Windows Enterprise Desktop


April 10, 2017  10:38 AM

Creators Update Delivers Easy Upgrade

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, Windows Upgrades

Following release of Windows 10 1703 via the Media Creation Tool, I’ve been busy this weekend upgrading 6 of my 8 PCs. I’m delighted to report that Creators Update delivers easy upgrade experiences to early adopters. I hit zero snags upgrading those systems. Post-upgrade clean-up was more or less flawless, too. That said, I encountered one driver issue. Upgrading the Intel Management Engine (MEI) on my Dell Venue Pro 11 hybrid tablet caused a BSOD. Extracting those drivers from the Dell installer plus manual update in Device Manager put things right in under a minute.

Creators Update Delivers Easy Upgrade

When all is said and done, Creators Update shows up as Build 15063.13, with cumulative updates already applied.

After Creators Update Delivers Easy Upgrade, What Then?

For me the usual post-upgrade drill goes like this:

Run Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr.exe) using “Run as administrator.” It deletes Windows.old and other remnants of the previous Windows version.
Check drivers for updates or additions (my old standby for this is the for-a-fee DriverUpdate, but the free Windows Update Minitool, aka WUMT, does the job as well or better).
Run DriverStore Explorer (rapr.exe) and remove obsolete and unneeded duplicate device drivers.
Fire off PatchCleaner and clean up orphaned packages from the Windows Installer directory.
Run Uncleaner and root out duplicate and temporary files; CCleaner ditto (always grab the “Slim” version).
Make an initial image backup of the pristine upgrade environment (I use Macrium Reflect Free with great results).

I *always* make an image backup before starting the upgrade process. Thus, I am cavalier about deleting Windows.old. If you aren’t quite sure you’ll stick with Creators Update, remember you now have only 10 days before the old install gets deleted automatically.

In working through that process on the six installs I’ve upgraded so far, I observed just the one driver problem reported. I did find some duplicate or obsolete graphics drivers (both Intel and Nvidia), along with some duplicate system device and USB entries. PatchCleaner found very few orphaned packages (one or two). No action required there. Uncleaner and CCleaner both found hundreds of MB worth of detritus that was quickly removed. And with a clean image of the newly upgraded OS in hand, I’ve got a solid starting point for future recovery, if needed.

Bottom line: Version 1703 (OS Build 15063.13) appears ready for prime-time. My next upgrade, in fact, will be on my production PC. That says I think it’s ready for workaday use!

April 7, 2017  10:34 AM

Creators Update Out and Available

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Late Wednesday, Microsoft pulled the trigger on making Windows 10 Build 1703. That’s when it made the Creators Update out and available to the general public. One need only visit the Download Windows 10 web page. Then click, the “Download tool now” button to grab the latest iteration of the Media Creation Tool (MCT). I verified for myself yesterday that using this latest and greatest mediacreationtool.exe does indeed create a version 1703 Windows 10 installer:

Creators Update Out and Available

If you elect the “Create installation media…” option in the MCT, it now builds a Creators Update install environment for you.

Creators Update Out and Available, Now What?

Given that Microsoft says it plans to stage out the Creators Update incrementally as it did with the Anniversary update, access to 1703 through the MCT is a good thing. Why? That’s because this allows those are inclined to on Windows Update do just that. At the same time, the MCT provides a ready means for those inclined to upgrade to 1703 sooner rather than later do that, too. I find it interesting that MS has let this slip the week before the announced “official” release date of April 11. Could this be a positive payoff for the “Windows as a service model” emerging at last? You bet, because MS knows it can fix 1703 issues with cumulative updates as needed. Three of them have already been released, in fact, since 1703 hit the fast ring on March 20.

I’ve had two machines running this version since that date, and last week updated my Insider Preview test machine — a Surface Pro 3 — to the same release as well. At this point, it shows every evidence of being both stable and robust. Those inclined to track the Current Branch should be OK to upgrade over the next month or so if they’d like to wait on Windows Update. Those wishing to upgrade sooner no longer have a reason to hold back. And finally, those on the Current Branch for Business should take heart that all signs on the Creators Update are positive, and that things are looking good for a transition in the three to six month period during which business users hang back from the leading edge of production Windows releases.


April 5, 2017  11:49 AM

Apparent Win10 Defender Update Issues Illusory

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Troubleshooting, Windows 10, Windows Defender, Windows Update Management

Over the past week to ten days, lots of users have been reporting issues with Windows Update and Windows Defender. This applies to versions 1607 (Current Branch) and 1703 (Insider Preview aka Creators Update). The symptom is that while Windows Update reports a Definition Update for Defender is available, it cannot download or install same. As it turns out, these apparent Win10 Defender update issues are illusory. In fact, they’re easily addressed with a simple fix. One need only use Defender itself to grab its own updates, and the issue vanishes. Here’s what Windows Update reports when this error occurs:

def-error

The consistent thread for both 1607 and 1703 versions is error code 0x80070643 for this particular problem.

