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MS Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 10

The MS Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 10 permits admins to diagnose and repair computers that won’t boot, or have problems starting as usual. DaRT 10 can recover unusable end-user PCs. It can also diagnose probable causes for underlying issues, and repair unbootable or locked-out machines. It can restore lost files, or detect and remove malware, even when computers are offline. Indeed, this all makes DaRT an invaluable addition to any admin’s Windows toolbox.

DaRT appears in the boot menu as “Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset” from whence you can launch its various recovery tools

Who Qualifies for Access to the Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset?

If DaRT is a great tool, why isn’t it better known and more widely used? Alas, only organizations with a license for Windows that includes Software Assurance qualify. Such organizations are granted access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Package, aka MDOP. A Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP Subscription, which includes Software Assurance, costs $84 per user per year with no minimum license commitment. (That said, volume licensing starts at 5 units, and goes up from there.) Higher-level licenses cost more…
The only others granted access to MDOP – which includes DaRT among its components – need a standard Visual Studio Subscription with MSDN or its cloud counterpart. This standard subscription costs US$5,999 for the first year, and $2,569 annually thereafter. Alternatively, the cloud equivalent costs a flat $2,999 yearly.  Thus it costs something to access DaRT, no matter how you slice it.

Understanding DaRT

The best point of entry into DaRT appears in the Windows IT Center online. There, you’ll find a DaRT 10 landing page entitled “Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset 10.” This in turn offers up the following Table of Contents (presented here with live links for your surfing pleasure):

Getting Started with DaRT 10

About DaRT 10|Release Notes for DaRT 10|Overview of the Tools in DaRT 10|Accessibility for DaRT 10+

Planning for DaRT 10

Planning to Deploy DaRT 10|DaRT 10 Supported Configurations|Planning to Create the DaRT 10 Recovery Image|Planning How to Save and Deploy the DaRT 10 Recovery Image|DaRT 10 Planning Checklist

Deploying DaRT 10

Deploying DaRT 10 to Administrator Computers|Creating the DaRT 10 Recovery Image|Deploying the DaRT Recovery Image|DaRT 10 Deployment Checklist

Operations for DaRT 10

Recovering Computers Using DaRT 10|Diagnosing System Failures with Crash Analyzer|Security and Privacy for DaRT 10|Administering DaRT 10 Using PowerShell

Troubleshooting DaRT 10

Using DaRT

To use DaRT, you must download MDOP from the Volume Licensing Center or the Visual Studio/MSDN portal. Then you can grab the DaRT .ISO amidst its various components. Mount that .ISO as a virtual drive, and follow TechNet instructions in “Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive.” Be sure to build both MBR/NTFS and UEFI/FAT32 versions so you can boot either PC type. Finally, copy the contents of the entire mounted .ISO to the UFD’s root. You can then use it to boot problem PCs for access to DaRT’s tools, shown here:

Be sure to check DaRT out, assuming you qualify to download MDOP and start digging in. Good stuff!