Windows Enterprise Desktop


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


March 13, 2017  10:40 PM

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10: Part 1 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 1 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. Here’s Part 1 of 6:

Installing Windows 10 Is Easy…

Installing Windows 10 is easy. All you have to do is download an ISO from Microsoft, burn it to a DVD or flash drive, use it to boot the PC, and you’re off! Some 15 to 30 minutes later you’ll have a clean, fresh Windows 10 installation. But before it’s ready for production use, quite a lot still needs doing. Software must be installed, desktop and Start must be personalized to meet your requirements, and so forth. Next, repeat this process for each of your PCs. Then, when a reinstall is needed, you must repeat that procedure!

I hate doing unnecessary work especially if I’m going to repeat it regularly. That’s why I do this a bit differently. First, I install Windows 10, customize it to my needs, install all the software I need, then capture that installation and use it to create an ISO. Using this customized ISO for my installation media, I need half an hour to clean install Windows 10 with all my software and personalization. When I want to change something in my ISO, to add or remove software, change personalization, or to update or upgrade Windows 10, I simply update the image and create a new ISO. It’s fast and easy to do. Better yet: the more I use it, the more time it saves me!

Getting Started with a Custom ISO

In this post I show how to do this. You need install media for your preferred Windows 10 edition and software, a technician machine (Microsoft’s term, not mine: it means a PC on which you can work to build OS images), and about 20 minutes longer than it would take to clean install Windows 10 and all your software one time.

As I mentioned, the machine used to prepare a Windows image is called a technician machine. Any spare PC will do for this role. But I prefer (and recommend) using a Hyper-V virtual machine. (Note: Hyper-V is not available in Windows 10 Home and Single Language editions, so that means you must use Windows 10 Pro, Education, or Enterprise on your host machine, the one that’s hosting Hyper-V virtual machines.)

The process of creating a custom ISO breaks down into five clearly distinct parts:

  1. Install Windows and prepare assets while installing
  2. Update and customize Windows, install software
  3. Generalize Windows image with Windows System Preparation Tool (Sysprep)
  4. Capture Windows image, create ISO
  5. Update / Change ISO

Apart from whatever software you pre-installed in your Windows image, no third party tools, apps or other software is needed. Everything is done using native Windows 10 and Microsoft tools. We’ll tackle this job, one step at a time in the five numbered sections that follow. Because of overall, length this will be broken across six blog posts, of which this, the introduction, is Part 1. Tune in for my next blog post wherein I’ll tackle Step 1: “Install Windows and prepare assets while installing.”

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 10, 2017  10:48 AM

Taskkill Terminates Hung Processes

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
CMD, System utilities, Tasks, Windows 10

Thanks to Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero.com I just learned about a handy Windows command I’d never heard of before. It’s called Taskkill (or Taskkill.exe, if you prefer). Because Taskkill terminates hung processes in Windows it lives up to its name quite nicely. Better yet, it works with condition tests called filters. Thus you can use it to kill tasks whose names or process IDs you don’t even know.

An Example of how Taskkill Terminates Hung Processes Might Help

This sounds great in the abstract, but what does the syntax look like? Here’s a command line that kills all tasks in Windows with a status of “NOT RESPONDING” that shows the power of this command:

taskkill.exe /F /FI "status eq NOT RESPONDING"

Taskkill Terminates Hung Processes

Taskkill terminates any and all hung Windows processes quickly and easily.

Let me explain the attributes and values included to help make more sense of what’s going on here:

/F: means to force termination of the process that meets the filter condition
/FI: applied any of a number of filters as specified in the text attribute following surrounded by quotes

The text attribute “status eq NOT RESPONDING” tells the command to identify all running tasks that show the “NOT RESPONDING” (that is, “hung”) status in Task Manager. Thus, this command translates into terminate all tasks that are hung. Pretty handy, eh? I only learned about it an hour ago, and I’ve already been able to put it to good use.

Complete Taskkill Details

As always, TechNet is your go-to resource to get the details on Windows commands. The complete syntax for Taskkill is available in the … wait for it … Windows XP Command Line Reference. Apparently, this has been around for a while without yours truly being aware of it. Should you be in the same boat, or otherwise, the Taskkill reference should come in handy either way. Be sure to check it out, and remember to use it the next time one of your browser windows or some other app goes astray. It beats killing all the processes related to a multi-tabbed application and then having to start over, that’s for sure!


March 10, 2017  8:13 AM

Surface Pro 4 2-in-1 leads the PC replacement pack

Ramin Edmond Profile: Ramin Edmond
Apple, Apple iOS, ipad, Microsoft, Surface Pro, Windows 10

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 2-in-1 is a more likely PC replacement than Apple’s iPad Pro, thanks to Windows 10 and its Continuum feature.

The tech industry continues to search for a device that offers close to the same portability as a smartphone along with the productivity of a PC. Laptops have done the job for years, but people want something better and more versatile. Continuum, which lets Windows 10 switch between PC and tablet interfaces depending on the use case, provides that flexibility. Every Windows 10 2-in-1 has this feature, but Microsoft is dominating the market, according to IDC.

Meanwhile, the iPad hasn’t quite fulfilled its early promise as a mobile device that can also be a laptop PC replacement. Apple increased its screen size and added a keyboard with the iPad Pro, making the device more suitable to replace a laptop, but questions remain.

