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  • Backup and Recovery of Windows 8 & Windows 8.1 - Tip-of-the-Day

    Update for Windows 8.1: Note that System Image Backup in Windows 8.1 has been moved to the lower left corner of the File History tool in Control Panel as shown below. 

    File History tool in Windows 8.1

    In addition, the Windows 7 File Recovery tool in Control Panel has been renamed to the Recovery tool in Windows 8.1.

    Have you recently installed Windows 8?  In this article, we'll introduce you to the new options available for making Backup and Recovery in Windows 8 easier than ever, including Windows 8 File History, launching Windows System Backup and Windows 8 Refresh & Reset PC.

  • Windows 8 Pro vs Enterprise - What’s the Difference?

    Earlier today, my friend and colleague, Harold Wong, did a great job outlining the requirements for installing the various editions of Windows 8 along with noting the additional requirements for key product features. 

    Be sure to check out Harold’s BLOG ARTICLE for the details.

    BUT ... What extras do I get with Windows 8 Enterprise?

    Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise are both designed for business network environments.  However, at many of my events, a common question among IT Pros relates to the specific differences between Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise.  Below, I’ve included a chart that summarizes the key differences between the Professional and Enterprise editions for Windows 8.

  • 12 Steps to NTFS Shared Folders in Windows Server 2012

    In the past, managing and sharing NTFS folders could be a real ordeal – there were different tools for managing NTFS permissions vs shared folders and most IT Pros generally used these tools on a server-by-server basis from each server’s console. 

    Server Manager to the rescue!

    In Windows Server 2012, Server Manager provides a management facelift on top of the disconnected process that we’ve used in the past for sharing folders and setting NTFS permissions.  In addition, Server Manager can easily manage these folders on a local server or any remote servers that you’ve previously added to the Server Manager dashboard.  In this article, I step through the simplified process of using Server Manager to share and configure NTFS shared folders in Windows Server 2012  ...

  • VMware or Microsoft? Comparing vSphere 5.5 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V At-A-Glance

    UPDATES: Based on strong feedback from the community, I've made the following updates to this article ...

    • Added new row for Virtualization of Serial Ports.
    • Added new row for Web-based Management.
    • Added new rows for Boot from Flash, Boot from SAN and VM Guest Clustering Maximum Nodes.
    • Added new rows for VDI management, Disk Footprint and 4K Disk Support.
    • Added ability to Download this technical comparison article as a Whitepaper for reviewing offline.

    Thanks for sharing your feedback to make this technical comparison a more useful resource!

    There’s been lots of buzz on the enterprise hypervisor front over the past month …  In August, Microsoft announced the RTM version of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, the latest major releases of the Windows Server and System Center families.  In addition, at VMworld this year, VMware announced the latest edition of their vSphere hypervisor platform: VMware vSphere 5.5

    IT Pros have been very interested in learning about the pros and cons presented by each offering – particularly because the total cost of Windows Server 2012 R2 + System Center 2012 R2 can be quite attractive in comparison to VMware’s offerings. 

    • More information: See Shopping for Private Clouds for a sample cost comparison between Microsoft and VMware virtualization solutions based on real-world requirements.


    With so many features called by differing names in each virtualization platform, comparing Microsoft and VMware solutions can sometimes seem a bit like comparing apples and oranges  But, I’ll try to boil things down to a real-world perspective based on my experience implementing both solutions in the field throughout my career.  In this article, I’ll provide a summarized comparison of the  virtualization and Private Cloud feature sets provided by each of these latest releases using the currently available public information from both Microsoft and VMware as of this article’s publication date ...

  • Step-by-Step: Build Your Cloud with System Center 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V and Microsoft Azure

    April 11, 2014: Updated to include additional resources ...

    Now, take Build Your Cloud on-the-go with Windows Phone!

    My fellow Technical Evangelists and I have authored a content series that steps through building your very own Cloud by leveraging Windows Server 2012 R2, our FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 R2, Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Services ( IaaS ) and System Center 2012 R2.  Week-by-week, we walk through the steps to envision, plan and implement your very own Cloud to take your existing data center to the next level and give you the tools and time back in your day for improving IT services and being able to change and shift with your business / IT needs.

    In this article, I introduce this series and provide a weekly breakdown of each topic that we've written to help you build your own Cloud ...

