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What has really changed in Windows Server 2012?

A good advice to all systems administrators is to evaluate what benefits a new release of operation system will bring to their environment before taking a decision to upgrade. Upgrading for the sake of having the latest operating system is not the way forward unless the vendor is discontinuing its support. Although, Windows Server 2012 brings a number of new features system administrators need to focus on changes that will potentially have the greatest impact on their environment.

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Windows Service Packs

You might have been advised to install Windows operating systems with specific service packs versions such as, Windows XP SP3 or Windows 7 SP1 and you might wonder what’s so important with all these service packs! A brief explanation of service packs will help you understand their specific purpose and what are the best practices when deploying service packs.

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Image deployment from a Network Share

This method of deployment is ideal for SMBs since its implementation is very straight forward and inexpensive as the main requirement is some storage space. This involves an installation of a reference computer (user/department configuration), creating a bootable client (Windows PE) and capturing the image onto a network share. Whenever, you need to install a new or reformatted computer system, you just need to push the image from the network share to that machine 🙂

Windows PE environment

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Creating a Windows PE boot disk

Windows PE enables you to boot a computer directly into memory (RAM Drive) and run various tools such as, deployment and recovery ones! To create a bootable Windows PE CD or DVD media and install the ImageX Windows WAIK tools perform the following steps:

    1. Install Windows AIK tools on your computer
    2. From ALL Programs\Windows AIK open the Deployment Tools Command Prompt
    3. Create a local Windows PE build directory as follows:
      copype.cmd <architecture> <destination>
      where <architecture> can be x86 for Windows 32-bit environment, amd64 for 64-bit (including Intel 64-bit processors) and ia64 for Intel Itanium architecture
      while <destination> is the path to a local directory
      copype.cmd x86 c:\winpe_x86   –> for the 32bit env or copype.cmd amd64 c:\winpe_amd64   –> for the 64bit env
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Creating an answer file

An answer file gives you the control to perform an unattended installation, that is, the installation process is provided with the answers in a script file instead of having someone attending to it! You can for example, configure passwords, set default Internet Explorer settings, accepting a EULA, etc… The answer file should contain all the settings (answers) required during an installation.

To create an answer file, you use the Windows SIM utility found in Windows AIK by following these steps: Continue reading

Problems with Windows SIM

Windows SIM fails to create a catalog for a 32-bit Windows image from a 64-bit version of Windows SIM. To workaround this issue, use the 32-bit version of Windows SIM to create 
catalogs for your Windows images. problems

Different binary versions of Windows SIM cannot create catalog files for some Windows images of different architecture types. MS recommends using the 32-bit version of Windows SIM to create catalog files because this version can create catalogs for all Windows image architecture types. The following list describes the Windows SIM architecture types and 
catalogs that can be created for each Windows image architecture type:- Continue reading

Windows Automated Installation Toolkit (Windows AIK or WAIK)

The Windows Automated Installation Toolkit (Windows AIK or WAIK) is a collection of tools that help you deploy operating system images to target computers or to a VHD. With Windows AIK you can automate systems installations with up-to-date images and use various deployment options. For the experienced users, with Windows AIK you can create the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE version 3) which is a 32-bit or 64-bit replacement for the good old MS-DOS client.

Windows AIK tools include: Continue reading

Installing from a USB storage device

pen driveThe main advantages of using flash drives instead of DVD-ROMs are becuase of their faster read speeds and ability to customize the installation image according to your needs such as, adding additional drivers! However, your computer must be able to boot from a USB device. A capacity of 4GB is required for a normal x64 installation image and about 3GB for the x86 one.

 Follow these steps to perform an installation from a USB device:

Preparing the USB device: – Continue reading