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Troubleshooting Deployment Issues

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3/9/2011 11:35:36 AM
During any deployment of a new operating system, you are bound to run up against unforeseen obstacles. The key to overcoming these obstacles is to be armed to the teeth with lots and lots of knowledge. You may not have the exact answer for each and every problem encountered, but having a well-rounded set of information regarding plausible problems sometimes allows you to extrapolate from one known issue a workaround for an unforeseen obstacle.

The main areas that you should be aware where problems can occur during a deployment are as follows:

  • Ensuring the proper acquisition of user state data from the source machines.

  • Loading the target computers with the previously acquired user state data.

  • Creating appropriate answer files with all the necessary drivers. (This is an especially difficult issue in diverse heterogeneous environments.)

  • Gathering correct specifications for all computers to ensure compatibility with the newer Windows Vista features (Windows Aero and BitLocker Drive Encryption).

  • Troubleshooting dual- and multi-boot configurations.

  • Troubleshooting corrupt operating system files.

  • Finally, the biggest headache is ensuring users have access to their previous profile to ensure connectivity to printers and applications or, at the very least, access to the data within their previous profile.

Troubleshooting User State Migration

The biggest obstacle to acquiring user state data is understanding the options for USMT and the account the tools are run under. Running the tools under Administrator mode acquires all user accounts as well as all data. Often, users run under an account that is not a member of the local Administrators group, and items from your own user state data go missing; plus, no other accounts on that system or the corresponding user state data are migrated.

Migrating EFS data presents a few problems. To migrate EFS, you must ensure you have acquired all EFS certificates and encrypted files. Using USMT’s ScanState utility with the /efs:copyraw option, you can acquire all EFS encrypted files, along with the user’s certificates. If no EFS options are enabled, ScanState suffers an error and fails immediately. There is no corresponding requirement with the use of LoadState when restoring the user state data to the target machine because the EFS options are not required or supported.

If ScanState encounters an error, the default behavior is to halt. This can cause numerous issues for an entire scripted solution because any error on any system stops the retrieval of user state data from those computers. To avoid this problem, you should use the ScanState.exe /c option. This allows the ScanState utility to complete its processing as long as the errors are nonfatal.

The use of the LoadState utility has some nuances you need to be aware of. When restoring the user state data to a system, you must understand that the local user accounts more than likely will require creation of such data. Therefore, you need to use the option /lac to create the user accounts. If you use this option without the /lae option, the user accounts are created but disabled. The /lae option enables them.

In addition, if the user performing the restoration of user state data is not an IT administrator, possibly due to security concerns for EFS data on a laptop and so forth, issues will arise because the user performing the user state restore does not have permissions to certain directories such as \Program Files. An easy way around this situation is to have the user perform the migration with an elevated set of privileges by using LoadState /q. The /q option allows the migration of the user state to be written to all areas and a successful completion for any user who is not a member of the local Administrators group.

Remember, though, a similar situation using ScanState is not quite the same issue when acquiring the user state data. A normal user account should have little to no difficulty, in most circumstances, running ScanState to begin the migration process of acquiring its own user state data. The big issue with this scenario is that the user is only able to acquire his user state data.

Troubleshooting Driver and Application Compatibility with Windows Vista Images

Drivers present several areas of concern. The primary issue in deploying systems with proper drivers is compatibility with Windows Vista. Many older drivers have little to no compatibility with Windows Vista. You probably need to replace your 16-bit drivers by contacting your manufacturer for 32-bit drivers made for Windows Vista.

Hardware Compatibility

The first place to begin searching for compatible drivers is the Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). This list is found on Microsoft’s website. The URL for this website is



Which HCL Should You Use? It is strongly suggested that you always search Microsoft’s Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List; any static list is obsolete within days. The website is updated daily.

Figure 1 shows the Windows Vista HCL. Notice the breadth of hardware device types to search through. You are also able to search though computer systems offered by manufacturers that are shipping and Windows Vista Capable or Windows Vista Premium Ready.

Figure 1. The Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List.

