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Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 8/6/2013 | 10 comments

Brien Posey
The tool of choice for Microsoft operating system deployments is System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). For those who have never worked through a bare metal Windows 8 deployment, it is easy to assume that the bare metal system will use a Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) boot to connect to the SCCM server. Although this is technically possible, there is a process to follow and some pitfalls to avoid.

SCCM is normally used to work with managed computers. This is a fancy way of saying that it needs to know about the computers that it is managing. While it is easy to get SCCM to discover computers that are already running a Windows operating system, bare metal systems are a completely different story.

If you want to use SCCM to deploy Windows to a bare metal system, then you will have to use the Import Computer Information Wizard to make it aware of the new system. When doing so, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account.

Your first consideration should be the number of computers on which you're deploying Windows 8. If you are only planning to deploy Windows 8 to a few systems, or if you are performing a single system installation, then you are probably best off working through the wizard manually. However, if you have a number of systems to configure, your best option is to use Microsoft Excel to build a CSV file containing all of the required data for the new computers.

Regardless of whether you manually provide SCCM with the data that it needs, or you create a CSV file, you must be very careful to enter the required information correctly. Entering a MAC address or a SMB Bios GUID number incorrectly will cause SCCM to disregard the target computer.

Another important consideration is the format in which you enter this information. Regardless of whether you are manually entering the information or creating a CSV file, you must not enter the requested data in raw byte format. If you use raw byte format, then the wizard will fail to import the new computer.

You also need to be aware of the fact that SCCM is very picky about the way that you provision bare metal clients. When you use the Import Computer Information Wizard to provide the details of a bare metal machine, SCCM considers the new system to be an imported computer. Your goal for the deployment process should be to get SCCM to continue to treat the new system as an imported computer.

The way to do that is to PXE boot the new computer and allow SCCM to match the PXE boot information to the data that you provided through the wizard. When you do that, SCCM will treat the resulting deployment as an imported computer.

Sometimes SCCM will stop treating the system as an imported computer, and there are two main causes. The first is importing the computer's information, but then deploying Windows manually. Doing so causes the information for the system in the Configuration Manager database to be overwritten. The computer will consequently be treated as a new client, rather than an imported computer.

The second thing that can cause SCCM to cease to recognize the system as an imported computer is to use a PXE-based deployment and then later use SCCM to re-image the operating system. Doing so causes the computer to be treated as a new client.

There is an entire laundry list of steps that you will have to work through in order to build a Windows 8 image and then get SCCM to deploy that image to a bare metal system. A detailed lab from Microsoft TechEd is available online. This article simply points out some of the more common gotchas you are likely to encounter during the process.

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View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Trek   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/18/2013 2:23:50 AM
Re: Well Timed!
@ Brein.  I'm not as familiar with this process. Is this where SCCM no longer considers this computer as unknown but rather as unprovisioned?  Then it gives the computer a  SMS unique identifier and it is able to receive OSD task sequences. Then once the OS is installed it becomes a known computer.  Do I have this right?
anthony.nima   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/15/2013 11:14:08 PM
Re: Well Timed!
@Zaius: What do you mean by Proper Care ? Elaborate if possible 
Tuscany   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/15/2013 12:42:46 AM
Re: Well Timed!
@SaneIT   Thanks that is good to know !
SaneIT   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/12/2013 7:16:02 AM
Re: Well Timed!
If you want to give it a try MDT is a good "free" solution, SCCM is more flexible from my experience but for rolling out OSes without a big investment MDT is more than capable of doing the job.  The toughest part will be finding and tweaking the scripts to automate the tasks you want to perform.
Tuscany   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/12/2013 1:53:51 AM
Re: Well Timed!
Having never deployed windows machine en masse, I am glad to learn of SCCM and some of the potential pitfalls.  Thanks Brien.
Zaius   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/9/2013 11:59:38 PM
Re: Well Timed!
Thank you for marking the pitfalls. The two reasons you mentioned that causes the 'new guy' behavior, can be avoided with (proper) care and preparation.
SaneIT   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/9/2013 7:12:52 AM
Re: Well Timed!
Hmm, I  guess that makes sense.  We never really got into scripting with MDT to the point of zero touch installs.  The light touch was good enough for us at the time and SCCM does fine for us without MDT for the deployment side.  It's always nice to hear how other people are using the tools out there.
JosephMoody   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/8/2013 10:53:24 AM
Re: Well Timed!
Right now, we use MDT because it allows us to do a true zero touch installation (after first image). 
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SaneIT   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/8/2013 7:36:13 AM
Re: Well Timed!
Having just started the process of SCCM deployment of Win 8 I agree that this is right on time or maybe a week too late for me but I suspect many others are going through this right now.  What are you using MDT for?  We used it to build images for Win 7 but moved away from it in general.
JosephMoody   Avoid Pitfalls of Windows Bare Metal Installs Using SCCM   8/7/2013 10:26:08 AM
Well Timed!
Well timed post Brien! We implemented SCCM 2012 last year and have been taking it in chunks. We are getting ready to migrate our OS deployments to SCCM with MDT intergrated.

Does anyone have any helpful tips for that?
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