Early speculation re unattended installs with Win 11

hsehestedt

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I've become rather addicted to unattended installation and related topics with Win 10 thanks to tutorials from Kari.

However, there is currently a big "gotcha" with Windows 10 and I'm curious to find out if the ADK for Windows 11 will solve this.

Bear with me, I need to provide a little background to explain this...

Microsoft's latest recommendations are that the recovery partition be placed on the drive last, after the partition where Windows is installed. In fact, if you do a normal installation of Windows, this is how it will be installed.

However, when you perform an unattended installation, you provide in the answer file information regarding how many partitions to create and what size to make each partition. For each partition you would specify a size for that partition, except for the Windows partition. For that partition, you instruct unattended setup to use all remaining space on the disk. As a result, there is no space left on the drive to allow you to create the recovery partition after the Windows partition. Because of this, with an unattended installation you would typically have to create the recovery partition before the Windows partition. This works fine but it just bugs me that it doesn't follow the latest guidance from Microsoft.

You could go about calculating exactly how much space is on the disk and specify a precise size for the Windows partition to leave space afterward for the recovery partition, but that would mean performing new calculations and modifying the answer file every time you use a different size disk.

I do have a workaround in place for this, but it is not at all simple. It involves injecting batch files into the WinPE image on the install media and modifying the answer file to run these at the very beginning of the installation process. In fact, I had to write a program to do this for me because it's such a pain in the keister to do manually all the time.

So all that background simply leads me to this question:

I wonder if Microsoft has something planned for unattended setup of Windows 11 that will allow you to create the Windows partition and then leave space sufficient to allow the creation of the recovery partition at the end of the disk.

I'm not expecting any answers to this now, but for anyone who may be playing with a pre-release ADK and Win 11 unattended installation, I'd appreciate hearing if you run into a way to do this.
 

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jimbo45

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Hi there
One possible drawback in placing the recovery partition AFTER the Windows main partition is that if say you didn't use the whole HDD/SSD for Windows but now you want to increase the size of the windows partition it makes it a bit problematical especially if you have another OS on the same SSD. By having the recovery partition BEFORE the main Windows partition makes it a lot easier moving / re-sizing partitions without encountering errors using typical standard Partition Managers. (This isn't only applicable to W11 but W10 as well).

Cheers
jimbo
 

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johnlgalt

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The issue resides with the fact that the Microsoft guidelines for partition structure are not written to take into account various scenarios, especially like one that @jimbo45 mentions.

Plus, I get the feeling that these Microsoft guidelines were developed more for mechanical drives versus SSDs, because having the recovery partition at the end of the physical mechanical drive might have a performance benefit that is non-existent when using SSDs. I say might, because I honestly don't remember anymore if this was more of an issue with the IDE interface versus SATA, or a fault of older mechanical drives only,. but I do seem to recall reading something, somewhere, at some time, that there is some sort of performance hit on mechanical drives when accessing data from the relative beginning of the space versus relative end.

I may be way off base - but that is what I remember being the case. And if my memory pans out, it makes perfect sense as to why Microsoft was recommending the placement of the recovery partition at the physical end of space, and why it really doesn't matter all that much now, in terms of that performance hit, and also how it can be detrimental for other situations as the one Jimbo mentioned.

Of course, modern systems with SSDs seem to be less susceptible to errors when modifying partitions (regardless of where they reside), also, because (I think) the process is so much faster than on older mechanical drives, and still faster than even modern mechanical drives.

Again, I may be way off base here, but if memory serves me well, then these partition guidelines from Microsoft make more sense.
 

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hsehestedt

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I think that the issue is not so much that they want the recovery partition at the end for any performance issues, but it so that the size can be easily adjusted.

We've probably all seen systems where there is more than one recovery partition, a result of having to create a whole new partition if the old one is not large enough when an upgrade is performed.

With the new scheme, the Windows partition is shrunk and the Recovery partition employs the unique ability to expand backward into that freed space.

If you installed Win 11 clean (not using unattended setup) and you open Disk Management, you will see that the recovery partition is positioned last.
 

