The Power of Task Sequences, Part 3, OS Deployments

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This is part 3 of many!  For the most part, this is same content/notes that I had done as part of my SCCM Guru sponsored webcast in early 2012.

Operating System Deployments

Throughout this presentation, I have exposed several ways for selective decision logic to automate various software installations and other administrative tasks.  They had nothing to do with operating system deployment.  The reality is that task sequences were originally created to facilitate OS deployment.   I would need to get beside myself if I didn’t at least mention some cool things that can help you all out in your OS task sequences.

Consolidating Everything into a Single Image and Task Sequence

Core Image Build and Capture

One of the most common themes I hear around the industry related to general OS management is that business are attempting to manage more than a single image.  Dealing with the effort to build and maintain multiple images creates huge overhead in costs.  There is only scenario in which there absolutely must be more than a single image – when the OS and architecture are different.  For example, you would need one image for 32-bit Windows XP, one for 32-bit Windows 7, and one for 64-bit Windows 7.  Rarely should there be a reason for multiple images that have the same core OS.

Generally speaking, your image build and capture should only ever contain Windows, Office, other Microsoft enhancements such as MSXML or .NET, maybe a newer Internet Explorer, and security updates.  If you build your image in this way, then you can easily get away with only updating your images only once or twice per year to include new security updates.

Core Image Deployment

That info was just for capturing your core image.  Other software and configurations still need to be accomplished in order for the PC to be functional for the business.  Unfortunately, there are administrators who may say that while it’s great to have just a single image, they still need multiple task sequences to service for different departments or different hardware.  Well, here’s the great news: with the power of task sequences, you can consolidate all of those task sequences into one!

In this example, using our core image, we will create a robust deployment task sequence.

  • Two different computer models: one laptop and one desktop
  • Software that is only for laptops (such as VPN)
  • Software differences for desktops which are different between a kiosk user desktop and an office user desktop (such as Citrix)
  • Software that can only be installed on accounting computers (calculator tool)
  • Option to enter the computer name

Expanding OS Deployment Functionality

The deployment task sequence we just constructed is a good step in the right direction.  But what if you need to provide additional functionality for the imaging process?  Such as the ability to

  • Enter a computer name of choice
  • Select a time zone
  • Select the Active Directory OU in which to join the computer
  • Select additional one-off applications to be automatically installed

One of the most common ways to do these is to use a customized prompt written as HTML Application, or just HTA.  There are many people in the systems management community, including myself, who have blogged our HTAs as examples.  Optionally, the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 Update 1 contains those abilities natively, and provides the most versatile solution when it’s integrated with ConfigMgr.  Discussion how to write your own HTA or use MDT is outside what I am going to explain today, so if you’re unfamiliar with either of these products, I suggest using your favorite search engine or you can contact me.

Returning to the original goal of extending the task sequence features, I have prebuilt an HTA which utilize both built-in and custom task sequence variables to

  • Supply a computer name (OSDComputerName)
  • Time zone selection (OSDTimezone set and step blank)
  • OU options (OSDDomainOUName set and step blank)
  • Choosing one-off applications (Custom variables)

3 thoughts on “The Power of Task Sequences, Part 3, OS Deployments

    […] The Power of Task Sequences, Part 3, OS Deployments […]

    Ryan Strope said:
    January 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    I have to agree with you in theory but disagree with you in practice.

    My main MDT Deployment share has 2 imaging Task Sequence (XP and 7) all department specific apps are installed via OU filtering or user choices. so in that i have a very simple deployment share

    However I have a second deployment share that is for ALL of our customized or critical systems of which we have most of which cannot be setup like the main MDT deployment share because the software loaded is 3rd party vendor provided and sometimes installed by the vendor so packaging these kinds of application in MDT is a major and not cost effective undertaking or packaging them in any manner.

    The two deployment shares are completely separate save for linking the special deployment share to the main one to replicate the driver repository. So for 98-99% of our imaging it is the nice and clean way but for that 1-2% of the time it’s nice to have the special deployment share. Its only capture task sequence has been modified to remotely sysprep and capture the system and once i figure out the best way it will restore the PC to the Domain, PC Name, and OU before Sysprep.

    If I worked in a place where we had more control of the software it would be much nicer but you have to work with what you have

      N. Moseley responded:
      January 15, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Ryan, I can agree with your assessment on MDT. This article was written more for ConfigMgr 2007 and some of the ways Task Sequences can be used to overcome some of the systems management and deployment challenges we would face as admins. I do appreciate your comments.

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