Upgrading the BIOS Part 1

Operating systems and software are not the only thing that needs to be upgraded these days. It is really important that the BIOS firmware gets updated as well. Lately, I have been talking to a lot of IT Pros at conferences and user group meetings and I have discovered that not too many people upgrade or ‘flash’ the BIOS on systems after they have already been deployed (or even ever – sometimes they are sent out with the version they came with from the vendor). It is really important to change this going forward. I recommend developing standard versions that you support so that all systems are running your minimum standard version or newer. Periodically, a review of BIOS releases should be done to see if a later version should become the new minimum standard.

So why even upgrade the BIOS in the first place? There are a few reasons that I can think of that answer this question. The first reason is Windows 10 support. Believe it or not, the hardware vendors test the latest operating systems on the models that they currently support. Take the Lenovo ThinkPad T450, looking in the BIOS release history, you can see that Windows 10 support was added for version 1.17:

<1.17> 2015/09/07
– (New) Added win10 support.
– (New) Enabled N25Q128 SPI ROM support.
– (New) Added security fix addresses LEN-2015-002 SMM “Incursion” Attack.
– (New) Included security fixies.
– (New) Added new incompatibility bit for Back Flash Prevention.

Now this does not mean that Windows 10 will not work on versions lower than version 1.17. It means that this is probably the version that they validated and tested Windows 10 against. If you happen to run into an issue running Windows 10 on a version lower than 1.17 and you call in for support, chances are they will have you upgrade the BIOS to the latest version to see if that addresses your issue.

The second reason to upgrade the BIOS is to get fixes. It makes sense to start off on one of the latest releases than it does to start off with a version that is a year or more behind in fixes. By not upgrading to a recent version as part of the deployment process, you are potentially wasting everyone’s time – the end user, help desk, desk side (and your time if the problem comes back to you). Save the hassle and be proactive. Looking at a newer BIOS release version for the same Lenovo ThinkPad T450, we see that there is even a ‘SCCM’ fix listed in version 1.19:

– (New) Updated verbtable for noise.
– (New) Changed Haswell + N16s Tolud.
– (New) Updated Winuptp & Winuptp64.
– (Fix) Fixed an issue that srsetupwin fails to install pop/hdp with clearing SVP.
– (Fix) Fixed an issue related to SCCM 80070490 error when HDP is set.
– (Fix) Fixed an issue related to silent install auto restart issue.

The third reason to upgrade the BIOS is to get security related fixes. Yes, they find and fix security fixes in the BIOS firmware just like they do in operating systems and software. Do your security team (and yourself) a favor and deploy versions that contain these security fixes. Looking at the BIOS release history for the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m, we can see some of these security fixes listed in this version:

Version:F.60 A (20 Jan 2015)
– Fixes an intermittent issue where enabling the LAN/WLAN switching feature in the F10 BIOS settings causes the system to stop functioning properly (hang) at POST after a warm boot.

– Provides improved security of UEFI code and variables. HP strongly recommends transitioning promptly to this updated BIOS version which supersedes all previous releases.

NOTE: Due to security changes, after this BIOS update is installed, previous versions cannot be reinstalled.

Pay close attention to the note at the end of the release text – it states that previous versions cannot be reinstalled. What this means is that you can no longer ‘flash’ back to an earlier BIOS version. This is important when it comes to deploying BIOS and how we detect what systems need to be updated, but more on that later.

The fourth reason that comes to mind is has to do with manipulating the BIOS settings programmatically. I have written blogs and talked on the topic of using the vendor utilities to programmatically change the BIOS settings (like BIOS to UEFI) using a Configuration Manager task sequence. Just as it is important to standardize on the BIOS versions, you should also develop standards on how each BIOS setting should be configured in order to maintain consistency and ensure devices are configured accordingly. By running on the latest BIOS version, you will ensure that these utilities will work correctly and configure the settings correctly.

I am sure I can think of many more reasons why you should start baselining and upgrading the BIOS versions for the supported systems in your environment, but hopefully I have identified the top four reasons and have convinced you that this needs to be done on a regular basis. In the next blog, Upgrading the BIOS Part 2, I will discuss the approach to flashing the BIOS along with some lessor understood caveats as it relates to BitLocker, BIOS passwords and UEFI 64-bit systems.

