Drivers? Drive Me!

By now, it is likely that I do not need to explain to you that a hardware driver is a piece of software that allows your computer (through the operating system) to communicate with a hardware component.  You know that, right?  Good.

You are ready to install a new operating system on your computer.  You do not want to perform an in-place upgrade, you really want to install it from scratch.  The question is: What drivers do you need?

I saw this question come across my Twitter feed the other day, and there were a couple of really good answers.

  • Use the Windows System Information, which can be saved to a text file; or
  • Use the driverquery command line tool.

As you know, I am a big fan of using the command line, so let’s use this one (which I already knew, but since Buck Woody (@BuckWoodyMSFT) posted it in his Twitter reply, I will credit him)

driverquery /v /fo csv >drvlist.csv

The switches:

  • /v gives you the verbose list.
  • /fo specifies the format of the list
  • csv means the formatting is Comma Separated Value
  • >driverlist.csv is the name of the file that it will save.

So when we run this on my current computer, we get an output that looks like this:


Of course, it is 385 lines long, but I am happy to share a snippet.  I opened the fine in Excel, and I formatted the titles as bold and underlined.

Of course, you may want to filter it to only RUNNING drivers, but the truth is, there are several drivers that are STOPPED that should still be reinstalled with your new operating system… I see the WacomPen driver near the bottom, and while it is stopped, I do occasionally use my stylus, at which point it will be started.

Most users do not, on a daily basis, need to know (or really care) what drivers are installed in their computer.  Everything works, they are happy.  When you are re-installing your operating system, you have several things you need to gather… a list of installed applications, but also your drivers.  By keeping this list handy, you will not be at the mercy of Plug and Play technology finding everything – including your video drivers – correctly.

(You should notice that all of your drivers are stored in the c:\WIndows\system32\drivers\ directory, so it might be a good idea to copy this directory to an external device before starting.  That directory on my computer is 106MB, so not too bad.  This includes two video drivers, which are often the largest (The two that I have are both around 7MB each))

Something else that you should remember when re-installing Windows, there are still some drivers (especially print drivers) that do not want you to simply installl the drivers; they want to install their entire application suite. If that is the case, make sure you have the installables handy.

With Windows 10 Version 1809 set to be re-released sometime soon, this might just come in handy for some of us!


Does Microsoft Listen?

You were all excited to upgrade your existing Windows 10 installation to the Fall 2018 update.  On October 2nd you downloaded the bits to Version 1809.  You installed it, using the same in-place upgrade process you have been using for years.  You realize that you have lost data… crucial data… a lot of it.  You hope (even as you understand the futility of it) that reverting back to the previous version (say… Version 1803) will restore your data.

It doesn’t.  You knew that it wouldn’t… but you are disappointed nonetheless.

Fortunately, you have the EaseUs Data Recovery Wizard Pro (or realize you need it badly, and you go online to buy it), and you are able to (relatively) easily recover your lost data.  You have lost a few hours of your time, and more importantly, you have learned a valuable lesson… sometimes the leading edge is going to cost you.

The truth is, mistakes happen.  As soon as Microsoft discovered this flaw in their new version, they immediately made an announcement and pulled the bits from their download site.  That doesn’t mean that people are not going to get it elsewhere, but there is only so much that a company like Microsoft can control.  Mistakes do happen, and they will learn from their mistakes, right?

Here’s the problem… Microsoft has several tiers of users for Windows 10.  Most of us are on the regular semi-annual channel.  There are users on the fast-track channel for Windows Insiders who started seeing and reporting this bug (on the Microsoft Feedback Hub, where we are supposed to report bugs in pre-release technology) months ago.  Hey, Microsoft!  When I tried to install the latest bits that you sent, it deleted my data! There have been reports like this for months, and yet it was ignored.

So what’s the point?  If Microsoft is not paying attention, why bother reporting on problems?  Microsoft is swearing up and down that they won’t do this again… but how many times have they done this before?  With earlier releases of Windows 10… Windows 8, Windows 7, Microsoft Office?  This is far from the first time… so why would believe them when they say that it will be the last time?

