SCCM is a great tool to roll out Windows 7. Microsoft provides a large amount of documentation, in fact so much documentation that it becomes hard to actually know what should and should not be done. To keep things simple, I’ll concentrate on a very simple, but also very common scenario:
Windows 7 is installed on new hardware, or hardware which is re-used. In the process the whole PC is wiped clean and a new OS is installed. I am not focusing on data migration. I am working on the assumption that all data is backed up to the network (because of roaming profiles or folder redirection).
Here is explain a fairly simple and effective method to use SCCM to roll out Windows 7.
- Windows 7 enterprise (this the volume license version. While most of this works with retail versions as well, the activation and license issues are different).
- a working SCCM installation (you can use PXE boot points, etc but I won’t go into details how to set this up)
- Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010. You can download this from Microsoft. You don’t strictly need this, but some of the tools are really quite useful. The methods explained here do not rely on the MDT 2010.
- The required drivers for all hardware
- All software installation packages ready and tested.
When doing Windows 7 rollouts, keep the following in mind:
- standardisation is key: try to avoid creating to many different configurations. It will save time and effort in the rollout, as well as reduce support burdens if everyone (as much as possible) has the same set of applications and configurations.
- group policies: if you can configure something using group policy, configure it that way. It is easier to manage and can be changed in the future.
- hardware: make sure all hardware is recent, has at least 2GB of RAM. also, avoid having too many different models. Again, standardisation is key. also, hardware from major manufacturers will be easier to use as they have better driver support.
- base image: create the base image on the most basic piece of hardware (or even better a VM in VMWare) you have access to. also, this image should only contain the OS, some patches and perhaps some customizations. Nothing more.
- User state migration. While the USMT is a great tool to migrate user’s data and settings it also has a bug with a particular hotfix (which is installed on properly patched XP, Vista and Windows 7 machines), which requires another hotfix on each computer, on the server and during the installation. on top of that USMT is configured using XML files so this is something which requires a lot testing to get it to work the way you want it to. If you can avoid it, preserve your sanity and do that.
- documentation: any change you make to the default image should be documented. Every step in the process should be documented. I try to keep things simple, but for manageability purposes it’s important that the whole system is fully documented. I cannot stress this enough.
Creation of the base image
I like creating the base image on VMware because it allows me to take snapshots along the way and I can actually keep it on the server as a basis for future images (for example and updated image with SP1 on etc).
While the MDT provides a task sequence to build and capture. I prefer the following method. It’s not that much more work, more flexible and has in generally proven to be more stable as well. As stated before, I like to do this on VMware, but that’s not a requirement. It’s best to use the most simple hardware (preferably desktop, something without a lot of exotic hardware requiring drivers) for this.
- Install Windows 7 from installation media. during the selection of the partition, delete all existing partitions and create NEW partition. do not have the installer create the partition for you (by selecting the free space to install). In that last case, Windows 7 will create 2 partitions and this will complicate the whole process. It’s simpler with one partition and for that you have to create it.
- Follow normal installation. do not join to domain. after the installation is completed, enable the admin account and log in with it.
- delete the initial user account that was created during the set up process.
- install security updates, service packs etc.
- If required, clean up the start menu. This is done in 2 places. c:programdataStart Menu contains the All Users start menu. You will need to remove the deny permissions to be able to edit it (put them back afterwards). also edit the C:usersdefaultstart menu. This contains the default user start menu and whatever is listed here will be included for every new user who logs in. You want to delete the shortcuts to programs that you don’t want in the start menu. Don’t delete the whole folder structure for example you may want want to remove the shortcut for Windows Media Center, Windows fax and scan etc.
- Create a text file in the Windows folder. for example: imgv1.0.txt. This would be my version 1 image. why do this? This file can be inventoried by SCCM and that way you can run reports and find out which version of the image is used. When you make changes to the image, you should also increment the version number on the image. It’s not required, but very helpful.
We are now ready to capture. for that we use the SCCM capture disk. Here is how to create it:
- login to SCCM, and open the ConfigMgr console.
- right-click task sequence under Computer Management – Operation system deployment. Select create task sequence media.