Originally posted on https://miketerrill.net/

Using MBR2GPT with Configuration Manager OSD


[Update 4/5/2017] This post was based on the MBR2GPT that was released with the Windows Insider build 15007. There are a few things that have changed since then – the /silent switch has been replaced with the /convert switch. Also, it is highly recommended to run MBR2GPT from WinPE 1703 (this is required for earlier versions of Windows 10 – 1507, 1511, 1610). Look out for a new post on using this tool with Configuration Manager (including how to use it with BitLocker systems).

In my previous post, Getting Started with MBR2GPT, I showed a first look at the MBR to GPT conversion utility that is going to be released with the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update. In this post, I am going to show how it can be integrated with a Configuration Manager OSD Task Sequence. In this test, I reset my test machine back to Legacy BIOS and disabled Secure Boot. Next, I installed build 15002 of the Windows 10 Enterprise Insider Preview, joined it to my test domain and installed the Configuration Manager 1610 client.

Starting off simple, the goal was to see if I could run MBR2GPT in a simple Task Sequence and automate what I did manually in the previous post. The first thing I did was add MBR2GPT.EXE to my 1E BIOS to UEFI OEM Toolkit Package – since I need to change the BIOS settings, it made sense to just add it to this package. The next step was to create a custom, simple Task Sequence – one that I can later just copy into a Windows 10 In-place Upgrade Task Sequence. The end result looks like this:


For the Options on this Group, I put the following Conditions:


I only want to run this on a Dell, HP or Lenovo that is currently running Legacy BIOS (no need to run it if the system is already UEFI).

The next step is to run MBR2GPT. This is the same command that I ran manually, but I added the /silent switch so that it would run without prompting for input:


Next, I run my 1E BIOS to UEFI OEM step (available to 1E Nomad customers) to configure the necessary BIOS settings. In this case I want to enable Secure Boot as well. The nice thing about this step is that conditions can be added so there can be multiple configuration – for example, one with Secure Boot and maybe one without Secure Boot (for systems that might have conflicts with Secure Boot because of bad video card drivers).


The last thing to do is reboot after running both of these steps in order for the configurations to take effect.


Running this Task Sequence on my test system yielded the following in the smsts.log where we can see that MBR2GPT ran successfully:


Adding this into an in-place upgrade Task Sequence might look something like this:


Keep in mind that this is only part of the Windows Insider release right now and should not be used in production, but initial tests seem to show promising results. Also, there are still some blockers for being able to use in-place upgrade like I mentioned in the previous post. Have a plan on how you plan on handling applications that need to be uninstalled, upgraded and replaced. In other words, just because you can do in-place upgrade, do you still want that old version of Office on your shiny new Windows 10 OS? In addition, Windows 10 content is going to have a massive impact to your network. Not just the Feature Updates, but the Quality Updates (i.e. security patches) are likely to have the biggest impact (especially if you have to patch multiple versions of Windows 10). Look into using a peer to peer solution (like 1E Nomad) sooner rather than later. Lastly, chances are, you are going to have to support multiple deployment methods in your environment – make sure the tools (and vendor) you choose is capable of handling all of them seamlessly (don’t settle for cheap knock offs – you get what you pay for and can open up your network to unwanted security vulnerabilities). Baremetal for new computers and break/fix, hardware refresh/replacement, wipe-and-load, and in-place upgrade.

Originally posted on https://miketerrill.net/

Getting Started with MBR2GPT


In my previous post, BIOS to UEFI made easier with Windows 10 Creators Update, I uncovered a hidden gem in the 15007 build of the Windows 10 Enterprise Insider Preview called MBR2GPT. The benefits of this MBR to GPT conversion utility is that it makes it easier to convert systems from BIOS to UEFI and be able to take advantage of all the security features that comes in Windows 10 like Secure Boot, Device Guard and Credential Guard (to name a few). Currently, in order to stay supported by Microsoft, the hard disk needs to be completely repartitioned and formatted when switching from MBR to GPT. This is a destructive process and requires the user data to be backed up off of the hard drive, applications to be re-installed and then the user data restored once the new OS is up and running. Without the proper tools (shameless plug – see the 1e Windows 10 Now Solution), this can be a cumbersome task.

