Q&A from the Power of Task Sequences

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First, I want to thank everyone who joined my SCCM Guru webcast on the Power of Task Sequences last week.  There was a great audience who asked questions the entire time, which means I didn’t bore you all :-)  If you were not able to watch the webcast, the replay is available on BDNA’s website.  Optionally, you can grab my slide deck from MyITforum.  In the future, I plan to do a series of blog posts on my content on the Power of Task Sequences.

During the presentation, it was possible to ask questions.  Rod Trent and Ron Crumbaker were attempting to answer as many as they could, but the following questions they could not get to at that time.

Q&A Session for SCCM GURU Webcast – Nick Moseley – Mar 28

Date:  Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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Jay D

Q: Is there a way to target a user or group instead of a computer to run a task sequence?

A: Task sequence advertisements fall under the same rules as standard software distribution.  The advertisement gets assigned to a collection that contains resources, either users or computers.  MVP Matthew Hudson has a good blog post to help get you started: http://sms-hints-tricks.blogspot.com/2007/04/collection-of-computers-based-on-users.html

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Craig D

Q: Within the cmd line, does SCCM do error checking to make sure the commands are correct syntax?

A: No, unfortunately it does not.  So you will need to use caution with what you enter and test that in advance to ensure the command is accurate.

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Jeremy D

Q: What are the advantages of using multiple applications?

A: The total size of the task sequence XML cannot exceed 10 MB.  Should you run into a situation where there are too many steps (or whatever) that cause the task sequence to be too large, you could consolidate steps that install individual software into just the one step.

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Keith E

Q: Is it possible to use Task Sequences with Internet Based Clients?

A: Yes.  However, if you are planning to deploy an OS or do operations within WinPE, then you will need to see information on native mode certificates for OSD at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb633147.aspx

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Leandro W

Q: Are Collection Variables stored for future reference on each device of that collection? I mean, once I set them, if I need to use them another time, would it be accessible with its previous value?

A: It depends.  Any collection with a collection variable assigned to it, any computers in that collection will receive that variable and value.  However, if the variable is blank/empty, such that it gets set during execution of the task sequence, the value will be reset after execution of the task sequence completes.

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Leandro W

Q: so… if I set a variable with the IE proxy, for example, once that it was set once; if I re-image the computer, the previous entered value will be accessible, right?

A: See above answer J

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Jeff M

Q: Is there a TS variable to retrieve the current user that is logged into the machine the TS is running on?

A: Unfortunately there is not.  The task sequence is only going to execute under system context, so the task sequence is unable to retrieve the logged in user information.  However, it could be possible to

  1. Create a package/program to execute a script which gets environment variable %username% and writes it into the a custom registry location
  2. Have that program set to only run when a user is logged into Windows and run as the user’s credentials
  3. Configure the task sequence properties to execute that package/program
  4. Have a step in the package that grabs that custom registry key, and optionally stuff it into a custom variable for other uses throughout the task sequence.

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M W

Q: RE: some updates not running during TS… would a restart and repeat of the Install SW Updates step do the same thing as the rescan script you mentioned?

A: Ultimately, it would be nice if we didn’t have to do any of the additional steps.  This is longstanding known problem that is unfortunately resolved by running the script (which just forces a scan for the latest applicable updates) and then the Install Software Updates step which actually initiates an install of those “new” updates.

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Shannon C

Q: If a step inside the sequence fails, how do you get the CM report to show the failed step?

A: The task sequence will automatically report the status failures up to the site for reporting, so there is no need to do anything special.

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Ryan M

Q: Is it possible to call other task sequences from within a single “master” task sequence?

A: This is the question of the day!  Ironically, I was curious about the same thing when creating this presentation.  I wanted to call it the “Inception” effect, just like the movie.  Unfortunately due to time, I wasn’t ever able to develop/test to see if it was possible.  Maybe I will do that for a future blog post!!

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Mitch R

Q: Is that sup_fix.vbs out on myITforum somewhere?

A: You have a good eye ;-)  That script is available on my blog at https://t3chn1ck.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/vbscript-to-run-sccm-software-updates-scan/

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Mark C

Q: What’s red and smells like green paint?

A: Red paint (thank you Bing for the answer)

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John A

Q: Would the task sequence continue after reboot if no one logged on?

A: Yes, it will continue until completion.

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Leandro W

Q: In order to use the TSs without installing the OS; you need to create a custom one and do not select a Boot Image, right?

A: Yes, correct.

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Jared F

Q: you showed how you can determine if an application is installed by WMI query add/remove programs.  Is there a way to query if a particular program was successfully installed via a SCCM advertisement in a task sequence?

A: The best way to approach something like this is to check the SCCM client’s registry location for the Program’s last execution status.  You would need to write a script to get all list of the all the sub keys of the Package’s execution history and then check if the last status equaled “success”.  Unless there is a very specific reason to check for that, I’d recommend the KISS principle.  Note, those registry keys are within HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS\Mobile Client\Software Distribution\Execution History\PackageID\

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Eugene G

Q: How do you deal with network share permissions when running setup from shares?  What rights are needed?

