Mark Minasi's Windows Networking Tech Page
Issue #63 July 2007

Document copyright 2007 Mark Minasi; please see below for copying permission.

What's Inside

  • News
    • New one-day "Windows Server 2008 Preview:  Good News, Bad News" seminar comes to DC 26 September
    • Our two-day seminar Supporting Vista comes to DC 24-25 September
  • Tech Section
    • Vista Tips, Tricks, Problems and Solutions
  • Conferences
  • Bring a Seminar to Your Site
  • To Subscribe/Unsubscribe, Read Old Newsletters or Change Your Email Address

News

Hi all —

You know, no matter how long you test an operating system, you never really know it until you actually live with it on all of your workstations.  With that in mind, this month I'll pass along a few tips about things that I've stumbled across (or sometimes stumbled over) with Vista.   But Vista's not the only thing I've been working on recently -- in fact, most of my time is taken up picking apart Server 2008, so you won't be surprised to hear that I'm offering a one-day seminar called "Windows Server 2008 Preview:  Good News, Bad News" which I'll be offering in the DC area this September. 

Anyway, I think you'll find these Vista tips useful but first!... a word from our sponsor.

New One-Day Seminar Windows Server 2008 Preview:  Good News, Bad News Comes to DC September 26

As I mentioned above, I'm deep in the midst of research on Server 2008 and I just can't wait until February to talk about it, so I'm doing a one-day class about 2008 in the DC area (near Dulles) this 26 September.  We've all got to start planning for 2008, so why wade through a mountain of white papers or spend weeks testing when you can get the whole story in just one day, and maybe even get a chuckle or two in the process?  You can find out more about it at http://www.minasi.com/2k8prev/2k8prev.htm.  This is the only public 2008 session I've currently got scheduled in this country, so come on down!

Our Supporting Vista Seminar Returns to the DC area September 24-25

The two-day Supporting Vista class was very popular in the Winter and early Spring and many of you have been emailing me asking when we'll do another.  My apologies for not being able to shake free the time to do another public session -- many thanks for your patience, I truly appreciate your kind requests for another session, so I'm very happy to announce that I'll be coming to the DC area (near Dulles) on September 24/25 with another session of "Vista Support for Support Professionals."  You can read more about it at www.minasi.com/vista/vsupport.htm.  I hope to see you there!

Tech Section

This month, a potpourri of Vista problems, solutions, tips and tricks.

CompletePC Trap:  Never Lower Your Drive Size

I love Vista's new CompletePC backup system.  In case you've not looked into it, CompletePC Backup has a few neat features:

  • It backs up entire drive letters to a VHD (virtual hard disk) format.  The process takes quite a while the first time you do it, but the incremental backups are quite quick, in my experience.
  • The beauty of the VHD format is that it allows you to create multiple snapshots of a disk, all stored in one file.  Even better, the file format is smart enough to just hang onto the incremental information, so that even if you've done a complete save of, say, your C: drive ten times over the past few days, the VHD file won't be ten times the size of your data.  Instead, the backup will probably be only a few percent larger than the current size of the data on your hard disk.
  • Here's the really neat part:  restoring a CompletePC backup.  When storing your system information to the VHD file, CompletePC removes the hardware-specific parts of the backup.  Result:  you can restore your CompletePC backup to another system as a bare-metal restore, regardless of the make and model of the system that you're doing the restore on.  So, for example, suppose you have an Acme laptop running Vista on a given motherboard chipset, ATI video chipset, and an IDE ("PATA") hard disk.  You make a CompletePC backup of that system.  Then the Acme laptop dies and you buy a Zephyr laptop that features a different motherboard chipset, an Nvidia video chip, and a SATA hard disk.  You boot the Zephyr laptop with the Vista Install DVD and use CompletePC Restore to restore your Acme laptop's data and operating system to the much-different Zephyr... and it works.  (This assumes that Vista has or can find drivers for the stuff in the Zephyr, of course.)

That all sounded great when I first heard about CompletePC, and a few simple tests verified that it did, indeed, seem to do the job.

Until I really needed it, that is.

I purchased a new SATA laptop and equipped it with the largest 2.5" SATA drive available -- a 200 GB drive.  The down-side was that it was a slow 4200 RPM, but I really, really need lots of hard disk space, so I figured that I could live with a slow drive.  Ah, but then I  started living with the Vista laptop, and hated it.  The 4200 RPM hard disk, it turned out, was indeed too slow for Vista.  So I bought a Seagate 160 GB 7200 RPM 2.5" drive, the fastest laptop drive that I could find.  (It's wonderful, by the way.  If you have a SATA laptop, buy one and install it.)

