HP ZBook 15u G3 Mobile Workstation – A Tech’s tale

20170718_154341591_iOSAs you may have gathered (especially if you’ve read my About me) I work in IT support and have done for over 20 years now and many things have changed in that time but I won’t bore you with that!  However I will now tell you a tale about my latest piece of kit that I use for work.

 

*Warning – This blog is very tech and geek based, it’s designed for those who tell others to turn things off and back on! – Turn back now*

Why is this tech based?  Well its full of what I did have and what I did with it and unless you like to read about Hyper-V and system builds then this is pretty much a boring blog!

As I said, I work in IT support and my job entails the full life-cycle of systems from planning to implementation and full support – It’s both excellent and stressful, there is a lot to know and remember but the rewards of playing with all that technology and kit is amazing.

So for my job I was actually running 3 systems –

  • Windows 8.1 PC with Office 2016 and admin tools.
  • Windows 7 PC with Office 2013 and legacy admin tools (to support a couple of legacy systems we are in the process of replacing)
  • Windows 10 (Creators Edition) standalone laptop with admin tools.

Not only did this take up a lot of desk space, but it meant using different systems to support different aspects of the network and not everything was available to all systems at the same time!

We are also moving towards a more Cloud based infrastructure which means as IT support I have more opportunity for working from home, which for me is brilliant – it makes a change to the office but also allows me to sit down and concentrate on both the harder more in-depth things which need that level of concentration but also to allow me to plough through those mundane tasks that require no interruptions.  Also working from home means I can get more done quicker and the coffee is also far better at home!

The main problem with working from home is accessing the 3 systems to manage not only the cloud side of things but also the legacy infrastructure, so I needed something to roll all 3 of my devices into 1 single easy to use system.

I had a thought and decided a powerful laptop and Hyper-V would be the way forward – this would give me the flexibility to work at home and have access to all the systems I needed but from one device, it also meant my desk space was freed up a little!

Looking at the spec of the 3 current machines and what I would need to run them properly on Hyper-V I started looking at various laptops – Over the years I have experienced many makes of laptops with varying specifications and build qualities.  A decent laptop (or PC for that matter) requires the following –

  • Good Build quality – Some users more than others fully utilise their devices which can then show wear and tear quite quickly on poor quality builds.
  • Reliability – This should go without saying, but some people are attracted by device looks over reliability.
  • Excellent support options – RTB is no good for a device that people rely on everyday, you need NBD on-site.
  • The right spec – Always over spec if your budget will allow it, never under-spec.
  • The right price – no point in having excellent build and support if it’s 3 times the cost of the same system from another manufacturer.

With this list in mind the search was on, some manufacturers I won’t touch – They don’t meet various aspects of the list above so for me they aren’t worth the hassle.  But I can say that HP have always delivered on all the above for me, for both their laptop range and PC range and for me they are the go-to manufacturer for business quality devices. (For home use, have a read of my Laptop buying guide)

So on the HP website I went and using their very useful filters I soon had the list of suitable business machines showing for me.  For me it was down to spec and budget, I had a budget to work with and I knew the spec I needed, I soon narrowed it down to the ZBook 15u but needed a slight spec tweak – extra memory taking it from 16GB to 32GB.

A few requests to suppliers and a few quotes later and I had pricing for the Core i7 version with 32GB of RAM and 512GB SSD and 3 years NBD carepack for less than the price of the standard spec i7/16GB/512GB SSD laptop on the HP website.

2 days later it had arrived and the first job was adding in the extra RAM – Now HP have tweaked their laptop shells so on previous devices the back cover came off and allowed easy access to the RAM slots, drive and battery – Now you need to remove the whole back section of the shell, don’t worry it’s easy to do and the HP documentation runs through it.

With the back off I decided to add an additional 240GB SSD for extra Hyper-V storage space for creating test machines.  Within 20 minutes the job was done.

The ZBook came pre-loaded with Windows 7 but also had a full licence and media for Windows 10 Pro (On DVD, and yes that’s right this device doesn’t have an optical drive!) – So a quick use of the Windows 7 USB bootable media creator and an ISO of Windows 10 (Creators Edition) gave me what I needed to build the laptop.

And it’s built – Very quickly in fact, no searching for drivers, which is always good.

The next stage was adding in all the admin tools and daily apps – again simple to do.

Hyper-V – or how I spent a day learning how to migrate physical to virtual if you use UEFI boot.

Points to note –

  • Microsoft’s own tool for creating virtual machines from physical machines for use in Hyper-V doesn’t support UEFI boot drives, it will error……at the end of the process!
  • Disk2VHD works, but not directly – there are a few stages you need to go through to get these up and running, the main thing is converting the disk image from GPT to MBR, deleting the extra partitions and then running a disk repair on your images – this works and it works well.

This last stage may sound time-consuming, but it’s worth it – a day of my time and not only did I learn the ins and outs of P2V conversions, but the whole process was a nice reminder of how systems have changed and how satisfying it is to get these things working.

I now have a very quick, very powerful system running Hyper-V with all 3 of the systems converted and running – The HP ZBook 15u G3 did exactly what I was hoping and expected it to do and the conversion from 3 systems to 1 system should make my life easier and allow for more home working, which will allow me to get more things done and quicker!

Bring on the next project!


Laptop System Spec –

  • HP ZBook 15u G3 Mobile Workstation (Model T7W15EA)
  • Intel Core i7
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM (Upgraded from 16GB)
  • 512GB SSD + 240GB Samsung SSD
  • 3 Years Next Business Day On-site Carepack

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