Understanding networking options with a wireless Hyper-V host and solving Catastrophic failure (0x8000FFFF) by Matt Wrock

I have been experimenting lately with different network configurations and exploring ways to automate the setup and deployment of VMs in conjunction with Boxstarter. Along the way I have bumped up against some problems and discovered more than one way that many on the net recommend configuring a Windows 8 Hyper-V setup on a wireless network. In the process of this experimentation I have also managed to, more than once, screw things up. I’ll start with the screwing things up part.

Problem: cant create a Hyper-V network due to catastrophic failures

A few months ago my laptop ended up in a state where I could not create an external network on my Hyper-V virtual switch. All attempts resulted in a catastrophic failure which included the guid of the Network Interface and the hex code 0x8000FFFF.

Ethernet port '{C7DB406D-4F2A-44A9-8C10-7952707F7498}' bind failed: Catastrophic failure (0x8000FFFF).


After hours of futile random attempts to fix this and little to no clues from google, I arrived at a hypothesis that this was somehow connected to my VirtualBox setup that I had since uninstalled but there were some Network interfaces left over that I could not seem to remove. I ended up repaving my OS to get back to a good state.That was clearly not the solution I was hoping for.

SIDEBAR: I have been working on a project called Boxstarter off and on for the past year. This allows one to rebuild a machine in a scripted manner. It leverages the functionality of Chocolatey and adds an environment that is reboot resilient and also exposes some handy Cmdlets that tweak windows configuration and install updates. So this was not such a big deal since I can have my familiar dev environment back in about an hour.

Last weekend I started running into the exact same scenario and error. However, I have been doing some experimenting with different network and Hyper-V configurations lately and found a clue that helped me to recover without reinstalling my OS.

The Solution

For those that do not care to read on, this was the issue: I had previously setup an “Internal Network” in Hyper-V and “Shared” my wireless adapters internet connection with my Hyper-V Internal Network. I later removed the Internal Network but did not turn off sharing on my wireless adapter first. A Shared network interface cannot be bridged, which is what is used when you create an External network on a wireless connection. Oddly even attempting to create a new Private hyper-v network was failing but with a different but equally unhelpful error. The key problem here is now that I only had one network adapter, the ability to turn on or off sharing was no longer available. The adapter was shared:


but I could not go to the properties page, go to the “Sharing”  tab and then turn off sharing. The Sharing tab was no longer present.













This problem is further complicated by the fact that even on Powershell 3 and 4 with all of its new Networking cmdlets, there is no cmdlet that can turn on or off Internet Connection Sharing. However, there are a set of COM interfaces that expose the sharing properties of a network interface. This script disabled  my internet sharing and allowed me to then create a new Hyper-V network:

function Disable-ICS{    $cfg = New-Object -ComObject HNetCfg.HNetShare.1    $all = $cfg.EnumEveryConnection    foreach($conn in $all){        $shareCfg=$cfg.INetSharingConfigurationForINetConnection($conn)        $props=$cfg.NetConnectionProps($conn)        $props        $shareCfg.DisableSharing()    }}


Hyper-V, Wireless Adapters, and a connected VM

One of the great things about Windows 8 is that one can run a Hyper-V server and host guest VMs. Given that I use my personal laptop to develop Boxstarter. Being able to test machine installs makes running VMs a necessity and I much prefer running the lighter weight Windows 8 over Server 2012. Also given that I am working on a laptop, I am always using a wireless connection.

The challenge of a wireless adapter

Prior to the Windows 8 implementation of Hyper-V, a Hyper-V VM could only connect to an external network through a wired network adapter. Since Hyper-V supports a Layer-2 switch, it routes traffic based on the MAC address of the virtual network adapters. A wired adapter can run in promiscuous mode and allow packets to be transmitted with the MAC address of the virtual NIC. A wireless adapter can only send traffic with its own MAC address. To mitigate this issue, the Windows 8 Hyper-V uses a bridged adapter to bridge the wireless NIC and the virtual NIC. Although the virtual MAC address is replaced by the wireless adapter’s MAC address when a packet is sent, the bridge maintains a mapping of virtual IP addresses to their MAC addresses so that traffic can be properly routed back to the correct VM.

