Category Archives: Server Essentials, SBS

Windows Server 2012 Essentials released to manufacturing

As the title says, the new version of Windows Server for small businesses was released to manufacturing today, which means that volume licensing customers will be able to download and use this version in the coming days. We will probably aslo see servers bundled with this OS by Christmas this year.

The announcement was made here –

I have blogged some of the higlights earlier, based on the beta release

Some minor changes have happened since, and will be address in some upcoming blog posts.

Bypass domain join during client deployment in a Windows Server 2012 Essentials network

An interesting blog was published titled, “How to skip domain joining during client deployment in a Windows Server 2012 Essentials network” –

To do this, you need to edit a registry key on the client computer.

  1. On your client computer, open an elevated command prompt.
  2. Type the following:
    reg add “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\ClientDeployment” /v SkipDomainJoin /t REG_DWORD /d 1

There may be situations where you wish to connect a PC to the Windows Server 2012 Essentials server, but leave the PC off the domain. It may be that this is a personal PC or laptop, but the user requires the Client Backup functionality without adding the laptop to the corporate domain. Another possibility may be the existence of a larger +25 CAL domain, where the Essentials server is to be a client backup server only. At this moment, Windows Storage Server 2008R2 Essentials can be used for this purpose. However, no Windows Server 2012 edition of this server has been announced.

Using DISKPART to create a Bootable USB of Windows 8

Windows 8 was released today on MSDN and Technet. It will soon be released publically. With that comes the many GBs of downloads for the ISOs. Many may have newer Ultrabooks, which do not feature DVD drives anymore. Rather than burning the ISO to a DVD disc, why not put it on a bootable USB stick? There are many ways to do this, and I have found that the best way to do this is to use a command tool called DISKPART. The commands are fairly easy.

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt and type DISKPART. You will open up the Diskpart tool, as evidenced by the DISKPART> prompt.
  2. DISKPART>LIST DISK <- This will give you a listing of the disks on your system. It is very important to identify the USB disk, as you really do not want to format your system drive.
  3. DISKPART>SELECT DISK n <- this will make select the USB disk n, as identified in step 2
  4. DISKPART>CLEAN <- This effectively does a quick format/wipe of the USB disk
  5. DISKPART>CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY <- This will create a primary partition on the disk
  6. DISKPART>SELECT PARTITION 1 <- Since there is only one partition, this will select it.
  7. DISKPART>ACTIVE <- This makes the partition active
  8. DISKPART>FORMAT FS=FAT32 <- This formats the disk and sets it up as a FAT32 formatted drive. This will take a while to complete
  9. DISKPART>ASSIGN <- This assigns the next drive letter to the drive
  10. DISKPART>EXIT <- To exit the utility

Once the USB drive has been prepared, you can now use a utility like 7-Zip to extract the ISO directly to the drive.

BTW. This process will also work when creating bootable USB disks of other Windows ISOs – Windows Server 2012, Windows Small Business Server 2011, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7, and even Vista.



Growing beyond the 25 user limit in Server 2012 Essentials

Remember the word “Transmog“? Microsoft has release an official statement on how the process will work and the bits that are required for this to happen. The official title given to this transmogrification process is called “In-Place Transition from Windows Server 2012 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 Standard.”

In a nutshell:

  • Licensing. You need to purchase a copy of Server 2012 Standard AND the appropriate number of Client Access Licenses (CALs).
  • **After the process. there is NO 25 user limit NOR a 75 user limit.
  • There is a “supported” user and account limit of 75, which means that while the bits should work, Microsoft will not provide support for it if you exceed this limit.
  • You can turn off the Essentials bits, but it is a one-way ticket. You cannot turn the features back on.

The article can be read here –

**NOTE: Windows Server 2012 Essentials has a hard limit of of 25 users. After the in-place transition process, this limit is removed, because the server is transitioned to Windows Server 2012 Standard.

Error: Cannot connect the computer to the server because either another software installation is in progress, or, the computer has a restart pending.

I have been seeing quite a number of systems coming up with this error message when attempting to install the Client Connector Software for SBS 2011 Essentials.

“Error: Cannot connect the computer to the server because either another software installation is in progress, or, the computer has a restart pending. Either complete the installation process, or, restart the computer and try to connect again.”

The first thing to do is obvious – Reboot the computer. But then again, there would not be anything to blog if it were that easy. Obviously, that has been attempted and the error remains. Apparently, this is often caused by programs not cleaning up their installation settings.

The fix is fairly simple, if you can remember where the registry setting is.

Open up Regedit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager. Rename the key named PendingFileRenameOperation to something else.

That should resolve the issue.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials – First Looks Part 2

In the previous post, we had a look at the start up screens for Windows Server 2012 Essentials. In this post, we’ll have a cursory view of the new Dashboard. It is similar to SBS 2011 Essentials, with some new additions and features.

