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Introduction to Operating System Deployment in Configuration Manager

Updated: December 1, 2013

Applies To: System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1, System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager

The following sections explain some of the concepts that are used to deploy operating systems in your System Center 2012 Configuration Manager environment:

For an example scenario that shows how you might deploy an operating system, see Example Scenario for PXE-Initiated Operating System Deployment by Using Configuration Manager.

The Operating System Deployment Process

Configuration Manager provides several methods that you can use to deploy an operating system. Regardless of the deployment method that you use, there are several actions that you must take. These actions include the following:

  • Identify any Windows device drivers that are required to run the boot image or the operating system image that you have to deploy.

  • Identify the boot image that you want to use to start the destination computer. Configuration Manager provides two default boot images.

  • Capture an image of the operating system that you want to deploy by using a task sequence.

  • Distribute the boot image, operating system image, and any related content to a distribution point.

  • Create a task sequence that deploys the boot image and the operating system image.

  • Deploy the task sequence to the collection that contains the destination computer. If there are multiple computers in the collection, the task sequence is deployed to each computer in the collection.

Methods Used to Deploy Operating Systems

There are several methods that you can use to deploy operating systems to Configuration Manager client computers.

  • PXE initiated deployments: PXE-initiated deployments let client computers request a deployment over the network. In this method of deployment, the operating system image and a Windows PE boot image are sent to a distribution point that is configured to accept PXE boot requests. For more information about PXE-initiated deployments, see Planning for PXE-Initiated Operating System Deployments in Configuration Manager.

  • Multicast deployments: Multicast deployments conserve network bandwidth by concurrently sending data to multiple clients instead of sending a copy of the data to each client over a separate connection. In this method of deployment, the operating system image is sent to a distribution point. This in turn deploys the image when client computers request the deployment. For more information about deploying operating systems to multiple clients, see Planning a Multicast Strategy in Configuration Manager.

  • Bootable Media Deployments: Bootable media deployments let you deploy the operating system when the destination computer starts. When the destination computer starts, it retrieves the task sequence, the operating system image, and any other required content from the network. Because that content is not included on the media, you can update the content without having to re-create the media.

    For more information about bootable media, see the Operating System Deployments by Using Bootable Media section of the Planning for Media Operating System Deployments in Configuration Manager topic.

  • Stand-alone Media Deployments: Stand-alone media deployments let you deploy operating systems in the following conditions:

    • In environments where it is not practical to copy an operating system image or other large packages over the network.

    • In environments without network connectivity or low bandwidth network connectivity.

    For more information about stand-alone media, see the Operating System Deployments by Using Stand-Alone Media section of the Planning for Media Operating System Deployments in Configuration Manager topic.

  • Pre-staged Media deployments: Pre-staged media deployments let you deploy an operating system to a computer that is not fully provisioned. The pre-staged media is a Windows Imaging Format (WIM) file that can be installed on a bare-metal computer by the manufacturer or at an enterprise staging center that is not connected to the Configuration Manager environment.

    Later, when the computer starts in the System Center 2012 Configuration Manager environment, the computer starts by using the boot image provided by the media, and then connects to the site management point for available task sequences that complete the download process. This method of deployment can reduce network traffic because the boot image and operating system image are already on the destination computer. Starting at Configuration Manager SP1, you can specify applications, packages, and driver packages to include in the pre-staged media.

    For more information about pre-staged media, see the Operating System Deployments by Using Prestaged Media section of the Planning for Media Operating System Deployments in Configuration Manager topic.

noteNote
For information about the advantages and disadvantages of each method, see Determine the Operating System Deployment Method to Use in Configuration Manager.

Capturing and Deploying an Operating System Image

There are three basic actions that you have to take when you want to use Configuration Manager to deploy an operating system image to a collection of one or more destination computers:

  1. Build and capture an image and distribute it to distribution points.

  2. Create and configure the task sequence that installs the operating system image.

  3. Deploy the task sequence.

Create the Image and Distribute it to Distribution Points

Operating system images are WIM files and represent a compressed collection of reference files and folders that are required to successfully install and configure an operating system on a computer. The operating system image is built and captured from a reference computer that you configure with all the required operating system files, support files, software updates, tools, and other software applications. You can build the reference computer manually or use a task sequence to automate some or all of the build steps.

Similar to other Configuration Manager content, the operating system image is distributed to the distribution point as a package. When the package arrives at the distribution point, the content of the package is stored on the distribution point. For more information about operating system images, see Planning for Deploying Operating System Images in Configuration Manager.

