Category Archives: 16741

How to Shut Down, Sign Out or Restart Windows 8 the Easy Way

Here’s a quick tip on how to sign out, shutdown or restart Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 the easy way.  Simply click the Windows Taskbar and press Alt-F4.

Windows 8 presents a dropdown dialog box like this where you can easily switch user, signout, sleep, hibernate, shutdown or restart the computer:

Windows 8 Shut Down Dialog

Windows Server 2012 presents the following dialog box where your can disconnect (if connected via Remote Desktop), sign out, shut down, or restart:

Windows Server 2012 Shut Down Dialog

That’s a heck of a lot easier than navigating through the charms, especially if your connected via RDP!

Error 0x8007232B ‘DNS Name Does Not Exist’ when Activating Windows 8

I have been installing Windows 8 Enterprise RTM on my lab machines using the RTM ISO from MSDN.  I’ve found that each installation does not activate properly, giving the following error:

Error code:          0x8007232B

Error description:   DNS name does not exist.

I have a valid product key for Windows 8 Enterprise from MSDN, but setup doesn’t prompt for this key during installation.

Open System properties and click ‘View details in Windows Activation’

Click the ‘Activate’ button to begin activation

Attempting activation…

Error 0x8000232B – DNS name does not exist.

The same thing happens if you try to activate Windows 8 from the PC Settings | Activate Windows menu in the “modern user interface” (aka Metro):
‘Windows can’t activate right now. Try activating Windows later. If the issue persists, contact your system administrator or technical support department for assistance.’
This occurs because Windows 8 is using a temporary product key.  You need to install the correct product key to complete Activation using the SLMGR.VBS script installed with Windows.
Here are the steps to perform activation with the correct product key after installation:
  • Open an elevated CMD prompt and run the following command, as shown below:
slmgr.vbs /ipk <product key>

  • You will receive a pop-up window from Windows Script Host indicating the product key has been installed successfully.

Installed product key <product key> successfully.
  • Shortly after that, Windows 8 will automatically activate over the Internet.  Or, if you’re impatient like me, just click the Activate button to activate windows immediately.

Windows is Activated

Windows Surface Tablet vs iPad 3 Comparison

On Monday Microsoft announced the new Microsoft Surface tablets to the world.  Click the image above for a video of the event.
There are a number of good articles covering the details and speculation about the price and specifics.  I put together the table below to compare the Microsoft Surface specs to the Apple iPad 3.
Windows Surface vs. Apple iPad 3

The pricing estimates above are based on Microsoft’s statement that the Windows RT version of Surface would cost about the same as comparable slates. Surface Pro would be priced similar to comparable competitive Ultrabook PCs.
Microsoft Surface Microsoft Surface Pro Apple iPad 3
OS Windows RT Windows 8 Pro IOS 5.1.1
Light 1 676 g 903 g 652 g (Wi-Fi) & 662 g (Wi-Fi/3G)
Thin 2 9.3 mm 13.5 mm 9.4 mm
Processor nVidia Tegra ARM ? Intel Core-i5 ? Dual-core Apple A5X with integrated quad-core graphics
Clear 10.6” ClearType HD Display with Gorilla Glass 10.6” ClearType Full HD Display with Gorilla Glass 9.7″ Retina LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch
Resolution ≥1280×720 ? ≥1920×1080 ? 2048×1536-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)
Energized 31.5 W-h 42 W-h 42.5 W-h
Connected microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae 30-pin dock connector port, Bluetooth 4.0, PiFA integrated antenna
Productive Office Home & Student 2013 RT, Touch Cover, Type Cover Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block Smart cover, 3rd party keyboards
Practical VaporMg Case & Stand VaporMg Case & Stand n/a
Configurable 32 GB, 64 GB 64 GB, 128 GB 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB
Cost ~$600-$700 (estimate) 3 ~$1000-$1100 (estimate) 3 $499-$599-$699 (Wi-Fi only) & $629-$729-$829 (Wi-Fi/3G)

An Introduction to Windows 8 To Go

I just returned from Microsoft TechEd North America in Orlando.  I spent most of my sessions following Windows Server 2012 and a few on Windows 8.  One of the coolest Windows 8 features to be covered was Windows 8 To Go.  In this article I’d like to cover some of the interesting aspects of Windows To Go.

Windows To Go allows enterprise administrators to provide a completely managed Windows 8 experience to their users along with all their business line apps from a USB drive.  This provides a truly portable full fidelity desktop experience for their users since they can boot to it and run it from multiple computers.

Administrators create Windows To Go images and configure the USB drives using standard ImageX tools.  Users simply plug the Windows To Go USB drive into a PC or laptop and boot to that drive.  This typically can be done by pressing an F1-12 key during boot.  Users can save their documents and settings to that Windows To Go drive and/or sync them using their Windows Sky Drive.

Windows To Go desktops are managed using general and Windows To Go specific Group Policy Objects.  These GPOs are applied directly to the image and over the Internet.  For example, GPOs can be configured to allow or disallow access to local resources, such as the local C: drive of the computer used for Windows To Go.  The default setting is to disallow access to local drives.