  • Step-by-Step: Build a FREE SharePoint 2013 Dev/Test Lab in the Cloud with Windows Azure Infrastructure Services


    • This Step-by-Step Guide has been leveraged to define a new Windows Azure Deployment Planning Service ( AZDPS ) for Microsoft Partners and Customers: Implementing Develop and Test Scenarios on Windows Azure Virtual Machines. Customers can now engage authorized partners for planning and delivery of this solution AND customers with Software Assurance ( SA ) benefits attached to a Volume Licensing ( VL ) agreement can leverage SA to pay for all or part of this partner engagement. 
    • At the end of this step-by-step article, I've also included a downloadable lab guide and130-line PowerShell script for initial provisioning.  The PowerShell script helps to reduce the initial configuration time by automating the provisioning of a new Windows Azure Storage account, Virtual Network and Virtual Machines - after running the script, you'll just need to Remote Desktop into each VM to finish the OS and application-level configuration tasks. 

    Hope you enjoy!

    Now that SharePoint Server 2013 has been released, I frequently get asked about ways in which a SharePoint 2013 lab environment can be easily built for studying, testing, development, demos and/or performing a proof-of-concept.  You could certainly build this lab environment on your own hardware, but due to the level of SharePoint 2013 hardware requirements, a lot of us may not have sufficient spare hardware to implement an on-premise lab environment.

    This makes a great scenario for leveraging our Windows Azure FREE Trial Offer to build a free Dev/Test lab environment for SharePoint 2013 in the cloud.  Using the process outlined in this article, you’ll be able to build a basic functional farm environment for SharePoint 2013 with your free trial subscription for Windows Azure ...

  • Step-by-Step: Building a FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 Cluster - Part 1 of 2

    Leverage the FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 to provide an Enterprise-ready Private Cloud Foundation!

    Configuring our FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 in a highly available cluster can be really easy.  In this article, I’ll step through the configuration of a Hyper-V host cluster configuration that uses Hyper-V Server 2012 so that you'll have the details to step through this process in your own lab environment.

    In Part 2 of this article series, I’ll finish up with the steps needed to provision and test a highly available virtual machine within your new cluster ...

  • Building a Private Cloud VM Compute Foundation with the FREE Hyper-V Server 2012

    When designing your virtualization host framework for your Private Cloud, it's important to select platforms that use widely supported standards and provide cost-effective solutions for elastically scaling a resilient compute foundation.  With this criteria in check, you'll be able to grow your compute foundation to support additional capacity as needed while taking advantage of the latest advancements in hypervisor technologies ... AND without risk of being locked in to a single-vendor solution.  Virtualization and private cloud capabilities are expanding rapidly, and you definitely want to be sure that your ability to capitalize on new impactful features isn't being "boxed in".

    For these reasons, a ton of IT Pros that I speak with are experiencing great success today by expanding their compute capacity with the FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 product, regardless of their current "incumbent" hypervisor. As an enterprise-grade, bare-metal hypervisor solution, Hyper-V Server 2012 offers the same level of scale, clustering, live migration and DR-replication capabilities as the Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2012, but at an unmatched feature/cost pricepoint in the industry -  an enterprise hypervisor feature set for FREE.  In terms of widely supported standards, Hyper-V uses the VHD virtual hard disk standard for broad industry compatibility - so there's no risk that your data will be locked inside a proprietary disk format. This provides unprecedented flexibility for growing your Private Cloud compute foundation via a hybrid mix of on-premise hypervisor hosts, public cloud fabric ( Windows Azure VMs also support VHDs ) and/or third-party service providers/hosting partners ... all of which empowers us to select the options which best support each of our individual application workloads.

    In this article, I'll walk through the resources you'll need to get started with Hyper-V Server 2012, and I'll also include more advanced resources for building a scalable and highly-available clustered compute foundation for FREE!

  • NIC Teaming in Windows Server 2012 - Do I Need to Configure My Switch?

    One of the common questions on NIC teaming is whether special network switches and/or customized switch configurations are needed to fully support NIC Teaming in Windows Server 2012.  And, the answer is ... it depends!  Read this article to find our when and how you may need to configure network switches to participate in a NIC team ...

  • VLAN Tricks with NICs - Teaming & Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012

    After I wrote my prior post on our new natively supported NIC Teaming in Windows Server 2012 and our FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 product, there’s been a ton of questions around how VLANs work with NIC Teaming and Hyper-V.  In this article, I’ll build upon my prior post and cover configuring VLAN traffic segregation for physical and virtualized workloads ...