Normally, when Windows Update (WU) goes wonky, recovery requires troubleshooting. This usually starts with the “Fix problems with Windows Update” item available in the Troubleshooting widget from Control Panel. But for this particular issue, no such shenanigans apply. On version 1607, launch Windows Defender, click the Update tab, then click “Update definitions.” For version 1703, visit Windows Defender Security Center. Click the “Virus & threat protection” icon (third item from the top in the left-hand icons), then click “Protection updates.” Either way, this launches a manual update download outside the Windows Update umbrella.

Fix Step 1: Addressing Apparent Win10 Defender Update Issues

def-error2 In 1703, clicking “Protection updates” produces this screen. Next, please click the “Check for updates” button at the bottom. This tells Defender to poll the server for updates, and to download and install any available updates it finds. The mechanism is independent enough of WU that it will work even when WU won’t.

Fix Step 2: Addressing Apparent Win10 Defender Update Issues


def-error3

Something is obviously up with Defender update handling, because this also produces an error message as well, as shown here. Don’t let this trouble you. Although it says “fatal error,” indeed the update is working in the background to download and install the necessary malware definitions.

Fix Step 3: Addressing Apparent Win10 Defender Update Issues

def-error4Click the “Protection Updates” button again. The result is a successful download and install of the previously failed update (same version number as before 1.239.778.0). Wait a minute (60 seconds) before you do this or you’ll get an error message that says “You must wait for the previous update to complete …” But indeed it will proceed and complete successfully.

Fix Step 4: Addressing Apparent Win10 Defender Update Issues

def-error5
Now, you can close Defender. If you return to WU, and ask for updates once again, you’ll get this “all clear” response instead. Problem solved!

Microsoft hasn’t yet explained what’s causing this issue, nor have they released a fix for it, either. I’m hopeful that it will be history by the time that April 11 rolls around to mark the official release date for Creators Update. We’ll see…


April 3, 2017  10:29 AM

Swapping Out mSATA SSDs Needs Cool Tools

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I’m in the processing of prepping my previous production PC for a family member right now. In so doing, I faced an interesting challenge. The unit incorporates a Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H motherboard, which in turn plays host to an mSATA SSD onboard. As things stood last Friday, that was a Samsung 840 EVO 500 GB unit, which still retails for over $300. Because I still have a 250 GB version of the same device at my disposal, I wanted to switch out the bigger unit for the smaller one so I can use it in one of my Lenovo laptops (or as a reasonably speedy USB 3.0 device, as I’ll proceed to explain). In determining how to make the switch, I learned that swapping out mSATA SSDs needs cool tools. Let me explain…

Why Say “Swapping Out mSATA SSDs Needs Cool Tools?”

The situation reminds me of a famous conundrum from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. It goes like this: “How can you tell you’ve got flies in your eyes if you’ve got flies in your eyes?” That situation involves transferring the contents of one mSATA SSD to another on a system that has only one mSATA socket. Thus, there are two classic ways to solve the problem:

  1. Make an image backup of the source drive while it’s still installed in the socket. Remove the source drive and install the target drive. Then, restore the image backup to the target drive while booted to a recovery disk of some kind. Conduct any startup repairs that might be needed.
  2. Purchase a device to house the mSATA SSD for USB attachment to the PC. Clone the source drive to the target drive. Shut down the PC, and swap source for target, then conduct any necessary startup repairs.

After looking into the tools at my disposal, I elected approach #2. I used two tools to effect the swap — namely, MiniTool Partition Wizard (MPW) and Macrium Reflect (Free).

Lessons Learned While Swapping Out mSATA SSDs

A quick Internet search showed me that Sabrent makes a $15 USB 3.0 enclosure for mSATA drives. Better yet, it was available at my local Frys superstore. I ordered it online, and drove down to pick it up on Saturday afternoon. It proved to be surprisingly sturdy, too. Its housing is made of nicely machined aluminum.

Swapping Out mSATA SSDs Needs Cool Tools

The unit runs pretty warm with an SSD inside, but it does the job and runs pretty fast.

I used the commercial version of MPW ($39) because it can switch from an MBR source disk to a GPT target disk as part of cloning operations. Next, I used its partition management facilities, and downsized the OS partition from 460-odd GB to 232 GB. Finally, I shifted the recovery partition adjacent to the OS partition so it fit the smaller drive, then cloned source to target. Then, a quick shutdown, and the actual swap of source for target drive on the mobo. After working through those gyrations, I then booted to the Macrium Rescue Media. Its startup repair facility let the new GPT-formatted 250 GB SSD do its job at boot time. The whole process took about an hour, as I noodled through necessary steps along the way.