Liam Tung wrote a very good piece for ZDNet last week that described the issue, and how the Microsoft Feedback Hub works.  He quotes does a very good job of explaining how Feedback Hub works, and how it is likely that the “…tons of reports in Feedback about data loss on upgrade” did not get voted on or grouped together, resulting in the problem being buried.

There was a time when you had to be chosen to be a beta-tester for Windows, and you were chosen based on several factors, not the least of which was community participation.  Microsoft listened to us because they respected us.  Today, when anyone can flip a switch and become a Windows Insider (essentially a modern-day beta tester), there is no common voice, and everyone throws their comments online without looking at other comments, which means mistakes like this are going to happen.  Maybe it is time for Microsoft to admit that their communities (which they were once so supportive of) were the best line of defense they had against disastrous mistakes like this.

Of course, Microsoft is not too big on admitting they made mistakes, and the one they just admitted to is a pretty big one, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Face Recognition Issue in Windows 10

file1Before anyone gets upset, let me be clear that there is no issue with Facial Recognition in Windows 10… at least, not that I am aware of.  It is not a security flaw; rather, it is a usability issue that I have with the functionality.

I have several computers that I use on a regular basis, and many of them have several accounts – personal, corporate, test, and so on.  Because Windows is trying to be helpful, the second I ask to log on, it looks to see if I am there… it sees me, and it logs me on to the account I did not want to use.  Ok, so I log off that account, and before I can log on to the appropriate account… It sees me and it logs me on to the other account again! Really, there seem to be a number of ways around this:

  1. Cover the camera until I enter my password for the correct account;
  2. Wear a mask (or other appropriate face covering that would likely not be sanctioned by the Gouvernement du Quebec; or
  3. Disable the Face Recognition feature.

fileFacial recognition is a great technological advancement… and if you are only using the one account, you should be fine.  If, however, you have to switch between accounts, then you may agree with me that there are better ways of implementing it.  I recommend, if the product team is interested:

Hey! It looks like we see Mitch Garvis (personal) sitting at the computer.  Would you like to log on to that account?  Say ‘Yes’ to continue.

Remember when you first set up your Windows 10?  Cortana wouldn’t stop talking about how happy she was to help you… why can’t she be helpful here? “Hey, is that really you, Mitch?  Stroke your beard to continue!” …or something equally mundane and simple.  Not “I see you, and you best not even think you can hide from me, Mitch!”

I have decided to turn the Face Recognition (that is not a mistake… Microsoft refers to it as Face, and not Facial recognition) feature off for now… at least, on the devices with 3D cameras.  It’s too bad… A lot of people may want my passwords, but nobody really wants to look like me!

It’s a Lock! TappLock wins.

file-17I took the summer off from the gym.  I played a lot of golf, I wasn’t in the right mindset, it doesn’t matter why… I just did.  I started back this week, and it was painful.  Fortunately, one aspect of the pain was easily resolved.

In my gym bag there were two padlocks.  The first, a Master Lock.  The second, my Tapplock One.  It had been a couple of months (at least) since I had looked at either of them.

I looked at the Master Lock and realized, to my dismay, that I did not remember the combination.  Yes, I think I have it stored somewhere online in a Master Lock vault, but standing at the gym I did not have the time (nor the inclination) to try to figure out the URL, my credentials, and which lock it was.

I looked at the Tapplock One and did some quick math… would the battery still be good after a couple of months sitting unused in my gym bag?  The answer was YES, and I was off to the races.

There is no question that there are cheaper locks on the market… but when forgetting a combination happens much more frequently than forgetting your fingers.  The Tapplock wins this battle, hands down!

Windows 10 1809: What’s New

windows-10-logo-fontLast night I was pleased to hear that, as predicted, Windows 10 version 1809 dropped at the Microsoft Surface event in New York City.  While it may or may not be available for you via Windows Update this morning, I downloaded the ISO yesterday and went right to work.  Well, to be more specific, I skipped my lunch break and went right to it.

