User Group Getting Started Guide

I just got back from the best systems management conference called the Midwest Management Summit. The reason this conference is so great (besides all of the awesome technical sessions and information) is because it is built for the community, by the community. In fact, the Microsoft Management Summit actually started out as a User Conference – I still remember the very first one I attended – The SMS & Windows 2000 User Conference.

Every year at the Midwest Management Summit, there is a session on user groups – how to find them, start them, or make one better. The first place to start is by searching for a user group in your area. The Minnesota System Center User group maintains a pretty comprehensive list of systems management/System Center user groups here. And if you know of any that should be added, just reach out to them and they will gladly add it.

Since I have been running the Arizona Systems Management User Group (AZSMUG for short) for over a decade, I often get questions from individuals on how to start a user group. I recently decided to put this in my OneNote for future use but thought that it would be great to share with everyone that is looking to start a user group. There isn’t an exact formula for what works and many of the user groups all run a little different. But the most important thing is to stay the course and keep the group going.

Fellow User Group Leader Daniel Ratliff also has a blog on his tips here.

Now for my tips and information on how to get a user group up and running:

Domain Name
Purchase and register a domain name. For AZSMUG, I use GoDaddy because it works well with Office 365 (the DNS settings for Skype for Business are important). I also use it to redirect to our Office 365 SharePoint page so that others can find the user group.

Technical Community
Register you user group with Technical Community. This will get you access to a free Office 365 E3 subscription that you can use to setup a few email accounts. It also gets you access to SharePoint in which you can use as a public website for your user group so that others can find it. You may need to let them know that you are a new user group just getting started and use one of the other user groups or user group leaders as verification. Note that the Office 365 subscription needs to be renewed/verified every year by proving that you are still an active user group. The following is what currently you get with the E3 subscription:

In addition, you can get funding (if you are lucky) from Technical Community for user group meetings. Although, I have given up on requesting funding after being denied several times.

Email Addresses
As soon as you get your domain name and Office 365 account setup and configured, create a few email accounts that you will use for official user group communication. I suggest setting up a shared mailbox for your user group – like (where usergroup is the name of your user group). Also setup account for any members that will be helping to run the user group. Give those accounts access to the shared mailbox.

Chair Members or Board
If you are just getting started, you may just have a yourself or another person or two that helps run the user group. In this case, it is probably fine to not have anything official in terms of who runs the group and how the group is run. If after you start the user group you find that you have lots of interest from members wanting to help run the user group, you may want to adopt some formal bylaws in which elections are held yearly for various positions (like President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer). I know groups that use both models and each works well depending on the group.

Email lists
Email can be a primary method of communication to your user group members. There are several email distribution lists available today, plus you can create your own distribution list with your Office 365 Account. Otherwise, myITforum still maintains some distribution lists. Mail Chimp is another one that some user groups use (this has some integration into Eventbrite).

Sponsors & Sponsorship
Depending on how your group is set up will depend on how you get sponsorship. Some user groups get non-profit status so that they can have an operating budget and checking account. Other user groups get sponsors to come in and pay for food & beverage (and maybe guest speaker travel). Sponsors are given the option to present on their products at your user group. Just make sure that they keep it technically focused and do not turn it into a time share sales pitch (your user group members will thank you). Also, some vendors will want your user group member list of names/companies/email addresses. Depending on your sponsorship agreements, you may turn this over – just make sure your members know in advance and they are okay with this. Otherwise, have them raffle off an item at the meeting they present at. That way, user group members can opt-in to the raffle by providing their information. This keeps you and the user group out of any privacy issues.

Try to speak at your own user group at least once a year. This will help you in your current position at work and be beneficial for your career to get some public speaking experience. Also try to encourage other user group members to present at your meetings. This will help them out as well. Plus, chances are that someone else is facing the same problem and needs to come up with a solution. Or use it to demonstrate your knowledge about a specific feature and how that helps in your day to day job.

Getting guest speakers can generate interest and get more people to attend the meetings. Many of the Microsoft MVPs will gladly present at your user group if they happen to be in town and are available. Otherwise, use sponsors or sponsorship money to pay for their travel to come to your meeting.

