RG018 – Building a managed laptop offline

By Max Ranzau


The content of this article adresses the need to build laptops in the field. We cover below how to build an installation of Workspace Manager offline, which will be able to operate autonomously until it’s connected to the central datastore.

We need to ensure that Workspace Manager will run initially, without having synced with the Workspace Manager datastore. There are some caveats which we need to bear in mind. The main limitation is that the user will not have any cached NT credentials on the newly built laptop, as it’s hasn’t seen the network yet. This means that the user will NOT be able to see applications which are assigned to groups and other AD objects. Workspace Manager cannot emulate the Active Directly, it simply queries the AD or the locally cached credentials.

Here’s the skinny on how to do it. You need to prepare the following:

  1. Have a laptop ready, which is already running Workspace Manager .
  2. Copy the contens of %programfiles%\res software\Workspace Manager \data\dbcache from the laptop and save it somewhere.
  3. Export this registry tree: HKLM\Software\RES\Workspace Manager
  4. Edit the resulting .regfile in Notepad and delete the value: ComputerGUID
  5. Export this registry tree: HKLM\Software\Policies\Workspace Manager
  6. Have a copy of the full installer MSI for Workspace Manager handy. Ideally make sure it’s the same version of Workspace Manager as the Workspace Manager datastore to which the target computers will be connecting later. A litte deviation won’t make any difference, but it’s a best practice to ensure version compatibility.

That was the  prep work. The next list of items are the things you need to have done, so if you’re contemplating a rebuid DVD or similar, you will need to script the following steps. For the sake of explanation, the description that follows will walk you through what needs to be done by such a script. If you need a script ready made, leave a comment or visit the RESguru forums, and perhaps somebody can help you with it.

First things first. In order to test the procedure, you should grab an empty laptop which hasn’t been joined into the domain and disconnect it from the network.

  1. Log in as a local admin and do the following:
  2. Create a local user. Make sure the user has a valid home directory, which is the same as in the Workspace Manager configuration, inside PowerLaunch|Directory Maintainance|Settings. If  you don’t do this Workspace Manager will throw an error once this user logs in.
  3. Install Workspace Manager. Just next-next-finish through it and remember to reboot. This can ofcourse be done unattended. For more info on that subject, see this article
  4. If you need to bring the machine up to the same version as the Workspace Manager datastore, this is the time to apply any PowerPack’s you might need
  5. Stop the RES Workspace Manager agent service. You can do this with a net stop res command
  6. Goto %programfiles%\RES Workspace Manager folder, and create a new empty folder called Data
  7. Copy the DBcache folder, which you saved in step 2 in the previous section.
  8. Merge the two regfiles from steps 3-5 in the previous section into the machines registry.
  9. Start the Workspace Manager agent service again.
  10. Now set the shell to Workspace Manager. If you just want to do it manually as a one-off test, you can just use the RES SetShell utility. If you need to script it, you need to set the HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\Winlogon\Shell value to “c:\program files\res Workspace Manager\pwrstart.exe” powermenu

Once you login with the offline user account, Workspace Manager should start. Note once again that only apps and settings configured to be available for Everyone will be provisioned in this environment.

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