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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
The Exchange team Blog (EHLO) has a pointer to some good resources for building an automated Exchange 2007 installation here and here
it also has some templates for your server build documentation for Exchange servers, always better to start with something than start from scratch!
Automation is one of those great things in Microsoft products, almost all of the products support automated installation, but often unless you are setting up hundreds of them the time invested to get it up and working far exceeds the time it would take to deploy so any pre-build resources and guides are an excellent idea.
Install automation can ensure you have repeatable results – this is especially handy where you are factoring in a non-P2V disaster recovery situation or where you have labs/demo environments or are trusting local IT staff to deploy and manage enterprise applications in a distributed environment.
A bit of a disappointment; we’re trying to do a WinPE 2.0 CD/DVD based installation for our Windows 2003/2008 standard blade servers in an HP c7000 enclosure.
Installing from a .ISO image presented to the iLo via the virtual media applet is dog-slow (5-10 times slower than from a physical CD/DVD- why is this? – surely its technically possible to make this access run faster and GigE chipsets are cheap-as these days. I’ve been through every combination of switching/duplex/port config and even via a cable directly into the Blade OA.
The same issue seems to manifest itself on traditional rack mount HP servers – the iLo just isn’t fast enough to make this a workable solution, unless you are really patient.
I know we could use the RDP and do it as a PXE type installation over the network to each blade, but this doesn’t really achieve what I want…
Most customers maintain an OoB (Out of Band) network to which all of the management interfaces (iLo, DRAC, etc.) are connected to. the reasoning for this is obvious; if you loose your main core switching network you can get access via a totally different physical network and path to assist in troubleshooting.
For this same reasoning I would like to use this method to build servers from a master boot CD/DVD image, you can present a .ISO image to a server via the virtual media applet on the iLo. We have a fully end-end build process that sets up the HP array controllers, flashes BIOS and installs the OS and drivers etc. from a CD/DVD.
We just update the boot CD .ISO file as required and its flexible and it doesn’t rely on any deployment infrastructure (PXE server, RDP server etc.) so we can port it between customers and data centres, VM’s and physical machines and do a bare-metal builds without requiring any build/network infrastructure in place.
This isn’t just limited to a Windows OS – I tried the same with an ESX installation; took over an hour (compared to 5-10 mins from a local CD)
James O’Neil has a good post here – an example of how he used ImageX to quickly build and maintain his own vista system image with his typical apps.
Also handy for reference as he shows how to split very large images across multiple CDs using the /split switch.
Goal: keep a single .WIM file, Multiple instances of the same build in the .WIM file
Build001 non-sysprep’d version for maintenence with all latest patches and corp apps
Build002 sysprep but no domain for home workers/3rd party
Build003 sysprep + domain joining and scripted OOBE for corp machines
Build004…etc. tweaks to the sysprep – for different domains/customers or OOBE settings like language etc.
Build a bootable WinPE DVD with ImageX and the large .WIM file stored on it so no network connectivity required to install (at this stage) just a single DVD.
Reboot from Win PE to start Vista MiniSetup/OOBE
I hit a problem as when I restored build001 to my reference machine it wouldn’t boot and immediatley gave a 0xc000000e error
This was because my automated build DVD runs diskpart with a scripted set of commands (WIPEDISK.TXT) which includes the clean command
select disk 0
create partition primary
select partition 1
format fs=ntfs quick
This caused problems in this instance because The clean command erases the partition table ID.
If an image has not been-sysprep’d it still looks for the original partition table ID (which diskpart removed) hence the stop error at boot.
Sysprep’d images don’t have this problem as the “/generalize” switch resets this dependency on the partition table entries and mini-setup runs at 1st boot to fix it up.
So, if you need to do maintenance on a non-sysprep’d reference image then
Rinse and repeat.
Thanks to this post http://forums.microsoft.com/TechNet/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=1099145&SiteID=17 and this post http://www.svrops.com/svrops/articles/winvistape2.htmI figured it out…eventually!
I need a DVD that automatically applies a .WIM image when WinPE boots – no prompts; just want to press F9 for the BIOS Boot menu and walk away until build is finished.
I built a WinPE 2.0 image the usual way, but I want to add files to it (easy with PowerISO) but I want it to do something when it starts up..
To do this I had to customise the BOOT.WIM file which you use to generate your WinPE ISO file, note you need to edit BOOT.WIM not the WinPE.WIM file.
I used the /MOUNTRW switch for imageX (more details here) to mount the BOOT.WIM file – if you look in it’s WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 directory there is a file called STARTNET.CMD – this is mostly the same as a batch file so you can put whatever commands you want in here, in my case I edited it as follows;
Once the changes are made you can save the changes back using the /UNMOUNT and /COMMIT switches – you’ll then need to rebuild the Windows PE .ISO using OSCDIMG.EXE.