Two ways to connect your Windows 8 VMs to the internet

#1: Using an External Network Switch

This is essentially exactly what I have just outlined above. In the Hyper-V manager (this can also be accomplished using the Hyper-V powershell module), go to the Virtual Switch Manager and create an External network binding to your wireless network adapter:













As previously described, this will create a new network adapter (the virtual adapter) and a network bridge that connects the virtual and wireless adapters.

BridgedFinally go to the “Add Hardware” section of your VM while it is turned off and add a Network Adapter assigning it to the switch you just created. Now your VMs access the same external network as the host as if they are simply another device attached to your wireless router and assigned their own IP from your router’s DHCP server.

#2: A Shared Internal Network

There is another option to connect your VMs to the internet besides using an External Virtual switch as described above. This includes the creation of an Internal virtual switch instead of an external one. An Internal switch establishes a connection between the guest VM and the host but not to the outside world. Ok. So how in the heck will that connect a VM to my internet? Well after you create the Internal switch:

internalYou will “Share” your wireless adapter with the internal switch.












Note that when you have one or more internal network adapters, the “sharing” tab becomes available in your WIFI adapter’s properties. If you had more than one internal adapter, you would also see a drop down menu allowing you to choose which internal adapter to share. Once you add the internal adapter to your VM, you should be able to access your host internet connection from your guest. Maybe…

Which method should I u…Maybe?…What does that mean?

If you have done much if any investigation already on setting up a windows 8 VM client on a wireless network, you have likely run across accounts of others having issues getting connectivity setup just right and also seen others advising to follow one of the two above methods. Sometimes the recommendations are reported to work but other times the individual seeking help states that they still cannot establish connectivity.

I’ve been tinkering with this for months and have several times fallen into a state where I have followed every step but things fail to work. This technology is fairly young and still, IMHO rather fragile. Usually the fix is something like rebooting the host or guest, disabling/enabling one of the adapters, fiddling with the network bindings (YUCK!), or toggling the network sharing on or off. None of these solutions inspire much confidence, but sometimes the answer to which approach works best is whichever approach simply works for you.

Fragility Aside, what are some of the nuances of each

The Bridged External Switch is the more stable

My personal experience is that the bridged network is more stable and the connectivity is the most “full featured.” I did go through a bout of having to reset the bridged connection and rebinding its IPv4 and IPv6 bindings after each reboot or sleep cycle. That was quite annoying and I eventually wrote this script to automate the process:

function Reset-NetAdapters {    $bindings = @(        "Client for Microsoft Networks",        "Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6)",        "Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)"        )    $bindings | %{ Enable-NetAdapterBinding -Name "Network Bridge" -DisplayName $_ }    Disable-NetAdapter "vEthernet (Virtual Switch)"    Enable-NetAdapter "vEthernet (Virtual Switch)"}

When I installed the Windows 8.1 preview that went away but I honestly think that was more the fault of an OS overhaul than windows 8.1 specifically.

This also seems to be the “official” or “supported” approach. It was even mentioned in Stephen Sinofsky’s blog.

The Internal switch can be unreliable but adds some privacy

If you simply want to access the web or access files on the host, the connectivity provided here should be fine. However I did run into some odd bumps. For example, windows updates did not work at first until I discovered this very cryptic fix: on the guest NIC, go to the advanced configuration settings and disable the “Large Send Offload” settings for both IPv4 and IPv6.














Also, while this allows your guest VM to access the outside world, the outside world cannot see it. This can be good or bad depending on how you want to use the VM. The benefit is some added security. The VM is not actually on the external network and therefore others in your network cannot ping it or access its shares. But then maybe that is exactly what you want to do. This is basically using NAT (network address translation) and assigns the guest VM its own address when transmitting communication outside of the internal network. This is the default networking method used by VirtualBox and is most convenient if you have a limited number of IP addresses and don’t want to assign a separate address to every device.