  • Step-by-Step: Get Started with Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD) and Multi-Factor Authentication

    Managing user credentials and application access is becoming more-and-more difficult in today's "cloud era".  In addition to managing access to traditional on-premises applications, we're also faced with managing access to numerous 3rd party cloud-based applications - many of which default to managing identities on an app-by-app basis.  And ... securing all of those discrete identities with passwords alone is getting quickly outdated as increasingly sophisticated password attacks are hitting the news on a regular basis.

    Luckily, Windows Azure gives us the ability to easily gain visibility and centralized control over "cloud era" identity management via two offerings: Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD) and Windows Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).  In this article, I’ll provide a set of resources that you can use to get started exploring and  leveraging Windows Azure Active Directory and Multi-Factor Authentication for your applications …


  • Managing FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 with a Local GUI Console Tool

    There's a handy new tool available from our free CodePlex Open Source community repository that can be leveraged for basic management of Hyper-V Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 Server Core from a local GUI console. In this article, I'll describe the capabilities of this new tool and provide the steps for download and installation ...



  • Windows 8.1 - Unable to "Copy Recovery Partition" when building Recovery Drive?

    After upgrading to Windows 8.1, you should take time to build a new Recovery Drive on USB storage media.  By building a new Recovery Drive, you’ll have an easy way to perform a system Reset / Refresh with the Windows 8.1 operating system bits, if needed to recover from an unbootable system situation down the road.  Windows 8.1 makes it easy to create a new Recovery Drive by using the Control Panel | Recovery tool.

    Control Panel Recovery Tool
    Windows 8.1 – Create a Recovery Drive using Control Panel | Recovery Tool

    However, while I’ve been discussing Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 at recent events, I’ve encountered a few IT Pros that have been unable to Copy the Recovery Partition when creating a new Recovery Drive – for them, the option appeared to be disabled after upgrading to Windows 8.1.  In this article, we'll walk through the process to diagnose and resolve this issue so that you can successfully create a new Recovery Drive ...

  • Step-by-Step: Extending On-Premise Active Directory to the Cloud with Windows Azure - 31 Days of Servers in the Cloud - Part 20 of 31

    Extending an on-premise Windows Server Active Directory ( AD ) infrastructure into the cloud is an important topic to consider when planning the migration or implementation of cloud-based applications.  Many existing applications require Active Directory for authentication and identity management.  When migrating applications to the cloud, having a locally accessible Active Directory is an important factor to ensuring that AD authentication is fast and reliable.

    In this article, we’ll be stepping through the components involved with extending an on-premise Active Directory infrastructure into the Cloud using Windows Server Active Directory on Windows Azure VMs.

  • Step-by-Step: Building a Windows Server 2012 Active Directory Forest in the Cloud with Windows Azure

    Often times, applications that we’re deploying to the cloud may expect Windows Server Active Directory to be present for authentication and identity management.  With Windows Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks, we can deploy Windows Server Active Directory on the Windows Azure cloud platform to support these security needs.  Best of all, you can test and pilot this scenario for FREE by using our Windows Azure 90-Day Free Trial program.

    In this article, we’ll be working through the steps involved with provisioning a new Windows Server 2012 Active Directory Forest in the Cloud with Windows Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks ...

  • Step-by-Step: Speaking iSCSI with Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V - Become a Virtualization Expert in 20 Days! ( Part 7 of 20 )

    Windows Server 2012 and our completely FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 certainly have some really cost effective new storage options, with Storage Spaces and Hyper-V over SMB 3.0.  However, many IT Pros have already invested in iSCSI shared storage and, as a result, many Hyper-V deployments also need to be able to leverage these existing storage investments.

    iSCSI? No problem! Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server 2012 include native support for a software iSCSI initiator as well as MPIO ( Multipath IO ) for  resiliency and load balancing of storage IO over multiple network paths.

    In this article, we’ll walk through the process of connecting Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server 2012 to common iSCSI storage arrays.  Because most of my IT Pro friends are running Hyper-V either on Windows Server 2012 Server Core or Hyper-V Server 2012, both options without a local console GUI, I’ll be providing my examples below in PowerShell.

    NOTE: In this article, I make the assumption that your iSCSI storage array is already configured and that your Hyper-V host is already physically attached and zoned into your iSCSI storage network.

