Have you ever had the need for a tool that performs a particular task but you just can’t find what you need? Then one day you come across the tool and you want to cry “Eureka!” and praise the gawds who have provided you with the gem you sought. Microsoft Solution Accelerators are excellent examples of such tools. There are a lot of these tools available, even more than what I was originally aware of, but I’ll give you some details on a couple of the top tools today.
One of the top tools and one of my favourites is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit currently at version 9.1. I first used this back when it was version 6.x when discussions were being had to migrate a client and their 300 odd XP Pro client computers to Windows 7. “Oh, how will we know what we have in the environment without lengthy inventory activities and meetings galore!?” they cried. This tool unleashes the magic. It’s essentially an all-in-one tool that uses WMI and or PowerShell to query the environment and creates beautiful canned reports telling you, with a great degree of accuracy, what’s out there. It’s a time saver. It’s good for license compliance information gathering and to see if your machinery is ready for the latest operating systems and helps plan for migration to Azure.
Number two on the list is another genius tool called the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. This is “the” tool if you’re doing any form of operating system deployment. Big or small you’re going to want to use this. If you need to deploy to a smaller environment you can install and use this on its own. If you need to deploy in enterprise scale you’re going to want to integrate this with System Center Configuration Manager. MDT lets you create, in a logical and easy to follow format, the individual components to lay down a reference image, capture that image, and deploy the captured image. It allows you to load drivers, applications, update packages, and operating system source in one location. You have the ability to create some super detailed task sequences to customize your image in hundreds of different ways. The toolkit includes some of the most detailed and helpful documentation I have ever seen.
I’ve used both of these tools with great success and can recommend them completely. If you’re not using these to help plan and deploy operating systems in your environment you should be!