HowTo: Bootable USB Stick for OS Install

Some USB sticks.A bootable USB stick – AGAIN?

This has been covered in many places, but I am still surprised that not everyone knows how to do this.

First off: find yourself a large enough and fast enough USB stick to use as your bootable media. I prefer my OCZ Rally 2 myself – 8 GB and FAST.   Remember – you get what you pay for – flash drive speeds vary greatly, choose yours wisely.

  1. Run DISKPART with admin rights
  2. Type in LIST DISK to list off all disks attached to your system. Make note of your disk# representing your USB stick
  3. Type SELECT DISK # where # represents YOUR USB STICK
  4. Type CLEAN to erase everything / every partition on the disk. Remember you validated what disk to clean in step 2, right?
  5. Type CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY to make your new primary partition
  6. Type ACTIVE to mark partition as active
  7. Type FORMAT FS=NTFS QUICK  to perform a quick format
  8. Type EXIT to close diskpart – unless you want to make more bootable USB disks

Next up – extract the source files your favorite ISO file to the root of the USB stick. Windows 7, Server 2008 R2, Windows Server “8” or Windows “8” Consumer Preview. You can use whatever tool you prefer – I used to use WINRAR to open and expand them. Now I just mount the ISO in my Windows 8 Consumer preview by right clicking on it and choosing MOUNT. I can then select all files and SEND TO my newly formatted USB stick.

Voila – you now have a bootable USB stick. The only way for fast OS installs in a modern world.

I was going to record a quick screencast and YouTube it up – but then again – why? It’s so simple, this text should do.

** EDIT ** – based on @tommyLee’s suggestion – I’ve created a quick screencast on how do make one yourself.

You can get more elaborate and custom make the OS with injected drivers and all sorts of deployment goodness if you CREATE your own ISO with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. I’ll revisit the USB OS install post in a while when the tool refreshes with the next OS update.

Windows Server “8” demo lab hardware setup

After mulling things around for a while, consulting anyone who had an opinion on the topic and consuming various beverages over time – I finally sat down and planned out my portable demo lab for Windows Server”8” things.  I’ll be using it to create demos to share with the community and showing them off at various public events over time. I had some criteria to adhere to:

  • Has to be portable.
  • Has to have significant muscle to virtualize a large number of hosts.
  • One system has to dual boot to my “corporate image” so I can stay productive (this requires a bitlocker’d drive)
  • support multiple drives for better disk IO for virtualization
  • Large enough screens to work on stage

I’ve mostly settled on these two systems for my base configuration.

  1. Lenovo W520 with 32 GB ram, internal SSD (160GB for OS) and DriveBay extended 2nd SSHD (250 GB for VMs).
  2. Lenovo T410 with 8 GB of ram, internal 500GB HD. Smaller – lighter, but still powerful


I am trying to get the size and weight down – I do have to carry this around with me on flights. My issue is the screen size. I need a large screen in order to have a more comfortable demo experience.


(maybe I am just getting old)

That being said – I will probably switch out the T410 for my much loved Dell-A-Saurus a.k.a. Precision mobile workstation M6500. It has 16 GB ram, dual hard drives and a large screen.

Setup for the system? Windows Server “8” obviously. The Hyper-V role installed. I am starting with the GUI to get things configured – then I will be REMOVING in order to walk the walk and talk the talk of best security configurations and headless management capabilities. More on the exact configuration in my next post.

Networking? well – For now, since it’s setup time – I am using a simple consumer grade router to NAT my internet connection and isolate the two systems from the corporate network. Works well if I need to plug into something like a hotel internet / conference internet and share it between the systems.  I’ll be hard coding the IPs and making them self sufficient so that I COULD just have an Ethernet cable between them and still pull off Live Migration demos.

I’ll be documenting and sharing my setup experiences and demos here on the blog. stay tuned for more details and posts on setup configuration and demo scenarios you can build yourself.

