Installing HKCU keys using a Windows Installer repair, Pt. II

2017-07-27T00:01:04+00:00 March 27th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Previously, in Pt. I of this series, I wrote about how to install HKCU registry keys (which can also be used for installing data anywhere in a user profile).  Now I’ll go into more depth on how to do this using the popular application packaging product Wise Package Studio.

Though Wise Package Studio has been discontinued by Symantec, it’s still quite popular in many packaging environments.  The main tool used for creating and editing Windows Installer projects in Wise Package Studio is the “Windows Installer Editor”, which was previously available alone as “Wise for Windows Installer” (wfwi.exe). 

Most of the packaging work will be done in the “Installation Expert” view, which is a slightly more “user friendly” or “cleaner” project editor.  After creating my new project, I’ll add a couple files to it.  The files I added are Process Explorer (procexp.exe) from “SysInternals” and it’s help file (procexp.chm).  Process Explorer is one of several extremely useful utilities available (free!) in the Sysinternals Suite




Next, I’ll add an “Advertised” desktop shortcut to “procexp.exe” from the “Shortcuts” page.  By default, when you add a shortcut to point to a file in your installation the “Advertised” check box is marked. 




Note that “Complete” is listed in the “Current Feature” drop down list.  By default, Wise starts with a feature named “Complete” and puts all files, registry keys, shortcuts, etc. under the “Complete” feature, but we need a “hidden” parent feature.  So, from the Features page “Add” a new feature.  Give it a name, select “<None>” from the Parent drop down list, “Hidden” from the Display drop down, and check the “Required Feature” check box; the rest of the defaults can be left.  After adding the hidden parent feature, I go into the “Complete” feature to select the hidden feature from its “Parent” drop down list. 




Finally, I add an HKCU registry key to the new hidden feature.  Notice now that I’ve added a new feature, I can select it from the “Current Feature” drop down list from all the pages in Installation Expert. 




After the project is compiled, the .MSI can be run on any system “per machine” with the “ALLUSERS” value set to ‘1’.  When a new user logs onto the machine and clicks on the advertised shortcut, the HKCU key will be installed by the windows installer repair. 

 Next time, I’ll take a look at implementing self repair using InstallShield.  I hope you found this tutorial enlightening, instructive, and maybe even a little fun.  Well..uh..instructive and enlightening should be good enough! 




Powershell – Query Active Directory for Server Versions…

2013-03-20T22:45:57+00:00 March 20th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Today, I’m writing about a simple-but-useful command that just might help you get a better understanding of the quantity and variety of Windows servers you have in your environment, with just a few caveats.  The most accurate way to get such information, of course, is to query Active Directory in real-time to get the most current information possible.  And the easiest way to do that (in my opinion), is to use PowerShell.  So launch a console and let’s get to it…

But first, if you haven’t launched the pre-loaded Active-Directory PowerShell Module, then let’s do that now:

Import-Module ActiveDirectory

Here’s a first blush at how we can list all AD-based computers, grabbing only the interesting properties we need, formatting the output to a list, and redirecting the results to file (I’ve seen some things like this while ‘Googling):

Get-AdComputer -Filter * -Properties IPv4Address,OperatingSystem,OperatingSystemServicePack | Format-List Name, IPv4Address, OperatingSystem* > OutputServerList.txt

Now, let’s dig deeper, and perhaps refine the command a bit.  First, the filter is a wildcard, and retrieves all computers.  That might be fine in a small environment with few computers; but we’re really only after Servers here, and we might be working in a larger environment.  So, we will change the filter to use an LDAPFilter and get a bit more granular like this:

-LDAPFilter "(OperatingSystem=*Server*)"

Next, I think the results will actually look better if we output them to a CSV, so we’ll drop the redirect and list formatting, and replace it with a pipe like this:

| Export-Csv ExportCsvServerList.csv

Now a warning about the CSV export…  Unfortunately, Microsoft chose to include a “restricted” symbol (little r in a circle) in the Server 2008 (non-R2) name, like this:

Windows Server® 2008 Standard

…and, the CSV export operates only with the ASCII set by default.  Sheesh.  So, we use the UTF8 flag to make sure the wacky “restricted” mark is rendered correctly, like this:

| Export-Csv -Encoding UTF8 ExportCsvServerList.csv

So with all that, we end up with a command looking like this:

Get-AdComputer -LDAPFilter "(OperatingSystem=*Server*)" -Properties IPv4Address,OperatingSystem,OperatingSystemServicePack,OperatingSystemVersion | Export-Csv -Encoding UTF8 ExportCsvServerList.csv

And since it’s a spreadsheet you can further filter/format/manipulate the results how you see fit.

One more thing that causes confusion sometimes: 

Be aware that even though we are calling ActiveDirectory for these servers and their correlating properties, there’s one of these items that don’t come from there: the IP Address.  As you are likely aware, the IP address of a computer object is not stored in the directory; so what is actually happening is that the Get-AdComputer module is retrieving the FQDN of the computer, and doing a DNS query to resolve it to the address for you. 

Now, this can be good or bad, depending on your situation; for instance, it might slow down your 8000+ server export… or might also help alleviate the burden on your AD server as you make the query (while it delays the processing a tad to retrieve the name).  Also, you’d better be able to rely on your DNS to return valid values, or the results might be confusing/misleading! 

I hope that helps…  Thanks for reading, and by all means if you have additional tips, be sure to comment!




