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At this point we have bootable media, the ability to have an LTI install controlling our workstation deployment.   We’re down to maybe a little typing and a mouse clicks and everything will deploy.

This is a problem.  (*klunk* WHAT?!)

Really it is.   Now that you’ve eliminated MOST of the clicks and you’re constantly choosing your Time Zone and reselecting the same 5 apps each time as WELL as answering the same questions (albeit simple) you will begin to question “Well can’t I automate this more?”

In a word Yes without the caveat of “It Depends”

What MDT 2010 actually does is just lay down a TEMPLATE of vbScript, INI and XML files to automate things as much as possible.   Truth be told, this is fine for most of us.  But if you deploy on even a somewhat regular basis and hate typing as much of the rest of the IT community does, you’ll want to eliminate those few extra clicks left.

So where do you start?  You start in your Task Sequence.  Remember that word…. “SEQUENCE”.  It controls the order in which things are installed but also in what questions are or are not asked, when certain features in Windows are enabled during the install, whether can join a Domain…

The amount of things you can control with a Task Sequence is mind numbing.   Here’s the really cool part.  Just about EVERYTHING that you can do with Systems Center Configuration Manager for deployment (just about!) you can do with MDT and a little programming.

“But Why?!  Why would Microsoft let us do that?  SCCM is the King of Deployment!”

Wrong.   But not for the reason you think.   SCCM is Excellent on Deployment but look at it’s name.  “Configuration Manager” and think of how this product is meant to interact with the Enterprise.  It is MEANT to manage the CONFIGURATION of your Enterprise.   Deployment is about 5% of that.   Configuration is about controlling patches, individualized application deployment, inventory and more.

So letting you have the ability to make a Near ZTI deployment with MDT 2010 does not hurt SCCM.  It’s purpose to be is much larger.  MDT 2010 is a tool to BUILD IMAGES.   SCCM is a tool to BUILD and MANAGE Everything (INCLUDING images) from an Enterprise standpoint.

So let’s take a look at our first challenge.  Skipping some screens.  “SKIP” is the magic word.   

To get rid of our first pile of screens we much “SKIP” them.  Funny thing is if you search MDT 2010 (that big built in documentation search system) for “SKIP” you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for the first time.

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Clicking on the very FIRST one for “SkipAdminPassword” is going to take you to the heart of it all.    You’ll see it refers to BootStrap.ini and CustomSettings.ini which is where this entry would go (One or the other) including a sample of how it would fit in.    Here’s the catch 22.   Just because you said “SKIP” doesn’t mean it answers the question, it just means “Don’t bother asking and I’ll go with a default answer”

If you need to know which answers to provide and to which questions you click on the link near top of the Help Window saying “Providing Properties for Skipped Windows Deployment Wizard Pages” which will provide you with what I found to be the heart to getting rid of most of my questions.

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So looking here we can see that if we put in “SkipAdminPassword” if we need to provide the password we must fill in “AdminPassword”

Ok fine, then when does all this go in?

Well THAT is a case of “It Depends”.  It depends on whether you are editing a configuration for your Media (Like the C:\MyMedia folder we created before) when we built an image) or if you’re editing the master settings on the Deployment Share itself.   Editing this is the “Master field” and will also be the spot you need to edit when you are working with WDS (Windows Deployment Services) or doing a manual over the wire install.

Let’s just say, we’re going to work on just our Media share (C:\MyMedia)

For that we go back to the properties of the MyMedia configuration we created under “Media” and click on the “Rules” tab (Remember how I said we’d look at that later?  “Later” is Now.

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These are the “Rules” that say what happens or Doesn’t happen in this Deployment.   Added your SKIP entry with the appropriate variable will now SKIP that screen in your LTI and have the answer prefilled.  For the “SkipAdminPassword” we would add in these two lines

SkipAdminPassword=YES

AdminPassword=SomePasswordIJustTypedInAndExposedToTheWorldOhCrapThereGoesMyNewSecurePassword

I would not recommend using that password of course, but that would set the Local Administrator password AUTOMATICALLY on all of your Deployments to everything after “AdminPassword=”

This is just one option.  The one I REALLY wanted was the ability to “Skip” the application screen since I would check the same 8 or nine applications each time.  Skipping this is easy but you need to know how to specify the Applications.