The Windows Vista HCL is best used for spot checks for unique device considerations. Another useful purpose of the HCL would be to qualify which new device or computer to purchase when decisions are being made to implement a device or deploy a specific computer.

Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor

Another utility that is useful for small offices or special-purpose systems is the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. This tool is launched on the local system after being downloaded from the Web and installed. Running Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor determines whether the computer is ready for the upgrade and which edition of Windows Vista is best suited. It offers solutions where possible for every issue raised with each Windows Vista edition. In Figure 2. the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor has been run and is offering solutions to several of the issues discovered.

Figure 2. The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor offers a solution for the Windows Vista Business edition.

Windows Vista Hardware Assessment Tool

Microsoft has also created the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool. This tool uses the Windows Management Instrumentation Interface (WMI) to inventory and perform a detailed analysis of the devices discovered on a computer. The inventory detail contains the information for the location of the drivers for the devices on the computer and provides recommendations for hardware upgrades or possible device driver updates. The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool is recommended in environments larger than the small office/home office (SOHO) because it is able to assess from the dozens of desktops into the thousands. The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, discussed previously, is adequate in small environments or in special circumstances where an immediate assessment is needed.

The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool uses Active Directory Domain services, the Computer Browser service, and WMI to perform the Windows Vista assessment. The tool seeks out systems within the local environment by initially requesting credentials for any workgroup system as well as credentials for any domain that is found. It uses Active Directory Domain services to seek out all computer accounts, including servers, which are to be discovered and assessed.

The assessment tool requires access to the systems but does not require any agent to be installed on the remote systems to operate. It does require that the Client for Microsoft Networks and File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks be installed and enabled because it uses the server message block (SMB) protocol. Workgroup systems require the sharing security model to be Classic versus the Simple or Guest model that is on by default. If firewalls are in use on these systems, exceptions need to be made to enable Remote Administration and File and Print Sharing.

Two reports are generated by the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool:

  • One report is a Windows Word document that offers a thorough appraisal of the computers in the environment that have been discovered and successfully assessed. This document offers percentages of computers that comply with an upgrade as is and what percentage will comply with Windows Vista requirements when the suggested hardware upgrades have been made.

  • Another report gives a detailed report concerning the current hardware and which devices on the system require an upgrade.

In addition to recommendations given for upgrades to hardware and the BIOS, both reports, before and after the upgrades, indicate whether the computer meets the Windows Vista Capable or Windows Vista Premium Ready specifications.

The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool is not capable of properly identifying a computer’s capability to utilize Windows BitLocker. Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption was designed for systems that have a compatible Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 1.2. There are design guidelines for systems that do not have a compatible TPM chip and BIOS. You must research Windows BitLocker using the manufacturer’s specifications for a given system.

The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool is available for download at


Windows Vista Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0

To ensure application compatibility, you can use another Microsoft tool for testing applications, whether they conform to User Account Control (UAC), and if they conform to the specifications for Windows Vista or Windows Vista compatibility. The Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) version 5.0 tests all these functions and provides guidelines for creating an application to conform to these and other Windows Vista requirements. This tool does not provide any hardware or driver-related information for a Windows Vista upgrade.

The best way to troubleshoot upgrades that require the Windows Aero feature of Windows Vista is to use the tools discussed here. These tools offer solutions to ensure the compatibility level of the display adapter and whether it is Windows Aero capable. The main issue is to have a display adapter that has an available device driver that is Windows Vista Display Driver Model (WDDM) compliant.

Troubleshooting Dual and Multiboot Configurations

Multiboot configurations present problems concerning how the BIOS and the Master Boot Record (MBR) interact with the boot sector to load one of the installed operating systems. The first rule in dealing with multiboot configurations is to ensure the proper order of operating system installation. In other words, install the most current Windows operating system last; for desktops, Windows Vista should be installed after any other Windows desktop operating system. The second rule is see rule number one again because fixing issues with the supplied tools does not always work.

If, for some unknown reason, you are presented with the issue of a multiboot system no longer offering the choice of Windows Vista yet it is still installed on the system, the boot sector of the system drive is probably the issue. More than likely, a new copy of another operating system such as Windows XP is installed on the system. You must now use Bootsect to update the master boot code to switch from booting NTLDR of Windows XP to booting BootMgr. Bootsect has now replaced FixFAT and FixNTFS.