As I wrote earlier in the week, my first use case for the new version of Windows 10 (1809, the October 2018 Update, or Redstone 5) will be for my Windows to Go key, which stopped working with my primary device when I updated the firmware recently.  I was concerned because, in the past, you were not always able to create a Windows to Go key from an operating system running an earlier build.  Fortunately that does not seem to be the case from 1803, and I was able to get it going.

The feature that most people seem to be talking about is the dark theme for File Explorer, which is enabled using the Colors page under the Personalization section of Settings.  Okay, it is nice that we have the choice… but this is something I experimented with many years ago using third-party tools, and I decided that the default scheme is just fine by me.  I will not be making this jump.

Something that will be big for developers, especially cross-platform types, is the new option to Open Linux shell here, in the File Explorer expanded context (Shift + Right-Click).

Something I hope I remember to use, because I have often thought how useful it would be, is the Clipboard History feature.  Press Windows Key + V, and you will see what you have copied to the clipboard before.  For the security conscious among us, there is an option to Clear All in that menu, which will be useful when sharing machines.  Additionally, there is a Clipboard page in Windows Settings, where you can modify the settings for the Clipboard, including synchronizing across devices.  Cool.

There is a new Game Bar and Game Mode feature that I have heard discussed.  As someone who never plays games on his PC, I cannot address this… but I have heard that in this new mode you will not be interrupted for system maintenance such as Windows Updates.  Feel free to try it on your own 😉

I like that the Bluetooth and other devices page under Settings now displays the battery level of connected devices.  I hate when I am watching a movie on a flight (using my Bluetooth beadset) and the batteries die… this will give me warning to charge them when needed.

Also under Settings, the different networks will show Data Usage, allowing you to monitor in case you are tethered to a network such as a cellular phone.  You can also see usage per app, in case some of your background applications are using more data than you expected.

HD Color has been introduced to the Windows Settings page. For those who are video fans, this should be a nice addition.

There are a lot of new features being added to Narrator, for people who use it.  As well, SpeechInking, and Typing is being split into two pages under Settings, with Speech getting its own context page.

I will not pretend to be a big fan of the extended emojis available with Unicode 11 (there are apparently 157 new emojis, including superheroes and redheads).  As a forty-six year old man I occasionally use the 🙂 and 😦 emoticons… and I don’t concern myself with the Unicode graphics of them.

For those of us who use tablets and hybrid devices, the on-screen keyboard now includes SwiftKey intelligence, so you can swipe from letter to letter, rather than lifting your finger and tapping every key.  It learns your writing style, and will give you more accurate auto-corrections and predictions over time.

There is more to Windows 10 1809, and over the next few weeks I am sure I will address more of them in this space.  In the meantime, I invite you all to try it for yourself, whether in a virtual machine (download the ISO and create a VM), or on your production machine (either from Windows Update, or downloading the ISO and reinstalling your OS.  It will be interesting to see

Surface Pro Firmware Patch Leads to WTG Woes

windowstogoI have been a huge proponent of Windows to Go (WTG) since it was first announced in Windows 8.  I love being able to run Windows off a USB key, because it allows me to use any computer as my corporate environment.  That is the theory; the practical is that I use my personal device (Microsoft Surface Pro 4) as my corporate machine when I am at client sites (with WTG), and as my personal device the rest of the time.

With all of the advantages to this, there are some shortcomings of WTG which irk me.  The first of these is that you cannot perform a version upgrade (say, from Windows 10 1709 to Windows 10 1803) on Windows to Go… you would have to reinstall it.  Yes, there is a third party tool that supposedly allows you to do it, but I looked at it and it was simply more complicated than I was willing to struggle through.

The second shortcoming is more a matter of the particular WTG key that I have.  Don’t get me wrong… I swear by my Spyrus Worksafe Pro device.  It is 64GB of military grade security, both with regard to the durability and the encryption.  That means that some things will be a little harder to tweak… on the odd occasion when they need tweaking.


