What is self-service OS deployment?

Enabling users to schedule or initiate their own Operating System deployments can significantly reduce the time and cost of IT staff to rebuild, replace or upgrade machines and also reduces user downtime as they have more control over when the process happens and can initiate it at a time when they do not need their computer.

The Windows Servicing Suite provides several options for self-service OS deployment through the 1E Shopping portal. Whether replacing hardware, upgrading or refreshing the OS (wipe-and-load), users can decide when the operation happens on their device. Using the Windows Servicing Assistant further enhances the user experience and prepares the user's device to enable self-service whether the user is in the office or working remotely.

To learn about the different self-service options for OS deployment refer to Shopping 6.0 - Self-service Operating System deployment.

On this page:

Introducing the Windows Servicing Assistant

The Windows Servicing Assistant (WSA) is a new feature introduced in Shopping 5.5 and Nomad 6.3.200 that provides a user-driven wizard that prepares the machine for an OS deployment operation (replacement, refresh or in-place upgrade), ensuring everything is prepared and ready before executing the Configuration Manager OS Deployment Task Sequence. It uses Nomad to ensure all the content required to complete the Task Sequence, including any dynamic content required for applications to be migrated using Application Migration, is available locally before the Task Sequence starts. This enables users to execute deployments wherever they are, as long as they are able to establish a VPN connection to the corporate network. If there is insufficient local disk space to store content and there are no local peers that can provide the content (e.g. when the user is remote), or if the Task Sequence being deployed will reformat the drive (as in a destructive wipe-and-load), the user will be prompted to insert USB media for temporary storage.

The user experience with the Windows Servicing Assistant

Users launch the Windows Servicing Assistant from the 1E Shopping self-service portal. When the assistant loads, the user is prompted to select a deployment operation from the options the administrator has made available to them. They are then asked if they are in the office or out of the office as the behavior of the assistant and the execution of the Task Sequence will be different for remote users. 

The Start screen

The Location screen

Depending on the type of deployment operation and the options that the administrator has made available, they may be shown applications that will be migrated as part of the operation and they may be able to select specific folders and files to migrate (in the replace scenario) or retain (in the wipe-and-load scenario).

To understand the Windows Servicing Assistant user experience, refer to the following pages in Shopping 6.0 documentation:

Windows Servicing Assistant for remote users

The Windows Servicing Assistant enables users to complete computer replacement, refresh (aka wipe-and-load) and in-place upgrade operations wherever they are, as long as they have VPN access to the corporate network. The solution currently only supports VPN connections using the Microsoft VPN client with username and password authentication. If users are unable to establish a VPN connection using this method, support for remote users will not be available. When a user selects 'I am out of the office' on the Location screen, the Windows Servicing Assistant will prompt for their VPN username and password.

These credentials are stored locally in the Windows credential store. When the Task Sequence executes, the WSA Actions - Initialize step retrieves them from the credential store and writes them to Task Sequence variables that are used to re-establish the VPN connection as required throughout the Task Sequence using the ConnectVPN.ps1 script.

As remote users typically will not have any peers from which they can obtain content or store user data on, the Windows Servicing Assistant will require all content needed to complete the selected deployment to be download locally. In the Computer Replace and Computer Refresh (aka Wipe-and-load) scenarios where user data will also be migrated, the user data (captured by the User State Migration Tool in the Task Sequence) will also need to be stored locally. If there is insufficient disk space to store the required content and user data, the user will be prompted to insert USB media for temporary storage.

When a remote user performs a Computer Refresh (aka Wipe and load) deployment, their cached domain credentials will be lost, so their first logon after the deployment has completed must be done through the VPN connection. The Task Sequence steps that establish the VPN connection leave a 'public' VPN profile that enables the user to connect to the VPN and logon from the logon screen.

Use of USB media

The Windows Servicing Assistant will determine how much storage space is required to download content or store user data locally. The amount of content and the need for storage of user data will depend on the type of deployment selected. If there is insufficient disk space, or if the selected deployment type is a destructive wipe-and-load (where the disk is repartitioned or reformatted during the deployment), the user will be required to insert USB media with a specified amount of free space. Note that USB media used by the Windows Servicing Assistant must be NTFS formatted as it will likely be storing an image file in excess of 4GB. If the user inserts USB media that is not NTFS formatted, the assistant can format it for them (they are warned that they will lose all data on the media before continuing).

In an In-place Upgrade or Wipe and Load deployment, the USB media will need to remain inserted for the duration of the deployment. For Computer Replace deployments, the USB media will first be inserted into the old PC while the capture deployment completes. When the user runs the Windows Servicing Assistant on their new PC they will be prompted to insert the USB media used for the capture into the new PC. The Windows Servicing Assistant places an ID file on the USB during the capture that enables it to identify the correct USB media has been inserted in preparation for the restore.

If users are not permitted to use USB media for security reasons, the administrator should disable the USB option in the Windows Servicing Assistant Application settings. This may prevent users from executing some deployment types if the local disk cannot be used.

Replacing computers

When a user gets a new computer, they will want to have all their applications and data migrated to the new PC so they can start using it. The Windows Servicing Assistant walks the user through the process of capturing their data from their old PC, allowing them to select specific files and folders (in addition to those already defined by the administrator in the User State Migration Tool configuration files). Once the capture Task Sequence process has completed on their old PC, the user can then launch the Windows Servicing Assistant on their new PC and select the option to restore their data and applications. When the user selects a restore deployment type, they will be presented with a list of computers they have previously captured and can select which one to restore.

The new PC must be provided to the user with the Windows 10 image installed, joined to the domain with the Configuration Manager, 1E Nomad and 1E Tachyon agents installed. The Windows Servicing Assistant will not build the user's new PC, but will migrate their data and applications.

Zero-touch Restore

When performing a computer replacement deployment, if the Windows Servicing Assistant is able to determine the name of the new computer when it runs the capture process, it can automatically initiate the restore process on the new computer when the capture of the old PC has completed. This is referred to as 'zero-touch restore'. It simplifies the process for the user as they only have to launch the assistant on the old PC and run the capture process - they don't need to launch anything on their new PC; the restore process will start automatically on their new PC within about 10 minutes of completion of the capture.

In order for zero-touch restore to occur, the following criteria must be met:

  1. The user must be in the office (zero-touch restore is not currently available for remote users)
  2. The old and new PC must be connected to the same network simultaneously for the duration of the capture and restore deployments
  3. A Nomad Peer Backup Assistant must be available to the old PC during the capture (this could actually be the new PC) and there must be sufficient disk space locally on the old PC to store the User State Migration Tool (USMT) data (.MIG) file (zero-touch is not possible if USB media is required to store the data captured from the old PC).
  4. The Windows Servicing Assistant can determine the name of the new computer when running the capture deployment. This can be achieved by either
    1. Defining a Computer Association in Configuration Manager
    2. Allowing the user to enter the name of their new PC in the Windows Servicing Assistant

For more information on supporting the replace computer scenario with the Windows Servicing Assistant, refer to the following pages in Shopping 6.0 documentation:

Reporting on Windows Servicing Assistant Deployment progress

A Shopping administrator can see the status of Windows Servicing Assistant deployments from the Shopping web portal. An 'order' is placed in Shopping when the Windows Servicing Assistant reaches the Readiness page and can be viewed in the Track WSA Orders page on the Administration tab of the Shopping web portal from that point on. Refer to Tracking WSA orders for more information on reporting.