Amazon Banner

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Now Available: Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 10

Throughout the latter portion of the Windows Insider program testing of Windows 10, and continuing on since the release of Windows 10 last month, one question has been very popular: Where is the Remote Server Administration Tools package for Windows 10?

Finally, the wait is over:
Download the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 10

Monday, August 17, 2015

No KMS Key in the VLSC for Windows 10 for OPEN License

With the release of Windows 10, many IT workers are beginning to look into it and perhaps test it for use in their organizations.  When the time comes to set up KMS activation of the new OS however, those IT staff using Microsoft's OPEN Licensing may find that something is missing...

When I logged in to the Volume License Service Center recently to look up the KMS activation key for Windows 10 Enterprise, I was surprised to find that only Multiple Activation Keys (MAK) were listed.  Searching online, I came across this blog post from someone who ended up calling Volume Licensing support to get his KMS key, but with no explaination as to why.  After digging around a bit, I happened to come across an entry in the VLSC FAQ which explains the missing key.  

If you can't read that, it says:
I am an Open Customer and do not see my KMS (Key Management Service) key displayed on VLSC. How can I get it? 
KMS keys are no longer pre-assigned to Open agreements as use of MAK (Multiple Activation Key) keys is the preferred method for activation. 
If you are an Open Customer and need a KMS key, please request one by either calling the PA Call Center or emailing KMSADD with your business need.
For whatever reason, Microsoft is no longer generating KMS keys automatically for customers using Open licensing.  MAK keys are now considered "the preferred method for activation" and will be the only keys listed in VLSC for OPEN customers by default.  OPEN customers can still receive a KMS key, but must call or email the VL support center to have a key generated.

If you are an OPEN license customer in need of a KMS key, just send an email to to request the a key and they should be able to generate one and add it to your account.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Convert Windows 10 Pro ISO to Enterprise

For recent builds of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, when Microsoft has released ISO images of a build they have elected not to release ISO's of Enterprise Edition.  The most recent Enterprise edition ISO available is for build 10074.  While it is possible to download and install that build, then upgrade to the more recent builds using windows update, having install media for the current version would make things much easier.

The good news is, all of the bits for Enterprise edition are included in the ISO of Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview, and with a few simple commands it's possible to change from Pro to Enterprise edition.

To get started, download the latest Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview ISO.  As of the time of this writing, the image currently available is build 10162.  Extract the contents of the iso into a temporary directory.  In my example, I use D:\10162\.

From a command prompt, Create an empty directory to mount the wim file in, and mount the image:

Check the current edition and available targets that the mounted image can be upgraded to:

As shown in the output above, my image is currently Professional edition, and can be upgraded to either Enterprise or Education editions.  I'll upgrade to Enterprise using the /set-edition parameter of dism, then run dism again with the /get-currentedition parameter to confirm the change was successful:

Since the Enterprise edition requires a different product key than the Professional edition, the product key used in the image must also be updated:

Lastly, unmount the wim image, committing the changes that were made:

D:\10162 now contains the install files for Enterprise edition.  Run setup from there, or copy the files to bootable media to install a clean version of the latest Windows 10 Enterprise Technical Preview.

For reference, the commands used in the screenshots above are listed in order below:
md d:\mount
dism /mount-wim /wimfile:d:\10162\sources\install.wim /mountdir:D:\mount /index:1
dism /image:d:\mount /get-currentedition
dism /image:d:\mount /get-targeteditions
dism /image:d:\mount /set-edition:Enterprise
dism /image:d:\mount /get-currentedition
dism /image:d:\mount /set-productkey:CKFK9-QNGF2-D34FM-99QX2-8XC4K
dism /unmount-wim /mountdir:d:\mount /commit

I hope this information is helpful.  While it was written and tested with Windows 10 Technical preview, it should also work with Windows 8, 8.1, Server 2012 and 2012R2 (with minor changes), and most likely with the RTM version of Windows 10 when it is released.  More information about the DISM parameters used can be found on technet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

ISP DNS Hijacking breaks DirectAccess connectivity

Edit: Thanks to Richard Hicks for commenting on this post. It seems that my understanding of exactly why things broke the way they did may have been flawed. I leave the post here for reference however, since it does describe the symptoms and the solution that worked in this particular situation. Understand however that the explanation of why the solution worked may not be correct. We recently began piloting Microsoft's DirectAccess (DA) for use connecting remote/mobile computers to our internal network over the internet.  Yesterday I received a call from a user who had been using DirectAccess for several weeks without issue, but suddenly was not able to access internal resources.  I'm documenting the issue here in hopes that it will help others experiencing similar issues with DirectAccess connections.

The first thing I tried was to remote control the computer using SCCM.  When this connected successfully, I knew that the DA connection had at least established the tunnel and was working, even if it reported that it wasn't.  After a bit of testing to identify what was working and what wasn't, I determined that when the computer tried to connect to the network location server it was able to resolve the host name to an IP address, but couldn't verify the identity of the server at the IP address given.

