A Collection of Resources
After writing my beginner’s guide it was immediately clear to me that I provided too much text, not enough pictures, and other people have already done what I did.
Instead of continuing down that path, maybe it will be more helpful to list out the various resources I use when I’m trying to automate a software or OS installation.
- ASCII Art Table – If you’re using the command line and trying to make neat little menus with borders or just to add some pizazz, you’ll want to look up the character codes to have things display correctly. Probably not super useful in these modern times, but every ocne in a while I use something from the Extended ASCII codes to designate a section or to draw attention to stuff being output to a log file
- Command Line Output Redirection – This is a staple for good scripting. Using > to redirect output to a file is the easiest way to set up logging. You can easily log standard output (success/expected output) and separately log standard error (failure messages)
- Command Line Details – As soon as I start adding any complexity to batch files, I get ready to queue up this site. It does a great job of breaking down IF statements, FOR statements and has a lot of great general knowledge stuff that Microsoft Technet articles just don’t properly convey
- Technet Script Center – Chances are good that what ever you’re trying to script has been scripted before. This is a great repository of all kinds of Windows scripts in various scripting languages
- Sysprep Troubleshooting – Although it’s only dealing with XP, when you’re having difficulty with Sysprep there can be all kinds of reasons. This is a great collection of troubleshooting pointers that is a great starting point when you’re stumped
- Create a Custom Windows PE Image – Download the Windows AIK and regardless of any other tools you can have a mini boot environment that comes in at around 150 MB. This is the basis of many “uber” boot CDs. It’s Windows Lite that you can make run remote desktop, copy files, map network drives, and just about any other Windows basic troubleshooting that you need to do. Trivia fact: When you install Windows Vista or Windows 7 from disc, you’re actually booting to WinPE which then launches the setup.exe file
- Windows XP Storage Drivers – If you’re using RAID, AHCI or SAS hard drives you’re in for tough road to automating OS deployments. While this link is a little dated it will help you get on the road to expanding storage driver support on legacy OSes. For even more (but also outdated) help, this Symantec post is also great (it’s to help with automating installs using Altiris but works for any situation)
- The IT Bros’ Windows 7 Sysprep Guide – This is an off-shoot of a blog that originally posted this awesome guide to working with Sysprep in Windows 7. If you really want to get in there and learn how to sysprep, do what I did and print this article out. Trust me it’s great.
- Windows SysInternals – All kinds of utilities that add extra troubleshooting functionality to Windows
- AppDeploy – When you’re automating software installs, you might as well always go here first. Nearly any installer you can think of, someone’s already posted exactly what you need to do to turn it into something deployed silently across the network while disabling the desktop shortcut and whatever other bells and whistles you could come up with. Usually you want to check out the Package KB section first, but if you can’t find what you need then try the Software KB. And if you want to learn how people first come up with these silent install commands check out the Articles, FAQs and Tips & Tricks sections. One of the articles in there is great for explaining how to deal with installers that use an InstallShield EXE instead of a standard MSI file (and yes, it explains what the hell that means if you’re totally clueless)
- Blogs – Here’s some very useful Microsoft blogs that help with deployments, especially related to the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit:
There’s a lot more and I’ll come back to this post and update as I can with additional resources I find myself falling back on.