- select capture media as the media type. Click next.
- select whether you want a CD/DVD or USB stick. In case of USB stick you’ll need a recent, completely empty USB. In case of CD/DVD you will need to specify where the ISO file will be stored. Click next
- Select the boot image. It shouldn’t matter whether you pick x64 or i386 for this. The boot image will need to have the required drivers to run the network on your image computer. If you use VMware, the standard boot image as it is supplied with SCCM works just fine. for distribution point, just pick the closest.
- Next, a couple of times and you’ll have a CD (or USB stick). If you are using VMware, mount the ISO file (as if it was a CD), otherwise, insert the disk into your image PC. Normally, you should be offered to run the capture wizard.
This wizard is pretty basic and easy to understand. just one thing, where you are asked for the path for the image provide a full UNC path to the server AND include the image name (use.wim as the extension for the image). obviously provide a username and password with access to the share on the server. Finish the wizard and it will capture the image. This usually takes at least about 1 hour and involves sysprep and a reboot. just let it do its thing. Don’t touch the machine. It’s also a good idea to create a dedicated folder on the server specifically for these OS images.
Creating the OS image package
After you have captured the image you need to turn it into an actual package.
- go to computer manager – operation system deployment – operating system images. Select add operating system image
- provide the path to the wim file. This should a UNC path. The file should have a.wim extension and file name should be included in the path.
- next next a couple of times and you have an OS image. Don’t forget to replicate this to your distribution points. (no need to add this to the PXE points in case you are using those. The PXE points only need the boot images).
Creating a task sequence
Now we are getting to the most important part: creation of the task sequence to install the image. The MDT manual instructs you to create an MDT taks sequence which is very powerful and handle a very wide range of scenarios. It’s also difficult to understand and troubleshoot unless you actually know what each step does. Hence, I prefer to keep it simpler because it makes it a lot easier to troubleshoot.
- under computer management – operation system deployment – task sequences. right click new – task sequence. do not use the create Microsoft Deployment Task sequence (you can do that in the future, once you are a master at task sequences).
- Select install and existing image package.
- Give it a name: standard Windows 7 deployment. Add a meaningful comment explaining what this is for.
- select the boot image. In many cases the built-in SCCM boot image will work fine. make sure you select the same architecture as the image you are installing. If you captured a x64 image, make sure to select a x64 boot image as well. The boot image needs to have the drivers for network and disk (SATA) or it will fail. The current one included with SCCM works fine with most brand hardware and will only give you problems if you have something really new. You’ll find out soon enough in testing whether it works or not. Click Next
- Select the image. You should also specify the license key and if you want to test an administration password you can set it here as well. (you can change all these settings later on as well). Click Next
- Here you can join to a domain, so specify where to add the account and specify a username and password to join the computer. best practise is to add the computer account in a an OU that has all require policies assigned (the final OU so to speak). do not add to the computer folder, that is a legacy folder that in a modern Active Directory installation should be empty. for the user account, avoid using an admin account. It’s best to create a dedicated account that only has the required permissions to add computers to AD but doesn’t even have permissions to login to any machine. Click Next
- Select the installation package for the SCCM client. (if you dont’ have this package you will need to create it. however installing SP2, R2 or R3 on the SCCM server will also create this package.) Click next.
- uncheck all the capture check boxes. This is only run in case you would advertise this sequence to existing computers. This requires a lot of extra testing and is outside of scope of what I am trying to do here. Click next
- Select don’t install any software updates. This may seem contradictory, but it actually will make the build faster (also most likely your current settings for updates wouldn’t work with this anyway.). make sure the updates are installed soon after the build is finished though. Click Next.
- Select the software you want installed. You can only select programs that have the tick box ticked for allow this program to be installed from the Install Software task sequence without being advertised and can run whether or not a user is logged in or not. Click Next
- Click Next. The task sequence is now created.
Right-click the task sequence and select EDIT. You should see a fairly short task sequence and it will be quite clear what each item actually does.