Hopefully you have found this usefull and especially if you are suffering from good old 0x8000FFFF, the SEO gods have provided you a solution more quickly than it took me to find.

Automate Codeplex Releases in your Powershell build and deployment scripts by Matt Wrock

codeplexI maintain a few projects on Codeplex.com and one that I have been working on actively lately is Boxstarter. A sort of “Add-On” to Chocolatey that allows you to run complex (or simple) environment scripts completely unattended in a reboot/logon resilient manner.

Whenever I startup any project that I plan to develop beyond a hack or a spike, the very first thing I do is lay down test infrastructure along with build and deployment automation. These are NOT “nice to haves” and especially since I devote my “free” time to these projects, it is important that I make the most of that time and spend as little time as possible chasing regression bugs or mucking with the Release gymnastics of packaging things up and copying/uploading files, etc. It is too easy to get that stuff wrong and takes too long to do and test every detail by hand every time I want to push bits - not to mention that it is just not fun.

When I push a Boxstarter release, my download zip, click-once app  and home page are updated on my Azure web site by doing a GIT Push to Master. My Chocolatey packages are packed and pushed by a deployment script. So the one manual step has been uploading ,my download zip file to Codeplex and creating a Codeplex Release for it. Well it ends up there is a web service that codeplex maintains to facilitate the automation of this step. It is a SOAP service and therefore a bit of a pain to call directly, but Codeplex also has a C# SDK that makes working with this service very easy.

While the SDK is a .Net Assembly that was likely intended for C# based clients, I prefer to write my build and deployment scripts in Powershell. I believe that what happens in a deployment should be easily discoverable and that the script should serve as the “deployment document.” Compiled code does not lend itself well to that kind of transparency. I also don’t like to use XML for control flow and therefore avoid msbuild for all but the basic compile tasks. PSake is a great powershell tool I have been using for years to organize and execute build and deployment scripts. Every build task is encapsulated by a Powershell function called Task. Here is my Push-Codeplex task:

Task Push-Codeplex { Add-Type -Path ` "$basedir\BuildScripts\CodePlexClientAPI\CodePlex.WebServices.Client.dll" $releaseService=New-Object CodePlex.WebServices.Client.ReleaseService $releaseService.Credentials = Get-Credential `   -Message "Codeplex credentials"`   -username "mwrock" $releaseService.CreateARelease(`     "boxstarter",`     "Boxstarter $version",`     "Running the Setup.bat file will install Chocolatey if not present `      and then install the Boxstarter modules.", `     [DateTime]::Now,[CodePlex.WebServices.Client.ReleaseStatus]::Beta,`     $true,`     $true) $releaseFile = New-Object CodePlex.WebServices.Client.releaseFile $releaseFile.Name="Boxstarter $version" $releaseFile.MimeType="application/zip" $releaseFile.FileName="boxstarter.$version.zip" $releaseFile.FileType=`   [CodePlex.WebServices.Client.ReleaseFileType]::RuntimeBinary $releaseFile.FileData=[System.IO.File]::ReadAllBytes(`   "$basedir\BuildArtifacts\Boxstarter.$version.zip") $fileList=new-object `   "System.Collections.Generic.List``1[[CodePlex.WebServices.Client.ReleaseFile]]" $fileList.Add($releaseFile) $releaseService.UploadReleaseFiles("boxstarter", "Boxstarter $version", $fileList)}

This adds the types in the Codeplex.Webservices.Client assembly to the current Powershell session. I have downloaded  the SDK and put it in my source tree. Its too bad this is not packaged in its own Nuget package. Then I could use Package Restore to grab the bits from Nuget.org.

Note that this assembly has a dependency on a couple Build assemblies. You could try to track these down separately but since I have Visual Studio installed, this gives me these dependencies.

The parent object handling all codeplex project commands takes a ICredentials to authenticate the client. I can simply use Get-Credential for this. This does require me to manually enter my password but that is fine for my script.If you had a more enterprise grade deployment that needed to fully script the authentication, that is very possible. After that I am free to create my release, and upload my file. This worked flawlessly for my project and now I can deploy my project with a single command.