Along the way, I learned some interesting lessons:

  1. The Gigabyte motherboard is old enough that it won’t boot from a USB 3.0 port. I got stuck on a “minus-sign” cursor on three different bootable UFDs (Microsoft Recovery, Macrium Rescue and Kyhi’s Recovery Tools) before it finally dawned on me that I had to plug into a USB 2.0 port to boot from a UFD.
  2. Even after the Windows 10 Recovery media booted the PC, its “Startup Repair” tools proved unequal to the task of fixing my boot environment. Instead, I got an error message that repair attempts had failed. The Macrium Rescue Media rebuilt my startup environment without a hitch, and did so in under a minute.
  3. I ended up switching the motherboard BIOS to UEFI boot only settings throughout, instead of the earlier combo (Legacy + UEFI) boot settings it had used. I didn’t realize I’d formatted the 500 GB SSD as MBR to begin with, and the previous setting probably explains why that happened. Going forward, UEFI only should prevent this from recurring


March 24, 2017  10:41 AM

Powering Thru Windows 10 Dual Boot Mishaps

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

One of my test PCs is set up for dual boot, because I use it for both Windows 10 1607 (Current Branch) and Insider Preview versions. After upgrading to Build 15063 earlier this week, I noticed that the installer had knocked out BCD entries for both Macrium Reflect System Recovery and the 1607 OS. I turned to my normal go-to tool for handling BCD stuff: NeoSmart Technologies EasyBCD 2.3. But instead of fixing my problem, I found myself powering through Windows 10 dual boot mishaps both various and mysterious.

After using the Add New Entry button to restore entries for both Macrium Reflect System Recovery and my “other OS boot” ( labeled Win10 1607 in the screenshot) I expected to be back in action. But alas, when I attempted to access the latter boot option, I was treated to an error screen instead. It informed me that because it couldn’t find the file named “winload.efi” at the designated location it couldn’t boot, either. Yet that file was clearly present where it was supposed to be, in the %Windir%\system32 folder on the target drive.

Windows 10 dual boot mishaps

To all appearances, these BCD entries all looked correct. But I couldn’t boot to my “other OS” successfully.

How I Found Myself Powering Thru Windows 10 Dual Boot Mishaps

What I did next has to be what caused the ensuing round of difficulties. Realizing something was wrong with my BCD data, I turned to EasyBCD’s “BCD Backup/Repair” tools, then elected the “Re-create/repair boot files” option.

Windows 10 dual boot mishaps

However, when I tried my next reboot, I found the PC stuck in the UEFI shell, unable to boot anything. I even had trouble accessing the motherboard BIOS to force an alternate boot to a repair UFD. The only way I was able to fix my problem was to walk through a somewhat tortuous and time-consuming series of steps:

  1. I had to disconnect all the internal drives except for 1 boot drive at a time.
  2. I had to boot to the Macrium Recovery UFD, and use its boot repair tool on each drive individually. This restored each one to bootable condition.
  3. After getting each boot drive working, I performed a disk cleanup and made a boot image backup using Macrium Reflect (in case the same problem recurred).
  4. Once each one would boot by itself, I used EasyBCD to add a new boot entry while booted into Insider Preview to accommodate the 1607 OS version.
  5. I used Macrium’s tool in its “Other Options” menu to return the recovery partition to the boot menu as well (“Add Recovery Boot Menu Option…”).

I have to believe my error came from the confluence of Macrium- and EasyBCD-based changes to the BCD data. Using Macrium to make Macrium-related changes, and EasyBCD to make general BCD additions (the second OS from my Insider Preview boot) fixed the problem. But what a painful 3 hours it took me to put things back to rights! I hope others in the same boat can learn from my innocent and unthinking mistake, and avoid Windows 10 dual boot mishaps altogether.


March 22, 2017  4:07 PM

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10 — Part 6 of 6

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

By Kari the Finn, guest blogger for Ed Tittel, courtesy of TenForums.com

Note: this blog is Part 6 in a series of 6 parts on the topic of using Sysprep to craft a custom ISO for use in installing Windows 10, aimed at the upcoming Creator’s Update scheduled to become available in mid to late April. Your guest blogger for this series is Kari the Finn, well-known Windows Install expert at TenForums.com. He’s the person who put tools together (ESD2ISO and UUP2ISO) that let savvy installers convert Windows OS download files into ISO images that may be used to create bootable installation optical media or USB Flash Drives.