Windows To Go drives can be protected using BitLocker.  A pre-boot password must be entered on BitLocker protected drives since there is no TPM chip on the USB drive.  Manufacturers may provide built-in biometric scanning or keypads on WTG USB drives in the future.

If the WTG USB disk is removed from the computer, the USB stack detects it and freezes the desktop for up to 60 seconds.  If the USB stick is reinserted within that time, Windows will automatically resume.  If the drive is not reinserted the desktop will power down the system.  This prevents accidental disclosure of business information.

Here are some other facts and requirements of Windows To Go:

  • Only USB drives that are optimised for Windows To Go will work.
  • WTG drives are at least 32GB and high-speed USB 3.0.
  • Currently there are only two manufacturers with optimised WTG drives: Kingston and Super Talent.  More will follow.
  • Interestingly, USB 3.0 ports are not required for either the imaging computer or the host computer.  USB 2.0 is required.
  • First boot on a new computer will take a few more seconds as drivers are installed.  Subsequent boots from the same computer only take seconds.
  • Drivers that are not included in the WTG image will be downloaded from Windows Update.
  • Supported host computers that can run WTG are x64 computers with the Windows Vista or Windows 7 logo.
  • While not supported by Microsoft, it may be possible to boot Windows To Go from a Mac.  You may (probably will) run into driver issues.  If so, you’re on your own.
  • Adding Direct Access to WTG images provides transparent access to the corporate network.
  • Hibernation is not possible in Windows To Go instances.

Windows To Go requires Windows 8 Enterprise with Software Assurance.  It is not available with any other SKU.  At the time of this writing, Windows 8 Release Preview is not Enterprise Edition, so Windows To Go is not available for testing (even if you could get a hold of an optimized for Windows To Go drive).

Your enterprise’s Windows 8 Enterprise client access license (CAL) allows your users to run Windows To Go on any PC outside the corporate network (i.e., home, the library, mom’s house, etc.).  Any user who runs WTG within the corporate network requires an additional Companion Device license, at extra cost.

Win8: How to Create Keyboard Shortcuts For Your Apps

Now that the Windows 8 Release Preview is out, I’ve decided to create a bootable VHD of Win8 to kick the tires and get totally familiar with the new interface.  This morning I started installing some of my most commonly used applications.  I configure keyboard shortcuts for most of these applications, as well as some of the built-in Windows apps like Notepad, Command Prompt, and PowerShell.

Windows 8 no longer has a Start menu, so you need to configure the application shortcuts from Windows Explorer.  Here’s how to do that:

  • Press the Windows + E key to bring up Windows Explorer on the Windows Desktop.
  • Navigate to %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs.  Here you will find the shortcuts to most of the applications that you install.

  • Now locate the shortcut you want to configure, right-click it, and select Properties to configure the keyboard shortcut.  Depending on your UAC settings, you may need to provide administrator permission to change these settings.

Note: Some Windows built-in applications are stored in other locations.  Here are the common locations for those apps:

  • Notepad: %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories
  • Command Prompt: %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\WinX\Group3

