This article, the third of seven in a series covering the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), will detail the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT).

Joseph Moody

Joseph Moody is a network admin for a public school system and helps manage 5,500 PCs. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Cloud and Datacenter Management and blogs at DeployHappiness.com.

No matter how well managed an IT environment is, unbootable machines are a fact of life. While IT administrators use a variety of methods to repair these machines, few compare to the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). Now in the seventh major release, DaRT comprises of 14 tools designed to tackle the toughest problems with an unbootable machine.

MDOP - DaRT

The Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset welcome screen displays all included tools.

DaRT components ^

  1. Registry Editor: a registry editor capable of modifying an offline operating system
  2. Explorer: the familiar explorer interface that is even capable of mapping network drives. Very handy for uploading logs, crash files, or backing up data
  3. Locksmith: a local user password reset tool
  4. Solution Wizard: an automated tool designed to help you (or more specifically, an end user) choose the correct repair tool
  5. Crash Analyzer: an offline Windows debugger capable of pinpointing troublesome drivers
  6. TCP/IP Config: a tool used to change the DaRT IP configuration
  7. File Restore: this tool provides file restoration of accidentally deleted files even on Bitlocker encrypted drives
  8. Hotfix Uninstaller: when a hotfix makes a machine unbootable, this tool can remove the hotfix
  9. Disk Commander: a handy tool to repair volumes, master boot records, or partitions
  10. SFC Scan: the System File Repair wizard can repair systems files that are preventing Windows from loading
  11. Disk Wipe: capable of wiping a disk or volumes with a single pass or four pass overwriting
  12. Search: a simple file search tool that is useful before reimaging a computer
  13. Computer Management: the all-inclusive MMC from Windows – now in a Windows PE format
  14. Standalone System Sweeper: an offline malicious software remover capable of deletion and quarantine
  15. And finally, though technically not a tool for system recovery, the Remote Connection interface allows Windows Administrators to remotely connect to a machine in a Windows PE environment.

While most Windows administrators would simply image a machine if it became unbootable, the specific tools in DaRT are nearly always faster and more specific in their troubleshooting. Further, tools such as the crash analyzer and hotfix uninstaller help to increase the stability of images by sorting out bugs rather than simply reimaging.

DaRT recovery image deployment method ^

There are a variety of ways to deploy DaRT for client use. The most common are CD/DVD, USB, embedded during initial workstation imaging, and network bootable. The table below outlines major benefits to each:

Distribution MethodPositiveNegative
CD/DVDNearly all machines capable of booting off media, most familiar technologyBoot image becomes outdated quickly requiring new media to be produced and distributed
USBFaster than CD/DVD, easier to carryBoot images not updated become obsolete, easier to lose
EmbeddedNo need to carry around media, very quick to bootImage may not be available if hard drive fails, difficult to distribute updates.
NetworkNo physical media, updates very easy to distributeNot as quick as USB or embedded on boot up.

Deploying the DaRT recovery image ^

Most organizations, except those with a measurable percentage of non-networked machines, will probably choose to distribute their DaRT recovery image as a Windows Deployment Server boot image. This makes DaRT available to any machine capable of PXE booting. To create the recovery image, first install the DaRT 7 tools (these include the recovery image maker, online crash analyzer, and remote connection viewer). Next, launch the DaRT Recovery Image Wizard.

DaRT Recovery Image Wizard

The first screen of the DaRT Recovery Image Wizard

After specifying the Windows source files for the recovery image creation, you will be prompted to select the tools available for use and whether you want to allow remote connections. Excluding certain tools such as Disk Wipe and Locksmith may be wise as a malicious end user can gain access to these tools. Any excluded tool is automatically made available if the remote connection tool is used and a Windows administrator successfully connects to the computer.

The final prompts for the recovery image are installing the debugging tools, updating the standalone system sweeper, loading additional drivers/files, and saving the ISO. After saving the ISO, use a tool to mount the ISO and browse to the sources folder. Extract the boot.wim file that is contained. You can now add it as a boot image on your Windows Deployment server and remotely boot machines into DaRT.

