Inside Setup - Troubleshoot Windows Deployment Issues
It is certainly great to see so many companies migrating to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, but it is also great to see that they are taking advantage of the new deployment tools that have been released in the same period. That being said, when compared with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 deployment, deploying the new Windows platform is quite different. In this article, I will give you a few tips and tricks for quickly solving common issues with Windows deployments, both with core setup tools and with deployment solutions like Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr).
The Windows Setup Engine
No matter what tool you are using to deploy Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, at some point it will run the new Windows setup engine. It could be the full setup experience you get when running setup.exe or the mini-setup equivalent after applying a Sysprep Windows image using tools like ImageX from the Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK). Whenever setup is running, it needs configuration information; it can prompt you for it, but most often it queries an answer file (unattend.xml) for the information. The setup engine is logging all its action to a log file (the setupact.log file) and it is this file we need to review when Windows setup encounters an error.
Issue #1: Windows Setup Prompts with Strange Error Code
In the scenario depicted below, we are deploying Windows 7 with a unattend.xml file, but it fails in the middle of the setup with a strange error code:
Using MDT 2010 Lite Touch to Deploy Windows
When using MDT 2010 Lite Touch to deploy Windows, issues are more complex to troubleshoot. This is because MDT adds another layer of tools and scripts on top of the core setup engine and the Windows AIK tools. Luckily MDT also provides additional error handling and log files that can help us figure out what's going on so, in the end, we are better suited for troubleshooting. To better understand troubleshooting you need to keep in mind how the process goes when deploying Windows with it.
When troubleshooting MDT 2010 Lite Touch, we also use log files, but they are stored in different locations than setupact.log. Each MDT script generates its own log file but the BDD.log contains a summarized view of all other MDT log files. The logs are stored in X:\MININT\SMSOSD\OSDLOGS, C:\MININT\SMSOSD\OSDLOGS, or C:\Windows\Temp\DeploymentLogs depending on when the deployment fails. BDD.log is the master log file, but the SMSTS.log file may also yield additional clues as to why a Lite Touch deployment breaks. (By the way, the log files are formatted to be read by the trace32 utility.)
Issue #2: MDT 2010 Lite Touch Fails Connecting to the Server
This is a quite common error, but how do we troubleshoot it? In this case, I know that the user and password provided is correct.
Using ConfigMgr 2007 to Deploy Windows
As when using MDT 2010 Lite Touch to deploy Windows, adding ConfigMgr 2007 to the picture makes deployment issues more complex to troubleshoot when compared with just using the Windows 7 DVD. MDT 2010 Zero Touch components will reduce the pain by adding more than 100 commonly-wanted features, including additional error handling, to ConfigMgr 2007. In contrast with common belief, MDT actually reduces the complexity when working with ConfigMgr OSD, not the other way around.
Other Useful Logs When Deploying Windows
About the Author
Johan Arwidmark, MCSE and MVP in Setup & Deployment, is a consultant and all-around geek specializing in enterprise Windows deployment solutions. He speaks at several worldwide conferences each year, including MMS and TechEd, and is actively involved in deployment communities like deployvista.com, deploymentcd.com, and myitforum.com.