Windows Server 2012 Essentials – How to Skip Domain Join to Install the Client Connector

Windows 8 Logo

The Essentials Experience Role on Server 2012 provides (amongst other things) full client backup and restore capabilities – much like the now discontinued Windows Home Server. However, on Server 2012 joining the domain is mandatory for clients.

There is a workaround and it is possible to connect clients to the server without joining the domain – simply enter the following command in an elevated command prompt:

reg add "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\ClientDeployment" /v SkipDomainJoin /t REG_DWORD /d 1

Below is a registry file that produces the same result:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

; ##############################################################
; Skip Domain Join on Server 2012 R2 - Windows Server Essentials
; ##############################################################

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\ClientDeployment]

We can now Connect Computers to the Server without joining the domain.

Note that domain features will not be available for clients that connect to the server in this way. This is only supported on Windows 7 & 8 (Professional and above).


Windows 7 – TV Archive Does Not Have Permissions to Access This Folder

I recently installed Windows 7 in a virtual machine on VMware vSphere so that I could start recording TV shows again with my HDHomerun.

Everything was working fine and all of a sudden I noticed that my recorded TV shows were not being moved to my Windows Home Server (WHS).

When I checked the activity of the TV achive in my Media Center I found the following status: TV Archive Does Not Have Permissions to Access This Folder.

I checked access to the Recorded TV folder on WHS from my Media Center using Windows Explorer and it worked fine. I double checked the user settings and folder permissions on WHS and they were fine too.

I had accessed WHS from my Media Center using another account and figured that might be the cause of the issue. So I set about removing the cached credentials for the non Media Center account as follows:

Press the Windows key and R to open the run dialogue box and then enter: control userpasswords2

Click the Advanced tab and then click the Manage Passwords button.

Locate the IP address for your WHS and then expand the selection and click Remove from vault.

This resolved the issue for me.

Windows 7 – Laptop Screen is Dim When Using Battery Power – Dell Inspiron 1420

I just installed Windows 7 on my wife’s Dell Inspiron 1420 which previously had Vista on it. Since then the screen is very dim when using battery power – and cannot be maximized (despite adjusting brightness settings in Power Options (in the Control Panel)).

It turns out that there is a setting for brightness in the Bios that needs to be adjusted.

  • Reboot and then Press F2 to enter the Bios.
  • Down Arrow to the Video section
  • Select the Brightness option and press Enter
  • Use the right arrow key to adjust the brightness
  • Press Enter to exit the option
  • Press Escape and then save changes when exiting the Bios.

My Bios version is A09.


Windows 7 – Basic Troubleshooting For BSODs, Random Crashes and Lockups

I can barely remember the last time I had to troubleshoot the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) on a Windows system. But, as luck would have it, I have been suffering from a spate of random freezes, lock-ups and BSODs for a few weeks now on my Windows 7 x64 box.

I did try installing some freeware that looked at the few mini-dump files that these crashes left behind but the diagnosis was not very helpful. I also updated all of my drivers and even installed all the ‘recommended’ updates from Windows Update in the hope of fixing something.

I didn’t want to reinstall Windows without knowing the cause and that turned out to be a good decision. I had to learn a few new tricks to track down the problem though.

The first thing that I did was to install the Microsoft Windows SDK for Windows 7 and .NET Framework 4. I installed the Debugging Tools for Windows which installs WinDbg which we can use to analyze Windows mini-dumps from crashes and BSODs.

Run WinDbg as an administrator and then click File and then Open Crash Dump. Browse to C:\Windows\Minidump and open a .DMP file. When prompted to Save information for workspace click No.

At this point you will see basic Bugcheck Analysis and you can click the !analyze-v link to view detailed debugging information.

Depending on your problem this might be enough to point you in the right direction – but I found that the crashes and BSODs that I was experiencing were not often creating mini-dumps. When my computer blue-screened it automatically rebooted and I could not read the BSOD either.

To try and get some more information to troubleshoot we can adjust the following settings in Control Panel and Windows Services.

In Control Panel click Advanced System Settings in the left pane then click the Advanced tab followed by the Settings button in the Performance section.

In the Performance Options window click the Advanced tab and then click the Change button in the Virtual memory section.

Make sure that the Automatically manage paging files for all drives check-box  is checked.

