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Trouble creating a Windows 8.1 master image. RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hello,

    I've created a Windows 7 master image and I use that to deploy 7 to customers PCs.   Now I'm working on creating a Windows 8.1 master image but I'm having trouble.   These are the steps I used to create it:

    I used the Microsoft Media Creation tool to create a usb installation thumb drive.   I start installing Windows 8.1 and boot into Audit Mode and update / do my customizations.   I capture the hard drive image to a network location.   Then, I try copying my install.wim file to the thumb drive.   The thumb drive is using an install.esd.   The thumb drive is FAT32.   If I make it NTFS, because the PC has secure boot setup, it fails to boot off the thumb drive.   Being FAT32, I'm limited to files under a certain size.   My image file is around 6GB in size so I use dism to split it.    I delete the install.esd file off the thumb drive and replace it with install.swm and I copy install2.swm over as well (to the source directory).  Everything seems to be working fine until I go to install.

    I boot off the thumb drive and make it to the install screen.   I click Install and it asks for a product key instead of pulling it from the BIOS like it did when I was using the install.esd file from the Microsoft Media Creation tool.   I have tried converting my wim file to an ESD and then using dism to split it but the setup program doesn't seem to like it and complains about missing files.

    I'm open for suggestions here.   Does anyone know why this is happening and what the proper fix for it is?   I'd like to know why the setup program doesn't pull the product key from the BIOS when I use a custom .wim file and I'd like to know how to get it to.   Any help is greatly appreciated.   Thank you!

    Spork Schivago

    Saturday, April 9, 2016 8:11 PM

All replies

  • Hi Spork_Schivago,

    The main issue is a product key is asked during installation process, right?

    .

    As we know, Windows 8.1 requires us to type the product key during the installation process.

    It is different from Windows 7, it is not available to skip this process.

    If you don't have a product key, you will not be able to continue the installation.

    .

    Based on your situation, we could use some specific tool to display the product key stored in BIOS, then enter it during the installation process.

    Here is an example about how to find the Windows 8 product key for your reference.

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/20346.how-to-find-out-your-windows-8-product-key.aspx

    .

    Best regards.


    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help, and unmark the answers if they provide no help. If you have feedback for TechNet Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.

    Monday, April 11, 2016 11:42 AM
    Moderator
  • Thank you for the reply Rick_Li.

    I know how to obtain the product key from the ACPI table in the BIOS.   However, using the MediaCreation tool, before I replace install.esd with my master copy, Windows 8.1 successfully reads the key automatically so I don't need to copy it.

    I'd like to know why it can successfully read the key automatically, so I don't have to type, when I use the MediaCreation tool, but when I use a custom install.esd (in this case, install.swm and install2.swm), it asks for the product key.

    My guess is there is something special in the original install.esd that tells Windows setup to check the BIOS for a product key.   What do you think?

    Spork Schivago

    Monday, April 11, 2016 4:51 PM
  • Hi Spork_Schivago,

    .

    Based on my understanding, it is seems that you are using an OEM key during installation.

    It is possible that install files could read product key from BIOS if the manufacturer setup some specific OEM settings.

    Form my experience, if we try to install a retail windows 8.1, it is not available to avoid entering product key. I think if you have captured a customized image for deployment, it cannot read product key during installation process as well. It is decided by OEM setting.

    .

    Since you are a professional engineer and know how to obtain the product key from the ACPI table, we could display the product key then enter it during the installation process as a workaround.

    .

    Best regards.


    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help, and unmark the answers if they provide no help. If you have feedback for TechNet Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.



    Tuesday, April 12, 2016 3:13 PM
    Moderator
  • Hi Spork_Schivago,

    .

    Based on my understanding, it is seems that you are using an OEM key during installation.

    It is possible that install files could read product key from BIOS if the manufacturer setup some specific OEM settings.

    Form my experience, if we try to install a retail windows 8.1, it is not available to avoid entering product key. I think if you have captured a customized image for deployment, it cannot read product key during installation process as well. It is decided by OEM setting.

    .

    Since you are a professional engineer and know how to obtain the product key from the ACPI table, we could display the product key then enter it during the installation process as a workaround.

    .

    Best regards.


    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help, and unmark the answers if they provide no help. If you have feedback for TechNet Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.