To begin fixing the system, follow these steps:

Either boot to the Windows XP installation or boot the system with a Windows Vista or a customized WinPE 2.0 DVD with the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) and the Bootsect.exe utility added.

Select to repair the installation.

As long as there is no damage to the Windows Vista system files, Windows RE should find a Windows Vista installation to repair.

At the command prompt, type the following command:

Bootsect /nt60 c:
(assuming C: is the partition marked active)

Reboot the system. The MBR should now call on BootMgr of Windows Vista to manage the boot process.

If a deployment already included a Windows RE partition for an automatic repair, more than likely it would not have performed its prescribed automated partition repair function either. The Windows XP installation would have destroyed any automated failover procedure that would have called on Windows RE.

Troubleshooting Answer Files

With the new XML answer file format, the new Windows SIM tool, along with many new features and configuration passes in which an answer file supplies information for an unattended installation, there is, of course, more complexity. Windows SIM comes packed full of help information for every setting, as well as where and when a setting applies. In addition, ensuring proper placement of the answer file and its naming is important for functionality. These two areas are where you need to concentrate your effort.


Understanding the Answer File This section does not correlate well to any specific question on the exam. It is recommended that you have an understanding of the answer file and where portions of the answer file apply in relation to the Windows installation process. This will help in understanding issues related to troubleshooting use of an answer file and its placement.

When you are using Windows AIK and creating the answer file, make sure you understand the relationship between the configuration passes and the different executables that are part of the installation of Windows. The following guidelines aid in this understanding and list the Windows executables and the stages that are affected or used by the executables in the order they are processed.

The Windows PE executable has only the windowsPE configuration pass, which has two portions: Windows PE settings and Windows Vista Setup settings. The Windows PE settings affect the Windows PE executable.

The Windows Vista Setup executable has four configuration passes that affect it. The configuration pass windowsPE and its Windows Vista Setup settings, such as the product key and disk configuration, come first. Next is the configuration pass offlineServicing, where updates to the Windows image and packages are applied, including fixes and security updates. The specialize configuration pass follows, and this is where answers to network configuration, international settings, and domain information are utilized. At this point, one of two tangents is possible: one is the oobeSystem configuration pass, or the configuration passes auditSystem, and auditUser is run.

If the master computer is running through the answer file for the first time prior to acquiring the master image, the oobeSystem configuration pass runs next and processes the answers related to Windows Welcome.

If the image has already been acquired from the master computer and Sysprep called for use of the /audit option, the auditSystem and auditUser configuration passes occur.

The Sysprep executable has three configuration passes of concern. The most prominent is the generalize configuration phase. This phase is called on the next time you reboot a computer where the image was laid down. You already learned how the configuration passes auditSystem and auditUser come into play. Audit mode is most useful to corporations because they can have a sealed image that can have a minimal set of drivers. This image sealed with audit mode allows these corporations to then add drivers to this reference image when the hardware platform in use is modified or updated.

Using the Window Recovery Environment to Repair a Failed System

The Windows RE replaces the Windows Recovery Console from Windows XP. Windows RE runs automatically for many of the typical Windows Vista failures encountered. This occurs only if your deployment follows the directions of Microsoft’s Windows Recovery Solution. This solution builds a hidden 1GB partition in front of a Windows Vista installation. When this is done, it is available as a selection from the F8 selection menu when you are booting up the system.

If this has not been done in your environment, you need to build a custom Windows PE boot disk and add the Windows RE package. By doing so, you have a bootable Vista PE image with Windows RE and any added custom tools. After you have created your custom Windows RE bootable CD/DVD with all the essential tools such as Bootsect, ImageX, BCDedit, and so forth, you are able to perform many of the essential fixes manually as well as the included automated functions. For instance, you are able to perform the recovery procedure using Bootsect, which was mentioned previously.


