SCCM 2012 R2 CU5 Installation

From release, SCCM 2012 R2 has been extremely solid and you may never run into any of the issues resolved by updates that have been released since; however in working with a Microsoft PFE (Premier Field Engineer) it was recommended to me to stay with the current version or current version -1. And if you read through what has been added in each version CU1 – CU5 you will likely find some nice fixes or additions that you can use in your environment. This is especially true for myself when it comes to the PowerShell improvements.

If you have never installed a SCCM 2012 R2 CU before you don’t need to worry about the previous updates, you can just install the latest version to get the improvements added since release. To read more about and obtain CU5 just take a look at the Microsoft Knowledge Base article here (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3054451?wa=wsignin1.0).

The CU5 update can be applied directly to the following:

  • Central administration site
  • Primary site (Standalone)
  • Primary site (Hierarchy)
  • Secondary site
  • Provider
  • Configuration Manager console

You should apply this update from the top down starting with your CAS if you have one or your Primary if you do not use a CAS.

Continue reading SCCM 2012 R2 CU5 Installation

Using Custom Requirements for Application Deployment

System Center 2012 Configuration Manager comes with a lot of great built-in requirements out of the box; however they’re generally just generic conditions that are specific to the Windows Operating Systems or User accounts. This makes sense because not only would it be impossible to take into consideration every possible condition for even their own software, someone who is using ConfigMgr for purely server management isn’t going to care about settings for software like Microsoft Office even!

Fortunately, Microsoft made it quite simple to create your own custom conditions which can be used as Application Requirements.

Here’s a real-life example I used for a deployment in my company:

I was asked to deploy Lync 2013 throughout the company (around 1900 computers/users). Sounds simple enough except for a few things that needed to be taken into consideration. In the organization we have people using both Office 2010 Standard/Professional and Office 2013 Standard/Professional. On top of that, there are people using both the x86 and x64 versions of Office. Not only that but people using Office 2013 Professional don’t need Lync 2013 installed because it already ships with Lync.

While it is possible to deploy a version of Lync 2013 that includes both x86 and x64 versions, this version is around 1GB in size! The individual versions, while still large are about 300-400MB smaller which certainly would make a difference to VPN users who are connecting from home or more importantly tethering with their company cell phones. So I opted to use separate versions of each to try and make the deployments as small as possible.

This left me with two choices:

1. Determine all the users of each version of Office before-hand and deploy each version to a separate collection based on which version of Office each person uses. Extremely cumbersome.

2. Use requirements and deployment types and let SCCM figure out which version of Office should go on each computer. (DING DING DING! WE HAVE A WINNER!)

Continue reading Using Custom Requirements for Application Deployment

Build A Virtual Lab with VMware Workstation

This post may not be specifically about Configuration Manager but if you are studying for certification exams, you will likely find it extremely helpful to have a virtual lab environment that you can use to try out new things and test your knowledge. Many people (even myself) will often use their home network as their lab but this isn’t always optimal. If I break my network and my family can’t use the internet or reach the network shares I will quickly end up in the dog house.

What do you need?

Computer with adequate storage and memory:

These days, you don’t need a lot to build a virtual lab environment. Just about any computer with enough storage and memory will do. One can grab a gaming laptop with 16GB or more RAM these days and for most tasks this will be plenty. Personally I run one on my desktop (32GB RAM) and one on my gaming laptop (24GB RAM). This allows me to have a lab environment wherever I go.

Virtual Machine software:

The 2 main players here are VMware Workstation and VirtualBox. While VirtualBox is free I feel that VMWare Workstation offers some features that make it worth the cost. And really, if you’re talking about your career and future, the cost is definitely a worthwhile investment. I’ll probably go into VirtualBox more in future blog posts but for now we are going to stick with VMware Workstation. Fortunately, you can demo it for free and do everything covered in this lab.

Read on for the full post!

Continue reading Build A Virtual Lab with VMware Workstation

Fix PowerGUI Temporary Lock-ups

Since I first started getting familiar with Powershell a former (and very missed) co-worker pointed me to PowerGUI. It’s a nice light and extendible Powershell IDE and thanks to that same co-worker I’ve added SVN Version Control. It has become one of the first tools I open when I log into my workstation. This is why I was so disappointed when the application started seizing up on me for a minute or so at a time one day. Suddenly on every computer on which I used PowerGUI I was experiencing the same behavior.

At first I couldn’t find any information about this issue and it so I began looking for alternatives. No matter what I tried I just wasn’t happy. The built-in ISE is a really good editor but I missed PowerGUI’s Script-Explorer and the SVN support. I finally decided to take some time and search for a solution and I was finally able to track it down!

** I can take no credit for this, all credit goes to Deltahost of the Dell PowerGUI community forums for this post and solution here: http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/powergui/f/4833/p/19609343/20703788#20703788

I am really just posting it here so I don’t forget this in the future!

The problem comes from the PowerGUI Start Page. If you’re anything like me, you’ve left it as-is the default upon installation. The problem arises when the page tries to update (every 10 minutes in my case). For some reason this has started causing lock-ups. (Unfortunately it seems Dell has somewhat abandoned the free version of PowerGUI since buying out Quest.)

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First of all you’ll probably want to close the Start Page tab; however, this will only close it for the current session. Unless we adjust the settings it will re-open every time you open PowerGUI.

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Next, select Options from the PowerGUI Tools menu.

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In the Options dialog, select Start Page and then make sure Show Start Page at application startup and Dynamically update Start Page content are unchecked.

 

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Since doing this the temporary lock-ups are gone and even the initial application load time is way shorter.

Windows Operating System Deployment with MDT 2013

MDT 2013 (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013) is a fantastic tool for customizing Operating System Deployments and best of all, it’s FREE!