Windows Server “8” Hyper-v Component Poster

Come on now – admit it. We all like geeky things on the walls of our cubicles and offices. Well – a cool poster came out for the Windows Server “8” Beta Hyper-V Components and it’s available in High Detail saved as a PDF from the Microsoft Download Servers.


Cool new additions from previous versions include details on new capabilities like:

  • Hyper-V Replica
  • Networking
  • Virtual machine mobility (live migration)
  • Storage
  • Failover clustering
  • Scalability

Fire up them wide format colour printers and make yourself a copy. It is based on Beta, so you might want to keep it small scale until RTM, eh?

If you are looking for previous versions of this poster – you can find them here.

Troubleshooting Windows Server “8” (weekend reading)

imageAs we’re now winding down the week and with 7 days under our belts with the Beta product – I thought I’d quickly share some awesome reading material that can go along with your Beta Evaluation of WS8.

I love troubleshooting things – it’s the challenge of getting things working again after some other “IT Expert” or “curious user” (a.k.a. P.I.T.A user) goes in and messes something up. Well – the technical writers in the product group for WS8 have been busy and have published a great library of resources for troubleshooting.

Understanding and Troubleshooting Windows Server “8” has the following articles published as of March 9th, 2012.

If you’re looking for a single document that kind of covers a LOT of information – Check out the Windows Server “8” Evaluation Guide. It’s another gem in the documentation pool to get you started.

How to shutdown Windows Server “8”


Call me crazy.  Sometimes I want to shutdown my servers.

After loading up the Windows Server “8” beta on some of my test systems, I was a little perplexed as to how I should be shutting them down – either logged on locally or remotely.

Humm…. From a command line – I can always run my trusty command:


That gives me a 3 second window before things get shut down. But without my traditional start menu – how should I do it via the GUI?

Windows_Key + i

That seems to be the fastest way to pull up your settings – including the power button for shutting / restarting your server.

You could also do a three-finger-salute with CTRL-ALT-DEL and choosing it from the bottom right corner.

I’ll stick with either my command line (if I am working in one or the awesome new PowerShell) or I’ll use the slightly easier Windows_Key + i

Thought you might like to know.

Windows Server 8–Initial Cool Stuff

Part of my role at MS includes the creation of content for “The Edge Show” currently hosted at  Well with last week being the beta milestone release for Windows Server “8” (I’ll use this notation and possibly the shortened WS8 going forward) I decided to do the smart thing and have a Special Edition episode with all things Server “8”.

As you can tell from the video – I’m Freakin’ Out with excitement about all the stuff in this release. There are literally hundreds of cool things that are included with this release and I’m going to do my best to cover them over the next while.

Bill Laing wrote up a rather “corporate-y” type blog post that points to a few cool items as well. Check out his post when you have a moment before moving on.

Screw Following your dreams–CHASE THEM!

DSC_0876 (521x640)For those of you who know me – I’m a very passionate person.  Be it technology, skills development, fatherhood, Microsoft, mobile devices – whatever.  I tend to be someone who jumps in with both feet.  Sometimes I do it on instinct. Sometimes I do it with after a long hesitation and with great caution.

Well – I jumped in this time – with both feet.

Let me back up a bit for a little bit of context and history.  It has been a dream of mine to work at Microsoft. I happened to be referred into the position of IT Pro Evangelist by a very good friend of mine (Pierre Roman) who was in the process of applying for the job.  During his interview process he decided the role wasn’t for him but said to the HR rep “I know this guy who would be perfect for this job” – that guy was me.  He gave me a call while I was off on paternity leave with my Twin girls. At first I dismissed it, saying “I’d never be good enough” to work at Microsoft – but he insisted I apply. Nine interviews later, I was offered what would become my dream job – working for Microsoft Canada as an IT Pro Evangelist.

Fast forward 7 1/2 years later.  I have “grown in role” up to a Senior Technical Evangelist working on the same team – working with and engaging the Canadian technology community.  I had developed a knack for understanding how to make a difference in the lives of people by enabling them to use (Microsoft) technology more effectively and further their careers in IT. I loved getting up in the morning every day – never hitting the snooze button – giving it my all.

