Troubleshoot MDT Deployments with log files

How to: troubleshoot MDT deployments with log files

Chances are good that at some point you will experience a hiccup during your deployment process.  An incorrect setting, missing driver, or improper script syntax has gotten the best of just about every deployment administrator.

Fortunately excellent log files are generated throughout every stage of the deployment process.

I can’t stress enough how invaluable log files can be in tracking down deployment issues.  In many cases IT Administrators will troubleshoot a problem with a trial and error methodology.  Change a setting, re-attempt, research, try another setting.  This type of approach doesn’t serve an Administrator that well with deployment troubleshooting for two reasons:

  1. There are a lot of things that can go wrong during the deployment process
  2. The deployment process often takes time to run-through for testing purposes (15-20 minutes)

A deployment admin can quickly find themselves wasting a lot of valuable time testing if they aren’t quickly identifying the real cause of the problem.  A lot of time and effort can typically be saved if you troubleshoot MDT deployments with log files.

Where to find MDT log files:

As this TechNet article (My deployment failed. What and where are logs I should review?) states there are three locations to locate MDT log files:

Before the Image is applied to the machine:
(deployment fails before a partition has been created)


After the system drive has been formatted:


After Deployment:


I have also found the Windows Setup logs to be very beneficial in troubleshooting MDT deployment issues so I’ll add a fourth location:

X:\$WINDOWS.~BT\Sources\Panther (prior to partition creation)
C:\Windows\Panther (after partition creation)

*consult the Troubleshooting Windows Deployments 2012-09-11 guide for additional log locations

Which MDT log files to review:

There are a lot of logs generated during the deployment process.  In fact, pretty much every script that runs has a corresponding log file.  (So, LiteTouch.wsf will generate a corresponding LiteTouch.log).

There are however, certain logs that are primarily used for troubleshooting purposes:

Deployment logs:

BDD.log – combined log of all other deployment logs

SMSTS.log – contains logs of task sequences

Windows logs:

Setupact.log – primary log file created during the OS installation process
Setuperr.log – contains only error entries from the main Setupact.log

The Troubleshooting Windows Deployments 2012-09-11 guide contains a detailed listing of all available logs generated and their associated scripts.  You’ll likely find this document helpful when determining which log file to review: Troubleshooting Windows Deployments 2012-09-11

How to access MDT log files:

Windows PE deployment error - Windows Preinstallation Environment deployment error

Windows PE deployment error

So, you’ve encountered a MDT deployment error and want to take a look at the log files.  Here’s how:

MDT PE command window - Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Preinstallation Environment command window

MDT PE command window

If you’re still in the MDT Preinstallation Environment push F8 on your keyboard to open a command window.

You can then map a shared drive and copy the log files to a destination of your choosing.

X:\Windows\System32>net use i: \\servername\sharename\ password /user:domain/username
X:\Windows\System32>cd X:\MININT\SMSOSD\OSDLOGS
Windows PE command window - Windows Preinstallation Environment command window

Windows PE command window

If failure occurs during Windows setup press Shift+F10 on your keyboard to open a command window.

You can then map a shared drive and copy the log files to a destination of your choosing.

C:\Windows\System32>net use i: \\servername\sharename\ password /user:domain/username
C:\Windows\System32>cd C:\Windows\Panther
C:\Windows\Panther>copy Setupact.log i:

It is also possible to enable Server Side logging and automate MDT to copy all logs for each deployment.
Brandon Lawson has a good example of how to accomplish this in his post: When MDT Starts Breaking Bad

2 Responses

  1. Jordan says:

    Very helpful write up. One thing I had problem with was being able to view setuperr.log – response was “Access Denied”

    However I was able to map a drive on our network and copy the log there and view it from that location.

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