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Installing and Deploying WEPOS in Challenging Environments

 

Clay Morrisette
Retail Industry Solutions Specialist Professional
Microsoft Retail & Hospitality Industry Solutions Group

May 2006

Applies to:
   Windows Embedded for Point of Service

Summary: This article explains how to install Windows Embedded for Point of Service on a machine that does not have a bootable CD or a PXE-compliant network interface card. (6 printed pages)

Contents

Introduction
Preparing the Target Device Hard Drive
Installing WEPOS on the Target Device
Finalizing the WEPOS Installation
Creating a Base Image
Creating the Golden Image and Preparing for Reproduction
Modifying the Golden Image

Introduction

Retailers invest huge capital for equipment, such as point of sales, and they expect to use their investment for seven, ten, twelve, or more years. At the same time, innovations in software continue to progress. Many retailers would like to take advantage of the new capabilities of the Microsoft operating system offerings, while continuing to leverage their investments in hardware.

The Windows Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS) operating system is Microsoft's preferred OS for retail point of service devices. But, being a relatively new addition to the Microsoft client OS line, it demands capabilities from the hardware that may not be available on devices that are older than five or six years. Even though a device meets the minimum requirements for WEPOS, there can be challenges when installing WEPOS on legacy hardware.

WEPOS introduces a new setup/installation program that is different from Windows XP Professional. It uses the new Microsoft Windows Imaging Format (WIM) image format. Instead of the sector-based image formats that are rather common these days, the WIM image format is file-based.

Using a file-based image format, WIM provides several benefits over other formats:

  • It is hardware-agnostic.
  • It also lets you store multiple images within one actual file.
  • It enables compression and single-instancing, thus reducing the size of image files significantly. Single instancing is a technique that allows you to store two or more copies of a file for the space cost of one copy. For example, if images 1, 2, and 3 all contain file A, single-instancing stores a single copy of file A, and points images 1, 2, and 3 to that copy.
  • It allows you to service an image offline. You can add or delete certain operating system components, patches, and drivers, without creating a new image.
  • It lets you install a disk image on partitions of any size, unlike sector-based image formats that require you to deploy a disk image to a partition that's the same size or larger than the source disk.
  • It allows for non-destructive deployment. This means that you can leave data on the volume to which you apply the image, because the application of the image does not erase the disk's existing contents.

In order to use this new technology, the installation program for WEPOS must run in a WIN32 environment, and so WEPOS is delivered on a bootable CD.

Installation is very simple: put the CD in the CD tray and reboot the device. The CD boots into a version of Windows PE, and guides you through the process of installing WEPOS.

Another method of installing WEPOS is with the Remote Installation Service (RIS) that is available on Windows Server 2000/2003. RIS enables remote installation of several Microsoft operating systems through server-side image management capabilities. This allows WEPOS to be installed through the network, but it requires that the device has a PXE-compliant network interface card with appropriate BOOTROM enabled. Pronounced "pixie," PXE or Pre-Boot Execution Environment is one of the components of Intel's Wired for Management, an open-industry specification developed by Intel that lets IT professionals automate client-PC management specification. It allows a workstation to boot from a server on a network prior to booting the operating system on the local hard drive.

But what if your device does not have a CD drive? Even worse, what if it has a CD drive, but the device BIOS does not support booting from the CD. Or, what if your device does not have a PXE-compliant network interface card? How can you install WEPOS on a device without a bootable CD or a PXE-compliant NIC?

This article details the method and steps involved in installing WEPOS on a device that does not have either of the hardware devices to support installation. This may appear to be rather complicated, but remember, you only need to do this once for a particular class of target devices. Once you have installed it and properly configured the OS on an example target device, you can create an image for redeploying to other devices, without going through these steps.

The installation process consists of the following steps:

  1. Preparing the target device hard drive—In this step, we will use another machine to prepare the target hard drive with a source (installation) partition and a target partition. We will copy the WEPOS setup files to the source partition, and move the hard drive back to the target device.
  2. Installing WEPOS on the target device—After having the appropriate setup files in place, we can start the WEPOS installation wizard. Because WEPOS detects the hardware during installation, this process must occur on the target device.
  3. Finalizing the WEPOS installation—Because, during the setup process, we booted from the source partition, we need to use another machine again in order to set the active partition to be the target partition. Also, some required files are copied during this step.
  4. Creating a base image—During this step, you can customize the OS image with additional drivers, application software, or OS configurations, in order to create a base image. A base image is an intermediary step from which to create a golden image.
  5. Creating the golden image and preparing for reproduction—In this last step, you can customize the installed image with additional drivers and other software. You also clone and capture the image to be used for subsequent deployments.

