Friday, February 12, 2010


Testing from Blogger Buddy

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Windows 7 Upgrade Story

It was a tough mission - Upgrade our XP Media Centre PC to Windows 7 - Whether Bejewelled Blitz would play was a major test of success or failure…

The scenario:

An existing PC Running XP Media Centre, AMD Sempron 1.8GHz 3400+ processor, 160Gb Disk, 4Gb RAM – 5 Demanding users, aged from 5 to 44. We want to move from XP to Windows 7, and just to complicate matters, we’re going 64bit.

Well, I’m posting this from the upgraded machine, so here’s what we learned…


Before you do anything else, research your existing setup. Use the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to identify hardware driver and software issues. Go to the manufacturer web site of your ADSL modem/network card and get the latest drivers. Save them onto a removable drive, just in case Win7 doesn’t detect/install them. Without internet access you’re probably not going to succeed.

Transferring Data/Settings

Use Windows Easy Transfer. It allowed us to move settings and data easily from XP to Win7 including multiple user accounts and Live Mail data. Get a decent sized external hard drive to hold the data during the change of OS.

Allow Time

In our configuration we had a working PC with internet access in about 4 hours. This included Easy Transfer of 10Gb of data/settings and me taking a VHD backup of the existing XP setup (more on that later). The time to reinstall your applications has to be added to that. It’s not something you’re going to do during a couple of spare hours on a wet afternoon.

64 bit Works

Most standard 32 bit software will run under 64 bit Win7. It’s worth having 64 bit if you can get it. A surprising number of free and non-free applications boast 64 bit versions. Our machine is using more of the 4Gb we had installed than it did under 32 bit XP.


Our 2006-era PC with a memory boost to 4GB RAM gives a Windows Experience Index of 3.0. We get full AERO using the onboard NVIDIA GeForce 6150 and 128Mb dedicated RAM for graphics. The machine feels as responsive as it did under XP. In fact one of our older games (C&C Tiberian Sun) actually has cut scene video playback, which never worked under XP.


Our PC doesn’t have Hardware-Assisted Virtualization support, but I was able to cobble together a poor man’s XP Mode using Virtual PC 2007. Given that we hadn’t bought an upgrade version of Win7 (not available at the time in the UK) I felt it was OK to revive our old XP environment as a virtual machine using the VHD backup I’d taken earlier.  For the gory details see another post - “Poor man’s XP Mode”.

Overall our experience has been good so far, and yes, Bejewelled Blitz plays. So at least one user is happy :)

And… we’re back in the room.

We now use a WinPE based network boot system for 99% of all workstation deployments, whether using a WIM image or a slipstreamed unattended install.

So, it’s 2010.

Now using Blogger’s custom domains service after a brief flirtation with Windows Live Spaces.

What’s changed since the last few posts?

We did a major deployment using WIM technology over Christmas 2008-2009.

We switched completely away from Ghost to WIM for deployment images. We now use a WinPE based network boot system for 99% of all workstation deployments, whether using a WIM image or a slipstreamed unattended install.

I upgraded both my main work machine and main home machine to Win7 (Enterprise and Home Premium versions respectively)

Posts on those and other subjects to follow…

Friday, October 10, 2008

Deployment in the WIM World - Part Two

So here we are, 2 years later :) . To be honest, most of my deployment is still done using Symantec Ghost 8.2. Why? I hear you ask. Well, there are 2 main reasons:

  • Inertia

  • Lower system requirements to deploy Ghost images than WIM images

It takes effort to move an existing set of images to a new format, and work out a way of deploying them. Unfortunately WIM isn't a drop-in replacement for Ghost (see next point).

