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Customize WHS with the Supplied OPK Disc

I wanted to bring to your attention, a tutorial that was written by runtime360 back in February on how to create a custom image of Windows Home Server using the supplied OPK disc. Doing so enables you to add additional drivers to your install DVD as well as adding your own customizations. Anyway here’s the post:

I don’t know that this information is useful to your average Windows Home Server end-user, but if you’re building a system yourself you could consider going down the OPK route to save yourself some bother in the future should you ever need to restore the system partition image.

HOWTO: Create a custom image of Windows Home Server using the OEM Preinstallation Kit CD

1) Install Windows Home Server

Important: Only connect one hard drive to your server throughout the process of creating the image.  You can add additional drives much later on, after you have booted into the image ‘for the first time’ and completed the provisioning process.

Install WHS on the machine you are targetting; simply install in the usual manner following on-screen prompts.

Towards the end of the installation you will eventually reach a blue full-screen Welcome page (known as the OOBE, or out-of-box-experience), do not continue any further!

According to the OPK documentation you should press CTRL+ALT+DELETE and use the Task Manager to ‘kill’ the ‘Windows Home Server Setup’ application.  Do this every single time you boot into Windows from here on until you have completed the SYSPREP stage discussed later

2) Install additional drivers

Install any additional drivers you may need.  I would strongly recommend that you place a copy of any drivers you install in a folder, e.g. ‘C:\Drivers’.  It is not a necessary step but should you ever run into problems you’ll always be able to refer to them without any hassle.

3) Customize Home Server Console

At this point, you are allowed limited access to the console. You may create additional network shares and pre-populate them with content.  You cannot enable folder duplication.  You can install add-ins, etc.  I would probably avoid going as far as to pre-create users but you can certainly enable the Guest account.

4) Install additional services, applications and scheduled tasks

Again this bit is very much up to you.  Don’t forget to create/add any exceptions you need to Windows Firewall (!)

Note: While making tweaks I would avoid activating your copy of WHS at this point, for the simple reason that if you later restore your image onto a different hard-drive you will most likely need to re-activate WHS.

5) WHS SYSPREP

This is the point of no return, once you start this process it is too late to make additional changes to the image and you will have to start from scratch.

Copy the SYSPREP folder from the OPK CD to C:\SYSPREP and start up a command prompt:

CD C:\SYSPREP

Place the WHS DVD in the DVDROM drive ( X: ) and type:

WHSSYSPREP.CMD X:\SVR_2003

Once SYSPREP has finished ‘compiling’ it will prompt you to continue; it will strip the security ID, network specific config, etc. from your machine and shutdown when it is complete.

6) Make a backup of your system partition

Use a bootable USBKEY or CDROM to make a backup of your system partition; I used Acronis, but Ghost, DriveImage XML or any other WindowsPE-based software should work just fine too.  You’ll notice that your D: partition doesn’t exist, don’t worry.  Any content you pre-populated your network shares with has been ‘baked’ into the system partition, when you’ve completed provisioning your Windows Home Server that content will move to the correct place.

7) Booting into Windows Home Server ‘for the first time’

If you’re recovering from a previous installation now would be a good time to reconnect all your hard drives. However, if you want to perform a new installation, wait until you’ve completed provisioning the server before adding the hard drives.

On powering up the system, Windows Home Server will go through post-setup configuration and will reboot a couple of times.  Once completed you should be able to login to the Desktop.  It’s worth checking that all your devices have been detected correctly; if not you can help WHS along by directing it to the C:\Drivers folder you created earlier.

8) Provisioning Windows Home Server

Important: Before you can begin using your Windows Home Server, you must complete this final step.

Using the appropriate CD, install the Windows Home Server Connector software on a 32-bit XP or Vista machine.  The software will search for your new home server and prompt you for additional details to complete the setup of your Windows Home Server.

That’s it – hopefully you’ve got this far without any errors and you now have Windows Home Server configured to your taste.  If you’re happy with the build then all that is left to do is activate your copy of Windows Home Server.

Thanks for your contribution to the community runtime360.

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  1. Jim Burlis says:

    Yeah, but how do you do this on a headless machine? I’ve got an Intel SS4200-E and I own the WHS OEM system builder pack. Unfortunately I am up and running for weeks, and way past this step, but would like to understand how one might do this on a machine like mine.

    Thank you!

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