Several years ago Microsoft provided Windows 7 operating system ISO file downloads easily through a site called Digital River. Legitimate, clean copies of all versions of Windows 7.

Then they stopped.

Why is this a problem?

I refurbish a lot of older desktops and laptops; often to give them away. Those systems usually have a legal OEM (original equipment manufacturer) license. OEM licenses are unique in that they are lower cost licenses provided to system vendors (Dell, HP, etc.) that are tied to the hardware (i.e. they can only be used on the box that they came pre-installed on).

OEM Licenses then are a real blessing, low cost Windows OS for the masses… However if you lose your system disk (or if the OS on your manufacturers media is pre-service pack 1 making it a pain in the rear once installed) and need to get a copy to reinstall on your computer things are no longer as easy as they used to be. Microsoft shut down Digital River and if you want to get install media you now have to enter a license key and have it checked before you can download. Fine… but not fine… if you enter an OEM key you get a really helpful message to contact the manufacturer… Great, if you call Dell, HP, Gateway, etc. they will often tell you that you are out of luck or, at best, charge you some ridiculous fee to ship you an install disk.

Let me reiterate that if you have an OEM key and are using it on the original system with which the key came then you have a legal right to use the operating system. You just need to find install media which is now a royal pain.

Thankfully a kind soul grabbed all of the original Digital River and Technet (another now deprecated option for getting install media) Windows 7 ISO files and provides them via Bittorrent. (more…)

I regularly use the Microsoft Windows sysprep tool to create template Windows Server 2012 R2 systems for wider deploy using cloning. Sysprep is used to modify a pre-configured Windows system and create an image or “template” so that you can create unique copies of it for faster system deployment. Failure to use syprep before cloning a windows machine can cause odd issues, especially in an enterprise environment with Active Directory.

Sysprep is a wonderful tool but it has a few quirks. One such quirk is that it routinely wipes out all of the mounted drive information other than the system drive. This means every time you create a clone from a sysprep’d system image you have to go through and re-assign drive letters. This is fine on a simple server with one extra data server. This is a hassle on a database server which might have five extra drives.

After dealing with this again recently I finally decided to do a google search and came across a simple solution: (more…)

One of the items I had to do a bit of digging to find was the location of the startup folder for all users.

If you aren’t familiar with the “startup” folder on your system I will explain it briefly.

The startup folder is a place you can put executable files (.exe), batch files (.bat), etc. that you want Windows to run every time a user logs into the system. There are a lot of usage scenarios for such a folder, my specific use case is mapping a remote windows share as a drive, for which I use a batch file. (more…)

Rather than build a new Windows 7 virtual machine from scratch in hyper-v, I like to do a fresh install of one VM and then “export” it as a “template” for re-import later on. Importing a machine as a new copy is much faster than building a machine from scratch and installing Windows from an ISO file.

Recently I found myself doing just this, however my most recent “template” was quite old. After bring the new VM online and getting networking setup, the first thing I went to do was run windows update.

It was then that I ran into this mysterious error message from the update console:

“Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running. You may need to restart your computer.”

Fine… I opened up services.msc and made sure bits and the windows update service were running. They were… I was mystified and immediately turned to Google…