Part 1 covered the intro, and Part 2 started users with installation prep; in Part 3 you learn how to update and customize Windows; Part 4 dug into generalizing a Windows image using the Sysprep utility; Part 5 described how to capture the generalized Windows image and turn it into an installable ISO. Here in Part 6 we conclude by explaining how to update or change that ISO file over time. Don’t let the numbering bother you (Part 1 was an introduction, so step 1 of Kari’s 5-step process appears in Part 2, step 2 in Part 3, and so on…) Here’s Step 5/Part 6:

5. Update / Change ISO

The beauty of using Hyper-V VM as technician machine lies in how easy it makes the job of maintaining and updating a customized install image. I am a Fast Ring Windows Insider. That means I get new pre-release builds frequently and thus, want to upgrade my ISO at the same pace. I’m too lazy to go through this whole process weekly (or more often). The same holds true if I no longer want my custom image to include certain pre-installed software elements, want to update or add new software, or want to change the desktop theme or whatnot.

When I feel like changing the ISO I simply apply the Hyper-V technician virtual machine’s standard checkpoint I created just before sysprepping Windows. I can add and remove software, update software, run Windows updates, apply a new theme, or do whatever else I might want to.

When that’s done, I run Disk Clean-up, create a new checkpoint to be able to restore to this point, and repeat Sysprep, capture a new install.wim and make a new ISO. It’s much faster now. The whole process takes just minutes, because both Windows and basic software are already installed.

Upgrading the Custom ISO

As a Windows Insider I might also be interested in upgrading my ISO. When a new build arrives, I restore the checkpoint I created when the technician machine was fully setup after capturing the install.wim file. I can’t use the checkpoint made in Audit Mode before Sysprep because upgrading Windows in Audit Mode is not possible.

Now, booted to normal mode I can upgrade to the latest Insider Build or the next Feature Update Build using Windows Update or a standard ISO image. When that upgrade completes, I enter the following command in an elevated Command Prompt to restart Windows in Audit Mode:

%windir%\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe /audit /reboot

Windows restarts, then signs into Audit Mode using the built-in Administrator account. The next thing to do now because my initial user account already exists is to open Settings app > Accounts > Other users and delete all existing user accounts also removing their profile folders. I also delete the custom made install.wim file from last time if it’s still located on the image drive (E: in this example) and check to ensure that the Scratch folder still exists (if not, it must be re-created manually as described in Part 4 of this 6-part opus).

Now a Disk Clean-up, Sysprep, capturing install.wim once again and finally writing a new ISO. That’s it!

For Further Questions or comments…

If you have any questions about this 6-part series, or comments to share, do not hesitate to contact me! Here’s my information:

Kari Finn
Twitter.com/@KariTheFinn
YouTube.com/KariTheFinn
TenForums.com/members/kari.html

Links to All Series Elements

Part 1: Introduction & Overview
Part 2: Install Windows and Prepare Assets
Part 3: Update and Customize Windows, Install Software
Part 4: Generalize Custom Windows Image with Sysprep
Part 5: Capture Custom Windows Image, Create ISO
Part 6: Update/Change Custom Windows ISO


March 22, 2017  3:42 PM

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10 — Part 5 of 6

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

By Kari the Finn, guest blogger for Ed Tittel, courtesy of TenForums.com

Note: this blog is Part 5 in a series of 6 parts on the topic of using Sysprep to craft a custom ISO for use in installing Windows 10, aimed at the upcoming Creator’s Update scheduled for public release in mid to late April. Your guest blogger for this series is Kari the Finn, well-known Windows Install expert at TenForums.com. He’s the person who put tools together (ESD2ISO and UUP2ISO) that let savvy installers convert Windows OS download files into ISO images that may be used to create bootable installation optical media or USB Flash Drives. Part 1 of this series covered the intro, and Part 2 started users with installation prep; Part 3 explains how to update and customize Windows; Part 4 digs into generalizing a Windows image using the Sysprep utility. Here in Part 5, Kari explains how to capture a generalized Windows image and use it to create an ISO for installation. Don’t let the numbering bother you (Part 1 was an introduction, so step 1 appears in Part 2, step 2 in Part 3, and so on…)

4. Capture Windows image, create ISO

Once Sysprep finishes working its magic, the Windows 10 installer shuts down. Boot the technician machine using the Windows 10 install media, the same you used in the beginning to install Windows. Do not let it boot from hard disk, an HDD or SSD if using a physical machine or VHD) if using Hyper-V!

At the first prompt when Windows setup asks for region and language settings, instead of selecting anything and starting installation, press SHIFT + F10 to open the Recovery Console Command Prompt. Type diskpart and press Enter to start the Disk Partitioning Utility, then type list vol to list all available volumes (partitions). For example, on my Hyper-V VM list vol shows this information:

p5-fig1

This is why we named our disk partitions in Part 4, so we can identify them here. Note: the Recovery Console does not use the same drive ID policy as Windows 10. Thus, we need to be sure which drive has Windows installed (as shown above, it appears as drive D:) and which drive will store the captured image for customization and re-use (as shown above, it’s drive E:).

Type exit and press Enter to exit Diskpart.

DISM Does All the Hard Work!