You still want to put some thought into applications as it relates to an in-place upgrade. There will be some applications that will be upgrade blockers (mainly 3rd party antivirus that is not compatible with the Windows 10 in-place upgrade process or 3rd party disk encryption) and need to be uninstalled prior to the in-place upgrade. There will also be applications that you will want upgraded – do you really want to run Office 2003 which may have been your standard on Windows 7 on Windows 10 or would you like to uplift it to Office 365 as part of the process? You might also want to replace an application with a less costly application (like swapping an expensive FTP client with a less expensive one). And lastly, you might want to uninstall applications that are not used in order to reduce your security foot print and eliminate unnecessary patching. These are things to consider when venturing down the in-place upgrade deployment method.

Applications aside for now, let’s get back to MBR2GPT…

You are probably wondering what are the options for using this utility – well, I can tell you if you have already deployed Windows 10 to BIOS systems you are fortunately in luck. Also, if you have not even started your Windows 10 upgrade, you are also in luck. The basic upgrade process will look like the following:

Windows* running on BIOS > In-place upgrade to Windows 10 (probably Creators Update) – still running BIOS at this point > MBR2GPT > Vendor BIOS Settings > Reboot > Windows 10 running UEFI.

Where Windows* is any version that supports upgrading to a Windows 10 version that supports MBR2GPT (like Windows 7 SP1 x64, Windows 8/8.1 x64 and previous versions of Windows 10-1507/1511/1607).

Now that we have that covered, let’s see how this tool actually runs. Below, I have an Insiders build of Windows 10 Creators Update (note that this is build 15002 and that MBR2GPT is in 15007). As you can see, BIOS Mode is Legacy and there is a single hard disk with Master Boot Record(MBR) volume:


I have copied the MBR2GPT utility from a 15007 build on to the C: drive of this system. Running MBR2GPT.exe /? displays the following help output:


First thing I want to do here is test it using the /validate switch to see if it is actually going to work and what kind of output is going to be displayed by running:

MBR2GPT.EXE /disk:0 /validate /allowFullOS

This results in the following on-screen output:


And the following output is logged in %windir% in the setupact.log:


Now, I am going to run the command without the /validate switch. Notice the additional output on the command line and refreshing the disk volume properties shows it to be GUID Partition Table (GPT):


Next, this is where we would run the vendor tool to change the correct BIOS settings (we will do that later in a Task Sequence when we automate the process), but for now I am going to reboot and hit the proper key to get into the BIOS settings.

After making the necessary changes (and I even enabled Secure Boot), notice that System Information displays the BIOS Mode as UEFI with Secure Boot State set to On:


This first look at the MBR2GPT conversion utility looks very promising. Hopefully in the coming months as we get closer to the release of Windows 10 Creators Update we will start to get more information on it as well as what versions of Windows 10 will support it.

In my next blog, Using MBR2GPT with Configuration Manager OSD, I am going to show how we can integrate MBR2GPT into an OSD Task Sequence.

Originally posted on https://miketerrill.net/

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 info@1e.com.)

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 https://miketerrill.net/

Getting Started with 1E BIOS to UEFI

1E BIOS to UEFI is a component of the 1E OSD Solution Accelerator that comes with 1E Nomad and enables administrators to create a true Zero Touch BIOS to UEFI Task Sequence method. This enables enterprises to get to secure Windows 10 by enabling feature like Secure Boot, Credential Guard and Device Guard to name a few, without requiring a high-touch and costly manual process.

The Challenge

There are two challenges when it comes to converting a system from BIOS to UEFI during an OSD Task Sequence. The first part of the problem is manipulating all the necessary BIOS settings that are required on class 2 UEFI devices to make them boot up in UEFI mode (class 3 UEFI devices like Surface Books only have the option of running UEFI). Fortunately, most of the major vendors, like Dell, HP and Lenovo, provide methods and tools that allow this to be done programmatically on their enterprise class systems. The downside is that this often needs to be scripted and getting the right combination to work on all your supported models can be tricky and time consuming. Some settings can vary even between models from the same vendor (some vendors are worse than others). Also, the order in which the settings are applied is important. The utility or method might return a success on a setting change but not actually change the setting because of a dependency on another setting. The second part of this problem is to be able to get the Task Sequence to reboot successfully and continue the Task Sequence after the BIOS/UEFI changes take effect. Microsoft is addressing this problem starting in the Configuration Manager 1610 release. For more information on this step, see the Task sequence steps to manage BIOS to UEFI conversion. Also, my good friend Nickolaj has written a blog called Convert from BIOS to UEFI during Windows 10 deployments with ConfigMgr Current Branch – Introduction, where he talks about what is happening with the new Task Sequence variable called TSUEFIDrive.