User Group Focus
Some user groups run a general focus (like all things Microsoft), whereas other user groups are more specific (like System Center or just even one product focus). Find out what fits for your audience. The last thing you want to do is put a bunch of time and effort into a meeting only to get a few people to show up because the topic is not of interest to the other user group members.

Meeting Invites
There are two good services that do not cost anything for the basic level of service for sending out invites and tracking registrations. Eventbrite and Meetup both work well and have professional looking invitations. The also provide other things as well (like promotion and the ability to email notifications and reminders – either natively or using external service like MailChimp).

Social Media
In addition to the meeting invitation service you provide (which can be used to promote events), use social media to promote your user group. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are all great ways to spread the word about your user group and upcoming meetings.

Meeting frequency
This can be a tricky one. If you are just starting off, don’t bite off more than you can chew. In other words, start by planning for one meeting per quarter or four times per year (summers can be slow). Getting everything lined up for a user group meeting is a lot of work. I have run meetings every other month for several years and changed to a quarterly schedule a couple of years ago. This seems to draw more interest and attendance from user group members. If it is too frequent, members are more likely to have conflicts or decide to skip a meeting and catch the next one. But I do know groups that run every other month or even every month. Just keep in mind that it can be a lot of work keeping up with that cadence unless you have others helping out. If you can set a fixed date, say the third Thursday of the third month in the quarter, great – this will help people plan and know when the next meeting is going to be. If you cannot have a fixed date, then be sure to let your user group members know enough time in advance when you are in the pre-planning phases of the next meeting so that they can ‘pencil’ it into their calendar.

Meeting duration and times
This is another one that can be tricky and you will not be able to please everyone. The time might also depend on when you guest speakers can present. If they are busy working/consulting/teaching during the day, then you might have to run evening meetings (like from 5 – 7).

Meeting locations
If there is a local Microsoft office, then chances are you will be able to have your meetings there. Reach out to your local Microsoft contacts as you will need a Blue badge sponsor if you plan on having meetings outside of working hours (like after 5 PM). Also, they will be able to check the meeting room schedule and book the room for you. They can also help promote and generate interest in the user group with their customers in the area. Otherwise, a local library, training center or a member’s work location are all other alternatives. Pick a location with free parking or one that will validate parking.

Online Meetings/Recording Meetings
If you get to a point where you want to open up meetings online for others to attend or if you just want to record them, you can use Skype for Business that is part of the Office 365 E3 subscription.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know in the comments below or send me a message on Twitter.

Originally posted on

First look – Dell 64-bit Flash BIOS Utility

Dell Laptop

Update 2/14/2017: Dell has publicly posted a download link to the 64-bit BIOS Installation Utility (now called Flash64W.exe) and you can find it here:

Now that the cat is out of the bag that Dell has a 64-bit Flash BIOS Utility, I can finally blog about it. Earlier this week, Warren Byle of Dell announced the following on Twitter:

So there you have it, the wait is over (of course, after you get off the phone with Dell support) and you can now flash the Dell BIOS in 64-bit. You are probably thinking ‘big deal, I could do that already – flash the BIOS on 64-bit Windows 10’. Yea, you are right since full 64-bit Windows has a 32-bit subsystem, but the real magic is being able to flash the BIOS under WinPE. If your system is running UEFI (or you have a UEFI conversion Task Sequence), then it needs to boot the native architecture (in this case 64-bit). By only having a 32-bit flash BIOS utility before meant that we were unable to flash under WinPE x64. The Dell 64-bit Flash BIOS Utility is a much welcome (and needed) addition to the IT toolbox (thanks Warren)!