Then opportunity knocked.

A position opened up on a team in Redmond at Microsoft Headquarters.  It was for one of four Technology Evangelists that have similar responsibilities and functions to what I was currently doing (and some cool new challenges), BUT was on a worldwide stage.  At first I wasn’t really interested, since I have very strong ties to Canada AND it would mean relocating my whole family down to Seattle.  But – after talking it over with my boss (WIFE) on a number of occasions – she said “go for it”. I then talked with my other boss (work) – who was very supportive of the idea.  I’m kind of paraphrasing his comments – but my conversation with him lead me to the title of this post.

If you simply follow your dreams – you will be constantly taking the passive route of going where they meander.  If you really want to realize your dreams – YOU HAVE TO CHASE THEM in order to have a chance of attaining them.

I decided to apply and went after the role whole heartedly.

I write this post sitting here in Seattle, with my family in temporary housing. After a long 4 months during which time we completed the interview process, job offer review , visa application process, relocation planning, selling off of personal property / house / car, actual moving day – we’re ALL onboard in this fantastic new journey.

I am now a Technical Evangelist on the Corp evangelism team here in Redmond at “Corp” (a.k.a. Microsoft Headquarters). I will be focusing my technology expertise back to my roots – CORE INFRASTRUCTURE on the Windows Server platform (current and future versions). When you think about it – “Server” is really the building blocks on which you craft your solution, be it on premise, optimized for private cloud or even public cloud.  Windows Server will be playing a significant role – now and in the future. I’ll be responsible for the technical reviews / advising on content for the major technical conferences Microsoft puts on across the world. I’ll also continue to be engaging the worldwide technical audience and engaging with social media / blogging / podcasting and more. There’s even an element of community building with the internal Microsoft Evangelism efforts with the IT Pro Evangelists around the globe. The role will continue to evolve over time – but once again – I’m Stoked.

On the eve of us departing Canada for the US, I called a friend of mine to talk about the move. He was sad we were heading out, but at the same time he was very excited for me and the family. He said to me “you’re changing your family’s destiny by doing this. That’s exciting – embrace this challenge and relish the moment”.  I hadn’t thought about it in this context before – but it’s true. New job, new house, new schools, new friends, new opportunities – it’s kind of overwhelming at times.

You know what? After starting this journey, I can say that despite my hesitations at first – I can honestly tell you, my Gut is telling me it’s the right thing to do, the right time to do it.

If you have an opportunity and you are on the fence – don’t get paralyzed with how big of a change it would be in your life and your family’s life. Do your level of sanity checks and consult your internal board of directors.

Screw following your dreams, chase them! Once you’re close and you’re ready – Jump In!


Create and Boot from VHD for Windows 7, “Server 8”, Windows Server 2008 R2

Note: I have no idea what the next version of Windows Server will be called – I am just using “Server 8” as a short version of the Developer Preview of Windows Server from the Build conference – downloadable from MSDN

hard diskIt’s simple enough – people have been asking how to do this for a bit without having to use all sorts of extra tools like WAIK, WIM2VHD or even screwing around with BCEDIT.

Why would you WANT to boot from VHD anyways? It’s a file format supported and included as a mountable file instance since Windows 7.  I use it instead of partitioning my drives when I want to screw around with an OS directly on my hardware without having to reformat all the time. Great for evals, lab setups or custom configs of the OS when you want no barrier to performance on the hardware that comes with virtualization.

What is my configuration? I want Win7 as the main OS on my laptop. But I also need to boot it into “Server 8” to play around as well as demo things in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. Result – My C drive is formatted with Win7.  I have carved up my D drive (second physical drive in this laptop) into 2 dynamically expanding VHDs: d:vhdServer8.vhd AND d:vhdW2K8R2sp1.vhd.