The Solution

1E BIOS to UEFI contains two simple Task Sequence actions that overcomes both challenges and can be used with any version of Configuration Manager Current Branch (1511, 1602, 1606, as well as the recently released 1610), and Configuration Manager 2012 SP2/R2 SP1. The first task sequence action is the 1E BIOS to UEFI step. I call this the magic step (which drives 1E Marketing crazy). The reason I call it the magic step is because it was the first solution to address the BIOS to UEFI problem in a single reboot (and no, we aren’t doing anything dodgy like flipping read-only variables). Microsoft now includes this capability in the 1610 release, but this step is still beneficial to older versions. Maybe someday I will blog on what is happening behind the scenes, but that will need to come later since there are certain companies that take an interest in my work and like to copy it (and no, I am not talking about Microsoft).

This clever step has no configuration and only needs to be placed twice in the Task Sequence as seen below:


The other custom action is called 1E BIOS to UEFI OEM. This step is the one that everyone loves as it has buttons and check boxes that can be set. This step works on Dell, Lenovo and HP enterprise class systems.


This step calls the right commands in the correct order for the make and model it is running on. Simple, right? That was the goal – to be able to abstract all the commands that need to be run (and the order they need to be run) from the administrator so that he/she can go on with more important thing (like deploying Windows 10 in UEFI). Before getting into the details of the settings, you are probably wondering what the OEM Toolkit Package is that is referenced at the bottom of the step. Well, when installing the 1E BIOS to UEFI solution, you have the option of the installer automatically downloading the vendor utilities, creating a Configuration Manager Package and distributing it to a Distribution Point Group so that you can get on with your Task Sequence. In other words, it automates the process and you do not have to follow some step-by-step document and manually create a toolkit package.

Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about the settings. The most important is the UEFI Configuration. Here we provide three options – 1: UEFI Native with Secure Boot 2: UEFI Native without Secure Boot 3: UEFI Hybrid with CSM. Here are the use cases for each one:

1: UEFI Native with Secure Boot – this will configure the BIOS/UEFI settings so that the system boots native UEFI and has Secure Boot enabled. NOTE: This is the only way currently to switch to UEFI on Lenovo systems as they do not provide a separate Boot Mode setting (at least one that pertains to UEFI).

2: UEFI Native without Secure Boot – this is the same as above but Secure Boot will not be enabled. You might be wondering ‘why would you not enable Secure Boot?’ Some low level drivers that get loaded at boot time might not be signed properly and if Secure Boot is enabled, then the system is not going to boot. Since Secure Boot can only be programmatically enabled (and not disabled), then someone needs to physically disable Secure Boot by going into the BIOS/UEFI settings. So, if you have a tricky system that has bad drivers then you can simply put a condition on this step so that Secure Boot is not enabled on these systems. Hint: once the issue is resolved you can use this step again to programmatically enable Secure Boot down the road.

3: UEFI Hybrid with CSM – you are probably thinking ‘what the heck is this and when would I use it?’ Well, for those of you that did not know this, Windows 7 does support running in UEFI mode. Still not getting it? If you are still deploying Windows 7 (which I bet most of you still are), you could have been deploying it in UEFI mode all this time. What this means is that you could have taken advantage of the fancy Windows 10 in-place upgrade and not had to worry about apps and user data. Since the disk will already be GPT there is no need to format and partition.

The last setting worth mentioning is the UEFI PXE setting. What this does is enable PXE in the UEFI network stack (which is not the same as PXE in the legacy BIOS). This is important as Configuration Manager will format and partition the disk based on the how the system was booted (Hint: look up _SMSTSBootUEFI).

Lastly, we continue to certify this step on all kinds of hardware models from each of the three vendors (that is how I know about all of the setting differences between models). Also, we have tons of ideas and features planned for this step. In fact, there were other tabs that originally showed up on early releases but got cut for the initial release – but that is top secret for now.

Configuration Manager 1610

So the burning question is ‘do I still need this if I have Configuration Manager 1610?’ Well, like I mentioned above, 1610 does take care of the magic step. However, you are on your own for handling the vendor settings. So that makes the 1E BIOS to UEFI OEM step still a valid component when it comes to doing BIOS to UEFI.

Here is the Microsoft Task Sequence that contains the new Task Sequence variable mentioned above along with the 1E BIOS to UEFI OEM step:


In summary, the 1E BIOS to UEFI solution is extremely useful, even with the new ability to format a disk for UEFI while still booted in BIOS mode in Configuration Manager 1610.