Setup a new machine with just a URL and Chocolatey package by Matt Wrock

When I first started working on Boxstarter, a set of scripts that can stand up a complete, customized windows environment in a completely unattended manner, one of my key objectives was to be able to spin up a new environment with as few bits on hand as possible. Until now, Boxstarter achieved this by allowing you to create a portable Chocolatey package on a thumb drive or network share. I have never really been satisfied with that. It always seems when the time comes and I want to repave, that thumb drive or share is not around or in an up to date state. What I really want is just to type something brief and rememberable that would bring down all the bits I need to perform the setup (at least solving the “not around” part). This is now a reality.

Introducing The Boxstarter Click-Once Web Launcher

You can use any browser that supports Click Once applications. This is limited to IE unless you add extensions to Chrome or Firefox. You can also use either the Command Line or a Powershell console, both using the same command as long as IE is your default browser. The fact that this method is rather IE-centric is not much of a drawback since every Windows machine has IE as its default browser in the base install which is the key Boxstarter scenario.

launchAll you need to remember is the Boxstarter domain and the Chocolatey package that drives your machine setup. In the above example, the package is called…well…example. Boxstarter probes both the public Chocolatey.org gallery and the Myget.org community boxstarter feed for a package ID named Example.

This first installs a Boxstarter Click-Once Bootstrapper.








Be aware that on Windows 8, the Smart Screen filter will supply a somewhat frightening message stating that you have downloaded software that is not yet trusted.






Even though the Boxstarter Web Launcher is signed with an Authoritative certificate, it has not “gained enough reputation” to be considered safe. In theory, this should eventually go away. In the meantime, you need to click the “More info” link to get this dialog:






Click the “Run Anyway” link to proceed. Next, unless you have UAC disabled, you need to give Boxstarter permissions to run with administrative privileges. Boxstarter needs these privileges in order to run all of the application installs, reboot and perform all actions you want it to to tweak your windows environment.







Next the normal Boxstarter session begins and prompts you for your windows account password:







Boxstarter stores the password you enter in a special place in windows designed specifically for this purpose. The password is stored in encrypted form and is never sent over the network or stored in plain text. This allows you to be automatically logged on whenever Boxstarter needs to reboot your system throughout the system installation.

If you want to install a package without the risk of reboot and without this prompt, you can invoke boxstarter using this URL:


Its all in the “/nr/”. This might be handy if you know no reboot is needed and perhaps you want to use Boxstarter because you know Chocolatey is not installed.

What happens next?

Boxstarter now installs Chocolatey and (if you are on windows 7 or server 2008 R2) .net4.0 if these are not already installed. It then proceeds to run the package you specified in the original URL. This is just a normal Chocolatey package. Boxstarter can run any Chocolatey package. What’s different when running the package in Boxstarter is the following:

  • Boxstarter shuts down the windows update service and if installed, the SCCM client. These can often interfere with software installations.
  • Boxstarter intercepts all Chocolatey install calls. If there is a pending reboot, boxstarter invokes a system reboot and ensures that it will be reinvoked first thing on startup.
  • Boxstarter examines all Chocolatey failures and if these are standard MSI Pending reboot failures, it will like above, restart your system and try again after restarting.
  • Boxstarter runs the entire installation as admin to avoid prompts for permissions elevation or errors complaining about insufficient permissions.
  • Boxstarter imports the Boxstarter.Winconfig powershell module making all of its CmdLets available that provide various helpers for customizing windows settings (enabling remote desktop, customizing windows explorer defaults, icon sizes, etc.). The most important feature in this module is the ability to run all critical windows updates. A routine requirement when setting up a new system.

What might a Chocolatey package look like for a Boxstarter install?