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hsehestedt

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I found the information where I had originally seen that recommendation. In case anyone is interested in a little lite reading :)


From that document:

"We recommend that you place this partition immediately after the Windows partition. This allows Windows to modify and recreate the partition later if future updates require a larger recovery image."

So, that makes sense because the requirements for the size of the recovery partition have crept up over time. The same article says that a minimum of 250MB is recommended, but I notice that is was created as 500MB in my Win 11 install by default.
 

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johnlgalt

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Thanks. I do recall going over that before. It makes a certain sort of sense.
 

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Kari

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About the location of the recovery partition: I explained all this in a post on Ten Forums in November 2019, when MS changed default Windows Setup disk layout in Version 20H1:


Short version of that quite long post:

Before v. 20H1, Windows Setup placed recovery partition first on system disk (yellow highlight in screenshot). When an upgrade needed more space for recovery partition, the original could not expand, EFI partition blocking its way. A new recovery partition was created directly acter C: partition (blue highlight):

Recovery Partitions.jpg

Because recovery partition can something no other partition can, expand backwards if placed directly after C: partition, "stealing" space from it, this is a good place. In the future upgrades, there will be no need to create additional recovery partitions. Simply, next time recovery partition requires more space, it just takes that from C: (green highlight):

Recovery Partition expanding.jpg

Size of C: partition should be fixed, not changed after a recovery partition is created after it. A mistake (big or small, pick your choice!) would for instance be shrink C: and create a new partition in freed space. Now, when again an upgrade requires more space for recovery partition, a new one (green highlight) would be created, again after C: partition, because the previous (blue highlight) can ONLY expand backwards when directly after C:

Third Recovery Partition.jpg

Quite simple!

Kari
 
Last edited:

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Kari

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OK, unattended deployment:

I wonder if Microsoft has something planned for unattended setup of Windows 11 that will allow you to create the Windows partition and then leave space sufficient to allow the creation of the recovery partition at the end of the disk.

I'm not expecting any answers to this now, but for anyone who may be playing with a pre-release ADK and Win 11 unattended installation, I'd appreciate hearing if you run into a way to do this.

Seems that nothing will change.

Playing with WSIM, answer files and unattended deployment, the closest I can come is to simply not create a recovery partition. Here's a working autounattend.xml file for PRO edition, only creating EFI, MSR and Windows partitions, using all free space after first two for third, Windows partition:

XML:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<unattend xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:unattend">
    <settings pass="windowsPE">
        <component name="Microsoft-Windows-International-Core-WinPE" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="http://schemas.microsoft.com/WMIConfig/2002/State" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
            <SetupUILanguage>
                <UILanguage>en-GB</UILanguage>
            </SetupUILanguage>
            <InputLocale>0409:0000040b</InputLocale>
            <UILanguage>en-GB</UILanguage>
            <UILanguageFallback>en-GB</UILanguageFallback>
            <UserLocale>en-GB</UserLocale>
            <SystemLocale>en-GB</SystemLocale>
        </component>
        <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Setup" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="http://schemas.microsoft.com/WMIConfig/2002/State" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
            <DiskConfiguration>
                <Disk wcm:action="add">
                    <CreatePartitions>
                        <CreatePartition wcm:action="add">
                            <Order>1</Order>
                            <Size>100</Size>
                            <Type>EFI</Type>
                        </CreatePartition>
                        <CreatePartition wcm:action="add">
                            <Order>2</Order>
                            <Size>128</Size>
                            <Type>MSR</Type>
                        </CreatePartition>
                        <CreatePartition wcm:action="add">
                            <Extend>true</Extend>
                            <Order>3</Order>
                            <Type>Primary</Type>
                        </CreatePartition>
                    </CreatePartitions>
                    <ModifyPartitions>
                        <ModifyPartition wcm:action="add">
                            <Order>1</Order>
                            <PartitionID>1</PartitionID>
                            <Label>System</Label>
                            <Format>FAT32</Format>
                        </ModifyPartition>
                        <ModifyPartition wcm:action="add">
                            <Order>2</Order>
                            <PartitionID>2</PartitionID>
                        </ModifyPartition>
                        <ModifyPartition wcm:action="add">
                            <Order>3</Order>
                            <PartitionID>3</PartitionID>
                            <Letter>C</Letter>
                            <Label>Windows</Label>
                            <Format>NTFS</Format>
                        </ModifyPartition>
                    </ModifyPartitions>
                    <WillWipeDisk>true</WillWipeDisk>
                    <DiskID>0</DiskID>
                </Disk>
            </DiskConfiguration>
            <UserData>
                <AcceptEula>true</AcceptEula>
                <Organization>ACME Computers</Organization>
                <ProductKey>
                    <Key>VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T</Key>
                </ProductKey>
            </UserData>
            <ImageInstall>
                <OSImage>
                    <InstallTo>
                        <DiskID>0</DiskID>
                        <PartitionID>3</PartitionID>
                    </InstallTo>
                </OSImage>
            </ImageInstall>
        </component>
    </settings>
</unattend>