    Thank you Rick_Li!   That makes sense.   I thought maybe the MediaCreation tool was creating a retail version on the thumb drive.   I found it strange though that it was successfully pulling the key from the BIOS.    I will pull the key myself and try entering it.   I have a feeling though that Windows will detect it as an invalid product key.   You have pointed me in the right direction though.   Once I try entering the key manually, I'll report back here.   If it detects it as an invalid product key, I'll assume that I'm using the wrong version of Windows 8.1 (retail instead of OEM).   Out of curiosity, do you know where I can obtain a free download for Windows 8.1 OEM?   I'm not looking for a pirated copy or anything like that.   Just a legit version, without any product keys, that's untouched.   Before, Microsoft pointed me to Digital Rivers.   They said it was legal to make copies of the installation media, just not to share the product keys.

    Thank you for your help.


    Spork Schivago

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016 4:52 PM
  • Hi Spork Schivago,

    .

    From my experience, the Windows OEM is provided by manufacturer.

    If you are trying to download a Windows 8.1 OEM, it is suggested to contact to your manufacturer support, they may have more sources for you.

    I see that you will enter product key manually as a workaround, we are looking forward to your good news.

    Good luck


    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help, and unmark the answers if they provide no help. If you have feedback for TechNet Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.


    Wednesday, April 13, 2016 1:29 AM
    Moderator
  • Thank you Rick_Li.   These aren't my computers.   I fix them for customers.   Most of the computers that I've ran into have Windows 7 or a recovery partition and I've been able to use that to redo a PC.   I do have a burned Windows 8 disc that works with OEM systems and successfully pulls the key from the BIOS.   I don't think the manufacturers would be much help.   They'd more than likely try to sell me a recovery disc.   That's not a viable option.   If I'm fixing 4 - 5 computers a day, that price would add up real quick!   Also, customers would have to wait a while for me to get the discs.

    If I cannot get the custom install.wim file working, I can just do it the old way.   Using the not updated Windows 8.1 OEM disc, format, reinstall, install drivers and then fully update.   I just hoping I could create that master image like I did with 7 to save a lot of time (the updating can take a while).

    Come tomorrow, I'll pull the key from the BIOS and see how things go.

    Spork Schivago

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016 2:02 AM
  • I'm sorry it took so long to get back to you on this issue.   It does seem that for some reason or another, when I create the custom SWM files, Windows 8.1's installation media will not install because the product key is not compatible.   I might have accidently used the media creation tool instead of the Windows 8.1 OEM disc I have.   I'll try replacing the files on the thumb drive with the ones from the OEM disc and see if it pulls the product key successfully.

    When I manually pull the key from the BIOS and enter it, I receive the message, "We couldn't verify the product key.   Please check your installation media."

    It seems that I might some how be using retail files instead of OEM.   Not sure how that happened though.   I'll let you know if copying the files from the disc to the thumb drive fixes the problem or not.

    Do you know a way to of converting the retail media to accept the OEM keys?   Thanks.

    Spork Schivago

    Tuesday, April 26, 2016 10:59 PM
  • It didn't work.   For some reason, when I replace install.esd with my custom install.swm and install2.swm files, the installation will NOT accept the OEM product key.   Any suggestions?

    Thanks.

    Spork Schivago

    Tuesday, April 26, 2016 11:54 PM
  • Maybe I'm sysprepping the system incorrectly.   During the original Windows 8.1 install, when it asks for the user name, I enter Audit Mode instead of typing a name in.   I login, update Windows using Windows PowerShell and then I run sysprep.   Maybe I should try creating the account, updating, running sysprep, deleting the user accounts, etc, capture the image and try that way.

    Spork Schivago

    Wednesday, April 27, 2016 5:33 AM
  • Hi Spork_Schivago,

    In your scenario, it is an OEM key during the installation. We need an OEM Windows 8.1 installation disc so the OEM product key can be verified.

    “Do you know a way to of converting the retail media to accept the OEM keys?”

    As far as I know, the OEM key is provided by manufacturer, there may be more some specific settings come with computer.

    There is no way that Microsoft can support that. You need contact to the manufacturer support, I believe they have more resources to help you.

    Best regards.


    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help, and unmark the answers if they provide no help. If you have feedback for TechNet Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2016 11:04 AM
    Moderator
  • Thanks Rick_Li.   Maybe I'm explaining this wrong.

    I have an OEM Windows 8.1 installation DVD and an OEM product key that works with this laptop.

    I convert the disc to a thumb drive, and I can successfully install a fully activated Windows 8.1 disc.

    However, when I sysprep the machine and create a custom install.swm file with a fully updated disc and replace the original install.esd file on the thumb drive with my custom install.swm file (to create a master image), the product key is no longer accepted.