Type (or Copy & Paste) the following command:

dism /capture-image /imagefile:E:\install.wim
/capturedir:D:\ /ScratchDir:E:\Scratch
/name:"W10PROx64" /compress:maximum
/checkintegrity /verify /bootable

If you do copy and paste, remove the spurious line feeds used to make the text visible and readable inside WordPress.

Please check and note the following important details:

  • /imagefile:E:\ = drive where install.wim will be saved
  • /capturedir:D:\ = drive where Windows is installed
  • /ScratchDir:E:\ = drive where temporary working folder Scratch is located
  • /name: = any name you like in quotes, not important but obligatory, here I identify the version as 64-bit Win10 Pro

Press Enter to start. Note: this will take some time to complete. On slow physical machines it can take up to 20 – 25 minutes. During the first half of that period you’ll get no progress indicator, either. Just be patient: it will work!

When this command has finished, eject the install media (in Hyper-V select Media menu > DVD Drive > Eject). Next, close Command Prompt and restart the technician machine. This time boot normally from HDD / VHD and let it work through normal OOBE setup.

While the Windows Installer Does Its Thing…

While the technician machine is preparing and setting up Windows, double click the original Windows 10 ISO image you used to mount it on the host computer as a virtual DVD. Then, open it in File Explorer, copy its entire contents (all files and folders) to a new folder on the host HDD. I named this new folder ISO_Files, creating it on drive D: on my host.

When the technician machine is ready and your initial user is logged into the desktop, copy your newly created install.wim file from the image drive (E:) to the Sources subfolder in the folder where you copied the original Windows installation files. In this example, that’s D:\ISO_Files\Sources folder. It will replace (over-write) the original Windows 10 install.wim file.

Hyper-V users should also create a checkpoint now on their technician VM to capture a pristine system image.

Bring on the (Windows Imaging) Tools!

Run Deployment and Imaging Tools Environment elevated, as an admin. It is installed as part of the Windows ADK and can be found in Start > W > Windows Kits. Type CD\ and press Enter to set the working folder to the root of the C: drive. Enter this command:

oscdimg.exe -m -o -u2 -udfver102 -bootdata:2#p0,e,
bd:\iso_files\boot\etfsboot.com#pEF,e,
bd:\iso_files\efi\microsoft\boot\efisys.bin
d:\iso_files d:\Win10PROx64.iso

Please notice: the preceding command is one long continuous command line though it breaks across multiple lines in this blog post. If you cut’n’paste this text remove the spurious linefeeds that WordPress required to make the entire text readable.

Check and the note following details, please:

  • d:\iso_files = path to folder where you copied original install files
  • d:\Win10PROx64.iso = path and your preferred name for new ISO

With all this work completed, making the ISO takes just a minute or two. When that’s done you can burn the ISO to a DVD or Flash drive, it will work on both BIOS / MBR and UEFI / GPT systems to install your customized Windows with its pre-installed software.

Moving On…

This concludes Part 5 of this 6-part series. Part 1 covered the intro, and Part 2 started users with installation prep; Part 3 explains how to update and customize Windows; Part 4 digs into generalizing a Windows image using the Sysprep utility. Here in Part 5, Kari showed how to capture a generalized Windows image and use it to create an ISO for installation. The sixth and final part explains how to update and maintain this ISO as changes and updates come along. It should post shortly to conclude the whole shebang!

Links to All Series Parts (1-6)

Part 1: Introduction & Overview
Part 2: Install Windows and Prepare Assets
Part 3: Update and Customize Windows, Install Software
Part 4: Generalize Custom Windows Image with Sysprep
Part 5: Capture Custom Windows Image, Create ISO
Part 6: Update/Change Custom Windows ISO


March 22, 2017  3:18 PM

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10 — Part 4 of 6

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

By Kari the Finn, guest blogger for Ed Tittel, courtesy of TenForums.com

Note: this blog is Part 4 in a series of 6 parts on the topic of using Sysprep to craft a custom ISO for use in installing Windows 10, aimed at the upcoming Creator’s Update scheduled to become available in mid to late April. Your guest blogger for this series is Kari the Finn, well-known Windows Install expert at TenForums.com. He’s the person who put tools together (ESD2ISO and UUP2ISO) that let savvy installers convert Windows OS download files into ISO images that may be used to create bootable installation optical media or USB Flash Drives. Part 1 covered the intro, and Part 2 started users with installation prep; Part 3 explains how to update and customize Windows; here’s Part 4, which digs into generalizing a Windows image using the Sysprep utility. Don’t let the numbering bother you (Part 1 was an introduction, so step 1 appears in Part 2, step 2 in Part 3, and so on…)

3. Generalize Windows image with Sysprep

OK, in the grand scheme of this 6-part behemoth, we’re almost there. One small but important detail must be addressed before we can run Sysprep: we must create a partition on our Hyper_V VM to store a captured Windows image. If you are using a physical PC as the technician machine this is unnecessary. Instead, you can simply use an external HDD or flash drive to store that image.