My solution, and recommendation: use MDT!

Kari
 

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johnlgalt

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Makes sense. When I cleanly installed 10 early May (with pre-release preview 21H1) I go EFI / System / Recovery, the way Microsoft wants it to be. Upgrading to leak didn't change that at all. So I suppose 11 is happy with the structure.
 

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    3x Sabrent Rocket PCIe Gen4 NVMe M.2 1 TB SSD (SB-ROCKET-NVMe4-1TB)
    SanDisk Ultra SDSSDHII-960G-G25 960 GB SATA III SSD
    Crucial MX100 CT256MX100SSD1 256GB SATA III SSD
    2 * Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 1TB 7200 RPM --> RAID1
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  • Operating System
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    16 GB
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    Intel(R) HD Graphics 520
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    Intel(R) HD Graphics 520 + RealTek Audio
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    Dell laptop display 15"
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    Hard Drives
    Toshiba 128GB M.2 22300 drive
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    Dell
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hsehestedt

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Seems that nothing will change.
Kari, thanks so much taking a look at that and letting me know what you found. I have a workaround for now. I have a script that I inject into the WinPE image that gets run very early in the unattended install process, before the disk is partitioned, that performs the disk configuration for me.

The one weakness of the script is that it assumes that you will be installing to disk 0. If installing elsewhere, I would have to modify the script.

Thanks again for your help!
 

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System One System Two

  • Operating System
    Windows 11 21H2
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Home Built
    CPU
    Intel i7-11700K
    Motherboard
    ASUS Prime Z590-A
    Memory
    128GB Crucial Ballistix 3200MHz DRAM
    Graphics Card(s)
    No GPU - CPU graphics only (for now)
    Sound Card
    Realtek (on motherboard)
    Monitor(s) Displays
    HP Envy 32
    Screen Resolution
    2560 x 1440
    Hard Drives
    1 x 1TB NVMe Gen 4 x 4 SSD
    1 x 2TB NVMe Gen 3 x 4 SSD
    2 x 512GB 2.5" SSDs
    2 x 8TB HD
    PSU
    Corsair HX850i
    Case
    Corsair iCue 5000X RGB
    Cooling
    Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black cooler + 10 case fans
    Keyboard
    CODE backlit mechanical keyboard
    Mouse
    Logitech MX Master 3
    Internet Speed
    300Mb down / 20Mb up
    Browser
    Chromium Edge
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender
    Other Info
    Additional options installed:
    WiFi 6E PCIe adapter
    ASUS ThunderboltEX 4 PCIe adapter
  • Operating System
    Windows 11 21H2
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    HP Spectre x360 15-BL012DX
    CPU
    Intel i7-7500U
    Memory
    32GB
    Graphics card(s)
    Dual Intel HD 620 and Nvidia GeForce 940MX
    Sound Card
    Built-in Realtek HD Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    4k 15-inch
    Screen Resolution
    4k (3840 x 2160)
    Hard Drives
    1TB Seagate FireCuda 510 NVMe SSD
    Internet Speed
    300Mb down / 20Mb up
    Browser
    Chromium Edge
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender
    Other Info
    RAM Upgraded from 16GB to 32GB WiFi Upgraded from WiFi 5 to WiFi 6 SSD upgraded from 512GB NVMe SSD to 1TB Seagate FireCuda 510 NVMe SSD

