Creating an Image of a Computer over the Network

This was unique one.  Had a user that kept running out of disk space.  Plan was to image her drive to a bigger drive (150GB SATA to 500GB SATA).  Problem? She works past 5PM, no upcoming vacation.

DISK2VHD to the rescue!  We can use this program to dump a copy of the disk to a VHD file to a network location after hours.  Imaging 109GB over 1Gigabit network took about 2 hours.  Note that Windows 7 can mount VHDs, but not VHDXs.  If you are an idiot like me: you can convert a VHDX file back to a VHD file using the command Convert-VHD within PowerShell on Windows 10.

Now we mount the VHD as a drive in Windows using the disk management snap-in (diskmgmt.msc).  Then I used AOMEI’s Backupper to do a disk to disk clone. The resulting copy needed a partition resize to use all available space on the new disk, so I had to blow away the 300MB Bitlocker partition at the end to expand it in disk management (we don’t use Bitlocker on desktops).

Pop in it and boom: works!

This also works for P2P conversions.  I took a guy from an Optiplex 745 to Optiplex 3020 using the same method.  Upon booting Windows, I got the the famous 7B BSOD.  I used the P2P adjust feature from Paragon’s Hard Drive Manager 15 Professional and was up and running after adding the correct drivers.

-Soli Deo Gloria


GPO: Enable the Policy to Disable the Setting

Got to love Group Policy sometimes.  We wanted to disable the setting “Access data sources across domains” under Internet Explorer>Security>Local intranet>Custom Level.  So of course we set the GPO “Access data sources across domains” to disabled and …it doesn’t work!  Users can still toggle the setting and we are still getting pop-ups in Internet Explorer.  The solution?  Enable the policy so you can disable it.  Yup!  Set it to enabled, then click the dropdown box and pick disabled.

Is this some voodoo Vulcan logic being used here?

– Soli Deo Gloria

Get a Windows 10 Activation Ticket

The clock is ticking before the Windows 10 free upgrade ends on July 29th.  If you are still on Windows 7/8.1 and don’t want to upgrade by July 29th, there’s still hope!

See the following thread to save your Windows 10 activation ticket/token:

  • Soli Deo Gloria

Missing Drivers

Missing drivers are the bane of every tech, but I have two solutions for you and they are both free!  The first one is called Driver Solution Pack. The second one is Snappy Driver Installer.  The cool thing with SDI is that you can set a filter to “drivers not installed”, then you can extract those to a folder and import those into your deployment solution such as MDT for each make/model you have.

Don’t forget about SIV or the System Information Viewer…great program to find information on devices that are missing drivers.

  • Soli Deo Gloria

Adding Fonts As Non-Admin

I’ve been over the Internet many times over trying to find a free solution to run certain programs as administrator without giving the end user full blown administrator rights.  An example of this is adding fonts.  This task requires administrator rights to do…but do I really need to give the end user full blown admin rights to add fonts?

The answer is no.  Meet: AutoIT.  This is free solution that includes a nifty RunAs command.  As an example we can do this:

RunAs(“srvaccount”, “your_domain”, “Pa$$W0RD”, 4, “C:\fonts\nexusfont.exe”)

Then we can compile that into a nice little EXE which hides the command line from the end user and then we give them that EXE: In this example, I’m using NexusFont since it’s a free font management solution.  NexusFont includes an option to “Copy fonts to system font folder”.  Since NexusFont is running under an account with Administrator rights, it has no problems doing this.

Make sure you give the end users read and execute only rights to the folder and EXE file so they cannot switch it out with another file.

Also, it is possible to reverse engineer the process if you are sophisticated enough and get the password, so don’t use a super sensitive password.  Assumption is that normal users aren’t going to be that sophisticated and there are probably easier ways of gaining admin rights then reverse engineering executables 🙂

– Soli Deo Gloria

Moving Windows 7 to New Hardware Part Deux

You may have remember this posting: Moving Windows 7 to New Hardware.  I was called out recently to another site for a down PC.  A Dell Optiplex 3020 had its power supply blown.  I only had a Optiplex 390 at hand to fix the problem, however, upon booting it up with the old hard drive, I would get that wonderful STOP 7B error message.  Here’s another, perhaps easier method of dealing with this problem: Paragon’s Hard Drive Manager 15 Professional. There’s a feature in the WinPE bootcd of this suite called “Adaptive Restore”.  You don’t even need to use the backup feature of the suite to use it…just boot to WinPE, pick Adaptive Restore and viola: you will get a booting system.