Using the tool is pretty simple, you use it in addition to the BIOS exe that you have already downloaded. I’ll cover off how I use it in a Configuration Manager Package in another post, but for now, here is how you use it:


I used the following command line under WinPE x64 to silently flash a Dell OptiPlex 7040 from version 1.4.5 to 1.5.4:

FlashUpDateWin64.exe /b=OptiPlex_7040_1.5.4.exe /s /f /l=1.5.4.txt

Which wrote the following output:

***BIOS flash started on 1/31/2017 at 18:38:32***
Command: F:\FlashUpDateWin64.exe /b=OptiPlex_7040_1.5.4.exe /s /f /l=1.5.4.txt

1.4.5 INSTALLED (Dell System OptiPlex 7040)
– Gigabit Ethernet : 0.8
– Intel Management Engine (VPro) Update :
– System BIOS with BIOS Guard  : 1.4.5
1.5.4 UPDATE ( OptiPlex 7040)
– System BIOS with BIOS Guard  : 1.5.4
– Gigabit Ethernet : 0.8
– Intel Management Engine (VPro) Update :
– System Map : 1.0.1
– PCR0 XML :

Exit Code = 2 (Reboot Required)
***BIOS flash finished at 1/31/2017 at 18:38:41***

I hope you are as excited as me about this new *SHINY* utility from Dell. Happy 64-bit BIOS flashing!

Originally posted on

BIOS to UEFI made easier with Windows 10 Creators Update


Back in December, Microsoft published a blog (Windows 10 Creators Update advances security and best-in-class modern IT tools) where they mentioned a conversion tool for making the conversion to UEFI:

“In-place UEFI conversion

We’ve heard from our customers that they want to take advantage of new Windows 10 security investments like Device Guard on their existing modern hardware, but many of these new features require UEFI-enabled devices. For those customers who have already provisioned modern Windows PCs that support UEFI but installed Windows 7 using legacy BIOS, converting a device to UEFI required an IT manager to repartition the disc and reconfigure the firmware. This meant they would need to physically touch each device in their enterprise. With the Creators Update, we will introduce a simple conversion tool that automates this previously manual work. This conversion tool can be integrated with management tools such as System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr)* as part of the Windows 7 to Windows 10 in-place upgrade process.”

I disagree with their statement that you need to physically touch each device in the enterprise in order to make the conversion to UEFI, as I have engineered the process that we have been using at 1E in our Windows 10 Now solution since last year. However, in order to do the conversion and to be supported (which the 1E Windows 10 Now Solution is 100% supported) you need to completely format and partition the in order to change it from MBR to GPT. This presents other challenges, such as backing up and restoring user data and re-installing applications. There are other unsupported solutions out there (like GPTGen) that I know other vendors use that enable you to switch the disk layout from MBR to GPT without formatting and partitioning the disk, but I would steer clear of these solutions (and vendors) in order to continue to be supported by Microsoft.

In the Microsoft blog, they only made a mention of the ‘simple conversion tool’ and did not provide any details about it (like when to expect it, how to use it, etc.). Well, there was a nice little surprise that showed up in build 15007 of the Windows 10 Enterprise Insider Preview called MBR2GPT.EXE


This looks like the conversion utility that the blog post mentioned. Other than the MBR2GPT help, there is not much information about the utility and what versions of Windows 10 that will be supported. With this tool, more machines will qualify for an in-place upgrade (like machines that are currently running BIOS). There are still some in-place upgrade limitations out there, like 3rd party disk encryption (unless the vendor now supports in-place upgrade) or changing between architectures or base OS languages, that will still require a wipe-and-load approach (see Johan’s post Windows 10 Upgrade Limitations for a few others).

The other thing that needs to be done when using MBR2GPT is to set the correct vendor specific BIOS settings changes so that the system will boot UEFI after converting the disk layout. The order of the settings does matter and settings can vary among models from the same vendor. I have previously blogged about (Automating Dell BIOS-UEFI Standards for Windows 10) how to do this for Dell (they have the most consistent BIOS settings out of everyone). We also have a BIOS to UEFI tool that only comes with Nomad that abstracts all of the vendor settings that I have blogged about (Getting Started with 1E BIOS to UEFI) that has a slick UI in the form of a Task Sequence step.


(Yea, I know, I have heard from many of you that 1E should offer this as a stand alone tool – feel free to let them know at

In my next post, Getting Started with MBR2GPT, we will talk a look at this tool in action and keep in mind that this is pre-release software for now so do not use it in production yet!