The network location server is used by DA  to determine whether the computer is connected to the internal network, and thus whether DA needs to create a tunnel for corporate connectivity.  DA attempts to establish an SSL connection to a web server on a host that can only be accessed internally.  If the computer is on the internal network, the connection is successful and DA verifies the remote server's identity based on the SSL certificate.  If the computer is connected to the public internet, the internal host name should not be resolved by DNS, and DA will then attempt to establish a secure tunnel to the internal network.  An entry in the client's Name Resolution Policy Table (NRPT) prevents the client from connecting to that internal host over an established DA connection.

When the user's computer tried to resolve the internal host name of the NLS, instead of responding with "Non-existent domain" as it should, the ISP's DNS server returned an IP address of  The client then tried unsuccessfully to open an SSL connection to the server at that address to verify that it was on the internal network and did not need to establish a DA tunnel. At this point, even though DA was able to successfully open a connection to the internal network, it showed on the client side that corporate connectivity was not working, and the user was not able to connect to some internal resources.

This user was working from home, using an internet connection from their cable company, Mediacom.  Like many big ISP's these days, Mediacom uses a form of deep packet inspection to return search results instead of a proper error when the address a user entered doesn't point to a valid web page.  They also configure their DNS servers to respond with the IP of their "Search Guide" servers so they can provide search results even when the user enters key words or other data that isn't a valid address at all.  By hijacking their users requests in this way, they can provide search results from their service instead of from the user's preferred search engine (or instead of returning a message that the page cannot be found.)  They present this as a feature, a service to their users, but of course in reality it is designed to take a cut of money that google and others make selling ads in search results, by redirecting users to Mediacom's search results and ads instead.

To resolve this issue, the user had to get to one of the Mediacom search results pages.  From a new browser window, I had the user attempt to browse to a web address that I knew didn't exist.  As expected, this returned a Mediacom branded page listing search results similar to the address she entered.  At the top right corner of this page was a Settings link, which opened a Preferences dialog with a single option inside labeled Search Guide Settings.

After turning off the Search Guide and saving changes, the user tried again to browse to a non-existant site and received a proper error message.  Next, we tried to resolve the name of the internal NLS server and received the "Non-existant domain" response that was expected, instead of the IP of Mediacom's search server.  By the time we were done testing these, the Direct Access Connectivity Assistant had already updated to show that corporate connectivity was working.  The user's mail client was connected successfully to the server, and the intranet page which initially indicated a problem when it wouldn't display was now loading successfully.

Now the user is fully connected again and enjoying the simplicity of using DA.  The only question that remains is why this DNS hijacking didn't affect this user previously, as Mediacom has been known for several years now to hijack DNS requests for non-existant domains and return the address of their search servers instead.

TL;DR:  If an ISP hijacks DNS requests for non-existant domains, this can cause problems for DirectAccess connections when attempting to determine the client's network location.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Windows Update doesn't work in Windows 10 Technical Preview build 10041 on a corporate network

After updating to the recently released build #10041 of the Windows 10 Techincal Preview, I found that Windows Update wasn't working for me.  The old style Windows Update was no longer available from the Control Panel.  The new Windows Update in the modern "Settings" app showed that I had no updates available, and last checked for updates on 2/2/2015.  If I clicked the Check Updates button, nothing seemed to happen, or occasionally the "last checked" date would flicker briefly, but not change.

This PC is a member of a domain, with an active System Center Configuration Manager 2012R2 server.  As such, it would normally get it's updates from the SCCM server (which in turn pulls them through the associated WSUS server.)  However, SCCM doesn't offer updates for the Technical Preview, so that isn't an option when running a preview build of Windows 10.

I found that to get Windows Update working, I had to change the policy setting which points my workstation to the configmgr server for updates.  The easiest way to do this in a one-off situation like this is to edit the local policy.

Open the start menu, and type "gpedit.msc" and press enter.  This should launch the Local Group Policy Editor.  In the left pane, expand "Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components" and select the "Windows Update" folder.  In the right pane, look for any settings with a State other than "Not configured".  The important one here is "Specify intranet Microsoft update service location".  If this setting is enabled, Windows will check the specified server for updates, instead of Microsoft's internet based update servers.  Double click on this setting, and change it to Disabled.  (This setting should automatically revert back to the previous setting after a period of time, but you may want to make a note of it before you make the change, just to be safe.)

After disabling this setting, apply the changes and click ok.  Wait a moment or two, then open the modern "Settings" app again.  Select "Update & Recovery", and click the "Check for Updates" button.  The "last checked" info should disappear, and be replaced with a message that it is checking for updates.  After a few minutes, some updates should be available.  (I believe to date there have been 4 windows updates released for build 10041.  In my case, I also had a few driver updates available which had been released in the past week or so.)

This change will also allow the computer to check for new builds of the Windows 10 Technical preview, including the just released build 10049.