Cloud: Let’s Manage, Monitor and Deploy

We’ve just announced the details of the latest user group event in Dublin … it’s a biggie!  I’ll be presenting two of the deployment sessions, on MAP and MDT.

Join us at the Guinness Store House on February 24th at 09:00 for a full day of action packed sessions covering everything from the desktop to The Cloud, and maybe even a pint of Guinness afterwards.

We have our a fantastic range of speakers ranging from MVPs to Microsoft Staff and leading industry specialists to deliver our sessions ensuring a truly unique experience.  During this day, you will have the choice of attending sessions of your choice, covering topics such as Windows 7/Office 2010 deployment, management using System Center, and cloud computing for the IT pro (no developer content – we promise!).

We have our a fantastic range of speakers ranging from MVPs to Microsoft staff and leading industry specialists to deliver our sessions ensuring a truly unique experience. During this day, you will have the choice of attending sessions of your choice, covering topics such as Windows 7/Office 2010 deployment, management using System Center, and cloud computing for the IT pro (no developer content – we promise!).

We promised bigger and better and we meant it.  This session will feature 3 tracks, each with four sessions.  The tracks are:

  1. The Cloud: Managed by Microsoft Ireland
  2. Windows 7/Office 2010 Deployment: Managed by the Windows User Group
  3. Systems Management: Managed by the System Center User Group

You can learn more about the event, tracks, sessions, and speaker on the Windows User Group site.

You can register here.  Please only register if you seriously intend to go; Spaces are limited and we want to make sure as many can attend as possible.

The Twitter tag for the event is #ugfeb24.

P2V Migration for Software Assurance

This new solution is available for download now.

Microsoft P2V Migration for Software Assurance automates the delivery of an updated and personalized Windows 7 operating system while backing up and converting the legacy Windows XP or newer desktop and its applications for seamless use within Windows 7.

Microsoft P2V Migration for Software Assurance uses the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) and Sysinternals Disk2vhd to convert a user’s existing Windows XP or later client environment to a virtual hard disk (VHD), then automates the delivery of an updated and personalized Windows 7 operating system containing a virtual machine (VM) with the user’s previous Windows environment, applications, and Web browser. The user’s previous virtual desktop retains its existing management components, domain membership, and policies. The process also publishes applications and the browser so that the user can access them seamlessly within the Windows 7 Start menu.

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