Blistering Fast Windows Server – Parts List and Video

Walk with me now, as we take a stroll down Geek lane.  🙂

I decided it’s time to replace my old Hyper-V server at home
with a new one that’s faster and can run more VMs.  I’ve decided again to build
it myself from OEM parts so I can get exactly what I want at a right price.  This
article contains my parts list and my reasons for choosing what I did. 
Hopefully, this will help you with your own home lab.
I host my private cloud network on a Windows Server 2008 R2
Hyper-V host server.  Hyper-V is perfect for my environment because it allows
me to run workgroup applications (Exchange Edge Transport and IIS) directly on
the host, as well as host my virtual domain servers.
My current Hyper-V server is an AMD x64 dual core rig with
16GB RAM and two SATA drives, one for the OS and another for VMs.  I built it
about 3 years ago when I was on the Windows Server 2008 TAP and it has served
me well.  But with Windows Server 8 and Exchange 15 right around the corner, I
wanted to be sure I had the capabilities of running these new versions.
My Design Requirements
As with most customers, I have competing requirements for
this new server:
  • Minimum of 4 cores
  • Windows Server 8 capable.  Hyper-V for Windows 8 requires hypervisor-ready processors with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), as reported by Microsoft at BUILD.
  • 32GB of fast DDR3 RAM
  • Must support SATA III 6Gb/s drives
  • Must have USB 3.0 ports for future portable devices
  • Must be quiet.  This server is sitting next to me in my office (aka, the sunroom) and I don’t want to hear it at all.
  • Low power requirements
  • Small form factor
  • Budget: ~$1,000 USD
My RAM requirements drove most of this design.  Since this
would be based on a desktop motherboard (server mobos are too big and ECC RAM
is too expensive), I first looked for 4x8GB (32GB) DDR3 RAM.  Then I looked for
a small mobo that would accept that much RAM, then a processor for that mobo.
Here’s my parts list, including links to where I purchased each
item and the price I paid:
Part Number
Intel Core i5-2400S Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz (3.3GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155
65W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I52400S
Intel BOXDH67BLB3 LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro
ATX Intel Motherboard
Komputerbay 32GB DDR3 (4x 8GB) PC3-10600 10666 1333MHz DIMM 240-Pin
RAM Desktop Memory 9-9-9-25
OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-120G 2.5″ 120GB SATA III MLC Internal
Solid State Drive (SSD)
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARX 2TB 64MB Cache SATA III 6.0Gb/s
3.5″ Internal Hard Drive
AeroCool M40 Cube Computer Case – Micro ATX, LCD Display, 2x 5.25
Bays, 3x 3.5 Bays, 4x Fan Ports, Black
Antec EA-380D Green 80 PLUS BRONZE Power Supply
ENERMAX UC-8EB 80mm Case Fan
nMEDIAPC ZE-C268 3.5″ All-in-one USB Card Reader with USB 3.0
Rosewill RX-C200P 2.5″ SSD / HDD Plastic Mounting Kit for
3.5″ Drive Bay
Total:  $925.91
I was a little worried about the Komputerbay RAM.  I’ve
never heard of them before, but they offer a lifetime warranty and 32GB DDR3
1333 (PC3 10666) RAM was $54 cheaper than what I could find at NewEgg.  In the end I’m
very pleased with my decision.
I chose different sources for the best price.  NewEgg is my
go-to vendor for most items.  They charge sales tax in California, but I have a
ShopRunner account that gives
me free 2-day shipping on all these items.  Amazon was the smart choice for the
bigger ticket items since they don’t charge tax and I could get them delivered
with a 30 day free trial of Prime 2-day shipping.  Not to mention the fact that
I had a $500 Amazon gift card that I won at TechEd 2011 from my good friends at
Vision Solutions!  TigerDirect
was the only source for this great AeroCool micro ATX cube computer case.
All the items were delivered the same day and started putting
it together that night.  Careful assembly took about 90 minutes and everything
went together perfectly. 
It’s a Geek Christmas!

All the parts freed from their cardboard prisons
The only other item I added was a dual port Intel PRO/1000
MT Server Adapter that I already had.  I also used L-bend right angle SATA
cables instead of the two that came with the Intel motherboard, due to the
short clearance between the PSU and the back of the drives (I knew this going
The innovative AeroCool M40 micro ATX case opens up like
a book
for easy access.  The power supply, hard drives and DVD drive(s) are
in the top half and everything else is down below.  It includes a nearly silent
120mm front fan and has room for one more on the top rear section and two 80mm
fans on the bottom rear section.  I added a single silent 80mm fan on the
bottom to push warm air out.  The case temperature has never gone above 26.4C
and it’s completely silent.
View from above showing the Antec PSU, the 3.5″ and 5.25″ drive cages and the unused PSU cabling

View from the hinged side, showing motherboard placement
I’m using the OCZ 120GB SATA III SSD drive for the operating
system and pagefile, Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise for now.  I’ll upgrade the
server to Windows Server 8 when it goes RTM.  In the meantime, I’ll build and
test beta versions as VMs.  I have to say that this SSD drive was one of the
best choices for my new system.  It’s blistering fast!  Windows Server 2008 R2
SP1 installed in just 6 minutes!!  Take a look at the video below to see that
it takes only 20 seconds to get to a logon screen from a cold start, and half
of that time is the for the BIOS POST!
The Intel I5 4-core Sandy Bridge processor has amazing
graphics built in.  I’m able to run Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Aero theme at
1920×1080 HD resolution with no difference in performance.  It’s possible to
overclock this system, but it’s plenty fast for me and I value stability over
speed.  I love the fact that it draws only 65W!  This not only saves
electricity, it keeps the case cool which lowers the cooling requirements.
The bottom half with the case split open. The I5-2400s CPU came with this huge low profile CPU cooler.
As a desktop motherboard, the Intel DH67BL motherboard came
with drivers that did not work out of the box with Windows Server 2008 R2.  I
downloaded the latest drivers from Intel and most installed fine.  The only
items I had trouble with were the built-in Intel 82579V Gigabit network adapter
and the integrated Intel HD Graphics drivers.  Intel “crippled” the
NIC driver installer so that it won’t install on a server platform.  See this article which
explains how to re-enable it.   The video driver installed most of the way, but
the installer crashed when trying to register a DLL.  It was able to install again
fine after a restart.
I also used a Western Digital Green 2TB SATA III drive for
storage of my Hyper-V VMs.  I’ve always used Western Digital drives and I’ve
never had a problem with them.  The WD Green line saves power, runs cool and
quiet, and delivers 6 Gb/s performance.
Photo of the completed server.  I placed a DVD on top to for scale.
This is by far the fastest sever I’ve ever worked on, bar
none.  I’m extremely happy with it.  I haven’t bothered running any benchmarks*
on it – I just know that it’s fast enough for my needs and has plenty of RAM so
I can run more VMs.
I hope this article helps
you to build your own home lab server.   Please let me know if you have any
* There are lies, damn lies, and benchmarks.