Create and Configure the Appropriate Deployment Task Sequence

After you have created the reference computer and captured an operating system image from that computer, you can use a task sequence to configure how to deploy that image to a destination computer. For information about how you can use task sequences, see Planning a Task Sequences Strategy in Configuration Manager.

Deploy the Task Sequence

After you create your task sequences, you can deploy the task sequence to the collections that contain the destination computers. For information about how to deploy a task sequence, see the How to Deploy a Task Sequence section of the How to Manage Task Sequences in Configuration Manager topic.

TipTip
You can use System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Upgrade Assessment Tool to determine whether the operating system on computers that are managed by Configuration Manager can run Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Download the Upgrade Assessment Tool from the Microsoft Download Center site.

For more information, see Configuration Manager Upgrade Assessment Tool.

Installing Device Drivers on Destination Computers

You can install device drivers on destination computers without including them in the operating system image that is being deployed. Configuration Manager provides a driver catalog that contains references to all the device drivers that you import into Configuration Manager.

The driver catalog is located in the Software Library workspace and consists of two nodes: Drivers and Driver Packages. The Drivers node lists all the drivers that you have imported into the driver catalog. You can use this node to discover the details about each imported driver, to change what driver package or boot image a driver belongs to, to enable or disable a driver, and more. The Driver Packages node lists all the driver packages that you create. You can create these packages when you import drivers into the driver catalog, or you can create them directly in the Driver Packages node.

For more information about how to use the driver catalog when you deploy operating systems, see Planning a Device Driver Strategy in Configuration Manager.

For information about how to manage the driver catalog, see How to Manage the Driver Catalog in Configuration Manager.

Installing Additional Packages with the Operating System

When you deploy an operating system, you can also install applications, deployment tools, packages, and software update on the destination computer. The following task sequence steps are used to install these packages:

For more information about how to add steps to task sequences, see the How to Edit a Task Sequence section in the How to Manage Task Sequences in Configuration Manager topic.

Media Used to Deploy Operating Systems

You can create several kinds of media that can be used to deploy operating systems. This includes capture media that is used to capture operating system images and stand-alone, pre-staged, and bootable media that is used to deploy an operating system.

By using media, you can deploy operating systems on computers that do not have a network connection or that have a low bandwidth connection to your Configuration Manager site. For more information about how to use media, see Planning for Media Operating System Deployments in Configuration Manager.

Managing User State

When you deploy operating systems, you can save the user state from the destination computer, deploy the operating system, and then restore the user state after the operating systems is deployed. This process is typically used when you upgrade the operating system on a Configuration Manager client computer.

The user state information is captured and restored by using task sequences. When the user state information is captured, the information can be stored in one of the following ways:

  • You can store the user state data remotely by configuring a state migration point. The Capture task sequence sends the data to the state migration point. Then, after the operating system is deployed, the Restore task sequence retrieves the data and restores the user state on the destination computer.

  • You can store the user state data locally to a specific location. In this scenario, the Capture task sequence copies the user data to a specific location on the destination computer. Then, after the operating system is deployed, the Restore task sequence retrieves the user data from that location.

  • You can specify hard links that can be used to restore the user data to its original location. In this scenario, the user state data remains on the drive when the old operating system is removed. Then, after the operating system is deployed, the Restore task sequence uses the hard links to restore the user state data to its original location.

For more information about capturing and restoring user state, see How to Manage the User State in Configuration Manager.

Unknown Computer Deployments

You can deploy an operating system to computers that are not managed by Configuration Manager. There is no record of these computers in the Configuration Manager database. These computers are referred to as unknown computers.

Unknown computers include the following:

  • A computer where the Configuration Manager client is not installed

  • A computer that is not imported into Configuration Manager

  • A computer that is not discovered by Configuration Manager

For more information about how to configure Configuration Manager for unknown computer deployments, see How to Manage Unknown Computer Deployments in Configuration Manager.

Supporting User Device Affinity

When you deploy an operating system, you can associate users with the destination computer to support user device affinity actions. When you associate a user with the destination computer, the administrative user can later perform actions on whichever computer is associated with that user, such as deploying an application to the computer of a specific user. However, when you deploy an operating system, you cannot deploy the operating system to the computer of a specific user. For more information about how to associate the destination computer to users, see How to Associate Users with a Destination Computer.

For more information about how to manage user device affinity, see How to Manage User Device Affinity in Configuration Manager.

