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  • When to troubleshoot blue screen crashes

    Posted on July 27th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    The other day I got an email from a blog reader which contained the information of a successful analyze of a memory dump file which is generated when an infamous blue screen of death occur. The reader wanted me to give him the solution or point him in the direction of a solution. This got me into thinking. When is it worth putting time on doing blue screen analyzes?

    The content of the crash dump is maybe not that relevant after all. What is more important is how often and when the blue screen of death occurs. If the crash occurred just once or very seldom and randomly I would say that it might not be worth finding out exactly what caused the crash. Keep in mind that a blue screen could indicate a hardware failure, although driver problems are the most common cause for crashes.

    However if the crashes occur often or at when doing specific tasks you have all the reasons in the world to get to the bottom of the problem. In these cases I recommend following the guide for troubleshooting blue screen crashes.

    An interesting thing to note about blue screens that start occurring after for instance upgrading the OS from Windows XP to Windows Vista or Windows 7 is that the new memory management in the later operating systems might reveal problems in the memory modules that did not show when using Windows XP.

    Finally, whenever having problem with blue screens of death I would recommend upgrading the machine BIOS. Often there are compatibility and stability fixes which solves problems with hardware which might be causing you the problems you are experiencing.

  • Easier GPO management using filtering

    Posted on June 25th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    The number of group policy settings that you can use to fine tune your client and server computers are constantly growing. The more settings there are the harder it is to find them. Therefore the option “All settings” in the Group Policy Manager in Windows Vista SP1 and later and Windows 7 is a pleasure. But the best part is that you can filter out and only show polices related to exactly what you are looking for, example only settings that contain “DNS” to see settings only related to DNS.

    Start gpedit.msc or the full Group Policy manager which is a part of Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows Vista and Windows 7 and go to Computer Configuration > (Policies >) Administrative templates and click “All settings”. Right click anywhere in the right pane to filter out only settings that you are interested in.

  • Drivers for old Soundblaster cards in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

    Posted on June 22nd, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + 3 comments

    A problem when Windows Vista was released some years ago was the fact that Creative wasn’t too “creative” to create drivers for older Soundblaster cards. This is where the kX Project comes in as it provides drivers for most older Soundblaster audio cards in newer operating systems.

    But why on earth do I mention this now that Vista has ben out for a few years? Well the reason is that I’ve heard of users (some of which totally skipped Vista) that are testing Windows 7 on older machines and does not find a driver for their Creative Soundblaster audio card.

    If you are looking for a Windows Vista och Windows 7 driver for your Soundblaster range of audio card go to http://www.kxproject.com.

    EDIT: URL updated.

  • Install Windows client and server without product key

    Posted on June 16th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    I just want to share a quick tip about something really smooth that many IT staff seems to be unaware of. Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 introduced the fact that you can install it without entering a product key. This was later introduced in Windows XP (with service pack 3 slipstreamed) and also later Windows Server 2003 R2 media. Nothing about this changes for Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. So to sum it up you can install all current as well as coming operating systems without entering a product key and you will then have up to 30 days to enter it.

  • Add users to local groups on the Windows clients easily

    Posted on May 27th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    If you want to add domain users or groups to a local group on a Windows client machine automatically, this can be done using group policies. One reason could be to easily put groups or users to the local group Remote Desktop Users to allow them to log on via RDP. To control which users or groups you want to add create a new GPO in the domain and go to Computer configuration > (Policies) > Windows settings > Security settings > Restricted groups.

    Once there choose to add a group and in my example find the “Remote Desktop Users” group and after that add the user or group you want to add to the local machines which that particular group policy object applies to. More information about restricted groups can be found at http://support.microsoft.com/?id=810076

  • HOW TO: Clean out Windows\Installer folder correctly

    Posted on May 16th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + 7 comments

    When disk space is running out on a system disk, may it be on a server or a client, there are certain things to clean out. One of them being the %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Windows\Installer folder. You cannot under any circumstances delete files from this folder manually as this not only may but most likely will break software that is installed using MSI files, or Windows Installer files.

    The %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Windows\Installer folder is a cache for installation files and patches (MSP files) and removing those will cause you to not being able to repair or uninstall applications, and in some cases not removing patches or applying new patches to software. In the event when you actually did delete this cache you can rebuild the files you need manually by extracting the files from original installation media, from patch packages etc but this is a time consuming and not that easy task to accomplish.

    But let me get to the point. If you do want to free disk space you can clean out the %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Windows\Installer folder by downloading Windows Installer Cleanup Utility (NOTE: This tool has been retired and is no longer available from Microsoft) and then running the command

    msizap.exe G!

    When running this, the installer and patch packages are enumerated and unreferenced packages are considered to be safe to delete and are thereby also deleted. Depending on the age of the system and the number of applications installed, this action can free a significant amount of disk space.

  • Hyper-V gadget for Windows Vista and Windows 7

    Posted on April 23rd, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    If you are using Hyper-V there is no way you won’t be using the Hyper-V gadget that is available and has been available for a long time for Windows Vista and now also Windows 7. The gadget lists all your virtual machines  and easily let you start, stop, shut down or save the virtual machines.

    Download the Hyper-V gadget

  • Prepare for Windows Vista service pack 2

    Posted on April 19th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + 1 comment

    The beta testing of service pack 2 for Windows Vista is about to end and SP2 will soon be released for download. Unlike service packs for previous Windows client operating systems SP2 is not cumulative which means that you will have to install service pack 1 before you can apply service pack 2.

    So if you for some odd reason still aren’t running service pack 1 on your Windows Vista machines now is the time to install it to make sure you are ready for service pack 2.

  • Help improve app compatibility in Windows 7

    Posted on April 5th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    Microsoft is working more active than ever to improve application compatibility in Windows 7. Recently two Swedes announced Microsoft’s willingness to help improve application compatibility in general but also for non-English applications.

    First Jesper Holmberg, working with localization at Microsoft in Redmond, announced the face that Microsoft actively wants applications in non-English languages to test with Windows 7. Second Danwei Tran, a new IT evangelist at Microsoft Sweden, offered everybody to send emails to a specific address to report compatibility issues with applications. Microsoft will then contact the developers to see how they can resolve the problems, to everybody’s benefit.

    These two actions will of course make compatibility for Windows 7 superb, but never to forget, compatibility for Windows Vista will improve as well as a direct result of these actions.

    Just a final note, Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.5 got released yesterday, more about this later on.

  • Windows Update client in Windows 7 also coming for Windows Vista

    Posted on April 2nd, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    If you have tried out Windows 7 you know that it includes some changes when it comes to Windows Update. The good news for Windows Vista users is that the Windows Update client included in Windows 7 also will be available for Windows Vista. A few days ago the beta program for the next version of the Windows Update client started on Microsoft Connect.

    Some of the improvements that can be seen in Windows 7 and that will be available in Windows Vista are as follows:

    • Reduced number of UAC prompts and the option to allow all users to install any updates.
    • Much better interface and separated optional and important updates.
    • More information when errors do occur, now also with descriptions.
    • Better notification for the user telling them that the computer will be restarted at xx:xx hours and that the user need to save all open documents, if the settings are set to automatically install and restart the client that is.

    If you want to try the new Windows Update client for Windows Vista, go to http://connect.microsoft.com and apply to the program called “MUv4 Beta”.

    More information about setting Microsoft Update to be the default instead of Windows Update by script can be found in this post I made quite some time ago. I’ve also verified that this works in Windows 7 as well as in Windows Vista.