The only problem was, how to move from the 200 GB drive to the 160 GB?  I did not want to spend another couple of weeks reinstalling applications and tweaking the system to my liking.  But then I remembered CompletePC backup.  All I had to do, I reasoned, was to do a CompletePC backup of my laptop with the 200 GB drive to an external USB hard disk that I had lying around.  Then I'd swap the 200 GB drive for the empty 160 GB, boot the laptop from the Vista Install DVD, and do a CompletePC restore.  The restore could handle the mildly-different reality of a different hard disk, and the laptop would be up and running again.

The restore failed, however, despite numerous tries.  I'll spare you the details, but here's what I finally got out of Microsoft's product support people.  Apparently CompletePC will not restore to a volume that is smaller than the one that the backup was taken from, even if that volume has sufficient space to accept the restore.  More specifically, I had a 200 GB volume of which I was using just 50 GB.  I wanted to restore the backup of that volume to a 160 GB volume and CompletePC refused to do that, despite the fact that 50 GB would easily fit into a 160 GB volume. 

Moral of the story:  CompletePC's nice, but when you're upgrading or restoring, be very sure that you're restoring onto a volume that is greater than or equal to the size of the old volume.  Ugh.  I've not tested it, but I'd be willing to bet that Acronis's TrueImage Workstation product -- which has done something very CompletePC-ish for years -- would have solved the problem, albeit for about $90.

CompletePC Trick:  Backing Up To a Network Drive

But hey, I'm a forgiving person and I have made a solemn vow to myself and my computer that should I ever need to replace it, I will accept no hard disks smaller than 160 GB, regardless of their speed, so at this point I'm ready for CompletePC.  But where to do my backups?  I certainly could just buy an external hard disk, but they're not the most reliable things in the world.  Ah, but wait... what about my network?  My servers are all nicely backed up; I wonder if I can just map a drive and do a CompletePC backup to that drive?

So I mapped a drive to J: and started CompletePC from the GUI.  The GUI offered to let me back up to my DVD drive, or an external USB drive attached to my computer... but J: was nowhere to be found.  Bummer.

I wasn't about to let CompletePC beat me twice, however.  As it turns out, it's got a command-line interface wbadmin.exe, and wbadmin.exe apparently didn't get the "we don't back up to a network drive" memo.  Wbadmin's syntax looks like

wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:wheretobackup -include:drivetobackup1;drivetobackup2... -quiet

So, for example, to back up drives C: and D: to drive K:, you'd type

wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:k: -include:c:;d: -quiet

And that works fine, even if K: is a mapped drive.  In fact wbadmin will take UNC paths, like

wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:\\servr1\share1\backups -include:c:;d: -quiet

Notice that you cannot specify a folder if you specify a drive letter; you can't use the option "-backuptarget:f:\mybaks," but you can specify a folder when using an UNC path.  Notice also that having command-line control lets you easily schedule automatic backups with the Task Scheduler or schtasks.exe.

If You Use Roaming Profiles, Get Ready For Some Pain

This Vystery falls in the category of "huh?"

My assistant Jean uses roaming profiles on her XP box.  Our intranet's pretty fast, so the time that it takes to read or write profiles from/to the file server at logon or logoff time isn't too bad and, again, there's the benefit of knowing that if something goes wrong with her computer, then her settings and the like are safe.  A few weeks ago, I decided to move her from her five-year-old XP box to a shiny new Vista-ready box.  So I got Vista Business up and running, joined it to the domain, and logged on with her account...

... only to find that she had a blank new desktop.  For some reason, her domain account had, all of a sudden, acquired a completely flat face.  (No profile.  Get it?)

A bit of research revealed this fact, which for some reason I hadn't stumbled on before:  Vista cannot read nor use XP roaming profiles.  Apparently Vista is soooo different that it only recognizes its own roaming profiles, and in fact signifies a Vista roaming profile by adding ".v2" to its folder name, so that for example when I logged off Jean's account, I found that the share on the server that holds roaming profiles now had a folder named "Jean.v2."  Well, I thought, two can play at that game, and so I copied her old XP roaming profile folder to a folder named Jean.v2, matched the permissions on the profile folder that Vista created, and logged on.  Vista almost took the bait... almost.  It thought about it for a while, and then bluescreened.

