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Comprehensive Guide to OSD Front Ends

So, what are front ends, and why do you need them?

Within the Guide to OSD Front Ends, you will learn what front ends are and how you can use them. Included are a variety of other MVP and community tools from MVPs like Niall Brady, Nickolaj Andersen and Maurice Daly, as well as many others to help you get the most out of using front ends.

Front ends are about making a task sequence dynamic and flexible without having to pre-define every permutation. Front ends are also about enabling dynamic behavior based on user input as defined at deployment time. They work by populating task sequence variables. These variables are used by task sequences to perform various configurations, conditionally execute a task, or otherwise provide configuration information. There are many variables and different ways to use front ends, and this guide will offer you ways to do so productively.

OSD is often broken down into two large categories: Zero Touch and Lite Touch. Both refer to fully automated OSD processes. Zero Touch, as the name implies, requires no (or zero) interaction or intervention to successfully complete. Lite Touch, on the other hand, requires some limited amount of input from a human participant.

These terms are also often directly associated with the two Microsoft OSD tools: System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) with Zero Touch and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) with Lite Touch. The reason for this is because ConfigMgr provides very limited built-in facilities to enable any user input during OSD. Some would even say that these facilities are so limited that they are effectively useless. To truly have a fully Zero Touch OS deployment means that  every system deployed is completely identical, all variations are predefined somewhere, or all variations can be automatically determined or derived.

As with most things ConfigMgr, there are a least a few community-provided Front Ends that anyone can download and use in their organization. These come in a variety of forms, including simple scripts, HTAs, PowerShell (using Windows Forms or WPF) and even native code.

Note that prior to Windows 8 and WinPE 4.0, using a PowerShell Front End was more or less impossible because WinPE did not support .NET or PowerShell. This made the choice a bit easier as it was between ugly HTAs or native code. PowerShell, as with just about everything in the Windows world, has changed a lot of things for the better.

Want to learn more? Download the guide today!

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 1.34.41 PMJason Sandys, Enterprise Mobility MVP, has 20-plus years of experience in a wide range of technologies, environments and industries, with extensive knowledge in implementing and supporting all things SMS and Configuration Manager beginning with SMS 2.0. He is currently a consultant for CoreTech Global working directly with customers and on customer-oriented projects.


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