Category Archives: Windows

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

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:

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:

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.

2014-11-24 21_06_47-Clipboard-07

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.

2014-11-24 21_07_29-Clipboard-08

Choose where to create  your Deployment Share:

2014-11-24 21_08_11-Clipboard-09

Set the name for your deployment share.

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

2014-11-24 21_09_08-Clipboard-10

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

2014-11-24 21_10_10-Clipboard-11

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

2014-11-24 21_10_39-Clipboard-12

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

2014-11-24 21_12_41-Clipboard-15

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.

2014-11-24 21_13_22-Clipboard-16

Chose the image/installer/media location.

2014-11-24 21_14_01-Clipboard-17

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

2014-11-24 21_14_26-Clipboard-18

Click through to complete the wizard.

2014-11-24 21_15_00-Clipboard-19

2014-11-24 21_16_01-Clipboard-202014-11-24 21_16_36-Clipboard-21

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.

2014-11-24 21_18_33-Clipboard-22

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

2014-11-24 21_19_03-Clipboard-23

Enter a product key if you have or need one.

2014-11-24 21_19_31-Clipboard-24

Add your OS Settings next.

2014-11-24 21_20_02-Clipboard-25

You should probably set a local Administrator password here.

2014-11-24 21_20_48-Clipboard-26

Finish and close the wizard.

2014-11-24 21_21_38-Clipboard-27

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.

2014-11-24 21_25_47-Clipboard-28 2014-11-24 21_26_06-Clipboard-29

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:

2014-11-24 21_26_39-Clipboard-30


2014-11-24 21_27_20-Clipboard-31

2014-11-24 21_29_48-Clipboard-32

2014-11-24 21_30_07-Clipboard-33

2014-11-24 21_30_45-Clipboard-34

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.


2014-11-24 21_31_04-Clipboard-35

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.

2014-11-24 21_31_24-Clipboard-36


2014-11-24 21_31_46-Clipboard-37

2014-11-24 21_32_13-Clipboard-38

2014-11-24 21_34_30-Clipboard-39

2014-11-24 21_35_19-Clipboard-40

2014-11-24 21_35_59-Clipboard-41

2014-11-24 21_36_20-Clipboard-42

2014-11-24 21_37_36-Clipboard-43

2014-11-24 21_38_05-Clipboard-44

2014-11-24 21_38_37-Clipboard-45

2014-11-24 21_39_00-Clipboard-46

2014-11-24 21_39_37-Clipboard-47

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:

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:

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.