The items in bold are group entries and don’t actually do anything themselves. however, you can disable all tasks in a group by disabling the group entry. more useful is that you can have group entries run based on particular conditions. for example, you could create a a group called laptop software, under options add a condition that this should only apply on laptops (which is a chassis type) and add all laptop specific software in that section. Similarly you can use that install software to a particular model of hardware, computers in a particular subnet (regional differences), etc. It’s very powerful, outside of scope of this article, but by using groups and conditions you can create a task sequence that can address most situations.
Another thing to keep in mind is the following: the Setup Windows and ConfigMrg installs the SCCM client. after that, your OS is mostly installed and thus the software installation actions should come after this point.
Deploying the task sequence
Let’s get this onto a computer.
Again, I’ll focus on the easiest method:
- create a new collection. I call it image deployment, but you can call it whatever you want. make sure it’s empty.
- select the task sequence and advertise it to this collection. You can make a mandatory advertisement but you don’t have to. If it’s not mandatory then you’ll have to select it during the build process (which is an extra step). This is useful if you have multiple task sequences (for example during testing). otherwise, once the roll out starts, you should make it mandatory.
- right click computer management – operating system deployment – computer association and select import computer information. You will need the MAC address or GUID of the computer and add it to your collection you just created.
- right click computer management – operating system deployment – task sequences and select create task sequence media. Select create bootable media and follow the instructions.
- Boot the new PC using the task sequence media or USB stick. If the advertisement is mandatory it should be completely unattended. after about 30 to 45 min you should have a fully built PC.
- you may use a PXE boot point. In that case, you do not need to create task sequence media, but you will need to select the make this task sequence available to boot media and PXE when advertising.
- use the unknown computer support. for this you enable the unknown computer support in the PXE point settings, and advertise the task sequence to the unknown computers collection. In this case, you will be asked to provide a PC name.
- you can change the background picture in your boot image to something branded for your computer. It’s not much, but it’s cool nonetheless. You’ll find the setting in the properties of the boot image. You’ll need to provide a bmp type file.
All of this should get your started. It is very useful to learn how to use conditions in your task sequence. There is a lot of information about the hardware that is provided during the installation and this can be used to further refine your installation. I may address that in a future post, however it’s easy enough to find by Googling it.
In case you wonder what the MDT 2010 is used for. well, for starters not everyone has SCCM in their environment. So, together with Windows Deployment Services, MDT can be a solution in those cases. MDT will also be useful when you want to pass specific information to your build process. This is important when for example creating complex sequences that need to address regional and language differences, language pack installations etc. MDT is also used to create OEM builds.
I’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible. This walk-through will get you an image and allow you to install it on a machine and that in just a couple of hours. most likely you will need a lot of customizations and it’s all in the task sequence.
In recent years, there has been much greater focus on providing better and less expensive software for teachers and students alike around the world. in fact, Microsoft is one of the driving forces behind this initiative and it is for this reason that we now find so many discount software programs online aimed at students and teachers.
One of the most popular is the Microsoft Windows 7 Professional upgrade that allows you to upgrade from Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium to Microsoft Windows 7 Professional at a fraction of the usual cost. Now that it is affordable, let us have a closer examination of the benefits of upgrading from Windows 7 Home Premium to the Professional edition:
1. Adaptability, Flexibility and Versatility
Perhaps the best reason to upgrade to the Professional edition is to have less limitations moving forward. Before we dive into the details, it is sufficient to label the Home Premium edition as a stripped-down version of the Professional edition. in the future, you may find that you want to use software that requires those stripped-out features.
A nice aspect of Windows 7, especially compared to Vista, is that it has better compatibility with programs made for Windows XP. it even boasts a sophisticated compatibility mode. sometimes, however, compatibility isn’t enough and you need much greater control. in that case, you need a comprehensive Windows XP shell and this is provided in the ‘Windows XP Mode’.
One of the best new features of Windows 7 missing from the Home Premium edition is the ‘Presentation Mode’. Teachers are often required to use the computer as a presentation device by connecting it to a projector for example. ‘Presentation Mode’ makes that easier by automatically controlling schemes and disabling annoyances.