    • Don’t have an iSCSI Storage Array? Did you know that Windows Server 2012 includes an iSCSI Target role that, along with Failover Clustering, allows it to become a cost-effective and highly-available iSCSI Storage Array?  Walk through the process of getting this configured in the following Step-by-Step Guide:
      DO IT: Step-by-Step: Build a Windows Server 2012 Storage Server
  • Step-by-Step: Build a FREE System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 Lab in the Cloud

    UPDATE: Now includes System Center 2012 SP1 CU2 along with the following new articles ...

    • Build a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 Cloud Distribution Point using Windows Azure Infrastructure Services by Kevin Remde
    • Guided Hands-On Lab: Enable BYOD Management with System Center 2012 SP1 and Windows Intune by Keith Mayer

    System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 ( “ConfigMgr 2012 SP1” ) offers lots of great new capabilities for IT Pros, but building a lab to evaluate, test and study ConfigMgr can be challenging if you don’t have spare hardware capacity in your data center.  In this Step-by-Step Guide, I’ll walk through the steps that I used to build my ConfigMgr 2012 SP1 demo and study lab in the cloud on the Windows Azure platform.

    This makes a great scenario for leveraging our Windows Azure FREE Trial Offer to build your lab environment for FREE in the cloud!

    Lab Scenario: ConfigMgr 2012 SP1 in the Cloud

  • Get started as an "Early Expert" on Windows Server 2012 R2 with this FREE eBook!

    Research has shown that approximately 65% to 70% of organizations today have more than one hypervisor deployed. This presents a large opportunity for IT Professionals to increase their technical differentiation and value in the IT marketplace by supporting multiple hypervisors. Using this free eBook and the "Early Experts" study program, IT Professionals can easily extend their professional knowledge and skills to Windows Server 2012 R2 and Hyper-V on a flexible schedule as time permits.

    Get this FREE eBook!

    In this article, get started down your path as an "Early Expert" on Windows Server 2012 R2 ...

  • Step-by-Step: Building a Windows Server 2012 Failover Cluster Study Lab in the Cloud with Windows Azure

    The high availability afforded by Windows Server 2012 Failover Clustering is a key ingredient for managing and maintaining business critical applications.  To gain familiarity with What’s New in Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2012, this article will step through an overview of new capabilities along with a Step-by-Step Guide on building a simulated Failover Cluster study lab in the Cloud on the Windows Azure platform.

    Lab Scenario

    In this Step-by-Step Guide, you will work through the process of building a Windows Server 2012 Failover Cluster study lab on the Windows Azure cloud platform.  This failover cluster will leverage the work completed in the prior Step-by-Step Guides listed in the Prerequisites below to integrate a simulated cluster with an existing Active Directory and iSCSI storage infrastructure.

    Lab Scenario: Windows Server 2012 Failover Cluster

    This lab scenario will also serve as the basis for future Step-by-Step Guides, where we will be adding additional member servers and on-premise connectivity to this same Virtual Network in the Windows Azure cloud.

  • Step-by-Step: Remote Desktop Services on Windows Azure - A cost-effective alternative to Desktop as a Service ( Part 2 )

    UPDATE: As of January 1, 2014, the following RDS licensing changes offer an alternative to RDS Subscriber Access Licenses (SALs) noted below in this article.

    Effective January 1, 2014, Volume Licensing customers who have active Software Assurance on their RDS User CALs are entitled to RDS CAL Extended Rights, which allow use of their RDS User CAL with Software Assurance for accessing Windows Server Remote Desktop Session Virtualization servers running on Windows Azure. 

    For more details on the RDS licensing changes in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Azure, please see the following additional resources:

    In Part 1 of this two-part article series, we introduced Remote Desktop Session Virtualization on Windows Azure as an attractive alternative to traditional Desktop as a Service ( DaaS ) solutions.  Remote Desktop Session Virtualization provides a high-density solution that requires provisioning and managing far fewer VMs than traditional DaaS, while still providing a robust and highly compatible method for delivery of high-fidelity remote desktop and remote application experiences to users. 

    Remote Desktop Session Virtualization Lab Scenario

    In this article, we’ll step through the provisioning process for configuring a Remote Desktop Session Virtualization lab environment on the Windows Azure pay-as-you-go cloud platform.  Our lab environment will consist of two VMs: one VM configured as an Active Directory Domain Controller and DNS server, and a second VM configured as a Remote Desktop Session Host, Web Access gateway, and Connection Broker. 

