This week I had a chance to sit down with Craig Ashley, product manager for Microsoft’s Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT), to discuss the next release of the toolset and the public beta that is now available.
DaRT has been a favorite tool for many IT pros, dating back to its days as part of Winternals Admin Pack. As a quick review, the taoolset can help IT professionals reduce the challenges associated with troubleshooting and repairing system failures on Windows-based desktops, saving time for both them and users. Administrators can easily recover PCs that have become unusable, rapidly diagnose probable causes of issues, and quickly repair unbootable or locked-out systems, all without leaving the office, making it much faster than the average time it takes to reimage a machine. When necessary, it can also quickly restore critical lost files. This helps make PCs safer to use, makes them easier and less expensive to manage, and keeps employees productive,.
For additional details on DaRT or other products within the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, visit the MDOP Resource Zone on TechNet.
Stephen: Craig, thanks for taking time to chat with me. Let’s jump right in. Many IT Pros have been using DaRT for many years now. What’s new in DaRT 8 for them?
Craig: Absolutely Stephen. I am very excited to start talking about DaRT 8 and get users involved in our beta that is now available.
With regard to what will be new in DaRT 8, we chose to focus on two key investment areas: support for new software and hardware platforms, and improving the image creation process.
First, let’s start with the new software and hardware platforms supported by DaRT 8. If you have not heard the buzz around the technology world, there is a new version of Windows and Windows Server that will be available later this year. One key focus with DaRT 8 is compatibility with these two new versions, Windows 8 and Windows Server 8.
Additionally, we needed to look at supporting some new hardware requirements arriving in the upcoming months as well. The first is support for GUID Partition Tables, which allows tools like Disk Wipe, Disk Commander, File Restore, and Computer Management to work with GPT disks. The second is supporting the UEFI boot process, allowing users with UEFI machines to boot into DaRT.
Stephen: It is certainly important to be sure that we continue to make DaRT compatible with upcoming Windows platforms. The other investment area you mentioned was the image creation process. What is new there?
Craig: Right on Stephen. This may be one of the most exciting updates for DaRT 8 and incorporates a few new areas of functionality. The first is that the image creation wizard is now built on top of Windows PowerShell cmdlets. We have heard many times that the ability to use scripting for each of the image creation steps would provide additional extensibility and support for deployments of DaRT. While the previous versions of DaRT leveraged Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) cmdlets for much of the image creation process, not all steps were covered. Therefore, to complete the process we rounded out the image creation process by creating four new DaRT cmdlets, providing end-to-end image creation via scripting. For beginning or novice scripters, the end result of utilizing the wizard the first time is the output of a script which can be repurposed for later use.
Mount image from Windows 8 media
Create DaRT configuration object
Apply DaRT configuration to mounted image
Add additional drivers to image
Add additional files to image
Dismount image and save changes
Creates ISO file from WIM image file
Burns ISO to CD/DVD or USB
Stephen: In addition to the use of PowerShell, what else is new with the Image Wizard?
Craig: Good question. While PowerShell provided the base for the new wizard, there is a bit of additional functionality we included on top of scripting. We have heard from users that at times DaRT requires additional steps or multiple machines for creating images or media types. DaRT 8 focuses on simplifying some of the areas.
For example, in DaRT 7, we supported the creation of DaRT images for USB media, but it required an additional tool that was not included in the box with DaRT. With the next version, we are including native support for USB media deployments.
Additionally, it will now be possible to create both 32- and 64-bit images from a single machine. In previous versions, users would be required to create 32-bit images from 32-bit machines, and the same was required for 64-bit images. With DaRT 8, users can select which one should be created during deployment, from a single machine.
Finally, through the DaRT image creation process, users will now be able to create both WIM and ISO output formats, depending on which is required for their image deployment plan.
Stephen: I believe a beta for the next version of DaRT is available. Two questions: Is this a public beta? And how can users get the beta bits?
Craig: You are absolutely correct, there is a beta version of DaRT currently available. It is a public beta available to everyone that completes the short beta questionnaire. We are very excited about this release and encourage everyone to download it and try it out by signing up and downloading the beta installer files from the DaRT 8 Connect site.
We are looking forward to hearing about beta experiences using the software in various environments. Please note, we are collecting feedback using surveys and the feedback form on these sites:
Hi Chris & Steve,
you've done a great job with this version, e.g. by removing some major painpoints :-)
I'm evaluating and promoting that solution including the whole MDOP suite since its first version, this version seems to be the best ever (since ERD Commander, which I used some 10 or so years ago instead :-).
Anyway, there are some bugs & "wishes" yet:
Defender doens't work in 64bit environments, Crash analyzer doesn't find itself although it was integrated (X:\).
(built on a Win8 CP 64 Bit edition).
It would be nice to have full support of dual boot systems especially using bootable VHD's (Win8).
Your remote connection should be usable / configurable WITHOUT any end user interaction so that I can get access to DaRT environment installed in the machine already via e.g. psexec & reagentc /boottore remotely when the machine is still running, what I realized using UltraVNC and a self compiled WinRE up to now.
BTW.: good idea from the MDT2012 team (I'm sure that was Mike N.'s idea :-) ) to integrate DaRT into the deployment task sequences, waiting for something like that for years ...
Anyway, good Job, waiting for future improvements
Cheers from a german ITPro guy and an ICAB member too :-)
Great Post! Downloading now. The Add-WindowsDriver is going to very important in Win8 as we move toward tablet/touchscreen environments.