4. Remote Desktop Host
In the modern classroom, it is becoming common for each student to have his or her own workstation or laptop. in larger classrooms, it is a challenge to provide each station the support that it requires. however, with the remote desktop feature, the teacher can connect to all of the student workstations from their laptop at their own desk.
5. Encrypted File System
Laptops are valuable, and people steal them, even at school. Teachers have in their possession private and sensitive data that they must take great measures to protect. Encryption is one way to do that, but per-file encryption isn’t practical. a Windows 7 encrypted folder or drive, however, is practical.
While in school, most teachers need access to the network, but they do not always have it. For instance, they may have to hard connect as the Wi-Fi connectivity is sometimes sluggish. Offline Files is an automatic service in Windows 7 Professional that allows you access via a shared cache to vital files on the network.
Published on Apr 18, 2012
Within hours of each other two contradicting stories have hit the web regarding the future of current Windows Phone devices.
It started with a Microsoft ‘evangelist developer’ alleging that existing smartphones will be upgraded when Windows Phone 8 Apollo hits this year, unfortunately there are also sources now saying quite the opposite.
WMPoweruser started the ball rolling when it reported that Windows Phone developer Nuno Silva, who has been in direct talks with Microsoft, was interviewed by Portugese mobile site Zwame at an event in Portugal. during said interview, which is on video, Silva quite adamantly states that:
‘What Microsoft said/stated and what I’m allowed to tell you is that all actual devices will get upgrade to the next major version of Windows Phone (we´re talking about Apollo).’
To cement his assertion further, Silva clarified this as all devices ‘since the first generation that were bought. The LGs and SAMSUNG’s OMNIA 7 which were the first devices with Windows Phone reaching the market.’
Contradicting this is IntoMobile with ‘two independent sources,’ both allegedly from inside Nokia, who claim there’s no truth to Silva’s statement. The Verge also has its own ‘trusted source close to Microsoft,’ who reportedly says the same thing and ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley cited her anonymous sources in March with similar claims.
Microsoft has previously set the record straight when rumours suggested Windows Phone 7 apps wouldn’t be compatible with future Microsoft platforms, including Windows Phone Apollo and Windows 8 for tablets and PCs.
We’re not so sure about all of this, we think Microsoft would be crazy to not push the update to older phones. In relative terms, even the oldest of these current handsets are not particularly old, and when you have a demonstrably negative impact of fragmentation on Android on the one hand, and Apple doing so well with a unified system on the other, it simply makes no sense.
Cross-compatibility of apps could be argued as a workable compromise on this, however, and that has, of course, already been confirmed.
Certainly IntoMobile’s push that it must be true because Eldar Murtazin said back in January this year that current phones wouldn’t be updated to Apollo, is a bit difficult to buy into, because, he made the same assertions about lack of app compatibility and look how that turned out.
For the time being, Microsoft is keeping quiet about things, aside from reiterating its statement that apps will be compatible.
If this is all true, however, it’s bad news for anyone who either just bought, or was about to buy, a Windows Phone 7 device, particularly one of the flashier ones from Nokia.
With Intel’s next-gen CPUs arriving late spring/early summer, and Windows 8 coming to new PCs sometime around October, it’s easy to recommend that laptop shoppers hold off on any new purchases until one or both of those are available.
Or, is it? We’ve opened up the question for point/counterpoint debate, with Scott taking the position that you should definitely not buy a laptop right now, and Dan saying we shouldn’t be slaves to a release calendar, and just buy what you want, when you want it.
Scott:Of course you should wait for a laptop. Isn’t it clear? Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors are just around the corner. Nvidia has a new graphics platform for laptops. Windows 8 may still be a ways off, but the underlying hardware is set for a significant CPU upgrade in a matter of mere months, which will affect future Apple laptops as much as Windows ones.
Sure, you can buy a perfectly good laptop right now…but why would you, when the benefits of Ivy Bridge seem significant, especially for integrated graphics? I wouldn’t have recommended you buy aniPad in February, and for the same reason I wouldn’t recommend you buy a laptop now, unless you don’t mind owning a product that feels outdated by May.