The fact that you're apparently supposed to rebuild all of your users' profiles for the ones who use roaming profiles if you intend to upgrade them from XP to Vista was, well, bizarre.  Surely, I thought, there must be a Roaming Profile Migration Wizard?  No, although there was a sorta-kinda workaround:

  • Share the folder in the roaming profiles that holds the Desktop.  Use folder redirection to make that the user's desktop.
  • Do the same thing for My Documents and, if it makes sense, Start Programs.

What about the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive?  Well, you could pull out the User State Migration Tool and mess with that for a while, or just give up and settle for re-configuring your apps.

It's a shame that upgrading from the "old enterprise desktop OS" to the "new enterprise desktop OS" comes with pitfalls like this.  Doing an in-place upgrade of an XP box to Vista "upgrades" local profiles... I can't see why they can't do the same for roaming profiles.  In any case, you can, again, get a bit of workaround relief by moving to folder redirection for the two biggies -- the desktop and the My Documents folder. 

Meet slmgr, The Software License Manager

With Vista and Server 2008, Microsoft has made our licensing burdens a bit more onerous.  But there's a little-known tool called slmgr.vbs that gives you some command-line control of activation, as well as data about your activation status and, with a bit of Registry fiddling, lets you extend the pre-activation "grace period."

As it's a vbs, you'll make your life a lot easier if you just open up an elevated command prompt (right-click the Command Prompt icon, choose "Run as administrator" and click Confirm on the UAC prompt) and tell your command prompt to use the "cscript" script processor rather than the "wscript" processor by default.  Do that by typing at the command prompt

cscript //h:cscript

And press Enter.  From now on, Windows will assume that your vbscripts are command-line in nature rather than intended for windowed interfaces.  (You can always reverse that by typing cscript //h:wscript and pressing Enter.)  Now we're ready to put slmgr to work.

With slmgr, you can find out how many days a system has before it must activate Windows by typing slmgr -xpr:

C:\>slmgr -xpr
Microsoft (R) Windows Script Host Version 5.7
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Initial grace period ends 8/11/2007 10:05:27 AM

Of course, an activated copy will say that it's activated. 

If you've got a varied testing environment, then you may sometimes get confused about what sort of license you have on your Vista system -- retail, OEM or volume license versions.  You can find out by getting license information with slmgr -dli, which returns information like

C:\>slmgr -dli
Microsoft (R) Windows Script Host Version 5.7
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Name: Windows(TM) Vista, Ultimate edition
Description: Windows Operating System - Vista, RETAIL channel
Partial Product Key: RXXF70
License Status: Initial grace period
Time remaining: 41561 minute(s) (28 day(s))

Or you can get more detailed info with -dlv:

C:\>slmgr -dlv
Microsoft (R) Windows Script Host Version 5.7
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Software licensing service version: 6.0.6000.16386
Name: Windows(TM) Vista, Ultimate edition
Description: Windows Operating System - Vista, RETAIL channel
Activation ID: 30fab9fw-8614-4339-989f-7ce20fb7a5c4
Application ID: 55c99263-d682-4d71-983e-d6ec3f16059f
Extended PID: 89580-00142-014-000002-00-1033-6000.0000-1642007
Installation ID: 0210422687716985815533873160735590360309518548955460
Processor Certificate URL: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=57201
Machine Certificate URL: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=57203
Use License URL: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=57205
Product Key Certificate URL: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=57204
Partial Product Key: RXXF0
License Status: Initial grace period
Time remaining: 41526 minute(s) (28 day(s))

You can also activate a copy of Vista or Server 2008 from the command line.  (Why would you want to?  One good reason is Server Core, the upcoming version of Server 2008 that lacks a GUI!)  You can do it with the -ato switch:

C:\Windows\system32>slmgr -ato
Microsoft (R) Windows Script Host Version 5.7
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Activating Windows(TM) Vista, Ultimate edition 
(830fab9cc-a034-4209-aa42-79a61fb7a5c4) ...
Product activated successfully.

Or suppose you put a product key on a system just to test it but haven't activated it (of course) and want to remove the product key altogether; do that with the -upk option:

C:\Windows\system32>slmgr -upk
Microsoft (R) Windows Script Host Version 5.7
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Uninstalled product key successfully.

(Please don't do this on an already-activated system, unless you want it to get crabby and insist on you giving it a product key the next time you log on.)