Disk Management Detour Explored and Explained

Open Disk Management and shrink the original C: partition to create free space for a new partition in which to capture a Windows image. It needs to be big enough for the install.wim file we capture later. For example, my usual custom Windows 10 PRO x64 ISO includes the following software pre-installed: Office 365 Business, Macrium Reflect, Opera, Chrome, Firefox, VLC Player, Adobe Reader, MalwareBytes, TeamViewer, 7Zip, Notepad++, plus other software that varies from build to build. As described, this results in an install.wim file that’s between 5 and 6 GB in size. To compensate, I usually subtract 10 GB (10240 MB) from C:. That’s plenty for most users. When I’m done, I create a new partition using that freed space, and format it NTFS.

Exit Disk Management. To help us to identify key partitions later, please rename the system drive C: to Windows and the new partition (in this case it became the E: drive) to Image or any other distinctive name. Create a new folder on the new capture drive (E:) named Scratch. We will need it when capturing the image as a temporary working folder using the DISM command (covered in Part 5).

Getting Ready to Run Sysprep

If you are running a Hyper-V VM, create a checkpoint now. If you are using another virtualization program create a snapshot. If using a physical PC, I recommend creating a system image now. Checkpoints and snapshots take just a minute, imaging a physical PC a bit longer. That’s one important reason I always use Hyper-V. Later when I want to let’s say update my image I simply restore this checkpoint created just before sysprepping Windows, then modify that image before running Sysprep again.

Check that the built-in admin’s (current user) Downloads folder is empty, that no software installers or assets are left there. Run Disk Clean-Up to remove all temp files, Recycle Bin content and so on.

Get Your Sysprep On

OK,  now it’s time to run Sysprep. Open the Command Prompt, it will be automatically elevated because you are signed in using the built-in administrator account. Run the following command:

%windir%\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe /generalize /oobe

This command runs Sysprep with Generalize and OOBE switches and then shuts down. The Generalize switch removes all hardware related information such as drivers and registry entries, resets Event Viewer, removes all shadow copies (restore points), and disables the built-in administrator account.

The OOBE switch forces Windows to run its setup phase the next time Windows boots from this image, as if it were a normal Windows setup. Because Windows was generalized a new unique SID (GUID) will be generated for each such installation.

Sysprep reads the answer file unattend.xml from C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep folder. In our case its most important line reads <CopyProfile>true</CopyProfile>. When true, CopyProfile copies all our customizations and personalizations to the default user profile, in the hidden folder Default in the Users folder. That profile is used as the base profile whenever a new user account gets created.

Moving On…

This concludes Step 3 of the process, and concludes Part 4 of this six-part blog post. Part 1 covered the intro, and Part 2 started users with installation prep; Part 3 explained how to update and customize Windows. Here in Part 4, we dug into generalizing a Windows image using the Sysprep utility. Part 5 picks up with capturing our custom Windows image to create an ISO, and Part 6 describes how to update and/or change that ISO to conclude this series. Look for those posts to follow here soon!

Links to All Series Parts (1-6)

Part 1: Introduction & Overview
Part 2: Install Windows and Prepare Assets
Part 3: Update and Customize Windows, Install Software
Part 4: Generalize Custom Windows Image with Sysprep
Part 5: Capture Custom Windows Image, Create ISO
Part 6: Update/Change Custom Windows ISO


March 20, 2017  1:48 PM

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10 — Part 3 of 6

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

By Kari the Finn, guest blogger for Ed Tittel, courtesy of TenForums.com

Note: this blog is Part 3 in a series of 6 parts on the topic of using Sysprep to craft a custom ISO for use in installing Windows 10, aimed at the upcoming Creator’s Update scheduled to become available in mid to late April. Your guest blogger for this series is Kari the Finn, well-known Windows Install expert at TenForums.com. He’s the person who put tools together (ESD2ISO and UUP2ISO) that let savvy installers convert Windows OS download files into ISO images that may be used to create bootable installation optical media or USB Flash Drives. Part 1 covered the intro, and Part 2 started users with installation prep; here’s part 3.

Step 2: Update and Customize Windows, Install Software

This blog post is Part 3 in a 6-part series devoted to creating a Custom ISO for the Windows 10 Creator’s Update (coming sometime in April). The topic for this post is the second step in a 5-step process to customize and create a Windows 10 ISO that includes not just the OS, but also the additional software and personalization you want your deployed systems to possess. As the title for this blog post says, the topic in this part of the series covers updating and customizing Windows, and installing additional third-party software.

When Windows installation is done and the final setup (OOBE, or “out of box experience”) starts, it stops to let you to select the region. Instead of doing that – that is, instead of selecting your country or region — press CTRL + SHIFT +F3 (press and hold down CTRL and SHIFT keys, press F3, release all keys).