The main dashboard screen shows a much improved Home screen with clear steps and links to various functions. The wizards actually work and bring up various wizard applets to configure the various functions.
 Two email options are available. These wizards will enable an administrator configure connectivity to Office 365 in the cloud, or to a local Exchange Server. The release documentation also points to the possibility of integrating the server to a Hosted Exchange service, although this is not yet available in the beta.
 A new service is also being trialled. Microsoft Online Backup Service ( is a cloud based storage service to provide file and folder backups from the server to Windows Azure Online Backup.
 The Quick Status screen provides a quick overview of the server configuration.
 The Help screen provides an online search function as well as links to the relevant resources.
 The Users tab has not changed much and is very similar to SBS 2011 Essentials. Administrators are now grouped separately to standard users.
 Computers and Backup in SBS 2011 Essentials is now called the Devices tab. A link to the Microsoft Online Backup Service is available here, as well as a link to the Best Practice Analyzer. It is also worth noting that Group Policy implementation is now built in to the server dashboard.
 Server Folders and Hard Drives in SBS 2011 Essentials has now been shortened to become the Storage tab. The Server Folders section provides options for managing shares on the server. The major improvement on the Hard Drives section pertains to the new Management of Storage Spaces (
 The Applications tab lists the various Add-ins which may be installed. A section called Microsoft Pinpoint provides access to the market place for Windows Server 2012 Essentials and helps administrators find useful Add-ins for the server.
 In the server Settings section, general server configurations can be changed.
 The Media settings section allows administrators to configure the server as a Media server, which was a popular feature of Windows Home Server.
 The Anywhere Access section allows administrators to configure Remote Web Access functionality and set up a personalized Microsoft domain name for external access to the server.
 Finally, the Alert Viewer provides a list of informational messages, Warnings, and Critical notifications regarding the server and connected devices.

The beta is now available on MSDN, and is also be available as a public download here –


Windows Server 2012 Essentials – First Looks Part 1

Here is a brief look at the new Windows Server 2012 Essentials Release Candidate. Note that while this is a Release Candidate version, some items may change before the final release. The server is running as a virtual machine in Windows Server 2012 RC on an ASUS laptop.

The boot up proess is similar to Windows Server 2012, as it is based on the same underlying operating system.

The login prompts are also similar to Windows Server 2012, and have the Metro interface.

After pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL
The initial Start experience is Metro with icons to common Server administrative tools. The Dashboad app is conspicously missing from this view, and hopefully it will be added in the final release.
Dropping down to the desktop reveals that missing Dashboard shortcut. Functionality is the same as with Windows Server 2012.
Opening the Dashboard reveals a new look Metro interface with similar functionality to Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.

We’ll have a look at the new Dashboard in the next post. Stay tuned.


Let’s learn a new word for Windows Server 2012 Essentials – Transmog

There is a word that will crop up more, now that Windows Server 2012 Essentials has been announced. This word is Transmog. What does it mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Transmogrify (verb) as “to change or alter greatly and often with grotesque or humorous effect.” The Oxford dictionary defines this word as “transform in a surprising or magical manner.”

This word may also crop up in various incorrectly spelt forms like Transmorg or Transmorgify.

The gist of this word when applied to Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the process of transitioning Server 2012 Essentials into Server 2012 Standard, and move past the 25 user limit. In a sense, this is the old Transition Pack for SBS 2003 ( revived. Using the Tranmog process, a customer will be able to perform an in place upgrade of their Server 2012 Essentials into Server 2012 Standard, thus bypassing the 25 user limitation. The majority of Server 2012 Essentials function like Remote Web Access and Client Backups will continue to operate and be fully supported up to 75 users and 75 devices. Mind you, the transmogrification process will allow more than 75 users and devices, but support for the Essentials components will not be available on larger numbers of clients and devices.

While this feature/process has been announced, there is no pricing announced. One would imagine that the cost would be roughly the same or more than the cost to move from Windows Server 2012 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 Standard with 25 CALs. For more information on how do perform this process, see this post –




What’s next after SBS?

The announcement of Microsoft’s new lineup of server products, omitting the Small Business Server name has created a lot of buzz in small business circles.

Microsoft’s stance is that they have consolidated the disparate existence of 4 product skus and have consolidated them into a single sku called Essentials. With this consolidation, they have also removed two major components that were “non standard” in terms of the way these products were installed in SBS when compared with their intended usage within larger organisations. The two products, Exchange and Sharepoint, were addressed by the provision of options to install on separate virtual servers, or to integrate with Cloud based hosted versions of these platforms. With the introduction of a process/feature called Transmorg, the 25 user limit within Windows Server 2012 Essentials can be unlocked while keeping the “SBS” bits like Remote Web Access and Client Backups (previously not available in SBS Standard). However, there are supported limits to how many clients can be backed up, which has been set at 75. Additionally, new features of Windows Server 2012 are readily available in Essentials, particularly Storage Spaces, File History and Application Compatibility.

This is the Microsoft line and message they want to convey to the community.

On the other hand, there are a LOT of partners who are unhappy with the decision to discontinue the SBS brand name. The main concern that many partners have is that Microsoft are pushing customers to the cloud and are cutting the middle man from the equation. Indeed, this has been a prominent theme in many discussions. Many others are disillusioned by the way in which Microsoft have made these decisions without much regard or consultation with the small business community at large. Indeed, other factors like the discontinuation of the Small Business Specialist Competency in favour of more expensive and technically challenging Small Business Silver and Gold Competencies plus the removal of Software Assurance on SBS products after August 2012 were seen as more “aggression” from Microsoft as the organisation does not care for the community.

However, in the end, all that matters is that Microsoft will continue to do business as they see fit in order to provide the optimum outcome for their shareholders. If they choose to do this without the support of their small business reseller community, then that is the strategic decision that they have made and will have to live (or die) by. The community, on the other hand, must recognise that the business environment is constantly changing and that one must adapt with the general business sentiment or risk being swept aside and be irrelevant if they are resistant to change.

One factor that appears to have been missed in the emotion of this frenzy is the need of the small business customer. What does the business owner want? What motivates them to reach into their pockets to shell out money for IT? Who do they trust to provide them with technology that will enhance their operations and profitability?

Will YOU be that trusted advisor?