Installing Windows 8 with an SSD


I recently purchased a new Windows 8 laptop and rebuilt it, copied all my stuff over, etc. It had a relatively small ~25 GB SSD drive and while it wasn’t slow to boot and login, it wasn’t that fast either. In my search for the “7 second” boot time, I came across a bunch of articles and suggestions and ended up rebuilding my laptop several times to finally get the extremely fast start time. After doing all that I found yet another tip to make it even faster, but decided it wasn’t worth yet another day to rebuilt it yet again.

First, let me give you the links I found, then I’ll give you an outline of the process I followed. How you do it will depend on the size of your SSD and how much pain you’re willing to go through.

The best guide for implementing/using an SSD with Windows 8:

Using symbolic links to move user profiles over to your main drive:

First off, I tried to cheat and do a Windows Easy Transfer to get my data and profile from my old machine to my new one. It didn’t end up working for me because WET sees your new SSD drive as the C:\ and won’t do the restore because it thinks you’re out of space. I ended up having to copy everything over and setting everything up manually. Just be aware!

So in my case I had a 25GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. I wanted the OS on the SSD (C:\) and everything else on the HDD (D:\). Because my SSD is relatively small I elected not to create a Rapid Start partition, but it’s the last piece that is supposed to make the OS super fast.

When you install the OS make sure you delete all the partitions on both disks and follow the 1st guide above fairly close. Here’s where I deviated:

  • I made a very small pagefile and moved it to the D:\
  • I elected not to keep my user profile on C:\ due to the space limitations. I also didn’t want to just move pictures/videos/etc to d:\, so I used symbolic links (more on that in a bit). Note that this has caused me a few issues, but nothing I haven’t been able to get around.
  • I left the UAC on. I’ve been burned by viruses before and keeping the UAC on is worth the annoyance for me

In addition to moving my profile using the second link I provided above (symbolic links), I also moved some other Windows directories like SoftwareDistribution and Temp. This clears up some non-essential files that can severely impact how much disk space you have. I went from having less than 2GB free on the SSD to about 9GB.

I found other suggestions for how to move user profiles to the other drive, including sysprep, but that gave me a ton of issues. I felt using the symbolic link was the cleanest way to go. Note that I also tried moving ProgramData over, but as others suggested it would it gave me a ton of problems with the Metro interface.

I tried changing the default program files location in the registry, because I was tired of changing it when I installed apps, but other things got flaky when I did that. IE10 stopped working completely. I don’t use IE normally, but I do like having the builtin browser working successfully, especially given how much MS ties into it.

That’s about it. My boot time went from about 1 minute before to maybe 5-7 seconds after. It wakes from sleep almost instantly. I haven’t particularly noticed that the shell itself is faster, but this is a new laptop that is much faster than my old one, so it’s hard to judge.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to speed up Windows 8? Any other good tips of items to move to the local disk? Let me know in the comments!

Quicktip: Windows 2012/8 KMS Activation

So you’ve got a Windows 2008 R2 domain and a KMS server that services licenses for all your desktops and servers. You’ve also got people itching at the bit to be able to install Windows 8 on their desktops or Server 2012 on their servers. And they also want to be activated. What’s an admin to do?

First off, your KMS server needs to be Windows 2008 R2 SP1.

Then you need to go register, download and install this hotfix on your KMS server:

That hotfix will require a reboot of course.

After the reboot, go to a command prompt and type: slmgr.vbs /ipk KEY <== Where KEY is your 2012 KMS key from the VLMS site

Once it tells you that the key install was successful type slmbr.vbs /ato to re-activate your server against your new KMS. It should show successful as well.

After that you can type slmgr.vbs /dlv to get a look at your KMS server.

Your description should now show VOLUME_KMS_2012_C channel. And you’re done!

And the client keys are here, in case you need them:

New Microsoft Certification Tracks

So I, like most of us, got an email from Microsoft in the last week or so telling me that I’d attained a new certification by doing absolutely nothing. I’ve been an MCSE since 1998 on Windows NT, then Windows 2000, then Windows 2003. When they came out with the MCITP certification back in 2009/2010, I was a little annoyed since all of the products and technologies I like to show expertise on now each required their own certification. So I got the MCITP on EA, SQL and Exchange. It was a lot of tests and some extra tests I wouldn’t have normally taken, except I wanted the cert.