You can then inject files into the .ISO file you’ve generated – you could put them in the BOOT.WIM as above but its quicker and easier to do this via PowerISO (or similar tool) if you are going to need to make changes, rather than recompiling the BOOT.WIM and .ISO files.
This is the BUILDPC.BAT batch file that STARTNET.CMD calls, it prepares the disk and deploys the image file to the local HDD.
diskpart /s d:\sources\wipedisk.txt
Echo applying image
imagex.exe /apply d:\sources\MasterImageFile.wim 1 C:
Echo Image Downloaded, rebooting.
Save the file and burn.. job done.
It’s a good idea to use a virtual machine to test the .ISO file out – and is cheaper than wasting lots of DVD/CD-R’s while you are fine-tuning!
I haven’t had to do this sort of thing for a while and it’s the first time I’ve done it with Vista so here is a list of things I found; mainly for my own memory but hopefully it helps you too.. I only had 24 hours to do this, 50+ new PC’s to deploy to and a lot of other work to do, so I didn’t take the 100% best-practice approach.. but it works.
I wanted to take advantage of the new WIM image format – this is a file based snapshot format that is the default for a new Vista install and allows you to keep several different instances of a Vista installation in the same media. but requires less overall space as it “single-instances” files – for example a traditional Ghost based approach would keep a whole copy of explorer.exe once for every clone; this method just keeps the file once and uses pointers.
My goal is to have the following stored within a single .WIM file; this gives a bit of flexibility as we will be using a variety of these builds – yes it might be a bit more sensible to use a server based software deployment tool like SMS for the apps but we need the ability to support a variety of configurations and off-line/remote use and build for this implementation.
|Build001||Base Vista OS and hardware drivers for the HP PCs we will be deploying to with latest windows updates|
|Build002||As above + Office 2007 Standard VL Version & latest updates|
|Build003||As above + Misc Apps (Acrobat, Flash, AV Etc.)|
|Build004||As Above but with an automated, domain joining Sysprep|
Tip: I found it much easier to try all this out using a virtual machine; rather than having to burn DVD’s just to get the config right – you can do this by mounting the .iso file within a disposable virtual machine and boot from the “virtual” CDROM/DVD.
This implementation is going to rely on the OEM licence’s supplied on PCs – but we need to use our own build rather than the rather stodgy one supplied by HP so we can’t script the product key/activation and the user will need to enter it within the 30-days grace period.
I spent a while hacking away with autounattend.xml files using System Image Manager without much luck – this site and this site were handy in figuring out how it worked and I managed a working file once I’d changed the disk partitioning bit from this script
Word of warning if you get an installation GUI when the machine boots then it’s ignored the autounattend.xml file but it doesn’t tell you why; there is a bug if you store it on a flash drive – fix here and I couldn’t make it work by storing the file in the root of the DVD and had to resort to a virtual floppy in my test build VM – more information here.
In the end I had to abandon the unattended setup because of time constraints, and it didn’t meet all of my needs anyway so I did a manual Vista install (without entering a product key) and then proceeded with the imaging process as I was hoping to get an application-inclusive “build”; with an unattended install I would have had to script all the application installations which would have probably taken too long.
Firstly you need to create a Windows PE bootable CD – info here and here quick version in step 4). just a word of warning, if you cut & paste the OSCDIMG.EXE command line from the site it won’t work and you’ll get an “Error 5 Access is denied.”
Weirdly this is because the “-” in the command line shown on the web page is the wrong ASCII symbol (assume thats an HTML/browser weirdness) but it will work fine if you type it in manually and you should see the following;
Now, once you’re happy with the reference image and have all the windows updates etc. installed you need to sysprep it to generate a new SID and make it “general”.
Run SYSPREP.EXE and choose OOBE and generalize, then shutdown the reference PC – if you have a sysprep.xml file now is the time to use it.
Now you can boot the Vista “reference” PC from the PE CD and capture the image.
you can keep the image on the same disk as the Vista installation, something you can’t do with Ghost etc.
this is done with the following command;
Imagex.exe /compress fast /capture C: C:\image-name.wim “build001” /verify
When its finished you can copy the resultant .wim file to a removable USB drive or network share (note: PE2.0 seems to support hot-swapping USB flash drives, which is handy – all my previous PEBuilder based CDs would only detect such devices at boot-time.
And you’re done, well you have a master image anyway.. next step would be to apply it to a machine.
Plenty of scope to automate the .WIM image deployment, I want to add it to a PE CD/DVD that the user can boot the machine from, then walk away and have it fully build a machine.