“There is a lack of a cursor on iPad, and the keyboard feels more of an add-on than integral part of the device like it is with the Surface,” said Bob O’Donnell, president at TECHnalysis Research in Foster City, Calif.

The iPad Pro runs iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, and does not have a Continuum-like feature. That makes it run similarly to a mobile device even when the keyboard is attached. As such, the Surface Pro 4 2-in-1 is more like a laptop that can be used as a tablet, whereas the opposite holds true for the iPad Pro — and that’s good news for Microsoft.

The tablet market in general will dip by 6.5% by 2021, while the 2-in-1 market will grow by 21.2%, according to IDC’s Personal Computing Device Forecast.

In terms of computers in the enterprise, it is no secret that Windows runs the show. Apple has the leading mobile operating system in the workforce, but since we’re talking about which is more likely to replace your work laptop, the edge goes to the device with the OS that business PCs typically use.

“People do use Surface more for work, and it gets more consideration as a 2-in-1,” O’Donnell said. “With the iPad, despite the keyboard, it’s not the kind of thing people are doing with it.”


March 8, 2017  3:05 PM

AMD and ARM Deliver 1-2 Punch to Intel

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
"ARM architecture", AMD PC hardware, Cloud servers, smartphone, Windows

Life on the PC front has suddenly become more competitive for Intel over the past four months or so. On December 7, Microsoft announced desktop support for ARM processors. On February 22, AMD announced its new line of Ryzen x86 processors. And just today, we learn that Microsoft will soon support ARM processors for Azure servers. Thus, AMD and ARM deliver 1-2 punch to Intel, and threaten its market dominance.

How Do AMD and ARM Deliver 1-2 Punch to Intel?

Some experts find the Ryzen CPU family particularly compelling. That’s because it offers “almost as good” levels of performance at lower prices. This is true for its top-of-the-line 8-core 16-thread Ryzen 7 1700 ($330 street) compared to the 4-core 8-thread Intel Core i7-7700K ($340 street). Don’t even think about the Intel 10-core 20-thread Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition unless paying over $1,500 is palatable. It’s been half-a-dozen years or more since AMD and Intel processors offered anything close to parity, and Intel’s gotten used to owning the market in the meantime. This should get interesting as benchmarks keep coming out, and the enthusiast market digests those results.

In some ways, the ARM news is more compelling. ARM owns the small form-factor market for tablets and many smartphones. Thus, this team-up may accomplish what Microsoft couldn’t do on its own — grab market share for hand-held devices. But Microsoft has really struggled with phones and small tablets, so a positive outcome is far from guaranteed.

Servers Are Where the REAL Action Is…

Today’s server-side combination specifically targets Azure servers, however. Thus, it tackles Intel in an area where the company generates a heap of profit. Because of the massive proliferation of cloud servers, and burgeoning uptake for Azure, there are real opportunities here. ARM processors have gained a good reputation as more power-efficient and more widely supported by OEMs than other chips. According to Bloomberg “Microsoft is planning to incorporate the ARM chips as it develops a  new cloud server design” which it plans to discuss today at the Open Compute Project Summit in Santa Clara, CA. Just hearing that it’s on the Open Compute agenda already has me a LOT more interested. An open source architecture means it’s much more likely to be widely adopted and implemented (not to mention that Amazon and Open Stack/Rackspace are big supporters of the standard as well).

Is it time to start selling Intel short? The market is trading down today, and Intel is down 0.47% for the day as I write this. How will this shake out over the long term? Only time will tell!


March 7, 2017  4:24 PM

Benefiting from Cert Revocation

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

I’ve been working a lot in the office lately on projects that require lots of printing. My trusty Samsung ML-2850 networked printer was acting up over the weekend, in fact. I noticed some banding or streaking of toner on output pages, and wondered how much toner was left in my current cartridge. But when I tried to find out, I realized that  I hadn’t installed a driver version that could illuminate printer status and supplies for me. When I found what looked right at SoftPedia, I ran into an error message when I tried to install the program. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. But eventually, I realized I was benefiting from cert revocation on the file’s digital signature.

Here’s the error message:

Benefitting from Cert Revocation

Why would Samsung be blocked from running software on my PC? Thereupon hangs this tale…
[Click image to see full-sized view]

How Does Blocking Install Lead to Benefiting from Cert Revocation?

Good question! I had to dig a bit to figure this out. As it happens, MS maintains a registry of digital signatures for software. Checking that registry is part of the UAC process in deciding whether or not to permit installation to proceed. Publishers have the option of updating their signature status after the fact, so they can withdraw items from circulation (or render them moot). I’m not sure if what I ran into was an old, formerly valid program having been withdrawn from circulation, or if the program from SoftPedia simply says it’s a Samsung installer, and is actually something else. Either way, though, I don’t want it on my machine.

Warned by this block message, I dug into the Samsung site. There, I found a program called “Samsung Easy Printer Manager” that I was able to access through the downloads page for my printer’s make and model. The blocked software shows up as “Easy Deployment Manager” on the Details pane of its Properties page in File Explorer, so I’m inclined to think the program was legit, but is now out of date. But who knows: maybe I dodged a bullet!


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