Windows will now interrupt its normal setup. It will restart in Audit Mode, a special customization mode for Windows. Because no user accounts have been created yet Windows signs you in to Audit Mode using the built-in administrator account. A visible tell-tale to show you have booted to Audit Mode is a Sysprep prompt shown in the middle of the display. Click Cancel to close it. Change the display resolution if the default 1024 * 768 is too small for you to work in.

You can now install your software and update Windows. Do not run any programs! Thus, if for example the installer shows Run this application now selected in a final prompt, unselect it and close that installer. Do not install any hardware drivers: even those automatically installed by Windows Update will be removed later. If any installer or update requires a restart, do it. Windows will return to Audit Mode after restart. Notice that in case you want to download software you must use Internet Explorer. Edge and other Windows UWP apps do not work in Audit Mode because you are signed in using built-in administrator account (it doesn’t support their use). To open IE press WIN + R to open Run dialog, type iexplore and press Enter.

Import the Deployment Assets you prepared while Windows was installing on your technician machine. If you saved assets on OneDrive as I suggested, use IE to browse over to and sign into your OneDrive account. Download oemlogo.bmp file , and save it to the C:\Windows\System32 folder. Do likewise for the answer file unattend.xml, and save it to the C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep folder. It is important for you use these filenames exactly as shown, and to save them to the folders specified. Do not rename these two files! Otherwise your unattended install won’t work.

Customizing the Installed Image

The Windows themes you prepared need not be saved. Using IE, select a theme on OneDrive and instead of saving it select Open to apply it to the technician machine. Because Windows is not activated in Audit Mode you cannot use personalization options (themes, colors and so on). Thus, applying an imported theme is your only means to customize theme and desktop appearance.

Open File Explorer and customize it as you like. You can adjust icon size, hide or show the Ribbon, show item selection boxes, show Details or Preview pane, show Libraries in Navigation pane and so on. [TenForums has a whole tutorial section on this called “File and Folder Settings,” where all this and more is explained.]

If you like, you can also customize the Start, pin and unpin tiles. Notice that in Audit Mode most Start tiles are not populated, and simply show a down arrow. However, when your image is deployed Start will work fine for new users.

I myself prefer customizing Start, then exporting the Start layout to a file using PowerShell. The following PowerShell command exports your current Start layout to the file named C:\Windows\System32\MyStart.xml:

Export-StartLayout C:\Windows\System32\MyStart.xml

When you’ve exported the file, next open the Group Policy Editor (WIN + R, type gpedit.msc). The Group Policy Editor is not available in Home and Single language Windows 10 editions. Browse to Local Computer Policy > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar in the left-hand pane, then double click Start Layout on the right-hand pane.

There you want to enable policy. To do that, enter C:\Windows\System32\MyStart.xml as Start Layout File, then click OK to save that policy.

This policy forces your customized Start layout to be used in each user account.

Two batch files are still missing from our customization. Both of them run once each time a new user signs in for the first time. The first file resets File Explorer’s Recent Files and Quick Access. To build this file, type or Copy & Paste the following two lines into a new Notepad text file:

echo Y | del %appdata%\microsoft\windows\recent\automaticdestinations\*
del %0

This batch file resets Quick Access and then deletes itself (it only exists and runs when a new user signs in for the first time). In Notepad select File > Save As, type %appdata% in the addressbar in the Save As prompt, then press Enter to open AppData\Roaming folder. Browse to the folder named Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup. Save the file as RunOnce.bat , and select Save As type: All files in Notepad’s Save As prompt.

The second batch file is a Visual Basic Script (.vbs file). Its purpose is to greet a new user the first time he or she signs in, after which it deletes itself. This file is optional, but it is something I include in my customized images (I do understand that some readers will consider this a wasted gesture; skip it if you’re so inclined). Type or Copy & Paste the following text into a new Notepad text file:

Dim WshShell, Welcome
Set WshShell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")

Welcome = WshShell.Popup("Welcome to customised Windows 10 with pre-installed software.", 60, "Windows 10", vbOKOnly)

Select Case Welcome
case 1
MsgBox "Following software has been installed: Office 365 (2016), Adobe reader, VLC Player, Chrome, Firefox and Opera. You will also find some pre-installed themes in Settings > Personalize > Themes.", vbOKOnly, "Windows 10"
End Select

MsgBox "Have Fun with Windows 10!", vbOKOnly, "Windows 10"

DeleteScript()
Function DeleteScript()
Set objFSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
strScript = Wscript.ScriptFullName
objFSO.DeleteFile(strScript)
End Function

Save this file as Welcome.vbs to same folder where you saved RunOnce.bat. Again, select the Save As type: All files option in Notepad’s Save As prompt.

If you like, both the unattend.xml and Welcome.vbs files can also be prepared on the host while Windows is installing and saved into your Deployment assets folder, then imported together with other assets to the technician machine.