Last week I applied a firmware patch to my Surface Pro 4.  I had probably been putting it off for a couple of months, but I had the cycles so I let it apply.  I looked up this particular patch (as I do with most of them) and did not see any glaring alarms, so I applied it.

Later in the day, I tried to reboot into my WTG key, and got the following error screen:

Windows Boot Manager

Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause.  To fix the problem:

1. Insert your Windows installation disc and restart your computer.
2. Choose your language settings, and then click “Next.”
3. Click “Repair your computer.”

If you do not have this disc, contact your system administrator or computer manufacturer for assistance.

   File: \EFI\Microsoft\Boot\BCD
   Status: 0xc0000225
   Info: The Boot Configuration Data for your PC is missing or contains errors.

Okay… the error and the symptoms are not necessarily aligned.  The message is telling me that there is a problem with my BCD (Boot Configuration Data file).  However, when I try to boot the same WTG key to another computer (including another Surface device) it works.  So my BCD is probably fine.  Just to be sure, I deleted it and recreated it… and there is no change.

The error screen is telling me to fix it using my Windows installation disc… but that won’t work, simply because the encryption on the device will not allow for that.  I would have to create a bootable Windows installation disc that includes the Spyrus Worksafe Pro software, that would allow me to decrypt the drive until it was fixed.  That might work… but I won’t be trying, and here’s why:

Remember that first shortcoming that I mentioned?  About not being able to upgrade from one major release to the next?  Well, sometime this month (I am hearing different reports, some saying as early as this week, others saying that it will be in the regular patch cycle, i.e.: next Tuesday) Microsoft will be releasing the Fall edition (1809) of Windows 10, and I would likely be reinstalling my WTG device anyways.  In the meantime, I have no problems booting the device on another computer, extracting any data (most of my data is in the cloud, but you never know what I nonchalantly saved to my desktop).  So now, when the new edition is available, I will simply rebuild my WTG key on the new operating system, and I’ll be good to go for another six months… or longer, because Fall releases are supported for three years now!

One thing I would like to know, is why doesn’t WTG allow you to upgrade?  It seems like a feature that should be limited only by the available space on your device, and not on the architecture.  Oh well, that is a question I will try to remember to ask someone the next time… Oh look, butterflies!

…Now what was I saying?

IPv6: Be gone!

Let me start this piece by stating that I am not advocating that we all ignore IPv6.  There are many reasons to use it, and there is nothing wrong with it.  Sure, it is more complicated than we may like… but then again, so was IPv4 when we were first introduced to it.

But alas, if you and your organization are not using IPv6, then there is no reason to have it bound to your workstations, let alone to your servers.  Let’s get rid of it… for now, knowing we can come back and re-enable it with a simple cmdlet.

First, we need to see which network cards have IPv6 bound to it, with the following:

Get-NetAdapterBinding | where {$_.ComponentId -eq ‘ms_tcpip6’}

That will return a list of NICs that have IPv6 enabled, like so:


We can remove the binding from each adapter individually, like so:

Disable-NetAdapterBinding -Name “Wi-Fi 2” -ComponentID ms_tcpip6

Of course, then we would have to do it for each of our NICs.  Rather than doing that, it would be simpler to just use a wildcard, thus disabling it for all of our NICs simultaneously:

Disable-NetAdapterBinding -Name “*” -ComponentID ms_tcpip6

Of course, in order to do this, you must open PowerShell with elevated credentials, so make sure you Run As Administrator.

Once you have done that, you can then go back and get the same list.  Notice that the listings under Enabled all read False now.


Now, as you may have heard me say before, PowerShell is very easy to understand… it is almost as if it were post-troglodyte grammar.  Get-Thing! Disable-NetAdapterBinding!  So it stands to reason that the reverse of the Disable-NetAdapterBinding cmdlet would be… yes, you guessed it! Enable-NetAdapterBinding!  But this time, rather than using the wildcard, let’s just do it for the NIC that I am currently using:

Enable-NetAdapterBinding -Name “W-Fi 2” -ComponentID ms_tcpip6

From this, we will now get the following results:


…and just like that, we can now enable and disable a protocol on demand.