Here is an example:

Update-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted Move-LibraryDirectory "Personal""$env:UserProfile\skydrive\documents" Set-ExplorerOptions -showHidenFilesFoldersDrives -showProtectedOSFiles -showFileExtensions Enable-RemoteDesktop cinstm VisualStudioExpress2012Web cinstm fiddler cinstm mssqlserver2012express cinstm git-credential-winstore cinstm console-devel cinstm skydrive cinstm poshgit cinst Microsoft-Hyper-V-All -source windowsFeatures cinst IIS-WebServerRole -source windowsfeatures cinst TelnetClient -source windowsFeatures Install-ChocolateyPinnedTaskBarItem "$env:programfiles\console\console.exe" copy-item (Join-Path (Get-PackageRoot($MyInvocation)) 'console.xml') -Force $env:appdata\console\console.xml Install-ChocolateyVsixPackage xunit http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/463c5987-f82b-46c8-a97e-b1cde42b9099/file/66837/1/xunit.runner.visualstudio.vsix Install-WindowsUpdate -AcceptEula

This is a relatively simple setup. Here is what will happen:

  • The user’s powershell execution policy will be permanently set to unrestricted.
  • The MyDocuments folder is moved to Skydrive (I always do this and it is incredibly convenient since my docs (including things like powershell profile) are synced between machines and makes the risk of a machine failure less ominous).
  • The Windows explorer settings are set to a developer sane level.
  • Remote Desktop is enabled.
  • Several typical developer applications are installed including Visual Studio and Sql server. When installed together these two often make for a “reboot perfect storm.” All of their dependent packages will be installed as well like GIT for poshgit and the .net 4.5 framework for Visual Studio.
  • Hyper-V, IIS and the Telnet client are installed
  • I “pin” Console, my favorite command line console, to the task bar and copy its configuration file with my preferred settings that I embedded in the chocolatey package to the directory where it expects to find it.
  • I install the XUnit test runner Visual Studio extension.
  • Lastly I install all critical windows updates.

Chances are this will include at least one or two reboots in windows 8 and several more in Windows 7. Boxstarter will reboot when needed and then simply rerun the package after restart. Chocolatey helps us from installing packages more than once. On subsequent runs it knows if we installed something previously and will just skip to the next install. This does mean that any custom script we add, and we can add any powershell we want, must be repeatable.

I thought Powershell 4’s Desired State Configuration solves this

Desired state configuration is the flagship feature shipping with Powershell 4 on Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2. It is no less than very cool and will indeed change the way we do machine configuration in Windows at last. It allows you to create declarative configuration files hat describe exactly how you want a machine to look and then tells one or more machines in your enterprise, look like this and do whatever it takes to make that happen.

The gaps that Boxstarter tries to fill here are:

  • Backward compatibility back to windows 7 and server 2008 R2.
  • Support for client systems. DSC is currently strongly targeting server infrastructure
  • Tooling. Eventually, I want people to be able to use Boxstarter who have no knowledge of powershell or any scripting for that matter.

What's next for Boxstarter?

I’ve been on a bit of a oss hiatus lately with my day job keeping me quite busy during non daylight hours, but I have had some time lately to do some polishing and also make some headway into another goal I have for Boxstarter: Easily deploying a Boxstarter install to a new VM. If you are familiar with Vagrant, a great VM environment setup platform for VirtualBox, VMWare and AWS then you can picture where I am going with this. I’d like to bring the same (or atleast very similar) capabilities to Hyper-V and windows Azure VMs.

This week I wrote a test script to help me automate testing Boxstarter packages and Boxstarter itself. Its just part of my PSake build file now:

task Test-VM -requiredVariables "VmName","package"{ $vm= Get-VM $VmName Restore-VMSnapshot $vm-Name $vm.ParentSnapshotName -Confirm:$false Start-VM $VmName $creds= Get-Credential -Message "$vmName credentials"-UserName "$env:UserDomain\$env:username" $me=$env:computername $remoteDir=$baseDir.replace(':','$') $encryptedPass= convertfrom-securestring -securestring $creds.password $modPath="\\$me\$remoteDir\Boxstarter.Chocolatey\Boxstarter.Chocolatey.psd1" $script= { Import-Module $args[0] Invoke-ChocolateyBoxstarter $args[1]-Password $args[2] } Write-Host "Waiting for $vmName to start..." do {Start-Sleep -milliseconds 100} until ((Get-VMIntegrationService $vm | ?{$_.name -eq"Heartbeat"}).PrimaryStatusDescription -eq"OK") Write-Host "Importing Module at $modPath" Invoke-Command -ComputerName $vmName-Credential $creds-Authentication Credssp -ScriptBlock $script-Argumentlist $modPath,$package,$creds.Password }