If you wait, you’ll get more computer for the same money. Plus, there’s a good chance that some significant redesigns will emerge, with thin ultrabooks on the rise and Windows 8 emphasizing touch screens and larger touch pads.
Dan:The first thing you learn in this industry is that there’s always going to be something newer and better (and possibly more expensive) — and it’ll usually be released just as you’re pulling the shrink wrap off the gadget you just bought.
Case in point: on the very day last fall that Apple announced a series of modest MacBook Pro updates, a reader wrote in to ask if he should get the new model, or if an even newer one was right around the corner. my longtime rule of thumb has been: if you want or need something like a new laptop, just go out and get it. Otherwise, you’ll spend your entire life worrying about whether something newer or shinier is about to come out.
Besides, the next-gen Intel Core i-series processors don’t look like they’re going to be as revolutionary as the last leap. Integrated graphics will be better for casual gaming, but they’ve said that about every Intel update for years — and gaming still isn’t great on systems without a dedicated GPU. and, Windows 8 has some fun widgets and different views, but how many people do you know still rocking Windows XP (hint, a lot)? It turns out that an OS update is one of the things a lot of people find they can live just fine without.
Scott:When you’re this close to a new product release — as we are with Ivy Bridge, which should hit somewhere between late April and May — you’d kick yourself if you bought a last-gen model with less impressive specs for the same price. You get more each year, and not just in terms of processor: sometimes, that means more RAM or more hard-drive space for your money, too.
You can’t chase new technology forever, but don’t be stubborn and ignore an upgrade that’s literally around the corner. I guess if you’re desperate for a computer now and your laptop is just plain dead, go ahead. What’s the hurry, can’t wait a month or two? Newer operating systems and software have a way of eating up resources, and using them on new hardware, rather than installing them on your current system, can always help stave off the Spinning Wheel of Death just a bit longer.
Dan:Yeah, Ivy Bridge is reportedly coming in April/May, but only for the high-end quad-core versions. the everyday computers are coming even later than that, and who knows when your favorite laptop is actually going to get an upgrade; some PC makers take six months or more to roll out new models.
Finally, here’s the unpleasant truth about most people’s laptop habits. Today’s laptops are more than enough for what you need. Last year’s laptops are also fine. You can probably even go back another year or two before that.
Why? because you’re not doing genome sequencing or running a CGI render farm. You’re on Twitter. You’re sending a few e-mails. You’re watching Netflix. maybe you’re playing the latest farm simulator on Facebook.
For years, people have bought too much laptop, and it’s time we all stop worrying about specs, and start worrying about finding a laptop that works for your lifestyle, whether it’s one that’s easy to type on, light enough to throw in your bag, or one that just looks cool.
What do you think? Should someone in the market for a new laptop buy now? Or wait for next-gen CPUs or Windows 8? Vote in our poll, or let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Eager to get your hands on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview? Before you download and mount that ISO image, you’ll have to pause for a second and think about how you want to install it.
Dual booting allows you to select which operating system you want to load, and is an excellent choice when trying out a beta version of a new operating system. You can download the straight ISO image of Windows 8 Consumer Preview if you want to use your own mounting tool.
Microsoft also has a tool for downloading Windows 8 and mounting it onto a bootable USB flash drive.
The Consumer Preview version of Windows 8 isn’t going to be around forever either, and will probably expire on or close to the launch of the final RTM version of Windows 8 – meaning you’ll need to upgrade to the new version or revert to your old Windows.
This is why dual booting Windows 8 Consumer Preview alongside your existing Windows installation is a great option, as when you turn on your PC you get to choose which version of Windows to use, and allows both versions of Windows to work side by side without you losing any files.
1. Download the package
To get started you’ll need to download the installer for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Click ‘Get it now’, then ‘Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview’ to begin downloading. Click ‘Run’ twice and allow the program to make changes to your computer if you’re prompted.
2. Prepare to install
When the program starts, it will scan your PC to ensure it’s compatible with Windows 8. it will then determine which version of Windows 8 you’ll need (32 or 64-bit) and download the relevant files. During this process you might be asked to perform a few tasks on your computer, like clearing space on your hard drive.