The following is a list of minimum hardware requirements for the target and development machines:

Target machine

  • 233 MHz minimum Pentium or compatible processor (a Cyrix/IBM 6x86 is not compatible)
  • 64 MB Memory minimum
  • 2 GB hard disk (HD) minimum

Development Machine

  • Windows XP Professional machine that can accept a second hard disk, and that is compatible with the hard disk from the target machine. For example, if the target machine uses and IDE hard drive, make sure that your development machine has an IDE port and cable. USB IDE hard drive enclosures can also be used.
  • CD drive

Preparing the Target Device Hard Drive

During this step, we will set up the hard drive with two partitions. One will contain the WEPOS setup files (source partition), and the other will be where WEPOS is installed (target partition). We will use the command-line DISKPART utility that is included in Windows XP to perform the partitioning of the hard disk. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Remove the hard disk (HD) from the target device.
  2. If you are adding the HD on the same cable as the primary IDE drive, set the HD jumper to Slave.
  3. If you are adding it to the secondary channel, with no other device attached, leave the jumper on Master.
  4. Install the HD as a second HD in a Windows XP–based machine.
  5. Turn off the Windows XP–based machine before adding the HD, and restart it after adding the HD.
  6. Once the Windows XP–based machine has rebooted, open a command prompt by entering CMD in the Run box.
  7. We will use DiskPart to prepare the hard drive. At the command prompt, start DiskPart.
    1. For DiskPart, it will be assumed that the hard drive is Drive 0. Use the LIST DISK command to verify which disk number to use.
    2. Enter the following commands to DiskPart, substituting the appropriate disk number in the first command:
      SELECT DISK 0
      CLEAN
      
      
    3. Enter the following command, replacing d with the size, in MB, that you want the WEPOS partition to have, minus ~800 MB for the WEPOS setup:
      CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY SIZE=d
      
      
    4. Enter the following command, replacing e with the letter of a drive that is available on the Windows XP machine:
      ASSIGN LETTER=e
      
      
    5. Enter the following command:
      CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY
      
      

      (The size will be what is left over.)

    6. Enter the following command, replacing f with the letter of a drive that is available on the Windows XP machine:
      ASSIGN LETTER=f
      
      
    7. Finally, enter the following commands:
      ACTIVE
      EXIT
      
      
  8. While still at the command prompt, format the partitions:
    1. Enter the following command, replacing e: with the drive letter used in Step 5d, and/or the file system with NTFS:
      FORMAT e: /q /fs:FAT32 /y
      
      
    2. Enter the following command, replacing f: with the drive letter used in Step 5f, and/or the file system with NTFS:
      FORMAT f: /q /fs:FAT32 /y
      
      
  9. Exit the command prompt.
  10. Insert the WEPOS CD in the CD drive on the Windows XP machine.
  11. Choose to browse the CD.
  12. Select all files and folders, and copy them.
  13. Paste the files and folders into the source partition (second partition) on the added HD.
  14. On the source partition, rename the i386 directory to minint.
  15. In the minint directory, copy setupldr.bin to the root directory of the source partition (second partition). Rename it to ntldr, with no extension.

    In order to remove the .bin extension, open a command prompt and enter the following instruction:

    rename setupldr.bin ntldr
    
    
  16. In the minint directory, copy ntdetect.com to the root directory of the source partition.
  17. Create a BOOT.INI file, and copy it to the root directory of the source partition. Copy and paste the following lines into Notepad, and save the file in the root directory of the source partition as BOOT.INI.
    [boot loader]
    timeout=15
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\MININT
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\MININT="Microsoft Windows PE" /fastdetect
    
    
  18. Turn off the Windows XP–based machine.
  19. Remove the added HD from the Windows XP machine.
  20. Set the HD jumper to Master if you changed it to Slave.
  21. Install the HD back in the target device.

Installing WEPOS on the Target Device

During this step, we will go through the WEPOS installation wizard.

  1. Boot the target device.

    WEPOS setup will start.

  2. Answer the setup questions (for information on the setup screens, see "Running the Command Prompt on the Setup CD") and install WEPOS to the target partition (the first listed partition, not the partition that has the WEPOS installation files on it).
  3. Once the main copying of files is complete, and the target device is ready to reboot, let the target device reboot, but do not let it restart: turn it off. Failure to turn off the target device will cause the WEPOS setup to restart.