A: Use the step Connect To Network Folder – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb632337.aspx

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Marivic R

Q: How do you assign a task to a collection?

A: It’s really simple – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb680317.aspx

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Chris G

Q: What is the limitation to how many TS actions and\or TS Groups that can be in a task sequence?

A: The only limitation is that the XML cannot be larger than 10 MB

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Tom P

Q: Where do you define what boot image it will boot to?

A: That is a good question, which I forgot to show in my demo.  Simply right-click on the task sequence and go to Properties.  It’s then on the Advanced tab

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Luis A

Q: The installed software condition in the TS, can that be used to re-installed non- standard software in an XP to 7 refresh?

A: The question I ask is what defines non-standard software?  If that means the software isn’t packaged in SCCM, then no SCCM can’t do reinstall the software.  Otherwise if it is packaged, then you would need to write custom scripts to detect for the software and write true/false into custom variables for later use in the task sequence.  Or use MDT 2010 with UDI or some other similar solutions.

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Jorge G

Q: can a task sequence be customized to change the language of the OS install?

A: You can certainly add a language pack into an OS deployment – https://t3chn1ck.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/how-to-add-a-language-pack-to-win7-osd-without-mdt/

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Jorge G

Q: I ask because we currently are using images for x86 and x64 plus x86 and x64 in Spanish. Can a task sequence be setup to install the os language of choice?

A: Yes J

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Adam N

Q: Is the script for the install software updates fix available for download somewhere?

A: That script is available on my blog at https://t3chn1ck.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/vbscript-to-run-sccm-software-updates-scan/

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Michael F

Q: Can you guy please email or upload somewhere xml for the TS Demo 12 as well as Custom HTA???

A: I will upload demo 12 as part of future blog post, so feel free to sign up for email updates on my blog.  Otherwise, a similar custom HTA can be found on my blog already at https://t3chn1ck.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/osd-options-chooser-v2/

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Laurie F

Q: Nick – were or what is the best resource to learn this more extensively

A: The Microsoft SCCM documentation team has already done a great job at this.  However, the best place to learn is from interacting with your peers. Personally, I found that I like the MyITforum email lists http://myitforum.com/myitforumwp/support/email-lists for ConfigMgr 2007 and MDT/OSD, of which you’ll find me there J

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Tim B

Q: Any good resources on developing .hta files for TS?  That is something I’ve wanted to do be haven’t had time to research.

A: I’ve used Microsoft’s HTA Helpomatic – http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=17332

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Derrick W

Q: Will all the demo scripts be available?

A: I plan to do a series of blog posts on all the content from this presentation, so feel free to sign up on my blog to receive email updates.

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Patrick K

Q: What’s the best variable to use when setting the machine name of a computer when reimaging a computer that exists in the ConfigMgr console already (OSDComputerName or another one)?  I always have issues where one or the other always contains the old name.

A: I recommend using unknown computer support because advertising a LIVE task sequence to ACTIVE computers is just asking for trouble.  So then if the computer is “unknown” it doesn’t have a record in SCCM, so OSDComputerName will work great. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc431374.aspx

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Mario R

Q: Question. Do you have any experience trying to install an OS with no touch installation? I mean boot to PXE, press F12 and not having to do anything else to start the TS. This is really valuable when installing an OS on multiple PCs. Thanks.

A: I do not have personal experience doing it in production.  The question becomes how you are going to assign a computer name or any one-off applications.  If you just wanted the PC to retain the generic name of MININT-RandomString, then this will work easily by making the advertisement mandatory with a deadline in the past.  Otherwise, you would need to either manually import the computer with its MAC address into SCCM along with the name you want it to have (which is FAR more work and is a pain).  Or you would need to have a script that would query a script to retrieve a computer name from a spreadsheet or something.  It is possible, but I prefer the quick and easy approach which is a 10 second entry of a computer name that then sets OSDComputerName.

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Russell J

Q: Could you explain why one would do multiple apps this way, rather than run each app as separate steps?

A: If the task sequence exceeds the limitation of the XML larger than 10 MB

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Chris M

Q: Can you share the Office template?

A: I plan to do a series of blog posts on all the content from this presentation, so feel free to sign up on my blog to receive email updates.

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2 thoughts on “Q&A from the Power of Task Sequences

    Bdawg said:
    April 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    FYI.. Task Sequences cannot be targeted to users and they do not execute when the Client is connected over the Internet. In ConfigMgr 2012, a non-OSD TS can be executed on Internet Based clients, but you still cannot target directly to users…

    SCCM Guru Webcast Replay « t3chn1ck said:
    June 23, 2012 at 9:08 am

    […] or for download on iTunes.  Or you can watch it right from my blog!  Also, I have a post on Q&A from the webcast that you can read. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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