Originally posted on

Arizona Systems Management User Group 10-year Anniversary Meeting – A Taste of MMS Recap

img_0731The Arizona Systems Management User Group 10-year Anniversary Meeting – A Taste of MMS has come and gone. It was a fantastic way to celebrate 10 years of AZSMUG with an all-star line up and a surprise special guest, David James – Director of Engineering for Configuration Manager.



Kicking off the meeting, Peter Daalmans started the day presenting Session 1 on How to cope with the rapid release of ConfigMgr.


He then presented the first sponsor session: Parallels Mac Management for our sponsor Parallels.


Next up was Kent Agerlund presenting Session 2 of the day on What’s new & trendy in Microsoft EMS.


Session 3 of the day was presented by Brian Mason – SQL Server 2016 & ConfigMgr – What you need to know.


Lunch was presented by our gold sponsor 1E. The pizzas were so large, user groups in Texas would be jealous.

1E’s Shaun Cassells presented the lunch time sponsor session – Windows 10 Servicing in the Real World.


After lunch we jumped right into Session 4 of the day with the All Speakers (plus David James) Q&A. This turned out being an excellent interactive discussion with great insights on things from David and Michael Niehaus. Everyone was engaged even after those extremely large pizza slices.


We also posted several Twitter polls throughout the day and used these as discussion topics during the Q&A (BTW if you are not on Twitter, get on Twitter!):

Poll 1: What version of ConfigMgr are you using in production?


Poll 2: How many ConfigMgr clients do you manage?


Poll 3: Are you using Microsoft EMS today?


Poll 4: What version of SQL are you using with ConfigMgr?


Poll 5: Do you have ConfigMgr integrated with Intune?


Poll 6: When do you plan on deploying Windows 10?

Michael Niehaus presented Session 5 on What’s new for enterprises in Windows 10 1607.


Finishing out the day with Session 6, Greg Ramsey did a deep dive session on Using PowerShell with ConfigMgr.


The examples that he covered can be download from his blog. Midway through Greg’s session the Midwest Management Summit afternoon cake arrived and it was yummy.


Wrapping up the day for a final speaker picture. Thanks again to all of the speakers for presenting and our sponsors Microsoft, 1E, Coretech, Midwest Management Summit and Parallels for making this event possible. I am already looking forward to the 20-year anniversary meeting!


Originally posted on

Arizona Systems Management User Group 10-year Anniversary Meeting – A Taste of MMS

microsoft-tempeThe history of AZSMUG:

We have been planning this meeting for a long time and I really wanted to make this a special meeting. I got the idea to start the user group from a session that I attended at the Microsoft Management Summit in 2006. A Microsoft MVP by the name of Ed Aldrich gave a session on starting a local user group and I followed up with him afterwards for help on get things started (ironically Ed is now my coworker at 1E – although neither of us worked at 1E when we first met).

I also went through several Microsoft employees trying to find someone (a Microsoft blue badge employee) that would sponsor us so that we could host the meetings at the Microsoft office (back then it was at Central and Thomas). After striking out multiple times, I came across a Microsoft person by the name of Harold Wong (many of you probably know him from the TechNet Events). At the time, Harold was traveling as much, if not more than I was, but he always made time for us  when we wanted to have a meeting (even during his personal time, as most of our meetings were in the evenings). So a huge thanks to Harold for helping out all of these years! (BTW – he still travels a lot)

Our very first meeting was on September 21st, 2006. I think we had about 12 people attend the very first meeting – ironically many of those people still attend the user group today, so another thanks to all of you for sticking with us throughout the years!

Now, I know it would have been epic to have the 10-year meeting on the same exact day this year, but due to logistics October 7th turned out to be the ideal day. I personally am super excited for this meeting and hope to see as many of you there as possible.

So what is a Taste of MMS? The AZSMUG 10-year Anniversary Meeting IS a Taste of MMS. MMS, the Midwest Management Summit, is a systems management conference that provides top quality real-world sessions in a relaxed, setting. There is plenty of time for questions or even talking to speakers and peers.

So what makes this 10-year Anniversary Meeting a Taste of MMS? Every single speaker (Kent Agerlund, Brian Mason, Peter Daalmans, Greg Ramsey, Michael Niehaus and myself) has presented multiple sessions at the previous MMS conferences, which makes this meeting a ‘taste’ of what you get by attending the next MMS.