Kari

PhD in Malt Based Liquids
Power User
VIP
Local time
1:31 PM
Posts
573
Location
Expat from Finland in Leipzig Germany
The one weakness of the script is that it assumes that you will be installing to disk 0. If installing elsewhere, I would have to modify the script.

I might have a solution for that. Today, too anxious to get first official Insider W11 build installed, will post here in very near future.

Kari
 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • Operating System
    Windows 11 PRO x64 Dev
    Manufacturer/Model
    Hyper-V Virtual Machine (host in System 2 specs)
    CPU
    Intel Core i7-8550U
    Memory
    6 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Microsoft Hyper-V Video
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Laptop display (17.1") & Samsung U28E590 (27.7")
  • Operating System
    Windows 11 PRO x64 Dev Channel
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    HP HP ProBook 470 G5
    CPU
    Intel Core i7-8550U
    Motherboard
    HP 837F KBC Version 02.3D.00
    Memory
    16 GB
    Graphics card(s)
    Intel(R) UHD Graphics 620 & NVIDIA GeForce 930MX
    Sound Card
    Conexant ISST Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Laptop display (17.1") & Samsung U28E590 (27.7")
    Hard Drives
    128 GB SSD & 1 TB HDD
    Mouse
    Wireless Logitech MSX mouse
    Keyboard
    Wireless Logitech MK710 keyboard
    Internet Speed
    100 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up
    Browser
    Edge Chromium Dev Channel
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender
    Other Info
    2 * 3 TB USB HDD
    6 TB WD Mirror NAS

hsehestedt

Well-known member
Member
VIP
Thread Starter
Local time
6:31 AM
Posts
283
Location
Texas, USA
LOL, I'm also installing as we speak :).

Thanks, Kari.
 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • Operating System
    Windows 11 21H2
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Home Built
    CPU
    Intel i7-11700K
    Motherboard
    ASUS Prime Z590-A
    Memory
    128GB Crucial Ballistix 3200MHz DRAM
    Graphics Card(s)
    No GPU - CPU graphics only (for now)
    Sound Card
    Realtek (on motherboard)
    Monitor(s) Displays
    HP Envy 32
    Screen Resolution
    2560 x 1440
    Hard Drives
    1 x 1TB NVMe Gen 4 x 4 SSD
    1 x 2TB NVMe Gen 3 x 4 SSD
    2 x 512GB 2.5" SSDs
    2 x 8TB HD
    PSU
    Corsair HX850i
    Case
    Corsair iCue 5000X RGB
    Cooling
    Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black cooler + 10 case fans
    Keyboard
    CODE backlit mechanical keyboard
    Mouse
    Logitech MX Master 3
    Internet Speed
    300Mb down / 20Mb up
    Browser
    Chromium Edge
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender
    Other Info
    Additional options installed:
    WiFi 6E PCIe adapter
    ASUS ThunderboltEX 4 PCIe adapter
  • Operating System
    Windows 11 21H2
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    HP Spectre x360 15-BL012DX
    CPU
    Intel i7-7500U
    Memory
    32GB
    Graphics card(s)
    Dual Intel HD 620 and Nvidia GeForce 940MX
    Sound Card
    Built-in Realtek HD Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    4k 15-inch
    Screen Resolution
    4k (3840 x 2160)
    Hard Drives
    1TB Seagate FireCuda 510 NVMe SSD
    Internet Speed
    300Mb down / 20Mb up
    Browser
    Chromium Edge
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender
    Other Info
    RAM Upgraded from 16GB to 32GB WiFi Upgraded from WiFi 5 to WiFi 6 SSD upgraded from 512GB NVMe SSD to 1TB Seagate FireCuda 510 NVMe SSD
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