Monthly Archives: September 2012

Automatically upload MDT Boot Images to a vSphere datastore

There’s a pretty good guide out there for making MDT automatically update WDS boot .wim files when you’re updating the media. Based on that, I took things one step further and scripted things so our virtual infrastructure gets the same automated treatment.


  • Your vSphere environment should be at least ESXi 4.x
  • Install the latest version of PowerCLI from VMware. They’re entirely backwards compatible
  • Run the Deployment Workbench with an account that has the appropriate roles and permissions to log into vCenter via PowerShell and upload files to a datastore. You have more options if you want to get tricky with PowerCLI (and you’ll have to explore those if you use ESXi with no vCenter manager!)
  • These instructions assume you haven’t already tweaked things to automate uploading to WDS. I went this route because I did some things a little different than what was in the link above.
Make Magic Happen
  1. Where you installed MDT (probably C:\Program Files\Microsoft Deployment Toolkit) create a subfolder called Scripts
  2. Also where you installed MDT, open up the Templates folder and edit LiteTouchPE.xml (feel free to make a backup first!). Scroll down way to the bottom. Look for the Exits section and change the following:
    • Original line: <Exit>cscript.exe “%INSTALLDIR%\Samples\UpdateExit.vbs”</Exit>
    • New Line: <Exit>cscript.exe “%INSTALLDIR%\Scripts\UpdateExit.vbs”</Exit>
  3. Use Notepad to create two new files in your new Scripts folder
    • UpdateExit.vbs
    • Update-Vcenter.ps1
  4. Copy the contents at the bottom of this post into the appropriate script
  5. Make sure to change the parts of Update-Vcenter.ps1 that are in bold to reflect your environment – There are three things you need to chage: The vSphere server and the name of the DataStore you want your data uploaded to
That’s it! It’s working well for me in MDT 2012 Update 1 + ESXi 4.1. If you also want to do the WDS auto-update stuff, just update the UpdateExit.vbs script. If you’re having trouble, you can run the PowerShell script on its own. Just give it a file path/name as an argument and it’ll upload that file to your datastore.

UpdateExit.vbs Contents


‘ // ***************************************************************************
‘ //
‘ // Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
‘ //
‘ // Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Solution Accelerator
‘ //
‘ // File: UpdateExit.vbs
‘ //
‘ // Version: <VERSION>
‘ //
‘ // Purpose: “Update Deployment Share” exit script
‘ //
‘ // ***************************************************************************
Option Explicit

Dim oShell, oEnv, sCmd, rc
‘ Write out each of the passed-in environment variable values

Set oShell = CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”)
Set oEnv = oShell.Environment(“PROCESS”)

WScript.Echo “INSTALLDIR = ” & oEnv(“INSTALLDIR”)
WScript.Echo “DEPLOYROOT = ” & oEnv(“DEPLOYROOT”)
WScript.Echo “PLATFORM = ” & oEnv(“PLATFORM”)
WScript.Echo “TEMPLATE = ” & oEnv(“TEMPLATE”)
WScript.Echo “STAGE = ” & oEnv(“STAGE”)
WScript.Echo “CONTENT = ” & oEnv(“CONTENT”)
‘ Do any desired WIM customizations (right before the WIM changes are committed)

If oEnv(“STAGE”) = “WIM” then

‘ CONTENT environment variable contains the path to the mounted WIM

End if
‘ Do any desired ISO customizations (right before a new ISO is captured)

If oEnv(“STAGE”) = “ISO” then

‘ CONTENT environment variable contains the path to the directory that
‘ will be used to create the ISO.

End if
‘ Do any steps needed after the ISO has been generated

If oEnv(“STAGE”) = “POSTISO” then

‘ CONTENT environment variable contains the path to the locally-captured
‘ ISO file (after it has been copied to the network).

sCmd = “C:\windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe -File “”C:\Program Files\Microsoft Deployment Toolkit\Scripts\Update-Vcenter.ps1″” ” & oEnv(“CONTENT”)
WScript.Echo “About to run command: ” & sCmd

rc = oShell.Run(sCmd, 0, true)
WScript.Echo “PowerShell rc = ” & CStr(rc)

WScript.Quit 1

End if

 Update-Vcenter.ps1 Contents

Add-PSSnapIn VMware.VimAutomation.Core -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Connect-VIServer -Server your.vSphere.Server -ErrorAction Stop
$datastore = Get-Datastore “Your datastore
New-PSDrive -Location $datastore -Name iso -PSProvider VimDatastore -Root “\”

#Copy ISO to deployment share
foreach ($arg in $args) { Copy-DatastoreItem -Item $args -destination “iso:\” }

Remove-PSDrive iso
Remove-PSSnapIn VMware.VimAutomation.Core


Update: I realized there’s one weird situation where people following this might run into problems. If you have an NFS datastore, you may not be able to write to your datastore directly through vCenter. If that’s the case, you’ll want to connect directly to a ESXi host instead. Check out the New-VICredentialStore command for how to do this without storing your password in the script.

