Making Troubleshooting and Repairing Machines Easier with the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT)

A.J. Smith, product marketing manager wraps up a series of three blogs by the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) team, which covers the new advancements to the suite of products available in MDOP 2012. This final blog focuses on key advantages of DaRT.

Over the past two weeks, we have discussed how UE-V roams your application and operating system experience between devices, and how the enhancements in App-V 5.0 help you to easily manage and virtualize more applications than ever before. This blog will focus on another solution that has received strong interest and accolades from you: Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). As you know DaRT, provides a set of fourteen tools to help recover PCs that have become unusable, rapidly diagnose probable causes of issues, and quickly repair unbootable or locked-out systems. DaRT provides these tools in a Windows Recovery Environment (RE) that you boot from CD/DVD, USB stick, over the network via a Windows Deployment Server (WDS) or from a separate partition, while the primary Windows operating system is offline.

Before joining Microsoft, I was an IT Pro and worked as both a helpdesk technician and a desktop administrator, so – much like you – I’m familiar with the work it takes to ensure positive user experiences and productivity. However, as we all know, regardless of how much effort you put in to a project, things always tend to go awry. Every once in a while, a machine will “blue screen” on boot, or a user will accidently delete a critical file. These issues don’t happen every day, but troubleshooting and fixing them can be time consuming, especially if you and the user are not in the same location. DaRT accelerates the process of getting the user back up and running, regardless of location. This toolset would have been beneficial during my time as an IT Pro to help accelerate the troubleshooting process, and allow me to fix problems without reimaging a machine, or even concluding that I could not help the user.

One classic scenario that IT Pros regularly face, is removing Malware from a PC. DaRT can save time and effort throughout this process. We have all experienced sub-par anti-Malware products, some that even allow Malware to get so deep into the OS that it loads before your anti-malware product can even start, consequently missed in a scan of the machine. DaRT 8 includes Windows Defender (the same anti-Malware technology that is in Windows 8) to help you find Malware while Windows is not running. Since you boot into Windows RE, the malware is not loaded, giving Windows Defender the opportunity to find it and remove it quickly. This reduces user downtime and saves the time that would have been spent imaging the machine.

Another common scenario is a request to repurpose an old laptop. Before the device may be used, you need to ensure that there is no data on the machine that needs to be preserved. If I had been able to utilize DaRT, Locksmith would allow me to get back into the machine quickly, by simply resetting the local administrators password. Now, the user can find any data on the machine before it gets updated and rejoined to the domain.

locksmith

Perhaps the most dreaded scenario is a “blue screen” upon boot. As luck would have it, it always seems to happen to a senior manager or someone who had not been following the data protection rules and storing data on the local machine. As an IT Pro, I did not have great tools for troubleshooting a blue screen, and would have to ask a litany of questions just to get to the root of the issue. With Crash Analyzer in DaRT, troubleshooting is as easy as reading the .dmp file that is created on the crash. This takes a lot of the guess work out of troubleshooting the problem and can help pinpoint the problem, be it a new driver that got “magically” installed or a service that is trying to load and is crashing the machine. With this knowledge, I could have used some of the other tools in DaRT like the Computer Administration tools to disable the service or use Explorer to delete the driver.

crashanalyzer

One other key DaRT feature to aid in multi-location recovery, is Remote Assistance. Physically accessing a user’s machine is not always possible, or the best use of time. With Remote Assistance, I could have had the user network boot into DaRT from their desk and have them initiate the Remote Assistance feature and read me the random ticket number, ip address and port so I could connect to the machine. This provides full control over the DaRT session for troubleshooting.

remote

There are plenty of other situations where other DaRT tools can save IT Pros and end users time and headache. For instance, File Restore allows you to scan the machine for files that were deleted and helps you recover them. Hotfix Uninstall shows you the hotfixes installed, and allows you to remove them.

To learn more about all the DaRT tools, check out the DaRT videos available on Springboard and the DaRT overview whitepaper. If you are ready to evaluate or deploy DaRT, we have whitepapers to help too. We’d love to hear your experiences working with DaRT and how the toolset helps to better preserve productivity and user experience, so drop us a note in the comments section below.