I found the line was “SkipApplications” which was sensible enough but how do you SPECIFY the applications? It turns out it was easier than I thought.

For each and every Application, Bundle and even package there is a GUID you can reference.   You may have overlooked it (I certainly did my first couple of times)

So looking up in Applications, let’s pull up the Properties for our “Adobe Flash Player 10”

 

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In order to get this Application to install you simply need to key in to the CustomSettings.ini file (Your Rules)

SkipApplications=YES

Applications001={c7fe0f41-0240-48df-912f-6646f710e286}

If I had a series of applications to have installed I would just mark down something like this

SkipApplications=YES

Applications001={c7fe0f41-0240-48df-912f-6646f710e286}
Applications002={d22c1a92-8cee-4a6a-9045-9778a46e613e}
Applications003={fc5c78ce-4966-48de-9d52-b54c586900f3}

As well, the order they will attempt to install will be the order you list them in.   But remember this (Good thing).  All those dependencies you programmed in are going to be called up here.

If you want to have the Media automatically choose which Task sequence to default to you can enter in a

SkipTaskSequence=YES

But how do you know how to choose the task sequence.   Do you remember how we entered a “Task Sequence ID” ?  This is where that ID get’s used

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So within our CustomSettings.ini (Rules) we would enter a

SkipTaskSequence=YES

TaskSequenceID=WIN7ENT1

So if were to add in these entries to our Rules it would all look like this

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Now would you like me to make your life REALLY easy?  Here is a sample set of Rules from a Deployment I created that would install the applications, Join the Domain and not ask ANYTHING except prompt me with the initial “Welcome Screen”.  Just read the various Skip statements and see if You can figure out what I’ve done here.  The nice thing is the variables are very sensible.  The ComputerName one is call since it takes the SerialNumber from the BIOS and gives the computer that as a default name.  For that I must personally express heartfelt thanks to Mitch Garvis for that one.  I was butting my head against a wall for 24 hours on that one!

[Settings]
Priority=Default
Properties=MyCustomProperty

[Default]
OSInstall=Y
SkipAppsOnUpgrade=YES
SkipCapture=YES
SkipAdminPassword=YES
SkipProductKey=YES
SkipApplications=YES
Applications001={b3d58913-7175-446b-92d8-359be635073f}
Applications002={d22c1a92-8cee-4a6a-9045-9778a46e613e}
Applications003={fc5c78ce-4966-48de-9d52-b54c586900f3}
Applications004={89532c30-72b0-4fb1-9c6a-8e605d098825}
SkipComputerName=YES
SkipDomainMembership=YES
JoinDomain=CONTOSO.LOCAL
DomainAdmin=CONTOSODOMAINADMIN
DomainAdminDomain=CONTOSO.LOCAL
DomainAdminPassword=ContosoPasswordOhNoIJustShowedTHATtoTheWorld
SkipLocaleSelection=YES
SkipFinalSummary=NO
SkipSummary=YES
SkipPackageDisplay=YES
SkipTaskSequence=YES
TaskSequenceID=WIN7ENT1
SkipTimeZone=YES
TimeZoneName=Eastern Standard Time
SkipBitlocker=YES
SkipProductKey=YES
SkipComputerBackup=YES
OSDComputerName=%SERIALNUMBER%
SkipUserData=YES
SkipCapture=YES

But you’re not satisfied?  You want MORE? You want to skip the Welcome screen too?

The welcome screen is a part of the Windows PE boot and you must edit the Bootstrap.ini file for that.  On the same Rules tab, click on “Edit Bootstrap.ini” and add this line on the end

SkipBDDWelcome=YES

With these settings you can now have a Boot that won’t bug you with any silly questions and do all the dirty work for you.

Next time around?  We’ll open up the hood a bit and take a quick look at editing the UNATTEND.XML with the built in Editor in MDT 2010

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