This takes a given VM and reverts it to its parent snapshot and then uses Powershell remoting to run the install. Take a look at this gist I wrote with a function to test pure Chocolatey packages. It includes some comments on how to setup the remoting.

I’d like to improve on this by cloning a VM from an existing VHD, then run the Boxstarter install on the VM taking over the mess of setting up the remoting and VM networking. We’ll see how that shapes up.


If you have the chance to try Boxstarter out, I’m very interested to hear how he experience is. What is confusing, what does not work or what you would really like to see added as a feature. Please feel free to utilize the Codeplex Discusion and Issues features to voice these. You can also find complete documentation on the Boxstarter.Codplex.com documentation wiki.

Extract TFS Pending Changes to a zip file by Matt Wrock

Our TFS server was down today and I needed to get a Shelveset to a tester. Playing with the Power Tools PowerShell CmdLets I was able to basically pipe my pending changes to a zip file and give that to the tester.

Getting the Power Tools PowerShell Cmdlets

If you have Visual Studio Update 1 or Update two, you can download the TFS Power Tools from the Visual Studio Gallery here. If you have an older version of Visual Studio, download the Power Tools from the Microsoft Download Center here.

When you install the MSI, make sure to opt in to the PowerShell Cmdlets. The default options will not include the PowerShell Cmdlets!

Accessing the Cmdlets

After you have installed the power tools, you can launch the Power Tools Powershell console from the start menu item created during install. However if you are like me and have your own shell preferences, simply import them into your shell:

Import-Module "${env:ProgramFiles(x86)}\Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2012 Power Tools\  Microsoft.TeamFoundation.PowerTools.PowerShell.dll"

You may want to add this to your PowerShell Profile.

Extracting Pending Changes

Run the following commands from the root of your workspace to pipe all pending changes to a zip.

Add-Type -AssemblyName System.IO.Compression.FileSystem,System.IO.Compression$here= (Get-Item .).FullName$archive = [System.IO.Compression.ZipFile]::Open(  (Join-Path $here "archive.zip"), [System.IO.Compression.ZipArchiveMode]::Create)get-tfsPendingChange | % {   [System.IO.Compression.ZipFileExtensions]::CreateEntryFromFile(    $archive, $_.LocalItem, $_.LocalItem.Substring($here.Length+1)  ) }$archive.Dispose()

This simply adds the .net types to the powershell session and uses them to create a ZipArchive and then calls the Get-TfsPendingChanges to get a list of all files with pending changes. This is sent to a Zip file which in this case is called archive.zip and located in your current folder.

Requires .NET 4.5 and Powershell 3

The above zip file api makes use of the new, more friendly api for creating zip files. This will not work if you have .net 4.0 or lower. Also, since Powershell versions prior to 3.0 use the .NET 2 runtime, they will not be able to load .net 4.5 types. PowerShell 3.0 comes automatically unstalled on windows 8 and Server 2012. You may download and install the Windows Management Framework 3.0 here on Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 to get Powershell 3.0 on those operating systems. You may get the .net 4.5 runtime here.

Easily Script Machine Reinstalls with Boxstarter by Matt Wrock

boxLogoAlmost a year ago now I started this small project, Boxstarter.  The project has sustained many interruptions as I have had busy spurts at work and involvements with other projects. It has gone through some serious refactorings moving from a scrappy script to a larger codebase organized into a few PowerShell modules and a suite of unit tests. A lot of its original code I moved over to Chocolatey and I plan to continue to contribute to Chocolatey where it makes sense. Chocolatey Rocks! So overall, I have probably rewritten this thing twice and now I feel it is far from finished but represents a nice base that makes “Box Starting” a much simpler and repeatable process.