Registration is filling up fast, so be sure to book your ticket soon.
10 Years of AZSMUG
6 Speakers
4 Microsoft MVPs
1 Day (Friday, October 7th 2016, Tempe, AZ Microsoft Office)

Mike Terrill
AZ Systems Management User Group

Originally posted on

AZ Systems Management User Group presents: Kent Agerlund and Mike Terrill

We are planning on having our fifth meeting of 2014.  This meeting will be held at ***Interface Technical Training***: 3110 North Central Avenue, Suite 160, Phoenix, AZ 85012, September 11th . The meeting will start at **5:00 PM** with the welcome time at 4:30 PM-come early and socialize a bit.

Kent and Mike will be presenting on the following:

Compliance – the new orange in Enterprise Client Management

Never before have we been looking at the same amount of challenges in terms ensuring compliance among all our clients. Forget about the days where managing compliance was a question of implementing the correct group policy: The challenges of today and tomorrow are different as the types of devices become more diverse. This session will teach you how you can use Settings Management to ensure compliance on your Windows devices, Mac OSx devices and mobile devices. We will also look into how you can use Settings Management modify registry settings, deploy software and much more.

Kent Agerlund, Coretech Co-Founder and evangelist

In 1999 Kent Agerlund, co-founded Coretech. The company growth is heavily fueled by Kent´s own enthusiasm and determination to constantly strive for the highest possible expert knowledge in the System Center suite.  Kent’s enormous experiences as an instructor are recognized world-wide by delegates attending his courses. His rare ability to combine hands-on know-how with deep and detailed knowledge of Configuration Manager, which he has worked with since 1996, as well as advanced infrastructure makes Kent one of the most sought after expert instructors in the world.

Mike Terrill, Product Manager at 1E

Mike is the Windows Migration and User-centric Application Management Product Manager at 1E.  He specializes in the design, architecture and installation of Configuration Manager and Windows operating system deployments.  Prior to joining 1E in 2007, he worked 10 years for a global strategic outsourcing company as an IT Architect specializing in SMS, software distribution and operating system deployment.  His most recent project included deploying System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and Windows 7 to a 450K seat environment.  He founded and runs the Arizona Systems Management User Group and has been working with SMS since version 1.2.

Registration Link:

Mike Terrill
AZ Systems Management User Group




AZ Systems Management User Group presents: Mike Terrill

We are planning on having our third meeting of 2014. This meeting will be held at Microsoft’s Office: 60 East Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ 85281, 12th floor on Thursday, May 8th. The meeting will start at 3:00 PM with the welcome time at 2:30 PM and will run until 5:00 PM – come early and socialize a bit before the meeting starts.

Come and get an early look at the session Mike will be presenting the following week at TechEd 2014: No Lab, No Problem! Building the Essential Lab Environment Using Microsoft Technologies

The days of requiring extensive hardware and resources to build out a decent test environment are fading fast as new technology and more powerful hardware come out. Yet, often times companies disregard the importance of a lab and take major risks by doing things directly in their production environment. It is always best to have a lab to ‘play’ around in, test that script that is needed to be used in production or simply test and document an upgrade processes. This can easily be done by using equipment and software that is already available and can prevent costly mistakes to a production environment. Using tools like the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, Hyper-V, PowerShell and a little bit of automation, you can quickly be on your way to setting up the Essential Lab Environment. Once the framework is in place, building out new environments is a snap. Need to refresh a few test client systems or build new ones? No problem! With a reusable solution in place, you should never be without a lab environment again.

Mike is the Systems Management Practice Lead at 1E. He specializes in the design, architecture and installation of Configuration Manager and Windows operating system deployments. Prior to joining 1E in 2007, he worked 10 years for a global strategic outsourcing company as an IT Architect specializing in SMS, software distribution and operating system deployment. His most recent project included deploying System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and Windows 7 to a 450K seat environment. He founded and runs the Arizona Systems Management User Group and has been working with SMS since version 1.2.

Registration Link:

Originally posted on