Click OK until you get back to the System Properties window and then click the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery section.

In the System failure section make sure that Write an event to the system log is checked and un-check Automatically restart. In the Write debugging information drop down menu select Small memory dump. Amend the Small dump directory to %SystemRoot%\Minidump.

Click OK and exit the Control Panel. Do not restart your computer just yet.

Click Start and then type services and then press the Enter key.

Scroll down to Windows Error Reporting Service then right-click it and select Properties from the menu. Set the Startup type to Automatic and the click the Start button to start the service.

Click OK and reboot your computer.

Now that we have taken care of error reporting we can configure a Windows driver verifier utility called verifier.exe.

Driver Verifier is included in Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 to promote stability and reliability; you can use this tool to troubleshoot driver issues.

Click Start and then type verifier.exe and then press the Enter key.

Click the Create custom settings (for code developers) radio button and then click Next.

Make sure that Standard settings, Force pending I/O requests and IRP Logging are all checked and then click Next.

Click the Select driver names from a list radio button and then click Next.

Click the Provider column header to sort the drivers and then scroll through the list and check all listed drivers except for Microsoft Corporation.

Click OK and reboot your computer.

At this point I found that my computer BSOD during boot and the BSOD identified dtsoftbus01.sys (a component of Daemon Tools Lite) as the problem.

So I booted into Safe Mode and uninstalled Daemon Tools and was surprised that this was the fix for weeks of BSODs, system freezes and crashes. I let verifier run on my system for 24 hours (without any further issues) before turning it off.

If you cannot boot in to your computer because of BSOD while verifier is running you can turn it off in Safe Mode.

Run verifier and then select Delete existing settings and then click Finish and reboot.

I was quite surprised that one piece of software could cause so much trouble and variety of symptoms. It was well worth going through this process to isolate the problem. If I had reinstalled Windows I would have most likely installed Daemon Tools again and been back to square one.

I had been using Virtual Clone Drive instead of Daemon Tools for a little while because of some issue that I cannot now remember – but had been a long time user of Daemon Tools until now.

Many thanks to karlsnooks and the Windows Seven Forums for pointing me in the right direction here and here.

Windows 7 – Joining .mp4 Files Together Using The Command Line

I was looking for some freeware to join two .mp4 files together (because VirtualDub would not do it) and I stumbled across a handy command line option.

Open a command prompt and type something similar to this:

copy /b "C:\File.mp4" + "C:\File1.mp4" CombinedFile.mp4

This is great and simple option – and no installation required!


Hotmail Not Working In Firefox – Windows 7

I just experienced an issue with Firefox 5 on Windows 7 where I could no longer navigate Hotmail.

Clicking on emails did nothing and clicking on mail folders also did nothing. Quite a few people seemed to be experiencing the issue and the fix for me was to simply clear the Firefox cache:

Click the Firefox button at the top left and then click Options and then Options again.Click Advanced followed by the Network tab and then click the Clear Now button to clear the offline cache. Restart Firefox.

How To Download a Picasa Web Album Without Installing Picassa

I recently got sent a link to a Picasa album online and wanted to download the whole album without having to install Picasa.

The solution was to install the DownThemAll add-on in Firefox and use that to download all of the images in one go.

These instructions are for Firefox 4.

Click the Firefox button at the top left hand side of the Firefox window and then click Add-ons:

In the search bar at the top right hand side of the screen type down them all and then press Enter.

Scroll down and click the install button that belongs to the DownThemAll add-on:

Restart Firefox.

Next goto the Picasa web album that you want to download (for me this involved simply clicking on a link that I was sent in an email).

On the right hand pane click on the RSS link:

Right click and select DownThenAll from the menu:

In the DownThemAll window you change change the destination directory if you want to – otherwise just click the Start button to begin the download:

This worked for me and was preferable to installing some software that I would otherwise rarely use.

Windows – Sound Output Switching Utility

Whenever I need to switch the sound on my Windows PC between my speakers and my headphones it annoys me to have to go into the Control Panel to do it.

With a little bit of searching I found a great little utility called Sound Shortcut.

The utility does not need to be installed to run – but I created a folder in C:\Program Files for it so that it would not be accidentally moved or deleted.