But back to my original point: I got an email that I’ve attained the new cert “Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate” on Windows 2008. Being always suspicious of “free” stuff I immediately put 2 and 2 together and saw that my new cert was MCSA, which has always been the lesser of Microsoft certs. I’d seen all the articles lately saying that they were completely changing the program again for Windows 8 (now 2012) so I assumed that when the new software got released that I’d have to change over. Who knew that you needed to re-up before the new one even came out??

Here’s a good article on the changes:

So now to get your MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) you have to decide which track you want (Cloud, SQL, etc.) and take yet another couple of exams. (And then of course take more tests when Windows 2012 comes out). Who’s ready to take more tests? Annoying!

Regardless of my complaints, here I am studying up on Systems Center, which seems like a heck of a lot of bloated software (my test environment has 8 servers, with 7 different pieces of software running) to do some very cool stuff. But who wants to go back to being an MCSA??


Windows 8 & Multi-Tenancy AD

So apparently all the new hyped-up multi-tenant features of Windows 8 that Microsoft and all the blogs have been slathering over is all related to Hyper-V and how you can use it to do multi-tenancy (MT). Their version of MT is literally only talking about how you can have multiple VM’s running in Hyper-V and how they can be completely separated on the same box (good article here ). Apparently it does this by vlan tagging – which I didn’t realize wasn’t already an option in Hyper-V. We’ve been doing this in ESX for years the exact same way.

What this means is that AD is still normal Windows Active Directory. Sure there are some nice, new, bells and whistles, and a whole new, clunky interface, but underneath it’s still the same AD it always was. This makes me sad in this day of “Cloud” and everyone having to have their own public and private cloud, the buzz words like IaaS, SaaS, etc. Still no multi-tenant AD. And for most companies and customers out there who don’t want to build a whole new AD to support a half dozen servers, we’re still back to the old ways of setting custom AD permissions on OU’s and objects. Mark me sad.

To sum up: multi-tenancy in Win 8 is just Hyper-V with vlan-tagging. Stuff we’ve been able to do for years, anyway.

Back to the drawing board for me!

Windows Server “8” Metro Interface

Can I say how much I absolutely hate the Windows Server 8 Metro interface? Who decided we wanted to manage a server like it was an iPad? In my testing it’s made things incredibly difficult to try and find where the heck everything is at. Have we truly come to a point where we want admins who just know who to swipe things on the screen?

So the Start button is completely gone. Okay, not that big of a deal, right? We’re admins from the Windows 3.1 days, we don’t need no stinking Start button. But, wait… how the heck do you open anything?

After Googling the problem myself the best answer I came up with was “jam the mouse point all the way to the bottom left of the screen”. That really doesn’t work when you’re using a remote app to get to the console, but let’s play along. What I found was that if you move the mouse literally to the bottom left as far down as you can go, you finally get this little menu to pop up.

Don’t let that little picture fool you, it’s incredibly small. And if you try to move the mouse so you can  hover over it and click, it disappears. So as soon as it comes up you just have to click on it.

What it gives you after that is this wonderful Metro screen:

This screen lets you see the roles/features you have installed, IE, and finally(!) the Control Panel or My Computer. I’ve yet to find the command line on the interface, but they do have Powershell pinned to the taskbar and you can do most everything through there if you need to.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far… stay tuned!

Windows Server “8” Preview

If you’ve read my previous post below – and you ARE following me religiously, right? – then you know that I really don’t like to read the manual (RTFM!). That being said, I recently downloaded the Windows Server “8” beta and tried to throw it up on my ESXi 5.0 servers. And they blue-screened.

Thankfully it had a frowny-face, so at least I felt better about it.

After some googling/digging I discovered that Win Server 8 isn’t really supported on ESX yet. Some people report success, some don’t. Supposedly if you update to 5.0 Patch 2 it might work. Or so the articles say.

Unfortunately for me, I can’t really take downtime right now to really test it. So on to another solution…

VMWare Workstation 8. Supports it like a charm. The key is to NOT specify OS customization during the creation of the VM. Just tell it you’ll install the OS later and then mount the ISO and do your thing.

Of course then you’ve got the problem of sharing resources on your machine with your VM, so hopefully you have a beefy machine (unlike me). I allocated 2 CPU’s and 1 GB of RAM to the VM. It’s a little clunky, but it’s passable.

Stay tuned as I start testing Win 8. I have a few items of interest I’m looking at, but will also give my general comments as I run along things. I’m mainly looking at the new multi-tenancy features of AD, CIFS2 file sharing, and just general interface changes. I’ve never been a fan of Hyper-V, and am not sure I can run it within a VM, but I might look at that, too, since everyone says it’ll do away with Citrix and I happen to love all things Citrix.