How? Simple. After the Windows 7 install, I create the sub directory where I want my VHDs to be created. You will want to make note of the full path including drive letter AND label.  Next I rebooted using my trusty multiboot USB stick and at the first prompt to choose the region – I press SHIFT F10. At the command prompt type in the following:

    • this displays all the volumes that the OS sees. Remember I asked you to make note of the drive label – booting from USB / DVD will screw with your assigned drive letters and you’ll need the info to ensure you are placing the new VHD in the right spot. In my case it was still D:vhd
  • CREATE VDISK file=d:vhdserver8.vhd type=expandable maximum=100000
    • this creates a dynamically expanding 100gb vhd called server8.vhd.
  • SELECT VDISK file=d:vhdserver8.vhd
    • this now mounts the disk and makes it visible as a drive for the install process.

Use a custom install to be able to select the drive and create a partition in the drive for installation of your new OS of choice.

Proceed as normal and complete the install.

Simple, eh?

RunAs Radio podcast Episode #238–Diagnosing DNS

I sat down with Richard Campbell from RunAs Radio podcast during TechDays Toronto to record an episode while waiting for lunch.  He hit me up about my session called Diagnosing DNS (Based on the TechEd North America session by Mark Minasi). Some great chit chat and banter back and forth with Richard and I on all things networking and your Active Directory environment.

The conversation dives into the tools you can use to understand what’s happening with DNS on your machine and the common problems that crop up with DNS. It’s a tour back to the fundamentals of networking!



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FINALLY–something for SysAdmins, LanAdmins, IT Folks. IT CAMPS


  • There are no formal presentations.
  • It’s not death by PowerPoint.
  • It’s NOT marketing / Sales
  • It’s for Technical Professionals / Geeks / Pro-Sumers / SysAdmins / LanAdmins / Security Experts / basically anyone that works in IT or has a passion / interest in IT.

It’s not your traditional “event” from Microsoft – or at least one that you would expect.

Using the *.Camp approach to a dynamic event (i.e. audience PARTICIPATION), IT Camps are something that our team is putting on whenever / wherever we can as we’re out and about for TechDays, DevTeach or quite frankly – any port of call – provided there is interest in having an “IT Camp”. We’ve decided to mix it up a little and using an “un-conference style” of format – we’re looking to partner with anyone who would like to host an IT Camp and participate.

So what do you get when you decide to show up for one?

  • Find out who’s coming! Registration is encouraged, not not mandatory. We’re using Eventbrite to keep thinks non intrusive. Registration gets the word out AND it gives us an idea for how many people could be in attendance.
  • Personal networking opportunities. Grow your support network. There’s normally 30 minutes or so of time set aside from when the doors open to when the camp actually starts.
  • It’s dynamic / interactive. Whoever is hosting the event locally would be able to get a feel for what people wanted to talk about or see over the course of the event – heck, people can request “content” demos on the fly, if the participants are willing to step up and show something. We’ve come prepared with some cool demos that are 10-15 minutes each in chunks – they could follow a theme or if like the IT Camp last night at TechDays Toronto – Damir opened it up to the crowd to decide.
  • Reverse Panel or Mystery Panel. Time permitting – we’ll throw out some topics and hold a panel discussion on relevant topics – you choose!
  • Hands on Challenges – again – time permitting or logistics permitting – there’s an option for some “capture the flag” infrastructure challenges or team competitions to solve issues as a group. I mention “logistics permitting” because it depends on what we can bring together as resources for the camp – each and every Camp is different.
  • Lightning talks – got a story to share? you’ve got your opportunity for 5 minutes of fame to talk about how you solved an issue, implemented a cool technology or helped out someone in a bind – whatever. If you can fit it into 5 minutes – you can talk about it.
  • And MORE. Got an idea – share it with me. I’d love to talk about what to include.

We’ve been noodling with the format and we’ve tried it out in Toronto this week. Next week as part of ITPRO Teach / Dev Teach – we’ve got an opportunity to try again.

Here’s a list of events we’ve committed to over the next while and their registration links. Sign up – it’s FREE and it’s cool. Want to host one in YOUR city – give me an Email and we can talk about options and opportunities.

you never know – you might end up saying… “… and one time… at IT Camp… “