DaRT 7.0 boot image

The DaRT 7.0 boot file is loaded into a Windows Deployment Server

Microsoft’s Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset is a Swiss army knife that no Windows administrator should be without. With continual improvements, such as the recent remote control feature and integration in the upcoming Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012, DaRT is sure to stay a favorite for machine recovery.

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10 Comments
  1. Tommy 8 years ago

    Is it possible to integrate DaRT x86 and x64 into WinPE boot disk?

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  2. Joseph Moody 8 years ago

    Hey Tommy,

    Are you trying to just add the tools to a boot image (ex: x86 tools to x86 boot image - x64 tools to x64 boot image) or are you trying to add both set of tools to a single x86 image?

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  3. Tommy 8 years ago

    The WinPE I created is x86 and is used to capture/apply win image using ImageX. I would like to know if DaRT for both x86 and x64 can be added to the same disk, maybe to the boot menu when the PC is booted up with the disk that will allow the tech. to select wheter to boot up w/ WinPE, DaRT x86 or DaRT x64. Thanks.

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  4. Joseph Moody 8 years ago

    If you have MDT 2012, you can add the DaRT tools by following this:
    http://blogs.technet.com/b/mniehaus/archive/2011/11/28/mdt-2012-new-feature-dart-integration.aspx

    If you have MDT 2010, you can add the DaRT tools by following this:
    http://www.physh.net/2011/09/integrate-microsoft-diagnostics-and-recovery-tools-dart-into-the-mdt-boot-image.html

    If you want both tools for both x86 and x64, you will probably need to add the DaRT files to a sub folder (ex: DaRT\x86).

    Why are you wanting to have both DaRT x86 and DaRT x64?

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  5. Tommy 8 years ago

    We don't use MDT. Wim images for both Win7 x86 and x64 because of the different kind of software we need to support. The wim images are on the shared drive. Tech uses WinPE to pull down either Win7 x86 and x64.

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  6. Joseph Moody 8 years ago

    Tommy - do you mind if I email you directly on this?

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  7. Tommy 8 years ago

    Of course don't mind. Please do Thanks.

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  8. Jerry 7 years ago

    I am retired, and want to help people who are having problems with their computers, and not necessarily for money, although I will want to be paid for my time, more likely by telling them to donate what they feel the help was worth, rather than a sum for profit.

    Am I chasing an impossible dream? If so, tell me, and I will drop it. I have no desire to get rich, as I am more interested in helping people then acquiring money. I want to end up in Heaven someday and that is my more immediate goal, not getting rich.

    I ran across this DaRT software, and see that it is supposed to be primarily for software developers and IT people. So what do you think? Is this for me?

    I know a lot regarding computers, but do not know everything, so there will be a learning period. I used to build my own computers in the past, from Dos into Win Xp, but since the Win 7, I just buy them now. And I trouble shoot until I fix my own computer problems.

    I got the impression from this website that you are kind of like myself, wanting to help people fix their computers. So far as I can see the problem, they are left floundering out there in the real world while Microsoft chases the money...

    You may email me if you prefer, you have my permission.
    Jerry

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  9. RayB 7 years ago

    Great article - thanks. Have created an ISO using DaRT 7.0 and extracted the boot.wim and added it to WDS. During boot of a TEST PC I see the boot wim within WDS and it runs up the DaRT toolset that I have chosen. I would like to be able to REMOTE from the WDS to the TEST PC. I run Remote Connection on the TEST PC and get prompted with its IP (192.168.2.175 port 3388). On the WDS box I run RDP and try to connect to 192.168.2.175 but it fails to connect. On the TEST PC I can ping the WDS box. I cannot get a response trying to ping from the WDS to the TEST PC. I have disabled the firewall on the WDS box. I connected with 192.168.2.175:3388 - this is the default port that DaRT gives for RDP. However the link immediately drops - "Your remote desktop session has ended...." The TEST PC has no OS installed but it does have X:\..... so I am assuming there is enough in this to respond to the RDP or am I wrong! Any ideas please?? RayB

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  10. Joseph 6 years ago

    Hey Ray,

    Are you using RDP or the DaRT Remote Control Viewer?

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