By the way, if you are not fond of ComponentIDs, you can also use the actual display names:


Of course, that is too much typing for a lot of people, so you could shorten it with wildcards… or you can just cut and paste the ComponentID cmdlets.

Have fun guys, and script on!



A PowerShell Gotcha

powershell1_thumb.jpgI was bulk-creating users for a test environment today, and in doing so, I borrowed a script from an article online, which set the password for all users to ‘Pa$$word’  I usually use a variation on the same for test environments, but I opted to leave this one as it was.  The script worked.

A few minutes later, I went to log on as one of the newly created users, and the computer returned ‘The password is incorrect.  Try again.’

I spent a few minutes troubleshooting, until I realized… PowerShell uses the dollar sign ($) for variables.  I deleted the users, then changed the script to use a password like ‘P@ssw0rd’.  Sure enough, it worked.

The moral of the story… When using PowerShell, remember that the $ means something, and might break things if you use it for other things.

Have fun!

Server 2016 Versions & Builds

When Microsoft introduced the Operating System as a Service with Windows 10, a lot of people got started getting confused because of the different version numbers and build numbers, all the while Microsoft was telling us it was really the same operating system.  Okay, I think we have it clear now… three years later.

So just to make things fun, Windows Server 2016 is offered as an OS as a Service as well… although mercifully we do not have to update our servers nearly as often to stay current.

It is one thing to mess around with our desktops.  Messing around with our servers could be disastrous on an entirely different level.  So, unlike Windows 10, monthly updates (or Cumulative Updates, if you are just catching up) will not change the version of the OS.  If you installed a Windows Server from the original release (Version 1607), it will remain Version 1607.  The only thing that will change is the OS Build.

Notice the different build… the original reads OS Build 14393.1884, and after applying Cumulative Update for Windows Server 2016 for x64-based Systems (KB4093119) it kicks up to OS Build 14393.2189.

Some of us in the know feel that calling every release of Windows 10 the same operating system is like saying that a 2013 Ford Mustang is the same as a 2018 Ford Mustang; just because they have the same name does not make them the same car.  Similarly, Windows 10 Version 1607 is hardly the same as Windows 10 Version 1803.  They look the same for day-to-day operations, but under the hood there are real differences (i.e.: look for your Control Panel in the Windows Menu in 1803).

The team at Microsoft understood that you cannot just upgrade versions with servers.  There are too many things that could go wrong.  As such, Windows Server 2019 is currently in pre-release testing (we used to call it beta testing… I can’t keep up with the current names).  When the time is right, you can upgrade.

In the meantime, should you be upgrading all of your servers that are Version 1607 to Version 1803?  In general I wouldn’t, but there may be use cases where you would want to.

I hope this clears some things up for you!

Recovery Image Oopsie…

In a recent article I told you all how I had to recover my Surface Pro, and downloaded a Recovery Image from Microsoft in order to do so (See Surface Woes). As I went through the process of finding that image download, I could not help thinking that so much of the process seemed… outdated.  Don’t get me wrong, it worked… but it just felt like somewhere around the Surface Pro 2 era someone at Microsoft just gave up keeping up the information.

So how funny was it when I realized this morning that the Recovery Image, downloaded directly from Microsoft, was actually based on Windows 10 1703, released fifteen months ago?  I know Microsoft wants people to use their latest and greatest, especially when it comes to Windows 10.  Two builds have been release since (1709 and, most recently, 1803), so I wonder how difficult it would have been to update the Recovery Image to one of those.  My Surface Pro had been upgraded to Windows 10 1803 a few weeks ago, before the crash.

And so, having already done so once, and having spent several hours restoring my on-the-brink-of-dead device back to functionality, I have to spend another couple of hours watching the spinning circles of boredom before I can go back to using the device happily.