Regardless of your situation, if you’re using Windows at home or at the office you might be able to get a lot of value out of this tool. My first look at it was while studying for my Windows 7 MCSA. What I liked is it brought together a lot of the tools discussed in the study material like WinPE, diskpart, DISM and USMT.

In addition to this, if you are using SCCM in your environment and wish to familiarize yourself with SCCM OSD, there is NO better place to start. In, fact, the Deployment Workbench provided with MDT is almost identical to the Software Library Workspace in SCCM 2012. The only thing you won’t find in MDT is the Software Updates features.

You can download MDT 2013 from here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40796

But it’s also worth checking the following link just to ensure there hasn’t been a new version of MDT released since this article was posted: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dn475741.aspx

I won’t go through the installation steps for MDT 2013 as it’s pretty straight-forward. MDT 2013 should be installed on your “Tech Computer” or even a server if you desire. Just keep in mind, you will need to create what is called a Deployment Share which will house everything you use for your Operating System deployments: OS Images, Applications, Driver Packages etc. Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go, this share can grow very large, very quickly.

After MDT is installed, the rest of the Process can be broken down to a few basic steps:

  1. Install Components
  2. Create a Deployment Share
  3. Import your OS Image
  4. Create and edit a task sequence
  5. Boot the Task Sequence Media and Deploy the OS

Install Components

Once you have installed MDT, you’ll want to open the Deployment Workbench. Initially this will be pretty empty because there’s a few components we need to download for MDT first. On the left-hand side of the workbench you’ll find a folder called Information Center. Open this folder and click on Components. At the very least, you’ll need to download the Windows Assessment and Deployment ToolKit (Windows ADK) as this contains the latest (at the time of writing) release version of WinPE. Highlight it and click Download in the lower right of the workbench.  For some reason, ADK will not show up as “Installed” like MSXML 6.0 but fear not, it should be there. You may also want to download USMT, even if you’re not planning on saving user states.

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Create a Deployment Share

Now that the Deployment Workbench has all the components it needs, it’s time to create a new Deployment Share which as explained above, contains all the files used for our deployments.

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Choose where to create  your Deployment Share:

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Set the name for your deployment share.

Note:  If you wish to integrate with WDS the share MUST be named DS$.

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You can give your network share a description if you want.

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Pick the options you want available for your Lite Touch Deployment.

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Complete the wizard and you’ll have your deployment share.

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Importing OS Images

Now it’s time to import your OS image(s) you wish to deploy. Either load the install media onto your computer or extract the .iso files to somewhere that MDT can reach them. If you already have a custom WIM file or a WDS Image, you can import those here as well.

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Chose the image/installer/media location.

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Specify the destination directory, not extremely important but should be something that makes sense to you and is unique in your environment.

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Click through to complete the wizard.

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Create a Task Sequence

A task sequence can be used in many ways (OSD and even application deployment) as it’s primarily just a sequence of events that you want to complete; however, in this case we’re only using it for OSD.

In the Deployment Workbench, in your Deployment Share right-click on the Task Sequence folder and select New Task Sequence to begin the wizard.

Give your Task Sequence an ID (it can be anything unique), a Name and add comments if you wish.

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You have several options for a template but in our case we just want the default, Standard Client Task Sequence.

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Enter a product key if you have or need one.

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Add your OS Settings next.

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You should probably set a local Administrator password here.

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Finish and close the wizard.

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Edit the Task Sequence

If you have a custom WIM file you may not need to bother modifying anything here. But if you have some applications you want to deploy you can add them to your task sequence here.

If you are performing Driver installation you can add the driver packages to the task sequence here as well.

It’s a good idea to go through the task sequence steps and get familiar with the workflow.

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Once your task sequence is ready, you’ll need to update your deployment share. If your changes are minor, you can just update the share. If you are having issues with something or have made a lot of changes, it’s a good idea to for a full regeneration:

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Deploying the Operating System

Once the Deployment Share is updated, you’ll find the Lite Touch boot images in the Boot folder of your deployment share. That you can use to boot your target computer or VM.

 

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Now just go through the wizard and fill in the fields. These options will vary depending on what you chose earlier when creating your Deployment Share.

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Click begin and sit back and cross your fingers!

Getting Started with Powershell

For the last 1.5 years my work life has been dedicated to supporting Windows Desktops in an Enterprise environment. In this time I’ve been very successful at my job because of a few skills. One of the most important of these being able to utilize the command land as much as possible so as to create as little user disruption as possible.

For a long time my tool of choice was the SysInternals tool PSExec. It allowed me to do a huge amount of troubleshooting, repairing and configuring. Last fall after becoming MCSA certified for WIndows 7, I decided that along with studying for the Server 2012 R2 MCSA I’d also like to improve my Powershell skills.

A kind co-worker pointed me to a great Microsoft Virtual Academy course and since then it has become my most used and favorite tool in my arsenal. Powershell is extremely easy to get started in once you know a few basics. I can’t recommend the “Getting Started with Powershell 3.0 Jump Start” course at MVA enough. It’s free and it does an amazing job of teaching you how to get your feet wet really quickly and start doing useful things almost immediately.

MVA Getting Started with Powershell 3.0 Jump Start: http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/getting-started-with-powershell-3-0-jump-start

Once I started to get going my co-worker then pointed me to a great HOWTO he wrote about working with version control with Powershell, PowerGUI and SVN.

HOWTO: Implement Source Version Control for Powershell Scripts with PowerGUI: http://pleasework.robbievance.net/howto-implement-source-version-control-for-powershell-scripts-with-powergui/

I’m no expert yet but things are coming together in my head now and I’m actually starting to write some scripts and modules that are actually very useful for me in my work environment.

Adventures in ConfigMgr and Powershell