Repaving Sucks

I think that pretty much says it. The idea of creating Boxstarter came to me when I had a SSD die and had to do a dreaded repaving of my machine shortly followed by installing several Windows 8 revisions from Consumer Preview to RTM. At the time, I was in the middle of a project where I was using powershell to automate a 50 page deployment document. So I knew if I can automate installing AppFabric, network shares, multiple web apps and other infrastructure settings, surely I can script the build of my own PC.

Then I found Chocolatey

So as I was looking in to how I could setup a fully functioning dev environment on one box to be just as  I left it on another, I inevitably discovered Chocolatey. Chocolatey is built on top of Nuget but instead of maintaining library packages for you dev project, it manages machine wide software package installations. This is good for several reasons:

  • Its plain simple to install apps that can be tedious to install on your own. Instead of hunting around the internet for the download page, forgetting to uncheck the animae tool bar download and waiting three minutes to click the next button, just type CINST <your app> and be done with it. Next time its time for a mega Visual Studio install session, save yourself and use CINST VisualStudioExpress2012Web.
  • Now lets say you have a bunch of apps you installed with Chocolatey and want to just update everything. Simply type CUP ALL.
  • The very best thing of all: create a “meta-package” or package.config and now you can install all of your apps in one go. Chocolatey just iterates the list and installs everything one by one along with all of their dependencies.

If you have not heard of or have not used Chocolatey, do yourself a favor and install it now.

What is Boxstarter? Chocolatey Tailored Specifically for Fresh Machine Installs

Chocolatey is awesome, but having done a TON of experimentation with automating new machine setups of all sorts of flavors, OSs and complexity, I have learned that setting up an environment can be much more than simply running a chain of installers.

Let me quickly list the benefits of Boxstarter and then I’ll dive into a few highlights:

  • Ensures the entire install session runs as administrator. This avoids occasional prompts to elevate your shell and limits it to just one at the beginning assuming you are not already running as admin.
  • Shuts down the Windows Update Service and Configuration Manager if installed during the install session. These can often interfere with installations causing installs to fail because either an update is blocking the install you are trying to run or they install patches that require a reboot before other software can be installed.
  • Can discover if there is a pending reboot and will reboot the machine and restart the install if asked to reboot. If written correctly, the install will pretty much start from where it left off. Further, Boxstarter can automatically log you in so you don’t have to stick around.
  • Boxstarter handles the initial installation of Chocolatey and if you are on a fresh win7 or server 2008R2, it will install .net 4.0 first which is a Chocolatey prerequisite.
  • Provides a bunch of helper functions for tweaking various windows settings.
  • Automates installation of critical windows updates.
  • Makes it easy to setup a local Boxstarter repo on your network so any connected machine can kickoff a install with one command.
  • Provides helper functions making it easy to create your own Boxstarter package.

The Boxstarter Killer Feature: Handling Reboots

I used to spend hours tweaking my install scripts, playing with ordering and various tricks to avoid having to reboot. There finally came a point when I realized this was pointless. Win8/Server2012 are a lot more reboot resistant but are still prone to them. Things get worse here when you are installing patches and more complicated apps like Visual Studio an/or SQL Server. I have realized that Reboots happen and can be unpredictable so the only thing to do is be able to deal with them.

The challenges are making sure the install scripts picks up right after restart, ensuring that the script does not spark a UAC prompt and block the setup, have it securely store your credentials so that it automatically logs back on after reboot but turns off auto logins after the script completes.

Boxstarter does all of these things. As a Boxstarter package author, you simply need to compose your packages to be repeatable. This means you should be able to run it again and again without error or data loss and ideally it should skip any setup processes that have already been run.

What is a Boxstarter Package?