To install a product key from the command line -- again, useful for Server Core and potentially useful in other situations, as you can remotely run slmgr on any Vista or Server 2008 box with the new winrs command -- use the -ipk command followed by the product key:

C:\Windows\system32>slmgr -ipk YGR45-THIS9-WONT5-0WORK-D7667
Microsoft (R) Windows Script Host Version 5.7
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Installed product key YGR45-THIS9-WONT5-0WORK-D7667 successfully.

Now for the fun one.  You can extend the "grace period" -- the amount of time before Vista or Server 2008 insist on being activated -- up to three times with the -rearm command, as in slmgr -rearm.  In order for this to work though, you first have to open up Regedit and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL, where you'll find a REG_DWORD entry called SkipRearm.  Set it to 1 and reboot the computer:  now it'll be ready for the slmgr -rearm command.  Again, you can only rearm three times.

I hope these tips save you a moment or two of frustrated Web searching.  Send me your Vista tips, I can't wait to hear them.  Thanks for reading!

Conferences

Lots of conferences this fall.  If you can't make to my September seminars, please join me at...

Iceland in September:  Server 2008 Preview

This September 17-18, I'll return to Reykjavik, one of my favorite places, to do a two-day version of my "Server 2008 Preview:  Good News, Bad News seminar."  I'll be assisted by Rhonda Layfield, who will cover the new Server 2008-based deployment technologies.   Find out more at www.ejs.is.  And hey, with airfares from Heathrow to Keflavik at ridiculously low prices, what better excuse to see the beauty of Iceland in autumn?

TechTarget Vista Road Shows in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas

TechTarget has been kind enough to ask me back for three more of the one-day Vista road shows that were SRO last spring.  This October we're in Waltham, MA (3 October), Atlanta (23 October), and Dallas (25 October).  It's free so how can you go wrong (unless you don't sign up before all of the seats are gone)?  More info at http://events.techtarget.com/vista/.

TechMentor In Vegas the Week of 15 October

Techmentor returns to the Rio for their Fall show and I'm doing my general session on Server 2008 as well as my Vista Security Crash Course and more.  Info at http://events.techtarget.com/vista/.  I've not been a big fan of Vegas over the years -- I like my lungs clean and smoke-free -- but they've got a great new no-smoking-in-restaurants law so who knows, Vegas might become a real treat.

Windows Connections in Vegas the Week of 5 November

Once again, Penton -- the folks who put out the magazine that I write for -- has assembled their "mega-show" that co-locates their techie shows on Windows, Exchange, SharePoint, SQL, and all kinds of developer stuff, all in the same week.  Like TechMentor, they're returning to their last year's hotel, the Mandalay Bay, and with hope the hotel will have fixed their pool by then.  Meanwhile, I'll be keynoting and presenting technical sessions, as will many of my techie buddies.  Information at www.winconnections.com.

TechEd Europe

If you're going to TechEd Europe in Barcelona this November, please plan to stop by either for my Server 2008 overview talk or my "Server 2008 Name Resolution Changes" talk.  More info at... ah, heck, you know where to find Microsoft stuff.<g>

Bring Mark to your site to teach

I'm keeping busy doing Vista seminars and writing, but I've still got time to visit your firm.  In just two days, I'll make your current NT techies into Vista, security, XP, Active Directory or 2003 experts.  (And better yet they won't have to sit through any Redmondian propaganda.)  To join the large educational, pharmaceutical, agricultural, aerospace, utility, banking, government, telecommunication, law enforcement, publishing, transportation, military and other organizations that I've assisted, either take a peek at the course outlines at www.minasi.com/presentations.htm, mail our assistant Jean Snead at Assistant@Minasi.com, or call her at (757) 426-1431 (only between noon-5 Eastern time, weekdays, please).

Until Next Month...

Have a quiet and safe month. 

Please share this newsletter; I hope that it is a useful source of Windows technical information.  Please forward it to any associates who might find it helpful, and accept my thanks.  We are now at over 45,000 subscribers and I hope to use this to get information to every one of my readers. Many, many thanks to the readers who have mailed me to offer suggestions, errata, and those kind reviews.  As always, I'm at http://www.minasi.com/gethelp and please join us at the Forum with technical questions at www.minasi.com/forum.  Thanks for letting me visit with you, and take care. 

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All contents copyright 2007 Mark Minasi. You are encouraged to quote this material, SO LONG as you include this entire document; thanks.