    I'm not using retail discs anywheres.   Everything is full OEM.

    I can always install Windows 8.1 on customers machines using the OEM disc I have, but it takes a very long time to manually update them through Windows Updates each time.   With Windows 7, I created a fully updated master image that installs 7 fully updated.    That's what I'm trying to do here with Windows 8.1.

    I just seems everytime I try using my custom install.swm file, the product key is rejected.   Perhaps the way I'm sysprepping the machine is causing issues.


    Spork Schivago

    Wednesday, April 27, 2016 6:43 PM
  • There may be some licensing problems with this approach, aside from the technical problems you are experiencing. From your posts I can see either you are using some generic DVD or a copy of some DVD. While you are doing a repair for your customers, you are supposed to use the exact recovery media meant for that computer. It is possible your method is violating the license on those computers by using some other media. I can't say, I do not know what this disc you have is.

    For the technical side, your Windows install media or image should not have an activation key in it.

    Windows 8.1 default product key for pre-installation is FJWTM-42NKR-9DPD2-8FR9Y-3GMCH. This would be the only key you use in your shop for Windows 8.1 core.

    If these systems are OEM pre-installed (that use a key in the BIOS) you need to use that OEM's recovery media to reinstall. You are not allowed to modify an OEM's installation media.


    • Edited by Tripredacus Friday, April 29, 2016 8:02 PM edition
    Friday, April 29, 2016 8:02 PM
  • It's impossible to use the recovery media for every machine I fix.   With Windows 7, Microsoft showed me how to create a master image and how to integrate the pre-activation product keys and slipstream drivers into the reference image for deployment via a PXE Boot server.   Why is Windows 8 different?   Are we not allowed to create master images and deploy reference images to the PCs?   I was given the link to the ISO image by Microsoft tech support, via online chat.

    I'm going to try setting up a machine with Windows Server 2012 on it and use the tools in there to see if I can create the master / reference images.   That way, I should be able to also setup a driver repository.

    I don't see why Microsoft themselves would give me download links to Microsoft ISOs to be used on customers machines if it violates their licensing agreement I have with them.   It wouldn't make sense why they would also provide instructions on how to create master / reference images for Windows 8 if they weren't supposed to be used.   The master image isn't even created on a customer's PC.   You're supposed to create them in a virtual machine so drivers don't get stuck inside the image.   Even though sysprep /generalize is supposed to remove the drivers, I guess sometimes certain ones get left behind.   Various services, for example, the stuff with HP Quick Keys, might get stuck in the image and would be installed on the customer's PC.

    The idea is you create a fully updated master image in a virtual machine.   Once captured, you duplicate the image and customize it to fit the computer you're deploying it on.   The image would then be called a reference image I believe.   That's the image that gets deployed the computer.

    I've decided to try a different approach with sysprepping the image.   I'm now following this tutorial.

    https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2014/WIN-B346#fbid=

    If I contact Microsoft's Partner's Tech Support again, I'll ask if there's any licensing issues with what I'm doing.   The last thing I want to do is violate some agreement and lose my partnership with Microsoft.   If something has drastically changed since Windows 7, I feel Microsoft should have sent me an e-mail letting me know that I can no longer deploy images to the machines I work on like I did in the past.    It just doesn't make sense why they'd be sharing the ISOs with me though if it was against the rules.   From what they said, I'm allowed to make copies of the discs and customize them.   I'm just not allowed to share product keys or use a product key that didn't come with that PC.

    Thank you for trying to help Tripredacus.   Perhaps it'd be best if for this problem I just contact Microsoft directly.

    Spork Schivago

    Friday, April 29, 2016 8:57 PM
  • There may be some licensing problems with this approach, aside from the technical problems you are experiencing. From your posts I can see either you are using some generic DVD or a copy of some DVD. While you are doing a repair for your customers, you are supposed to use the exact recovery media meant for that computer. It is possible your method is violating the license on those computers by using some other media. I can't say, I do not know what this disc you have is.

    For the technical side, your Windows install media or image should not have an activation key in it.

    Windows 8.1 default product key for pre-installation is FJWTM-42NKR-9DPD2-8FR9Y-3GMCH. This would be the only key you use in your shop for Windows 8.1 core.

    If these systems are OEM pre-installed (that use a key in the BIOS) you need to use that OEM's recovery media to reinstall. You are not allowed to modify an OEM's installation media.

    I was thinking about your post I think maybe you misunderstand my problem.