  • Free Guide Friday! Updated “Early Experts” Study Guide for new MCSA Exams: Exam 70-410

    This month, Microsoft Learning has updated the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification exams to include new exam questions that relate to Windows Server 2012 R2.  If you’re currently preparing for MCSA certification, you’ll definitely want to check out the updated exam topics.


    To help you prepare for the new exam topics in each MCSA exam, this month I’ll be releasing a set of updated free Study Guides - one per exam each Friday - as part of an Early Experts “Free Guide Friday” series. Each Study Guide will include prescriptive resources and hands-on exercises to build your confidence with the new exam topics. 

    Today’s Study Guide is focused on the new “R2” exam topics on Exam 70-410, Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012

  • Early Experts Study Guide for Microsoft Specialist Certification Exam 70-534, Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions

    Read this article ...

    This exam study guide is intended as a study reference tool to assist experienced architects with preparing for Microsoft Specialist certification via Exam 70-534, Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions.

    Exam 70-534 is one of three exams that can be successfully passed to complete Microsoft Specialist certification on Microsoft Azure. Other exams in this Microsoft Specialist series include:

    Only one exam listed above (70-532 or 70-533 or 70-534) needs to be passed to attain Microsoft Specialist certification on Microsoft Azure.

    This exam guide presents the target exam objectives within each of the above objective domains in a checklist format to provide an easy method for experienced exam candidates to quickly self-assess their general exam preparedness and also provide specific study resources to help candidates address knowledge gap areas prior to attempting this exam. These are the same study resources that I personally used to prepare for Exams 70-534, 70-533 and 70-532 myself, so I’ve already taken time to proof and review each and every resource ...

  • Step-by-Step: Getting Started with NEW Microsoft Azure Automation preview feature

    UPDATE: Azure Automation has been updated to support Azure Active Directory authentication to simplify the steps for getting started! As an alternative to the steps below for configuring certificate-based authentication, check out this article by Joe Levy, Program Manager on the Azure Automation team,  for getting started with Azure AD with Azure Automation.

    Earlier this week, Microsoft Azure Automation was made available on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform as a public preview.  This new feature allows you to automate the creation, monitoring, deployment and management of cloud resources in your Microsoft Azure subscription using a highly-available workflow execution engine.  Azure Automation provides an orchestration feature set for public cloud resources that is similar to what the Service Management Automation (SMA) engine provides for on-premises private cloud resources via the Windows Azure Pack and System Center 2012 R2 Orchestrator.

    Read this article ...

    Azure Automation is super-cool, because it allows us to perform automated cloud provisioning and management without needing to manually build and manage a separate set of automation servers.  And … scalability and high availability of the Azure Automation engine is provided natively via the Microsoft Azure cloud platform without any extra configuration steps needed, which helps to make sure that your scheduled runbooks will always execute when needed.

    In this article, I’ll step through the process of getting started with Azure Automation. Along the way, we’ll build a runbook and PowerShell workflow for performing basic automation of Microsoft Azure virtual machines.

  • Step-by-Step: Running FREE Linux Virtual Machines in the Cloud with Windows Azure

    The Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering supports running Windows virtual machines and Linux virtual machines in the Cloud. In this article, I provide step-by-step guidance for running a new Linux virtual machine in the cloud using our Windows Azure platform ...

  • Why R2? Step-by-Step: Automated Tiered Storage with Windows Server 2012 R2

    This month, my team of fellow IT Pro Technical Evangelists are publishing a series of articles on Why Windows Server 2012 R2? that highlights the key enhancements and new capabilities that we're seeing driving particular interest in this latest release of our Windows Server operating system in the field.  This article has been updated now that Window Server 2012 R2 is generally available.

    I’ve been speaking with lots of IT Pros over the past several weeks about the new storage improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2, and one feature in particular has gained a ton of attention: Automated Storage Tiers as part of the new Storage Spaces feature set. 

    Storage Tiers in Windows Server 2012 R2

    In this article, I'll briefly discuss the benefits of Storage Tiers in Windows Server 2012 R2, and then I’ll step through the process of building an Automated Tiered Storage lab for the purpose of evaluating and demonstrating the functionality of Storage Tiers in a Windows Server 2012 R2 lab environment.