Finalizing the WEPOS Installation

During this step, we will use the development machine again to set the active partition to be the destination partition, and we will also copy some required files. Because this method boots the Windows PE–based WEPOS installation from the hard drive, the WEPOS setup does not overwrite the boot partition boot files of ntdetect, ntldr, or BOOT.INI. You will need to place these three files in the root directory of the first partition before restarting the final phase of the WEPOS installation. Failure to complete these steps will result in the target device booting back into the WEPOS setup application and not the WEPOS installation that was performed in the preceding steps.

  1. Remove the hard disk (HD) from the target device.
  2. If you are adding the HD on the same cable as the primary IDE drive, set the HD jumper to Slave.

    If you are adding it to the secondary channel, with no other device attached, leave the jumper on Master.

  3. Install the HD as a second HD in a Windows XP–based machine. Turn off the Windows XP–based machine before adding the HD, and restart it after adding the HD.
  4. Once the XP based machine has rebooted, open Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk Management.
  5. Select the first partition of the added HD, and set the partition to Active.
  6. Using Windows Explorer, copy ntdetect.com from the root of the second partition to the root of the first partition.
  7. Using Windows Explorer, copy ntldr from a standard CD installation of WEPOS to the root directory of the first partition. It can be found in the root directory of the boot partition of a completed WEPOS installation.
    Note   The ntldr file that is needed can be found on a machine that has WEPOS installed through the normal bootable CD installation process. You will need to install WEPOS on a machine that has a bootable CD, and then make a copy of the ntldr file in the root directory of the boot drive to use in this step.
  8. Create a BOOT.INI file, and copy it to the root directory of the first partition.
    [boot loader]
    timeout=15
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows Embedded for Point of Service" /fastdetect
    
    
  9. Turn off the Windows XP–based machine.
  10. Remove the added HD from the Windows XP machine.
  11. Set the HD jumper to Master if you changed it to Slave.
  12. Install the HD back in the target device.
  13. Restart the target device.
  14. WEPOS First Boot Agent (FBA) will start and complete the installation.

Creating a Base Image

During this step, you can customize the installed image by adding drivers, customizing settings, and so on. The result is a base image that you can use anytime you want to start laying additional software to create a golden image.

  1. Once installation is complete, add any missing drivers and configure WEPOS to your liking—for example, disable unused services, configure the display, configure networking, and so on.
  2. Once you have the image configured the way you want, shut down the machine and use your favorite disk imaging tool to create your base image from the partition in which the installation was performed. This is not your redeployable image, but a base image to continue to work with.

Creating the Golden Image and Preparing for Reproduction

During this step, you can customize the base image with additional software, perhaps Line-of-business applications. Also, the image is prepared for cloning to other devices and then captured for subsequent deployments.

  1. Restart the target device using the base image.
  2. Add any additional applications to the target device.
  3. When you are ready to clone the image for deployment to other devices, you need to reseal it.

    In the \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 directory is a program called FBReseal.exe. This utility resets the FBA so that when a run-time image is deployed, a new machine name and security ID (SID) are generated. Run this program after you have the image configured exactly the way you want it.

    Consult the WEPOS documentation for information on FBReseal and system cloning.

  4. After you run FBReseal, the machine will need to be rebooted. This is where you will stop the reboot into WEPOS, and use your favorite imaging tool to capture your golden redeployable image.
    Note   You can only reseal an image once. This is why an image was made in the previous step. Resealing an image more than once will create an unstable OS that may crash. The FBReseal program will be deleted after execution, to help protect you from resealing an image more than once.

Modifying the Golden Image

Sometimes it is necessary to go back to the base image and start customizations from scratch. When applications install files that conflict with other software already on the machine, when applications don't have good uninstall procedures and need to be removed, and so on, it is better to start fresh with the base image. To recreate the golden image, just repeat the procedure in "Creating the Golden Image and Preparing for Reproduction."

 

About the author

Clay Morrisette is a software architect and developer specializing in Retail Store Systems. He has an extensive career of over 20 years of retail software development experience at a large Retailer and a Retail POS ISV, where he held lead developer, architect, project and development manager roles. He has designed, developed and deployed touch screen–based POS systems with deep experience with Microsoft technologies.

With Microsoft for over five years, Clay has worked as a Solutions Architect with Microsoft Consulting Services, before taking on the role of Solution Specialist focusing on Windows Embedded for Point of Service and Windows XP Embedded, with an emphasis on deploying and managing the distributed Retail POS environment.

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