Surface Woes

Earlier this year I opened a ticket with Microsoft to replace my Surface Pro 4 under warranty.  There was an intermittent problem, and I was hoping to be able to get it fixed.  Unfortunately the problem went away, and I continued to use my device as normal.

imageThis week I turned on the device, and it would not boot.  It turned on alright, but it spent hours in the ‘dots spinning in a circle’ pattern.  When I say hours, what I should say is overnight.  I hoped that the drive was self-repairing.  I don’t know what in the world possessed me to think that – something akin to a doctor hoping that a sick liver just regrows.  Yesterday I went to work troubleshooting.

The first place I went was Microsoft’s Surface Support.  It was there that I discovered that, like so many companies out there, Microsoft doesn’t even want to talk to you once the warranty is over.  I’m sure they would be happy to speak to me if I gave them my credit card… but I was not quite there yet. 

The one thing I did get out of that experience (and a bit of surfing and fishing around) was a link to download a Recovery Image for the Surface Pro, as well as instructions on how to use it.  More on that later.

From the research I did online, it looks like my hard drive is either (hopefully) corrupt or (nooo!) dead.  I boot into my trusty Windows To Go key (see any of the articles I have written on it here).  I open Disk Manager, and bring the internal drive online.  So far, so good.

I try to navigate to it.  Access Denied.  Crap.  That can mean a number of things went wrong, but I am not concerned with Ransomware; they haven’t asked me for anything, it is just not booting.

My big concern is that if the drive is not accessible, then there may be something wrong with the hardware… but all signs point away from that, and I expect that somehow something just went terribly wrong.

Fortunately, I have Easeus Data Recovery Pro on my Windows To Go key, so I am able to recover lost files.  Hey, wait a minute!  If I can do that, then chances are the drive is not dead, right?

Okay, great… I have recovered my files, and now it is time to try to restore the device to useable.  I go back to Microsoft’s Support page to download the Recovery Image.  You can only download the image once you have signed in with your Microsoft Account, and then only if you have a Surface Pro registered to your account.


Great… I have the Recovery Image.  Now what I need is another computer to create the Recovery Drive with.  Unless you actually have another Microsoft Surface Pro 4, you are going to have to have Windows create a Recovery Disk for itself, and then copy over the files with the ones I downloaded.  That isn’t a problem for me – I have several computers at my disposal, and I know that my corporate Dell laptop recently received the latest build of Windows 10 Enterprise.  It works just fine.

A word to the wise: You are going to need a 16 GB USB key for this to work.  It will work with a USB 2.0 device, but it……..will…………..very……..slow.  I don’t just mean rebuilding your computer either – it will be slow as molasses to create the device.  Proof? I started building on a USB 2.0 device.  I waited fifteen minutes, and then started the same process on a USB 3.0 device.  The USB 3.0 device was done before the USB 2.0 was halfway done.

Okay, it is time.  The moment of truth.  I connect the USB device to my Surface Pro 4, and I boot (holding down the Volume Down button.  The menus are a bit confusing, but I finally get to the button that says ‘Restore my PC to Factory Image.’  It goes through the motions, all the while keeping me appraised of just how many percent done it is (pretty useless, as long as there is forward progress), and when it gets to 100%, it reboots my device…


Hello Cortana!  I never thought I would actually be happy to hear your voice! 

So now, I have to re-install all of my software, but that is more time consuming than difficult, since most of my software and licenses are available from the cloud, and the rest are on one of my external USB drives.

…and for the fun of it, what are the first applications I re-installed (in order)?

  • Microsoft Intune
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • LastPass
  • Techsmith Snagit
  • Techsmith Camtasia Studio
  • Open Live Writer
  • Google Chrome

Yes, it is entirely possible that I no longer have my installable source file for Windows Live Writer (see article), and it looks like my newly formatted Surface Pro 4 will no longer have that trusted blogging software that I have been using for a decade (or longer).  In truth, I probably have it one one of my computer at home, but I don’t think it is worth the hassle to look, because Open Live Writer is just fine.