Lower system requirements
I can build a 2.88Mb floppy disk image using Bart's modular network disk system that will include support for all the network drivers I need, and have room for the Ghost executable. I can customize the floppy image to deliver a single Ghost image, or give me a command line from which I can invoke Ghost and manually choose. These 2.88Mb floppy images can be easily delivered to PCs via PXE. To deploy a WIM image I need imagex.exe, which will only work under Windows (XP, Vista or WinPE). The resulting ISO or WIM image I need to deliver via PXE is 10 to 20 times larger (at a minimum), takes a lot more building and possibly won't run on the lower-end hardware I still have to support.

The best part about WIM is that a WIM image isn't frozen. I can mount a WIM on a folder and treat it, for the most part, like a standard directory tree. If there's a typo in an INI or INF file, I can correct it. If I need to change a driver file, I can. I don't have to go through a 20 minute capture process. This stood me in really good stead during a recent server build project...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Deployment in the WIM World - Part One

Microsoft have announced that Vista will be deployed using their new imaging format WIM (also used in the OSD feature of SMS 2003). The suggestion seems to be that this technology can be used with any operating system, not just Vista. So I've begun to do some research into using WIM instead of Ghost for XP, 2003 and eventually Vista deployments.

What's Required?
First of all you need the Vista Windows Automated Installation Kit, which is available from Microsoft Connect ( as part of the Business Desktop Deployment 2007 for Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system . This is a very large download. From there you can generate WIM files using the imageX utility. For more details on WIM see ImageX and WIM Image Format on .

Monday, June 06, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Books my Kids Love

This is partly to get me familiar with blogging again, partly to post something non-techie. Here's a quick selection of kids' books that have gone down well in our household:

More, plus links etc. once I get round to it.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Links That Don't

Why can't they check that their links work before sending them out?

Is it me, or are people getting more and more lazy about checking whether the links that they publish (web, email or phone) actually work? Three examples:

A major national organisation that we have contact with at work has a web site about various projects that it is involved with. If you've got questions, there's a cheery Contact Us email link. If you send to that address you get an "address not known on server" non-delivery report.

An ISP advertises a new service in an email for customers. "For more details see the FAQ at..." click on the link: 404 not found. Search the web site for the subject of the email. No pages found.

An email from a major network provider with a legitimate request for information from us. If you've got any queries, ring this number, choose option x. Nope, never heard of the request for the information. Try this number. Nope, never heard of this request. What email address did it come from? Nope, not in our corporate email directiory.

Why can't they check that their links work before sending them out?

[Listening to: Put Yourself In My Place - Kylie Minogue - Ultimate Kylie (CD 2) (04:12)]

Friday, August 06, 2004

Reactive vs Proactive IT

you have got a spare server to put this on, haven't you?

I work in a Reactive IT Department. There's no getting away from it. The First Line Support Team has the most staff. We spend our days resetting forgotten passwords, clearing paper jams, rebuilding the OS on crashed machines. We normally hear about new IT projects at the last minute, just as they're about to be installed; "you have got a spare server to put this on, haven't you?". I imagine that, as a department, we're probably pretty poorly thought of.

Everyone thinks that we're sitting on a pile of brand new laptops, PCs and printers just waiting to be deployed to deserving causes. Everyone wants new equipment, but few have the funding to purchase it. We fight an unending battle against spam, viruses, worms, trojans and spyware. "Oh, and could anyone take a look at my home machine when they've got a moment free?"

We have no champion at board level who has even a passing grasp of what IT departments can do. We don't have the resources to properly cope with sickness, annual leave or sudden increases in demand. Sure, we're all multi-skilled. We have to be. It just means that the loss of any one person makes a bigger hole in our capabilities. We can't manage our systems in a proactive way. We have to wait until something breaks.

We also suffer from Geek Syndrome. This is where you have a group of technically competent people with overlapping skills. Everyone is sure that they know best, but to ensure that we can all carry on working together we don't argue, just quietly carry on doing it our own way. If you get a new PC, it could have been set up by any one of half a dozen people, and each one of them would probably configure it in a subtly different way.

We know we're just about getting the minimum possible job done to keep things ticking over. But there doesn't seem to be any way out...