When you run Sound Shortcut you will see a new icon in your system tray (as circled in red below).

Right click the icon and you will see a menu with the option to run Sound Shortcut on start-up.

Click the Start-Orb then Control Panel and then the Sound icon and you will see your current sound outputs.

As you can see I just have my speakers and headphones listed (as I had removed my SPDIF output from the list).

Now that I have just the outputs that I need listed I can quickly and easily switch between them by pressing Alt+1 or Alt+2.

Switching between audio outputs really couldn’t be simpler!


Installing Ubuntu 11.4 Natty With Unity-2D in VirtualBox

Unity is the new default interface for Ubuntu as of the 11.4 Natty release. I wanted to take a look at Unity in a virtual machine (to make up my own mind about it) so I fired up VirtualBox on my Windows 7 desktop to take a look.

I already had VirtualBox installed but I made sure that I had the most recent updates installed (currently version 4.0.6).

First download the Ubuntu Natty .iso image and then mount it to a drive letter using Daemon Tools or other similar software. Make a note of the drive letter for later.

Launch VirtualBox and click the New icon and then click Next button to proceed through the Create New Virtual Machine wizard.

Type a Name for your virtual machine and make sure that the OS Type is set to Linux, Ubuntu for the 32 bit version of Ubuntu or Linux, Ubuntu (64 bit) for the x64 version. Click Next.

The wizard defaults to 512MB of RAM for the virtual machine. I elected to up this to 1024MB (i.e. 1GB of RAM). Click Next.

Click Next to create a new virtual hard drive.

Click Next to begin the Create New Virtual Disk Wizard.

Decide whether you want dynamically expanding or fixed size storage (I chose Dynamically expanding storage to save space on my host disk drives). Click Next.

Move the slider (or enter a value) to set the size of your virtual hard disk and then click Next.

Click Finish to complete the wizard.

Before staring the virtual machine click the Settings icon and then Display and set the Video Memory to 32MB (or more) and check the Enable 3D Acceleration check-box. Click OK.

Click the Start icon to begin booting the virtual machine and then click Next on the First Run Wizard.

Select the host drive that has the Ubuntu Natty .iso mounted on it. Click Next.

Click Finish to complete the First Run Wizard.

When this screen appears select your language and then click the Install Ubuntu button.

To update your virtual machine during installation check the Download updates while installing check-box (optional). Click the Forward button.

Click the Forward button to install to the previously created virtual disk with a default partitioning scheme.

Click the Install Now button.

Confirm your time-zone and click the Forward button.

Choose your keyboard layout and click the Forward button.

Enter your Name and Computer Name and Password and click the Forward button.

Enjoy the slide-show of features while Natty installs.

Click Restart Now to reboot your virtual machine.

Un-mount your Natty .iso image and then press Enter in your virtual machine window to continue.

Ubuntu will now reboot – press the Enter key when you see the hardware warning to complete booting into Natty.

I had read here that you should not install Guest Additions to get Unity working – the recommendation was to just install virtualbox-ose-guest-x11 (aka Open Source Guest Additions) and reboot. This did not work for me – so instead I installed Guest Additions along with unity-2d.

To install VirtualBox Guest Additions click the VirtualBox Devices menu and then click Install Guest Additions and follow the prompts.

After that I installed unity-2d (which is available for users who fail to meet the graphical requirements) as follows.

sudo apt-get install unity-2d

I Rebooted one last time and viola!

So I’ll see how Unity works out for me in VirtualBox before deciding whether or not to update my laptop from Lucid. Either way I would anticipate some improvements and polish by the time we get to the next LTS release (which is typically the release than I choose to run).

Firefox 4 Opens On The Wrong Monitor On A Dual Monitor Setup

Using Firefox 4 on Windows 7 with dual monitors I noticed some odd behavior when moving and maximizing windows between my two monitors.

I had moved Firefox to the left monitor and now wanted to move it back to the right hand monitor. I would reduce Firefox from being maximized and then move it to the other monitor and maximize it before closing it. When I opened Firefox again it would open on the left monitor instead of the right monitor.

The fix was simple enough – reduce Firefox from its maximized state on the left monitor, drag it to the right hand monitor, and then close it (un-maximized). This time Firefox would open on the correct monitor and could be maximized and closed without further issue.