Where Is Windows RE? Microsoft has pulled the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) package, so you are no longer able to add it to a Windows PE image in the usual fashion. As of this writing, the only alternative way of adding this package is to retrieve this package from the Windows Vista boot.wim file on a Windows Vista DVD. By doing this, you are unable to add any additional packages to your image because the boot.wim file on any Windows Vista DVD has already had the /prep option applied.

Troubleshooting Corrupt Operating System Files

A concern that has been around since the dawn of computer programming is how to deal with corruption with the operating system files. These files have to be clean and operational; otherwise, possibly none of the safeguards put in place by the operating system will keep your computer or data safe and secure. Microsoft has been adding to its recent operating system safeguards to the core operating system itself. These tools and automated functions of the operating system help protect the system files from being corrupted on disk due to hardware failure or malicious substitution from malware, or accidental substitution from improperly programmed installations for applications from third-party vendors. And there is some protection from the desktop users from accidental or intentional destruction.

One of the tools you can use to manually detect such problems in the system files is the System File Checker (SFC) tool. This tool checks the integrity of all protected system files. If the tool finds an incorrect version of the file, depending on the options in use, you can replace the incorrect versions with the correct Microsoft versions. Table 1 lists all the options available for SFC.

Table 1. System File Checker Options
/scannowScans the integrity of all protected system files and repairs problems by replacing the files with the correct Microsoft version.
/verifyonlyScans the integrity of all protected system files and reports the problems. No repairs are made.
/scanfile=filenameScans the integrity of the specified file and repairs this file if a problem is discovered.
/verifyfile=filenameScans the integrity of the specified file and reports the problems. No repair is made.
/offbootdir=OfflineBootDirectoryPerforms an integrity scan of an offline boot directory.
/offwindir=OfflineWindowsDirectoryPerforms an integrity scan of an offline Windows directory.

For example, to repair suspected corruption in the %WINDIR%\system32 directory, you run the following from a command prompt:

C:\sfc /scannow

To repair corruption of the kernell32.dll file, you run the following from a command prompt:

C:\sfc /scanfile= c:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll

To repair corruption of a Windows Vista installation that is offline (dual-boot system), you run the following from a command prompt:

C:\scf /scanfile=d:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll /OFFBOOTDIR =d:\ /OFFWINDIR=d:\windows

The preceding example could be run from a command prompt in which the computer was booted with Windows PE 2.0 CD/DVD.

Troubleshooting User Profiles

User profiles have always been a problem area when rolling out new computers or new operating systems. It is important that you concentrate on the key issues with profile management and offer solutions for each of the issues that are discussed.

When dealing with profiles and the users’ access to their customize settings, you can use the following guidelines:

  • If an in-place upgrade has already been decided, the user accounts and profiles on the computer are brought forth in the ensuing upgrade to Windows Vista if the computer meets all the guidelines for an upgrade.

  • Remember you are only able to upgrade from some of the versions of Windows XP when upgrading to Windows Vista. If Windows 2000 is the operating system, a migration is required. In this case, you are forced to use USMT.

  • If an in-place upgrade has already been decided but users have roaming profiles, you are forced to use USMT to migrate the profiles.

  • When dealing with a migration, whether it is a wipe-and-replace or a side-by-side migration, you need to use USMT in either case to acquire the profile and store it temporarily and then restore the profile to the computer when Vista has been completely installed.

  • When dealing with EFS, you can allow the users themselves to be responsible for their EFS encrypted data if there is a security concern in acquiring and storing it. If this is the case, the users gather their EFS certificates and EFS encrypted data. The users need to use the Certificate MMC to export their public and private keys as well as make a backup of their EFS encrypted files. If you migrate the user state data on the computers or in a roaming profile, you need to use the /efs:skip option when using ScanState. If the encrypted data is migrated through use of USMT, the /efs:copyraw option works.

  • The users’ printers are migrated with the user state data when using USMT on a source computer that is installed with Windows XP. There should be no other issues with printers other than testing them after the migration from Windows XP. With Windows 2000, you are forced to manually install or script a solution for printer deployment or use Group Policy on the upgraded computers with Windows Vista.
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