3. make a bootable flash drive
The next screen will ask whether you’re ready to install the Consumer Preview. make sure you select ‘Install on another partition’ and click ‘Next’. Select ‘USB flash drive’ (unless you’d rather make a bootable DVD), then click ‘Next’ and select your flash drive from the list (make sure it is inserted into your PC first). Click ‘Next’ to begin. the process might take a while.
4. create a partition (part one)
You now need to make a partition on our hard drive to install Windows 8 onto. Before you begin, it’s best to back up all your important files, just in case. then open up the start menu and right-click on ‘Computer’ and select ‘Manage’. Select ‘Disk Management’ from the list on the left. Right-click your hard drive at the bottom of the screen and select ‘Shrink volume’.
5. create a partition (part two)
You’ll want at least 20GB available to install Windows 8, so enter 20,000 in the box labelled ‘Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB’ and click ‘Shrink’. now your hard drive will be 20GB smaller, and a new unallocated section of 20GB will be displayed. Right-click it and select ‘New simple volume’ Click ‘Next’ on the next three screens. in ‘Volume label’ type Windows 8, then click ‘Next’ and finally ‘Finish’.
6. Boot from USB flash
You then need to restart your computer. To ensure your PC boots from the USB drive you created, access the BIOS, go to ‘Boot > Boot device priority’ and make sure the USB drive comes before your hard drive. Press [F10] to save and exit, and the Windows 8 install utility should now run. once Windows 8 Setup has loaded, click ‘Next’, then ‘Install now.’
7. Select the partition to install
When prompted, enter the product code DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J. Continue through the process until you’re asked which type of installation you want. Click ‘Custom: Install Windows only’. in the next window select the partition you created earlier – it should say Windows 8 – then click ‘Next’.
8. Dual boot
Now all you need to do is wait for the Windows 8 installation process to complete. once that’s done the PC will boot into Windows 8. if you like, enter your Windows Live ID. now when you restart your PC, you should be presented with an option to boot into Windows Consumer Preview or Windows 7. Click ‘Change defaults or choose other options’ to make sure Windows 7 is your default operating system.
Windows 7 accessories have seen some nice upgrades. These improvements are long over-due.
Windows 7 Calculator
The Windows 7 calculator has some nice new features. the keyboard is subtly redesigned and is easier to read. you now have the option of a multi-line display that shows a history of what you’ve keyed into the calculator. There are more calculation modes. Besides simple mode, there is scientific mode, a programmers mode and a statistics mode. the digit grouping makes it much easier to read long numbers.
There is also a whole raft of extra functionality that takes place in an additional pane to the right of the calculator when these special functions are enabled.
Windows 7 calculator date worksheet Functions include:
* Vehicle lease worksheet
* Fuel consumption worksheets (mpg and L/100 km)
The new Windows 7 calculator is now more useful than ever.
Perhaps some day they will add plugins to the mix. those worksheets have really captured my imagination. A financial calculator would be great. such things may be on the way.
Windows 7 Microsoft Paint
Windows 7 Paint Microsoft Paint has seen a big upgrade. It has more of the Microsoft office look with a modern ribbon design, and more functionality to go with it.
There are a variety of brushstrokes to choose from, more powerful text functions (for example, the text changes as you hover over the drop down menus for different fonts), there is a crop tool (it’s about time) and a number of other nice features.
Microsoft paint is beginning to go beyond a toy. All they need to do is to keep the various shapes and lines as objects, add some alignment tools, and it will be come a handy little graphics tool for quite drawings and annotating images and screen captures.
Certainly it is a lot more fun than it ever was before, and a lot more usable too. At least it has rulers and gridlines to help out with your design work.
Windows 7 WordPad
Windows 7 WordPad has been upgraded as well. It too has a new ribbon giving it a more modern look.
Added functions like inserting pictures and direct integration with Paint are nice touches.
It’s a pretty decent little word processor if you don’t need anything beyond the most basic formatting. I doubt it will ever see more powerful formatting options like styles and tables.
I’m so used to Microsoft Word, or Open Office Writer that I don’t see myself using WordPad. but I do think it will be useful for some people who only need the basics.