Windows 10 is gaining some serious traction in corporate environments as Windows 7 increasingly falls to the wayside with respect to both patching and application support (Dare I mention Windows 8?)
Windows 8 (Ooops – mentioned it) may have a somewhat jaded reputation due to its user interface, however, it did add several features that have evolved in Windows 10 that admins may miss if their business didn’t consider Windows 8 as an option.
This article covers some of the steps you’ll need to go through to get to a nice and slim Windows 10 Pro image, suitable for use primarily in a VDI estate. It won’t go into every detail, but it will give you a good starting point, with a few links thrown in for reference.
The Basic Build
There’s nothing particularly odd in building Windows 10 itself, but it’s worth hitting Shift-F10 once the installer starts and using DiskPart to create a single OS partition. We won’t be using BitLocker in a VM, so we don’t need the 100MB boot partition.
When you get to the Out of Box Experience (asking you all the useful questions once the base OS is installed), you can hit Ctrl-Shift-F3 to enter Sysprep Audit Mode.
Figure 1 – Random Windows 10 OOB screenshot.
This is useful as you can install all your updates and add additional software into the build. This is also a good point to add in VMware Tools and your chosen VDI solutions software component (such as VMware Horizon Agent). You can reboot to your heart’s content (just don’t touch Sysprep until you’re happy). I wouldn’t go too overboard optimising the image at this point, but this is a good way of getting to a solid, patched basic OS. When you’re finished, from the Sysprep Tool, select ‘Out of Box Experience’, the ‘Generalise’ tick box and shutdown. This is a good place to turn the image into a vSphere Template. If you want to add extra patches, simply boot it up, hit Ctrl-Shift-F3 and update. Not bad at all.
After build 1607, it will ask if the machine is owned by a business or school and whether it is destined to join a domain. Selecting Yes to these will steer you clear of the MS Live account sign up and set up just a local account.
Ripping out AppX
Windows 8 and 10 bring a new type of application package to the table – the Universal Windows Platform including apps such as People and Calendar and so are distributed as AppX packages.
It’s very telling that Windows 10 Pro is meant to be a catch-all release as there are rather a lot of apps that aren’t really useful in a corporate build. We need to get rid of some (if not all) of them. First hint – leave the OS logged on for a while to ensure that anything Microsoft wish to impose on the desktop is downloaded (take note this can take quite a while)
So, If you want to see a list of the AppX packages PowerShell, run as an admin, can help you out here. Run Get-AppxPackage | Select Name, PackageFullName.
Figure 2 – A list of AppX Packages
Some of these are more under the hood than others, but the main culprits such as Facebook stand out. Use **Get-AppxPackage -allusers (PackageFullName) | Remove-AppxPackage **to uninstall them across all users who drop onto the machine.
Be careful pulling out AppConnector and the Windows Store App as these have implications elsewhere; the former is used to connect to applications to MS cloud services while the latter maintains AppX packages under the hood.
Some items (such as Retail Features, Contact Support and MS Quick Assist) need to be removed from the ‘Manage Optional Features GUI’.
Setting Language Preferences
This is as confusing as ever, so I tend to stick to Control Panel to sort this out. Download whatever language pack you want to use and get the display, input and location settings for the logged in profile sorted. After that, set them as defaults for the Windows Logon screen and New Users as needed.
Figure 3 – Language settings
Use the VMware OS Optimization Fling
Regardless of VDI solution, the Optimization Fling is worth a go as it takes a great deal of work out of streamlining a build. You can pick and choose what settings you want to optimise (notably, the GUI attributes can be stripped back or left pretty – it’s up to you). You can get it from here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-os-optimization-tool .
At this point, you’ve got a pretty lean Windows 10 build ready to roll.
Of course, this being just the image, there are other factors to consider. Don’t forget to look at how you’re going to manage user profiles. Group Policy Folder redirection is part of the solution, but managing the profile itself needs something more flexible. Roaming Profiles are obese and unreliable, so look at a proper management solution such as VMware User Environment Manager, or Microsoft User Environment Virtualization.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how Xtravirt can assist with deploying a VDI solution, please contact us and we’d be happy to use our wealth of knowledge and experience to assist you.