V2P [4], Thin PC [4]

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how our laptops which were set up with native boot VHD would all have to be V2Pd because VHDs on the native boot system tend to get corrupted more often. This week it is time to put that into reality by getting started on the 14 laptops which will be continuing over the next couple of weeks. The first step is to back up the VHD. Then we can mount it to a drive letter using Diskpart commands. We then use ImageX to capture it in place to a WIM. After ImageX is complete we apply the image to the same partition where the VHD was. We then remove the existing BCD from the boot partition (easiest just to format it) and then use bcdboot to create a new boot configuration on the system partition. Then we boot and the laptop should be exactly as it was.
The more experienced of you will probably say I left a step out, and I did. That’s because it shouldn’t have been necessary to sysprep the VHD because we were just moving the image from one partition to another. And because MS have limited the use of sysprep to a maximum number of times it can be done, I try to use sysprep a minimum amount. But regrettably sysprep has proven necessary in this instance, because Windows 7 will detect the subtle changes in the hardware environment and lock down the computer and say it is not genuine and there is absolutely nothing you can do to make it work normally. And with all of the negative comment I have written about MS in the past couple of weeks, I have to say that this adds further to that viewpoint, as does the rest of this post. I did get that computer working but it was a real mess to have to go through it all again after having sysprepped it and that should not have been necessary, it was totally unnecessary but that is another example of the MS mentality.
The second thing I have been working on lately is Thin PC, the latest effort being to see if it can run a very old software package we have which is called Successmaker 5.5. This package has been around our school pretty well for the last 6 years and we started with it on Windows 98. The installer that comes with it had some trouble on Windows 7 and it wasn’t totally due to lack of elevation, there were some of the things it was doing that just wouldn’t work at all for whatever reason. So I tried another tack. I built up a Windows XP machine and ran Ghost Autoinstaller (AI) on it to capture the machine state, I then installed SM on this machine, ran AI Snapshot again and built an AI installation. Then I went over to the Thin PC machine and ran this installation. I then had to customise some config files and then I tested it and it worked properly. So it looks like we can load up some machines with this version of 7 and have them running this old legacy package.
I then decided to capture the installation with sysprep and this is where I ran into problems. On reboot there was an error during installation, some problem with the product key, and Setup threw a fatal and told me to reboot. Well of course that did not fix the problem at all. This became another unrecoverable setup error like others I have seen before. The only fix is to remove the image and completely replace it. As you would understand this means I have to build the image again from scratch (as my pre sysprep image turned out to be corrupted). It’s becoming abundantly clear that Windows 7 Setup can’t actually recover from many errors and even if MS fixes the problems like this they have bought themselves another bad rep with OEMs and organisations which use imaging.
UPDATE: The one good thing about reimaging the laptop with a sysprep was that all I had to do after setup finished was join it to the domain. It picked up the existing user profiles and settings that were already on the laptop without problems. So it looks like to speed up this process, because I had to repeat nearly all the steps from the beginning to implement the sysprep, that we will just back up the VHD, then sysprep, then image etc. But sysprep would not have been necessary if some idiot at MS had not decided that we will make an image totally unusable instead of giving a user the chance to activate it again. And the same mentality exists when a setup fails and forces you to completely throw away your image and start again.