A BossDock PHEW! Moment…

USB-C-5K-BossDOCK-1I got to my office this morning and realized that my screens were unresponsive, as were my external keyboard and mouse.  Assuming the issue was with my external docking station, I disconnected it from my laptop and then reconnected it; I unplugged it from the power source, waited a few seconds, then plugged it in again.  Still nothing.  Crap.

…And then I realized that a docking station is only useful when it is connected to a functional computer.  I switched to my laptop keyboard and got the same response.  I performed a cold boot of my laptop, and sure enough, the dock worked fine.  It was my laptop (which I cannot recall when the last time I rebooted) that was the problem.


(For those of you who are wondering why I would rather the $1500 laptop be the problem rather than the $200 docking station, it is simple… the computer belongs to my company, and if it stops working our Service Desk takes it for an hour to fix it while I go outside for a cigar.  Have a great weekend!)

Automated Virtual Machine Activation

Let’s face it… Microsoft wants you to use Microsoft, so when it can, it creates technologies that make it easier for you to do so.  Automatic Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA) is one of those tools.

I remember when Microsoft got into the server virtualization game, it really had very little to compete with VMware, other than price.  That has certainly changed, and while Hyper-V is not completely where ESXi is, it is damned close… and there are some benefits, such as AVMA.

What is it?  Simple.  If your virtualization host is running Hyper-V, then your guest VMs do not need to activate to Microsoft… or even to a KMS Server for that matter.  They activate directly to the host.  That means that rather than having to keep track of (or worse, share) your Product Keys, you can simply share the AVMA keys.  The rest is done through the Data Exchange Integration Service in the Hyper-V stack.

The downside?  You have to have an (activated) Windows Server Datacenter Edition as your host.  In other words, it will not work with Hyper-V Server.  That is not a huge downside, but it is significant.

The keys are available for free on-line, and the activation is done against your host.  So use the following keys:

Windows Server 2016

Edition AVMA key
Standard C3RCX-M6NRP-6CXC9-TW2F2-4RHYD
Essentials B4YNW-62DX9-W8V6M-82649-MHBKQ

Windows Server 2012 R2

Edition AVMA key
Datacenter Y4TGP-NPTV9-HTC2H-7MGQ3-DV4TW
Essentials K2XGM-NMBT3-2R6Q8-WF2FK-P36R2

(Notice that this works only for Server 2012R2 and later.  The feature was only introduced in that version.)

One thing you need to make sure of in the guest VM settings… You need to have Data Exchange enabled in the Integration Services context, as seen here:


…So now, you can include the AVMA key in your VM templates, and you will be all set.  But if you didn’t do that, try the following command:

slmgr.exe /ipk C3RCX-M6NRP-6CXC9-TW2F2-4RHYD

That will add the product key to your VM, and all that is left to do is activate it using the following:

slmgr.exe /ato

That’s it… Have fun!


Replay: Not quite a Second Shot, rather like buying Exam Insurance.

Microsoft certifications are worth the money… but there is certainly money involved.  You are paying USD$165.00 to sit an exam, whether you pass or fail.

Some time ago, Microsoft started offering Second Shot vouchers.  As long as you pre-registered for it, you would get the chance to re-sit an exam in the event that you did not pass.  They were a great way to encourage candidates to try, and if they failed, they would be able to take the exam again at no extra cost.

The last time I wrote about these vouchers was nearly 6 years ago.  I do not know if they have come up since, but I don’t think I have taken advantage in a long time.

MindHubThere is now a program called Microsoft Exam Replay.  This is not a free offer from Microsoft, rather it is like buying an insurance program up front.  Instead of purchasing the exam outright, you purchase an exam voucher + retake from MindHub.  The cost? USD$230, or USD$65.00 more than the cost of the exam.  In other words, it is a bad investment if your confidence level is high… but if you are really uncertain, it may be worth your while to look into it.

Reading the on-line reviews, there is no consensus.  It seems they are like olives… you either love it or hate it.  I am not planning to take any exams in the near future, so I will not be trying them out.  However, if you are concerned, then better safe than sorry.