Originally posted on https://miketerrill.net/

How to Inventory Lenovo BIOS and UEFI Settings with ConfigMgr


When starting any operating system deployment project, it is a good idea to know what systems are in your environment so that you can determine which of these systems need to support the new OS. Some systems may need to be replaced, where as others might only need a BIOS UEFI update. It is also a good idea to standardize on the BIOS UEFI settings for each supported model in the environment. This ensures that consistent settings are used so that certain systems management features function correctly (for example, like wake-on-lan).

Now that Windows 10 is here, now is the time to standardize on native UEFI as the default boot mode. When making this switch, it is also important to enable Secure Boot at the same time. But, before you can do that, you need to determine not only what is in your environment, but how each system is configured.

You can inventory these hardware specific settings with System Center Configuration Manager. For the Lenovo systems this is pretty simple – this information is already stored in WMI and does not require anything to be installed on the clients for it to be enabled. The information is all stored in the Namespace: root/wmi. In order to get this information into ConfigMgr, we need to add the classes to the Default Client Settings Hardware Inventory.

  1. Open the Default Client Settings, select Hardware Inventory and click the Set Classes button.
    01 Default Client Settings
  2. On the Hardware Inventory Classes window, click the Add button.
    02 Hardware Inventory Classes
  3. On the Add Hardware Inventory Class window, click the Connect button.
    03 Add Hardware Inventory Class
  4. If the system that is running the ConfigMgr Console is a Lenovo, leave the pre-populated computer name. Otherwise type the computer name of a Lenovo system that is current on the network. For the WMI namespace field, enter: root\wmi and check the Recursive box. Enter credentials if connecting to a remote system and click the Connect button.
    04 Connect to Windows Management Instrumentation
  5. On the Add Hardware Inventory Class window, select the following class: Lenovo_BiosSetting and click OK. This enables us to inventory BIOS UEFI settings (current and possible) and also the device boot order for Legacy Boot and UEFI Boot.
    05 Add Hardware Inventory Class
  6. Back on the Hardware Inventory Classes window, I recommend un-selecting the class for the Default Client Settings (in fact I recommend trimming the Default Client Hardware Inventory Classes down to just a few and target only the necessary classes via Custom Client Setting). We will add them to a Custom Client Settings designed for Workstations. Unselect Lenovo_BiosSetting and click OK.
    06 Hardware Inventory Classes
  7. On the Default Settings window, click OK.
    07 Default Settings
  8. Next, create a Custom Client Device Settings, give it the name Workstation Client Settings, select Hardware Inventory (or use a previously created one).
    08 Create Custom Client Device Settings
  9. Click on Hardware Inventory in the left pane and click Set Classes.
    09 Create Custom Client Device Settings
  10. Select Lenovo_BiosSetting  and the following fields should be selected: Active CurrentSetting (InstanceName gets selected by default) and click OK. These are the fields that have useful information that we can use for reporting.
    10 Hardware Inventory Classes
  11. On the Create Custom Client Device Settings window, adjust the desired Hardware inventory schedule and click OK.
    12 Create Custom Client Device Settings
  12. Deploy the newly created Workstation Client Settings out to a collection that contains Lenovo workstation systems. I have one called All Workstation Clients.
    13 Workstation Client Settings
  13. On a targeted Lenovo system, kick off a Machine Policy Retrieval & Evaluation Cycle and then a Hardware Inventory Cycle. In the InventoryAgent.log on the client, you should find an entry being inventoried for the newly defined namespace.
    13 Inventory agent log
  14. Back in the ConfigMgr Console, use the Resource Explorer and open up the Hardware Inventory for the system that was used in the previous step. Here you will see that the new class and corresponding values have been added.
    14 Resource Explorer
  15. Unlike Dell and HP, Lenovo is a bit limited on the information that is provided (sorry Lenovo you get a F in this category). Both Dell and HP show current values and possible values in different fields. Lenovo only lumps the current setting and value in the same field. In order to determine if a machine is UEFI capable you need to look for the SecureBoot setting. This setting was not available on an older T410 (which does not support UEFI), but it is available on a newer T450.

Hopefully you found this post useful and helps you to gather and report on Lenovo specific settings using System Center Configuration Manager.

Originally posted on https://miketerrill.net/