Installing HKCU keys using a Windows Installer repair

2017-07-27T00:01:04+00:00 March 13th, 2013|Uncategorized|

One of the more common (and tricky) issues faced when installing an application in the enterprise is how to install user data.  Typically, the application installer is run silently with no user interaction in the “system” context with administrative privileges.  This method is commonly used so that the software can install in the background without disrupting the end users work.  Fortunately, this method works for a majority of software deployments, because the installer does not need to install anything in the “user” context. 

There are situations, however, when an application requires registry keys or some data files installed in the user’s profile prior to the applications first launch.  One common post-installation method used for installing user data is called “Active Setup”; a full explanation of how to implement this method is beyond the scope of this post… and besides… there’s already been a blog post on this topic

A major drawback of the Active Setup method is that any user logged on to the system when the silent installation occurred must log out of their profile and log back in.  The reason is because the mechanism which initiates Active Setup compares a Local Machine registry keys to one in the User’s profile when the user logs on.  A more convenient and functional method (and slicker, I must say) to install data to the user profile in the user context is by initiating a Windows Installer repair. 

By design, Windows Installer initiates “self repair” or “self healing” when an entry point to the installed application is launched.  Typically, the entry point is an “Advertised” shortcut.  When the user clicks on the shortcut, Windows Installer will perform an integrity check to verify all the “key paths” of the installed application are present; if not present, the Windows Installer repair will install any missing component(s) and their key path.  The key path of a component is typically a file or shortcut. 

One  method for installing Current User registry keys post install is to add a top level “Hidden Feature” (note: the feature doesn’t really have to be hidden, but we do this to ensure that whoever runs the install doesn’t have the option not to install it) to the install which contains all the HKCU keys.  Mark the feature as “required” and make it the “Parent” feature to all other features in your MSI.  Move all HKCU keys to the same component in the required feature.  Finally, add an “advertised” to your application to facilitate the repair.  After the application is installed (in the system context), when a user click on the advertised shortcut a self repair will occur to install the components with the missing key paths… IF the key path doesn’t exist.

Ya see…this blog post was partly inspired by a setup I encountered on a customer location which attempted to use this method for installing the required HKCU registry keys.  When I tested the application, it was not behaving as expected.  I looked into the .MSI that installed it and found that everything had been laid out according to the prescribed method detailed above… except… the component key path holding the HKCU keys was actually an HKLM registry key which already existed on my system!  Thus, the self repair would never “kick off”.  When attempting to initiate a controlled Windows Installer repair, you must ensure the component key path is truly unique, or the repair won’t happen. 

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into Windows Installer and find this method to install user data helpful.  This was just a high level overview; next week, I’ll follow up with a more detailed post on how to implement this functionality. 



PowerShell – Detect Group Membership Type…

2017-07-27T00:01:04+00:00 March 6th, 2013|Uncategorized|

It should come as no surprise that adherence to naming conventions and good Active Directory (AD) Organizational Unit (OU) structure are things that can make an Enterprise Administrator’s life much easier. 

Take, for example, the situation of having a naming convention for group objects in AD that dictates a single-letter suffix of either a “C” (to indicate a group of computer objects) or a “U” (for a group of user objects).  In this case, a group might be named something like, “Detroit Application Data U”, or “Chicago Printers Floor2 C”.  And with intentions such as these — and human beings being what they are — it’s inevitable that some users will end up in computer groups, and vice versa.

So how to we check for this messiness?  With PowerShell, of course…

We create a script that will accept an array of our AD OUs (or group-specific OUs if you’re lucky), loop through them, grab all the groups and the memberships, and do a validation to make sure the members are of the correct class (note that I could fill up pages of the lines of code for this, depending on your specifics; so I’ll just stick with the main conceptual points).  Let’s dive into the code snippets!

First, add your OUs into an array, and other variables.  Of course, you might not be able to just scrape a level with PowerShell and grab all your OUs…  Oh, but you *do* have a perfectly-regulated AD hierarchy, don’t you?  Whether it’s perfect or not, AD structure goes a long way here; and my examples show how convenient it is if you have all your groups in a standard ou=GROUPS structure or some predictable way.

$OUs = @("Detroit", "Chicago", "Los Angeles")
$MyDomain = "dc=MyDomain,dc=org"

Then you start to loop and grab all the groups in an OU:

foreach ($OU in $OUs)
  #... skipped a few more lines of code here...
# Here we get the list of our groups for the loop
$OuGroupNames = Get-ADObject -Filter {(ObjectClass -eq "group") -and ((name -like "* U") -or (name -like "* C"))} -SearchBase "ou=Groups,ou=$OU,$MyDomain"

And, now that you have the groups, you can start to evaluate each group like this:

  foreach ($OuGroup in $OuGroupNames)
    #...skip more code.. What are we skipping here? Oh, validations, error-checking, and stuff...
# we need the group name and DN    $OuGroupName = $OuGroup.Name     $OuGroupDn = $OuGroup.DistinguishedName

Now, we can truly check the object membership type!

    # If it is a user group...
if ($OuGroupName -like "* U")     {       $MemberList = Get-ADGroupMember -Identity "$OuGroupName"
# had better be a user...       if ($Member.ObjectClass -like "computer")
#...or we kick out an error to the report!

And so on.  Of course, you’d do the converse of the snippet above for a user-type object in a “C” group.  By the way, this can lead to all kinds of other error detection too; in fact, the main reason I couldn’t show all my code is that I ended up adding checks for empty groups, groups with members from external OUs, and so on.  Because basically, once you have the group attributes and its membership list in hand, you may as well do some validation while you’re there…

So have fun with it, and see where it leads you…  And make sure to drop me a line if you need any help putting the whole thing together.