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Windows Deployment Options

The latest generation of Windows operating systems has introduced a number of new deployment technologies, all of which are based on the new Windows Imaging format (WIM). These images are file based which means that they are composed of collections of files and not just sector based snapshots of a data disk, such as ISO’s. The main advantage of using WIM over ISO is that you can modify them before, during and after deployment. Besides storing file data, WIM files include XML-based metadata describing the files and directories that make up each image. WIM files offer additional deployment advantages, including

  • Hardware independent and thus requires only one image to support different HAL’s
  • Customizable using scripts
  • Automated installs using answer files
  • Modify contents of image to add, delete or update drivers
  • Keeps only one copy of disk files common to all the images stored in file
  • Create bootable WIM images

Windows Automated Installation Toolkit

Windows offers a free downloadable tool called the Windows Automated Installation Toolkit (WAIK) which helps you to preinstall, customize and deploy WIM images. It also includes documentation for performing unattended installs of Server 2008, Vista and some earlier versions of Windows (XP\2003). WAIK includes the following tools:

  • Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE)
    • Bootable lightweight version of windows used to capture or deploy images
    • Also used to troubleshoot or recover an installed OS
  • ImageX
    • Command line tools used to capture, modify and apply WIM images
      • Ex: imageX /capture path\wimfilename.wim “Image_Name”
      • Ex: imageX /apply path\winfilename.wim 1 ( 1 represents the index number of the image within the file)
    • Enables the mounting of a WIM file image in Windows in order to modify the contents
  • Windows System Image Manager (SIM)

Sysprep

Is a tool found in C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep folder and used to generalize a model computer installation image so that it can be deployed to other machines requiring less setup time per machine. It removed the following information and then runs through a mini-setup wizard:

  • Computer name
  • Domain membership
  • Time Zone
  • Product key
  • Security Identifier (SID)

Once the machine has completed Sysprep it can then be imaged using ImageX or Windows Deployment Services

Windows Deployment Services

WDS is far more scalable and manageable solution that simply using WIM files on a network. It does however require additional services to function:

  • Active Directory
  • DHCP
  • DNS
  • NTFS

Creating a Windows PE CD

  1. Install the WAIK toolkit
  2. Launch the Windows PE Tools Command Prompt from the WAIK program group
  3. In WinPE Tools Command Prompt type the following: copype.cmd x86 C:\WinPE
    1. The copype.cmd script create a new directory with the name specified
    2. It will contain a files, folders and an ISO directory that will contain the contents of WinPE
    3. Copy tools such as ImageX to this ISO directory
  4. In WinPE Tools Command Prompt type the following: copy “C:\Program files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86\imagex.exe” c:\WinPE\ISO
  5. In Notepad create an empty file named Wimscript.ini and save it to the new C:\WinPEx86\ISO folder
  6. Edit the file to contain the following:

[ExclusionList]

Ntfs.log

Hiberfil.sys

Pagefile.sys

“System Volume Information”

RECYCLER

Windows\CSC

[CompressionExclusionList]

*.mp3

*.zip

*.cab\WINDOWS\inf\

*.pnf

  1. In WinPE command prompt type the following: oscdimg –n –bc:\WinPE\etfsboot.com c:\WinPE\ISO c:\WinPE\WinPE.iso
    1. Oscdimg command makes an .ISO file of the specified ISO directory.
    2. The –b switch makes the image bootable by specifying the location of the boot sector file, etfsboot.com
    3. The –n switch enables long file names in the ISO file
  2. You are now able to import the ISO into VirutalPC using the CD menu option and then browse to C:\WinPE_x86\WinPE.iso

Once the image has completed the C:\WinPE directory will include the following:

ISO Directory
Mount Directory
Etfsboot File
Winpe.wim File
Winpe.iso File

 

Issues Using WSIM

  1. Unable to load DLL “wimgapi.dll” the specified module could not be found when trying to “Select Windows Image”
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