Automatically Update your MDT Reference Images

Typical workflow for handling reference images in MDT:

  1. Import OS install media from an ISO you downloaded off Technet / Microsoft Volume Licensing
  2. Build a task sequence to deploy it (I call this my Build Image task)
  3. Capture it to the Captures folder on your deployment share
  4. Import the captured OS
  5. Build a task sequence to deploy it (I call this my Deploy Image task)
This looks mundane, but doing steps 3, 4 and 5 sucks! Trying to remember exactly how you customized your task sequence is no way to live when it’d be way easier to re-use the existing Deploy Image task when updating your reference image.  I also would love it if I’m not the only one who can perform updates to reference images ….so I figured it all out and now I live happily every after!
It’s a little extra work up front, but here’s how you can turn updating your reference images into a one step process that anyone could perform:
  1. Create a script called Relocate.cmd in your Scripts directory off the Deployment Share that contains the following one-liner:
    • move /Y "%DEPLOYDRIVE%\Captures\%1.wim" "%DEPLOYDRIVE%\Operating Systems\%1"
  2. Create your Build Image task. Keep the ID short. For example, let’s say we’re deploying a general purpose Windows 8 image.  My Task Sequence ID that builds the reference image is 8_GP
  3. Run this task sequence and capture your reference image. Make sure to save it to the Captures folder and name it after your task sequence. For my example, this is .\Captures\8_GP.wim
  4. This one time, you’ll need to use the Import Operating System wizard. Be sure to name the folder for this operating system to match your task sequence that builds the reference image. For my example, I have .\Operating Systems\8_GP\8_GP.wim
  5. Go back into your Build task sequence and add a custom task that runs the following command as the final step (you don’t need to set the Start In value):
    • cmd /? %SCRIPTROOT%\Relocate.cmd %TaskSequenceID%

      Note: Do to ever-vigilent WordPress Security, I had to change out the letter C to a question mark. Pleaee change it back when trying on your own.

  6. Create your new Deploy Image task sequence using the OS from the previous step. I recommend that for your Task Sequence ID you use something like 8_GP_DEPLOY
You’re done! At this point, to get the latest Windows Updates into an image, just run your “Build Image” task  sequence – the WIM is captured and automatically replaces the OS that gets deployed when someone runs the “Deploy Image” task.
There is one word of caution: Significant changes to the OS in your WIM (Service pack, new IE version, etc.) might break the Deploy OS task. If that happens go through step 3 and step 6 again so that the MDT can “refresh” what it knows about the deployment OS you’re using

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit trickiness

So over the past few days I learned a very long and slow lesson about why the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit only has instructions for using local storage. Turns out, there’s either a bug in WinPE or in certain storage filers’ (NetApp) implementation of CIFS.   Due to one of those two factors, connecting to network storage from WinPE is buggy. It works just enough to make you want to blame everything else in the universe because it should “just work”.

Well, after I got over that, I was still stuck with a server with no available local storage, and a huge NetApp volume sitting there doing nothing. So I decided to get tricky. We have good network performance and an awesome storage admin, so I decided to virtualize my deployment share. I created a fixed disk 200 GB VHD file and had it mount to  path on the local storage. Using the Disk Manager GUI in Server 2008 R2 made this easy, but it also could have been done via diskpart if you want to go all CLI (I have yet to see straight-forward PowerShell stuff for working with VHDs directly).

This was cool and so far has been working pretty well, although I have yet to do an in depth comparison of deployment speeds when I have more than one or two clients doing an install.

One final challenge I had was that on a reboot the VHD would disappear until someone went and remounted it. I fixed that by doing the following:

  1. Create a script with two lines (don’t include the 1. and 2.) and save it in the same folder on the NetApp/filer/whatever as your VHD file. I called my “Dev.dp” because this is a Dev environment and the script will be run with DiskPart
    1. SELECT VDISK FILE=”\\unc\path\to\your\file.vhd”
  2. Open Task Scheduler and in the Actions pane pick Create Basic Task…
  3. Give your task a name. For the trigger, pick “When the computer starts”
  4. For the action, choose Start a Program. Use the following info:
  5. Program/script:  c:\windows\system32\diskpart.exe
  6. Add arguments:  /s “\\unc\path\to\your\Dev.dp”
  7. Click the check box to open properties when you’re done. In the General tab, change these settings:
    1. Use Change User or Group to set an account that has permissions on the NetApp. For me that was MYDOMAIN\svc.deploy
    2. Pick Run whether user is logged on or not
    3. Check Run with highest privileges
  8. In the setting tab, you may want to back off the failure conditions or have the task retry if it fails (but don’t forget if for some reason it was already mounted, the task will fail because of that)

At this point you’re all done. When diskpart mounts the VHD it will automatically restore the mount point or drive letter that was used last time it was mounted. You can now use a filer to store your deployment data, but have it behave as if it were local storage because that’s the only way your deployment server will work. And your system can survive a reboot without manually re-attaching the drive!