This concludes part 3 of this 6-part blog post, in which I explain how to customize and maintain a Windows 10 ISO for easy installation. Parts 1 (the introduction) and 2 (Update and Customize Windows, Install Software) have already been posted, and Part 3 (Generalize Your Windows Image with Sysprep) will follow on Monday.

Links to All Series Parts (1-6)

Part 1: Introduction & Overview
Part 2: Install Windows and Prepare Assets
Part 3: Update and Customize Windows, Install Software
Part 4: Generalize Custom Windows Image with Sysprep
Part 5: Capture Custom Windows Image, Create ISO
Part 6: Update/Change Custom Windows ISO


March 20, 2017  1:45 PM

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10 — Part 2 of 6

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
ISO, Windows 10, windows installer

By Kari the Finn, guest blogger for Ed Tittel (Windows install expert at TenForums.com).

This blog post is Part 2 in a 6-part series devoted to “Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10,” Creator’s Update (coming sometime in April). The topic for this post is the first step in a 5-step process to customize and create a Windows 10 ISO that includes not just the OS, but also the additional software and personalization you want your deployed systems to possess. As the title for this blog post says, the topic in this part of the series covers installing windows and preparing some of your customization assets.

Step 1.    Install Windows and Prepare Assets

Install Windows normally until it stops at the “Region selection” screen after the last reboot. When a product key is requested, select “I don’t have a product key” as your response. As it happens, Windows does not need to be activated for our purposes.

I’m using a Hyper-V Generation 1 virtual machine (from now on VM) as the technician machine, with a 64 GB virtual hard disk. Before starting the VM, I change its settings to use Standard Checkpoints instead of default Production Checkpoints. Later on, this helps me to maintain and update my install image.

Installation takes 15 minutes or so to complete. While it’s running, you have time to prepare some assets on your host machine. First, download and install the Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). Next, create a so called unattended answer file using the Windows System Image Manager (SIM), which is a part of the Windows ADK. Don’t panic even if you are a Windows SIM newbie: it’s easy to use. See Parts Three & Five in my customization tutorial on Ten Forums for ADK / SIM install instructions and how to create your first answer file. Once you get comfortable with the process it will seem less daunting, I promise!

If you are feeling unsure about this, or if Windows SIM looks too scary, you can download this answer file code and paste into a new (blank) file using Notepad:

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10

NOTE: please do not try to cut’n’paste the preceding info. It’s a graphic image file. Download the answer file instead!

The values shown in bold red above are explained below. You may change them as you like. Remember, you can download the answer file, courtesy of Kari himself.

ProcessorArchitecture  = adm64 for 64 bit Windows, x86 for 32 bit
Logo                                = OEM logo (120*120 pixel bitmap (.bmp)) file
Manufacturer                  = Whatever you like
SupportHours                 = text string (9 AM to 5 PM, 10:00 – 18:00, 24/7 etc.)
SupportPhone                 = any phone number
SupportURL                     = any URL
OEMName                        = Whatever you like
RegisteredOwner            = Whatever you like
TimeZone                         = As per Microsoft time zone names (see list)

All the preceding answer file components are optional, except ProcessorArchitecture (it is mandatory, and must be included). If you do not need them you can remove their respective lines. For instance if you do not need or want to set a time zone, remove this line:

            <TimeZone>W. Europe Standard Time</TimeZone>

When you’re done save the answer file as unattend.xml (exactly that name and extension!). I recommend that you create a new folder on OneDrive, and name it Deployment Assets. Save your answer file in this folder.

Next, prepare an OEM logo image if one is needed. Any bitmap image (.bmp) will do, but its size must be exactly 120 x 120 pixels. Save the image as oemlogo.bmp in the Deployment Assets folder.

Modify background images, colors, sounds and screensavers on your host machine, then save your settings as a theme file. Save all the themes you’d like to include in the custom ISO into your Deployment Assets folder as well. (Hint: this folder is where you’ll find the items you need to customize your ISO again and again. If you don’t know how to do this, try the TenForums tutorial Theme — Save in Windows 10 Customization)

Windows should soon be installed, so it’s time to start customizing! This concludes part 2 of this 6-part blog post, in which I explain how to customize and maintain a Windows 10 ISO for easy installation. Part 1 (the introduction) preceded this post, and Part 2 (Update and Customize Windows, Install Software) will follow in a few minutes. There are three more installments to come after that, all of which will post this week sometime. Stay tuned.

Links to All Series Parts (1-6)

Part 1: Introduction & Overview
Part 2: Install Windows and Prepare Assets
Part 3: Update and Customize Windows, Install Software
Part 4: Generalize Custom Windows Image with Sysprep
Part 5: Capture Custom Windows Image, Create ISO
Part 6: Update/Change Custom Windows ISO


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