    When I install Windows 8.1 OEM using the ISO that I downloaded using the Media Creation Tool that was provided to me by Microsoft, I can install Windows 8.1, fully activated, on any OEM machine that I come in contact with.   It successfully pulls the key from the BIOS like it's supposed to and it activates it.   However, when I go to do Windows updates, there are a lot of updates.

    On the Windows DVD that was created with the Windows Media Creation Tool, there's a file, X:\sources\install.esd 

    In Windows 7, the file was, X:\sources\install.wim

    This file contains the various operating systems (for Windows 7, Windows 7 Home, Windows 7 Pro, etc).   When you're installing Windows 7, when it asks for the user name, you can hit CTRL-ALT-F3.   It won't ask for a user name and it'll boot into Audit Mode.   You can do this with Windows 8 / 8.1 as well.    You run Windows update to fully update the machine.   Then you run sysprep /generalize /shutdown.    That will remove all the drivers and all the unique information.    Then, using the Windows PE boot environment (created using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit), you boot off your WindowsPE thumb drive.  You capture the original hard drive installation, like C:\.   This file that you create, in Windows 7, you replace the install.wim on the 7 installation disc.   Then, when you install Windows 7 on an actual machine, instead of in a virtual machine, it'll install Windows 7, fully updated.

    In Windows 8.1, I can use the OEM disc and it successfully pulls the product key from the BIOS, however, when I use a custom install.esd file (one that I captured myself), now, for some reason, the product key is no longer accepted.   Someone suggested that maybe some how, the image I was created made Windows Setup think I was using a retail disk instead of an OEM disc.    If I use the normal install.esd file, everything's good.   When I use an updated install.esd file, product key is rejected.

    It wouldn't make any sense at all that manufacturers would be in charge of provided fully updated Windows 8.1 installation media.   If anything, they'd probably provide what's called a Recovery disc.   It'd include more than 8.   It'd include the software that it came with.   If I were to use one of these recovery discs, I would still need to install ALL of the Windows Updates.   It wouldn't help me one bit, my problem would still exist.

    The problem isn't installing a copy of Windows 8.1 OEM edition on a machine and getting it to activate.  The problem is installing a FULLY updated copy of Windows 8.1 OEM edition and getting it to update.   Do you see my problem?

    There are technet articles that describe how to accomplish what I want to accomplish.   They're more or less created for people in a corporate environment I believe because they talk about domain controllers, etc.   Although I do have a domain controller setup, I felt that I could create these reference images the way I created them with Windows 7.

    Here's one such article:

    https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn744290(v=ws.11).aspx


    I think I'm just going to have to bite the dust here and do it the way that's discussed in the article there.   It's a bit more work.   I was thinking there was an easier way, but I guess not.   Thanks though for the help.


    Spork Schivago

    Saturday, April 30, 2016 1:31 AM
  • Ok we should compare the licensing info for the 2 systems.
    1. The install that does read the product key
    2. The install that doesn't accept the product key

    You can run this command and paste in the report.txt from each to this thread:
    Licensingdiag.exe -report %userprofile%\desktop\report.txt -log %userprofile%\desktop\repfiles.cab

    It needs to be run elevated from cmd.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2016 4:03 PM
  • Ok we should compare the licensing info for the 2 systems.
    1. The install that does read the product key
    2. The install that doesn't accept the product key

    You can run this command and paste in the report.txt from each to this thread:
    Licensingdiag.exe -report %userprofile%\desktop\report.txt -log %userprofile%\desktop\repfiles.cab

    It needs to be run elevated from cmd.

    Thank you but that won't help.   They're the exact same system.   I asked in the wrong forum.   I should have been asking in the MDT 2013 forum.   The problem is how I captured the image for deployment.   Dism and sysprep isn't used anymore for 8.1, MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit) is.

    So, I am going to install Windows 2012 Server R2 (data center) and play around the "proper" way.

    Just so you know what I was doing, I took a DVD image and could install just fine in a virtual machine or on the customer's machine, fully activated.   I installed it in a virtual machine, when it asked for username, I hit CTRL-ALT-F3 to by-pass that and skip the OOBE part of setup.   I ran a powershell script to run the Windows Updates because the Windows Updates won't run without an admin account (no accounts existed in Audit Mode).   Once they finished, I booted into WinPE, captured the image with Dism or Imagex (I can't remember now).   I made a bootable thumb drive.   Using the original install.esd, product key was successfully pulled from the BIOS an accepted.   But with my captured image, product key was rejected.   Everyone on the MDT forum says the proper way is to use MDT with a Windows Server.   I have a copy of Windows Server 2008 I never installed but decided to just go for the 2012 R2 instead.   All the Microsoft tech articles on how to deploy Windows 8.1 images seem to involve Windows Server 2012 R2 anyway, so it's probably best to just use that.   People said I could use the 2008, but I figured one less thing to rule out.

