Today I'm ranting about Windows. No, it's not "WiNdOwS sUcKs!", it's more like "But why!?"

See, I'm an IT guy for the year, and in my office they use Windows. Now once upon a time, they had Active Directory and all that (well, actually, they still do) but then they got some new computers running Windows 10, and for some reason they just couldn't join them to the domain!

Why can't they, you ask? Well, Microsoft only allows Win 10 Pro and up to join a Domain, and since these computers came with Win 10 Home, that wasn't possible.

Long story short, I now have some 30 computers that need to be upgraded (possibly from 7) to Win 10 Pro, and joined to the Domain.

Thing is, I would like to do that all in one go, so I look into how to automatically setup Windows.

"Ah! Got it, provisioning packages!"

Lest you think they work let me spare you now: they don't. Just like real computers where everything is different, provisioning packages failed to work twice, and after wasting about a week trying to make it work, I gave up.

So now I realized that I need to try a different method, a custom windows image. Issue is, I've got no clue how to make one. See, microsoft decided to go all in on the provisioning packages thing (they do have advantages in certain use cases), and seemed to decide that making custom images was no longer necessary, so they documentation was nearly impossible to find.

But after a lot of searching, I figured out how to do it:

1. Install Windows in a VM.
2. Put it in audit mode.
3. Install your stuff.
4. Create an unattend.xml file with certain customizations.
5. Put the unattend in Windows\System32\Sysprep
6. Generalize the image.
7. Boot WinPE.
8. Open the console.
9. Capture the image.
10. Wait an hour or two.
11. Done!

I'm over simplifying, it was a huge PITA, and yet there were still issues.

Maybe another time I'll talk about those.

  • 8
    Some powershell superuser out there could probably throw you some quick scripts with dat shit mane
  • 0
    For some reason I thought the switch from Home to Pro didn't require a reinstall. Am I smoking something?
  • 3
    @Demolishun that's S mode to Home.
  • 1
    @AleCx04 I don't know how much that would really help.
  • 10
    Sounds like you need some SELinux in your life. Also ansible.
  • 0
    @SortOfTested you're funny...
  • 1
    @pseudonim fair point. I say it because my network admins do magic with that sh to prevent them from doing manual annoying and repetitive tasks such as these sort of things. But I honestly don't know enough to see or know if it would fit this bill
  • 1
    @AleCx04 ye, but in my case the issue is that I need to figure out how to get the same OS on to each device, not getting them to update all at the same time.

    The challenge for me was figuring out how to create a custom WIM.
  • 0
    Never use the "home" version of anything. Usually, it is just a demo of the regular version and comes with huge caveats.

    And automating Linux installs also needs some preparations requiring knowledge and experience.

    You can spend a lot of time with any OS. I sank months into customizing just my single Gentoo installation...
  • 0
    @Oktokolo it seems like you haven't used Windows much (if at all). I would suggest you do some research into what Windows 10 Home is (I'm using my phone, so I don't wanna write a whole explanation). Also, do some research into creating a custom windows image, it's not at all like doing on linux (I would know, as I've done both).
  • 0
    Yes, i started late with Windows 3.11 for Workgroups on DOS 6.22, then did Windows NT 4 support at work while my private PC had Windows 95 (later 98) at that time. Then i had some years of XP, skipped ME, but liked Vista. Finally i stopped at Windows 7, wich i still use today for gaming only.
    I started using Linux after i already had used Windows 7 for years.
    I indeed never installed a Windows using their automation mechnism. I read about it and deemed it easier to just get all machines in one room and do a parallel regular install on them.

    While the unattended installation process is quite different, it still requires careful preparation and knowledge for both OSes. And of course, as i have first hand confirmation, that at least Windows 7 even survives a motherboard change, you can still just clone Windows boxes (but you might have to change machine IDs and serials on each clone) like Linux boxes.

    Never touched Windows 8 or 10 though - so maybe everything changed...
  • 0
    @Demolishun Yeah, I just did this: "To upgrade, select the Start button, then select Settings > Update & Security > Activation "

  • 1
    @Oktokolo true but you don't have to. Although Linux iOS still famous for driver issues it's the only OS I could just move to another computer. Sometimes a single command was necessary (rebuild the initram, unlike with Windows you can easily tune it to be like a live CD so it can run on any PC. As @SortOfTested mentioned ansible (or other config management tool) can install (and update) the programs and specific configuration for that machine.

    Windows can be managed nicely with AD/group policies but installing it on a heterogenous pool of PC's is a nightmare. We always reinstall windows to get the manufacturer crapware of it
  • 1
    @hjk101 I always reinstall windows when I buy a new PC to have an 100% clean install, it takes about 20 minutes

    How long would it take to install and configure linux? (considering also not so uncommon driver issues)
  • 0
    My Windows 7 install has been moved to other computers and just kept on working fine. It literally just was about plugging the disk into the new machine and booting Windows normally.
    It isn't the times of Windows 95 anymore. Plug-n-play most often just works now.
  • 0
    I would not recommend freshly installing a Linux distribution if you actually just want to upgrade.
    In the past, upgrading from one major version to the other was best done by a fresh install for Windows and Linux. But nowadays, i would just assume an upgrade to work fine for Windows and the big Linux distributions.

    For the best rolling-release experience you obviously still have to use Arch or Gentoo though (although Windows 10 seems to try hard becoming a "rolling release" too)...
  • 2

    And than Windows still has to "get everything ready for you" and it takes a lot longer to get everything installed and setup.

    On Linux without fancy install stuff (pxi boot etc) 10 min. Installing stuff you want is also way faster. This is where the real time difference comes in play.
    Apart from super proprietary shit like fingerprint readers (that have some encryption key embedded in Windows only driver) I've only had driver issues on Windows not Linux for the past 10 years.
  • 1
    @hjk101 one of the nice things about making a custom image is that you can actually skip the whole setup process, it's fantastic.
  • 0
    @hjk101 Updates on Ubuntu 18.04 take longer than 10 minutes sometimes. I cannot imagine an Ubuntu OS upgrade going faster.
  • 0
    @dontbeevil I reinstalled a few days ago (will do a good rant about that soon) and it took me... 10 minutes?

    No driver issues or whatsoever, it just worked :)
  • 1
    @Demolishun to be honest never had that. Perhaps you need to set up mirrors if it downloads really slow from the main repo. Some locations seem to have this issue.

    An upgrade and update when it has not run for a long time is basically the same. Almost all packages are outdated and downloaded/installed. This is a big difference compared to Windows updates. They usually download in background and only replace a few files of OS, .net and ms office.
  • 0
    @linuxxx i had no doubt, now let's try on evryone pc and let's see if someone will have driver issues
  • 0
    @dontbeevil Sure! Feel free to try Windows on mine. I can guarantee it bluescreens before you get the chance to login.

    Source: my experience.
  • 1
    @linuxxx ok when i will hear someone complaining about some driver issue on linux, I'll tell them it's an urban legend, that's impossible
  • 0
    @dontbeevil Oh it's definitely not haha, had a driver fucking up my Linux system yesterday actually! (I only need it for my graphics card for crypto mining)

    But it had an uninstall script so fixed within 5 minutes :)
  • 0
    @linuxxx but for someone else can take much more than 5 minutes 😉
  • 1
    @dontbeevil Of course! But a non-technical person probably wouldn't do this in a billion years so if you fuck it up like this (and don't read the documentation, the entire processes is literally documented step by step) then you're already supposed to be at power-user-level.
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