A description of this process is here:

  • Change of the Windows kernel settings according to the new configuration. We detect the given hardware profile and automatically install the appropriate Windows HAL and kernel.
  • Installation of drivers for boot critical devices. We detect those without drivers and automatically try to install lacking drivers from the built-in Windows repository. If there’s no driver in the repository, we prompt the user to set a path to an additional driver repository, strongly recommending not to proceed until all drivers for the found boot critical devices are installed. In case drivers for these devices are installed, but disabled, they will be enabled.
  • Installation of drivers for a PS/2 mouse and keyboard. This action will only be accomplished for Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003.
  • Installation of drivers for network cards. We detect those without drivers and automatically try to install lacking drivers from the built-in Windows repository. If there’s no driver in the repository, we prompt the user to set a path to an additional driver repository.

Quite handy for the $99 price tag!

– Soli Deo Gloria

Windows 10 is Here!

Windows 10 has been unleashed on the masses (67 million as of this posting).  I’ve been running Windows 10 in its beta form for the past 8 months on my work PC and it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride…that’s to be expected for beta software. I’ve upgraded my work PC to 10240 as part of the Windows Insider program about 2 weeks ago and 3 computers at home in the past 48 hours with the following results:

1. Sager Laptop

Clicked upgrade through the notification icon in the taskbar and applied upgrade.  Everything came over 100% except my wallpaper.  I reformatted a USB flash drive with diskpart and then Windows 10 wouldn’t see it anymore, however it could see other USB flash drives just fine.  The “bad” USB flash drive works fine on other computers, but no longer on my Windows 10 laptop.

2. Main Rig

Upgrade icon was there, but was not offering the download/install yet.  Grabbed the ISO off the Internet and did the installation manually.  Wouldn’t activate right away.  Makes Edge browser the default handler for HTTP links…this browser doesn’t support extensions yet and is a bit buggy (doesn’t work properly with the realtor site FlexMLS…Chrome does).   Video driver on my GTX 670 was completely kicked out…had to download a fresh/updated driver directly from NVIDIA.

3. File server

This went fine over RDP using the ISO download from #2 (wasn’t allowing me to pick download/install either), except RDP doesn’t work at the “welcome back” screen.  Had to switch over with my KVM and input my password, then RDP flipped on just fine.

Also noticed that the upgrade disables the local Administrator account, so I had to re-enable it again on all computers.

In terms of activation…this much has been confirmed:

If you upgrade an activated copy of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, you can wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall Windows 10 and it will find your activation status (based on MAC and serial # of the computer and possibly other components).  If you spin up a VM with a blank hard drive and install Windows 10: it will NOT activate without a purchased product key.  This has been proven by people on Reddit.

A service release (called SR1) is due for Windows 10 in 2 weeks to fix some of the bugs.

– Soli Deo Gloria

System Info Made Easy

Was looking for a way for our end users to quickly and easily determine their system information, such as IP address and their computer’s name.  Something free, not flashy and not resource intensive.   Solution… Systeminfo by Intelliadmin:

This will place a yellow “star” icon in their task bar and gives information such as LAN IP address, public IP address, computer name and uptime.  Hoover over it with your mouse and you get the IP address, computer name and logged in user name.  Double-click on it and you get a more detailed description pop-up. One little problem I noticed when I put it in the autostart key under HKLM is that it would populate multiple times as people logged in and out of the computer.  To get around this, just run taskkill first to kill anything named systeminfo.exe, then launch systeminfo.exe.

Sample VBScript:

Set ws=CreateObject("Wscript.Shell")
ws.Run "taskkill /im systeminfo.exe",0,true
ws.Run chr(34) & "C:\systeminfo.exe" & chr(34) & "/tray /no_exit_menu /no_url" & chr(34),0

Depending on the speed of the computer, users will notice a black CMD window with cscript on the top during login that will disappear within a few seconds.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Windows 10: Pushy!

Been running build 9926 on my PC for a while now.  I was in the “Fast” ring and was pushed build 10041 through Windows Update.  Rebooted and install would not progress past 8%.  It rolled back gracefully to 9926, then I changed the updating to the slow ring.  Of course, the SAME build gets pushed to me again.  ARGH!  This time it goes to 5%. Rollback.  The problem is of course you cannot turn off Windows Update in Windows 10 anymore (probably someone will figure out a way eventually…) and they kept pushing this same build out to me over and over again.  You can suppress the update for 8 hours, but then…BOOM, installing build 10041, fail and rollback again!

Finally, they offered an ISO version of 10041 and I was able to install that just fine…but this does scare me a bit.   I get that an update should not be deferred forever, but only 8 hours?  It should be days, weeks…not hours.

– Soli Deo Gloria