    I do appreciate all the help you guys provided.   I just thought for some reason the    Windows 8.1 Installation, Setup, and Deployment was about all forums of deployment.   I didn't realize there was a special forum just for MDT.   Thanks though!

    Spork Schivago

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016 6:29 AM
  • The problem is how I captured the image for deployment.   Dism and sysprep isn't used anymore for 8.1, MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit) is.

    I don't think that is the case, but if you found another way to do it, that is fine. FWIW, I use "Dism and sysprep" with Windows 8.1 with no problem, same as with Windows 10 or any other OS.
    Wednesday, May 4, 2016 4:23 PM
  • The problem is how I captured the image for deployment.   Dism and sysprep isn't used anymore for 8.1, MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit) is.

    I don't think that is the case, but if you found another way to do it, that is fine. FWIW, I use "Dism and sysprep" with Windows 8.1 with no problem, same as with Windows 10 or any other OS.
    How are you doing it?  If I can do it without using the Windows Server, that'd be great.   I mean, everyone says the way I was doing it was the hard way, the long way, the wrong way.   It worked with 7, but now with 8.1, it doesn't seem to.

    You install 8.1, and when it asks for the username, do you type one and finish installing?    Or do you boot into audit mode using CTRL-ALT-F3 to by-pass the OOBE and not create a username / password?

    I now don't have an 8 machine to play with right now.   I have a bunch of work I'm behind on that I'm trying to get caught up with, so it's going to take a bit of time before I can play with this again, but I'm very interested in learning how you're updating those 8.1 images and capturing them.

    Spork Schivago

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016 8:20 PM
  • Install Windows 8.1 to physical using answer file with reseal/audit, single partition, default key, locale, etc. Then before any steps, do sysprep /audit /generalize /shutdown, then boot system to WinPE and capture image with DISM. Then I mount the image with DISM and add drivers and update packages. Then redeploy image to hardware, install software as need. Still in Audit Mode, verify all software and hardware is installed, and if so then sysprep /oobe /shutdown.

    Images with enterprise or Embedded OS have an xml with the activation key that is copied into the image on deployment.

    Thursday, May 5, 2016 6:59 PM
  • Thanks!   So you do the updates off-line?   Perhaps my problem was installing the updates in Audit mode, instead of after capturing the image.   When you do the updates, do you just use Dism or do you use a program to download them and slipstream them into the image?   Thank you.

    Spork Schivago

    Thursday, May 5, 2016 9:59 PM
  • The way we do it, we need to document which exact updates we put into a generic image. Its an ISO thing. So we can't use one of those bulk-downloader tools. The process works like this:

    - Deploy Windows 8.1 image. Sysprep /oobe /reboot
    - create local account, set Windows Update to disabled, the check for updates.
    - get a list of all updates that show up. Then download each (if possible) from the Update Catalog.
    - Mount the image and then add the updates with DISM. Unmount /commit
    - Redeploy the image, repeat above steps to verify if updates go in, and if new ones need to be added.

    After verify the list the OS wants, then which ones can be found on the Update Catalog (not every one will be there), which ones are .msu files (you can't add .exe updates like .Net Framework Security Updates), which ones DISM rejects or doesn't put a progress bar, which ones show up as being installed in the updated image. All that stuff, then we put into the control document.

    Friday, May 6, 2016 8:10 PM
  • Thank you.   I had tried that before but could never find away to get the .NET framework installed.   That's how I learned how to do the Audit Mode / Sysprep thing.   Last time I checked with Windows 7, there were a lot of updates that depended on that .NET Framework.   I used to do it a similar way.

    I'd install 7, update a machine and then use a script to download the updates from the updated machine directly.   Then I'd slipstream them into the image using Dism.   It worked good at first, but over time,  more and more updates depended on .NET Framework 4 or whatever version it was.   It became cumbersome so I looked into other ways and learned about the audit mode and sysprep.   I guess now it's time to try something new and use the Server 2012 R2.   I guess it's good to learn new stuff and find different ways to do things.   Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

    Spork Schivago

    Saturday, May 7, 2016 12:35 AM