Its just a Chocolatey package, but its intent is usually to either install a fresh environment or to lay down a complicated install chain that is highly prone to needing one or even several reboots. You can store them locally, on Chocolatey or on Myget or anywhere else you configure Boxstarter to look.

Show me the Code

First. Install Boxstarter.  The easiest way to do this is to install Boxstarter.Chocolatey from Chocolatey or download the zip from the CodePlex site and run the setup.bat. This installs all dependent modules and puts them in your user module path.

Next create a package, build it and deploy your repository to b consumed from anywhere in your network or even a thumb drive. Like this:

#After extracting Boxstarter.1.0.0.zip on MYCOMPUTER
Import-Module $env:appdata\boxstarter\Boxstarter.Chocolatey\Boxstarter.Chocolatey.psd1
#Create minimal nuspec and chocolateyInstall
New-BoxstarterPackage MyPackage
#Edit Install script to customize your environment
Notepad Join-Path $Boxstarter.LocalRepo "tools\ChocolateyInstall.ps1"
#Pack nupkg
Invoke-BoxstarterBuild MyPackage

#share Repo
#Or Copy to thumb drive G
Copy-Item $Boxstarter.BaseDir G:\ -Recurse

#Logon to your bare Windows install
\\MYCOMPUTER\Boxstarter\Boxstarter Mypackage

#Enter password when prompted and come back later to find all your apps installed


Now lets look at what an install package might look like

Install-WindowsUpdate -AcceptEula
Update-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted
Move-LibraryDirectory "Personal" "$env:UserProfile\skydrive\documents"
Set-ExplorerOptions -showHidenFilesFoldersDrives -showProtectedOSFiles -showFileExtensions

cinstm VisualStudioExpress2012Web
cinstm fiddler
cinstm mssqlserver2012express
cinstm git-credential-winstore
cinstm console-devel
cinstm skydrive
cinstm poshgit
cinstm windbg

cinst Microsoft-Hyper-V-All -source windowsFeatures
cinst IIS-WebServerRole -source windowsfeatures
cinst IIS-HttpCompressionDynamic -source windowsfeatures
cinst IIS-ManagementScriptingTools -source windowsfeatures
cinst IIS-WindowsAuthentication -source windowsfeatures
cinst TelnetClient -source windowsFeatures

Install-ChocolateyPinnedTaskBarItem "$env:windir\system32\mstsc.exe"
Install-ChocolateyPinnedTaskBarItem "$env:programfiles\console\console.exe"

copy-item (Join-Path (Get-PackageRoot($MyInvocation)) 'console.xml') -Force $env:appdata\console\console.xml

Install-ChocolateyVsixPackage xunit http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/463c5987-f82b-46c8-a97e-b1cde42b9099/file/66837/1/xunit.runner.visualstudio.vsix
Install-ChocolateyVsixPackage autowrocktestable http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/ea3a37c9-1c76-4628-803e-b10a109e7943/file/73131/1/AutoWrockTestable.vsix


Whats going on here?

Boxstarter installs critical updates, sets your powershell execution policy to unrestricted, makes windows explorer usable, installs some great apps, installs some of your favorite windows features, moves your Documents library to skydrive (I love this for the truly portable desktop), installs your favorite VS extensions and sets up things like pinned items and task bar size preference.

A lot of this functionality comes to you compliments of Chocolatey and others are specific to Boxstarter.

What’s Next?

As I see it, this is just the absolute base functionality so far. There is so much more to be added to make an installation process truly seamless. Here are some features I plan to begin soon:

  • Create a Boxstarter package automatically based on software already installed and windows features turned on to mimic these on another machine.
  • While Boxstarter can be installed and run either on bare metal or a VM, I want to make Boxstarter the powershell/hyper-v equivalent of Vagrant. Making the deployment of scripted VMs simple.
  • Add a one-click installer making a an easy one liner install command possible remotely.

There is a lot of Boxstarter functionality I have not covered here. I plan to blog fairly regularly providing brief posts describing various ways Boxstarter can augment your automation. If you want to learn more now. Checkout the Boxstarter Codeplex site which has complete documentation of all features and commands.