Inventorying your network applications and drivers
[Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Greg Shields’s new book, Automating Windows 7 Installation for Desktop and VDI Environments, from Realtime Publishers; reprinted with permission. You can download a free copy of the entire book at nexus.realtimepublishers.com/awidv.php?ref=winitpro.]
Deploying Windows 7 is an involved process. To ensure a smooth migration, you should first inventory your network applications and drivers. This process begins with installation of the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit. With it, I’ll show you how to gather a report of the software that’s installed on computers around your network. With that information in hand, I’ll point you to Microsoft’s Windows 7 Compatibility Center. This site is an online clearinghouse of applications and their compatibility status. You can compare the software in your report to that in the Compatibility Center to see which will work and which won’t.
But that’s not all the MAP Toolkit is good for. Drivers can be automatically injected into images as they’re deployed, and it’s useful to know exactly which drivers your computers will need. The MAP Toolkit can also collect that information for you if you know where to look.
Installing the MAP Toolkit and Collecting Inventory
Begin by downloading the MAP Toolkit from Microsoft’s website and installing it to the Windows Deployment Services (WDS) server. Using the MAP Toolkit requires first installing a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 SP2, as well as the .NET Framework. The MAP Toolkit will automatically install a copy of SQL Server Express to the computer as it begins its installation. After the MAP Toolkit is installed, you’ll be asked to create a new inventory database.
Figure 1 shows what the MAP Toolkit console will look like after installation. You should immediately notice that the MAP Toolkit has far more capabilities than simply searching your network for installed software. Other assessments are available that help determine Windows Server roles that have been installed on servers, where SQL Server components have been deployed, and even where virtual machines (VMs) might be hiding on your network.
Inventorying the software in your environment starts by clicking the Inventory and Assessment Wizard link (which you can see in Figure 1). Clicking this link opens a wizard that you’ll use to configure the types of inventory to be collected. Windows, Linux, VMware, Exchange Server, and SQL Server computers are all options for inventorying. I’ll be using only the Windows-based computers scenario, because this scenario provides the information I’ll need for a Windows 7 upgrade.
The wizard’s second page shows the multitude of methods the MAP Toolkit will use in discovering computers to inventory, as Figure 2 shows. Because my computers are all members of an Active Directory (AD) domain, I can select the first and second check boxes to find them. Other computers not on the domain can be discovered either via IP ranges, by entering in computer names manually, or via a text file.
Subsequent wizard pages provide locations to enter AD credentials, to restrict inventory to specific organizational units (OUs), and to add additional domains or workgroups if they are discovered by the tool. The page titled All Computers Credentials allows you to enter a list of possible credentials the tool can use in attempting to inventory discovered computers.
It is within the All Computers Credentials and Credentials Order pages where the MAP Toolkit truly shines. You can see in Figure 3 that I have entered credentials for two different domains: COMPANY and SPECIALIZED. Additional workgroups or specific computer credentials can be added as well. Doing so will give the inventory process plenty of username and password options as it authenticates to discovered computers.
Click Finish to complete the wizard and begin the discovery and inventory process. Be aware that this process can take a considerable quantity of time, particularly if your scope is large. Version 5.0 of the MAP Toolkit, the version used in this example, is reported to discover and inventory up to 100,000 computers. Gathering information from that quantity of computers, as you can imagine, is going to take a while.
Note that the MAP Toolkit’s inventory process uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) queries to gather its information. Ensure that the Remote Administration firewall exception has been enabled on any computers that will be queried by the MAP Toolkit.
Figure 4 shows a report of the products the MAP Toolkit found on my network. You can see that Adobe Reader 9.4.0 was discovered on two computers. A set of three Apple applications was found on another two, as well as an entire list of software from all sorts of vendors. This screen inside the report is relatively static, giving you little more than a view of the software that the MAP Toolkit has found inside your network.
A much more useful representation of the data found by the MAP Toolkit can be created by clicking the Windows 7 Readiness link in the Inventory and Assessment pane. The resulting Windows 7 Readiness summary provides some high-level information about the computers found in the discovery and inventory process. You can learn in this screen how many computers have hardware that is powerful enough to support Windows 7. You can also learn how many drivers your computers will need that are and are not included on the Windows 7 CD-ROM. Figure 5 shows a snippet of the summary screen. This screen that tells me I’ll need to locate manufacturer drivers for 61 of the 194 drivers my computers say they need.
Creating and Using MAP Toolkit Reports
In the right pane of the Windows 7 Readiness Summary Results page, click the link labeled Generate Report/Proposal to generate a report. Click View, then click Saved Reports and Proposals to open an Explorer window. In this window, you’ll find a Microsoft Word document that contains some useful project planning information about your Windows 7 readiness.
You’ll find even more useful information in the accompanying Excel spreadsheet. Inside that spreadsheet is detailed information about each inventoried computer, its hardware configuration, and any installed software and drivers. Figure 6 shows one of the tabs in that spreadsheet. In it you can see that at least one computer on my network reports it will need the Realtek High Definition Audio driver. Happily, that driver is available on the Windows 7 media, so I don’t need to worry about it. Another computer reports it needs the Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller, which isn’t on the Windows 7 media. I’ll need to locate that driver from its manufacturer’s website and add it to my Out-of-Box Drivers node in my Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) deployment share.
By reviewing the drivers in this Excel spreadsheet, I now know which drivers I’ll need to make available in MDT so my images will deploy correctly. This report all by itself gives me the data I need to ensure my deployment goes as smoothly as possible.
A second tab on this Excel spreadsheet gives me a punch list for tracking down the compatibility status of applications that are installed on my computers. That tab, labeled Discovered Applications, lists each application, its version number, and the number of instances found on the network during the last inventory pass.
I mentioned at the beginning of the article that Microsoft has created an online clearinghouse of application compatibility status information. That clearinghouse, called the Windows 7 Compatibility Center, is constantly updated.
I went to the website and ran a search on Adobe Reader. I already know from my MAP Toolkit report that I have two copies of Adobe Acrobat 9.4.0 on my network. As Figure 7 shows, running the search told me that Adobe Reader version 9 is compatible with Windows 7. It also told me that version 8 compatibility requires an action, specifically a free upgrade, which is useful information.
Combining this website with the information in my MAP Toolkit report, I can quickly identify which applications will work and which won’t. For some, I might learn that they’ll require a patch or some other special configuration to function.
There really is more to deploying Windows 7 than just deploying Windows 7. Being successful with any migration or upgrade project entails knowing the drivers and applications that are on your network in comparison with those that won’t work well atop the new OS. Microsoft’s tools get you part of the way there. Your next, and arguably larger, task requires using this information to ensure software compatibility. Thankfully, with these tools in hand, answering your business’s compatibility question won’t be an impossible job.