Deploying Operating Systems to NAP-enabled Environments

You can deploy operating systems in environments that use Network Access Protection (NAP). NAP provides a mechanism to manage the compliance of software updates on Configuration Manager clients. When you deploy operating systems to the destination computers, you must make sure that the NAP enforcement mechanism and the Windows Network Access Protection Service are enabled and interact correctly with the Configuration Manager client on the destination computer.

For more information about how to deploy operating systems to NAP-enabled environments, see Planning for Operating System Deployments in a NAP-Enabled Environment.

What’s New in Configuration Manager
noteNote
The information in this section also appears in the Getting Started with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager guide.

The following items are new or have changed since Configuration Manager 2007:

What’s New in Configuration Manager SP1

The following items are new or have changed for operating system deployment in Configuration Manager SP1:

  • Changes to Configuration Manager Setup:

    • Configuration Manager SP1 uses the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) instead of Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) to deploy an operating system. Before you run Setup, you must download and install Windows ADK on the site server and the provider computer.

    • The USMT for Windows 8 is installed as part of the Windows ADK. At the top-level site, Setup automatically creates the package for this new version of USMT at the site.

    • Setup automatically updates default boot images at the site. You must manually update any custom boot images.

  • Changes to task sequences:

    • The default task sequences were changed to optimize the deployment of operating systems starting with Windows 7.

    • Support for computers that are in Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) mode. The task sequence sets the SMSTSBootUEFI built-in task sequence variable when it detects a computer that is in UEFI mode.

    • The default task sequence automatically partitions the computer based on whether it was booted in UEFI mode or BIOS mode (conditioned based on the value of the _SMSTSBootUEFI variable). When you select All Images, the source WIM layout is used, and only the BIOS or UEFI partition that maps to the source WIM is used. If you want to use both BIOS and UEFI partition disk actions in a task sequence, do not select All Images.

    • The build and capture task sequence was updated to apply an operating system image instead of running Setup.exe for installation. You can still run Setup.exe for Windows 8 deployments by editing the task sequence in the task sequence editor.

    • Support for operating system deployments to devices with limited available disk space, such as embedded devices. You can configure the Apply Operating System Image step to install the image directly from a distribution point even if the task sequence deployment is configured to download content to the task sequence cache first.

    • You can control the behavior of write filters on Windows Embedded devices when you deploy task sequences.

    noteNote
    For information about task sequences, see Planning a Task Sequences Strategy in Configuration Manager.

  • Changes to how you create prestaged media:

    • You can specify applications, packages, and driver packages to deploy with the operating system.

    • When you deploy the task sequence by using prestaged media, the wizard checks the local task sequence cache for valid content first, and if the content cannot be found or has been revised, the content is downloaded from the distribution point.

    noteNote
    For information about how to create prestaged media, see the How to Create Prestaged Media section in the How to Deploy Operating Systems by Using Media in Configuration Manager topic.

  • Changes to BitLocker support:

  • You can configure the Windows PE scratch space in the boot image properties. For more information, see the How to Modify a Boot Image section in the How to Manage Boot Images in Configuration Manager topic.

  • Added language neutral boot images:

    • You can use the SMSTSLanguageFolder built-in variable to change the language for information displayed by Windows PE.

    • Languages are auto-detected and used when boot images are started from Software Center.

    noteNote
    For information about boot image deployments, see Planning for Boot Image Deployments in Configuration Manager.

  • Added the following task sequence built-in variables:

    • SMSTSPersistContent: Use this variable to temporarily persist content in the task sequence cache.

    • SMSTSPostAction: Use this variable to run a command after the task sequence is completed.

    • SMSTSLanguageFolder: Use this variable to change the display language of a language neutral boot image.

    • OSDPreserveDriveLetter: This variable determines whether or not the task sequence uses the drive letter on the operating system image WIM file. In Configuration Manager with no service pack, the drive letter on the WIM file was used when it applied the operating system image WIM file. In Configuration Manager SP1, you can set the value for this variable to False to use the location that you specify for the Destination setting in the Apply Operating System task sequence step. For more information about the Apply Operating System task sequence step, see the Apply Operating System Image section in the Task Sequence Steps in Configuration Manager topic.

    • SMSTSDownloadProgram: Use this variable to specify an Alternate Content Provider, a downloader program that is used to download content instead of the default Configuration Manager downloader, for the task sequence. As part of the content download process, the task sequence checks the variable for a specified downloader program. If specified, the task sequence runs the program to perform the download.

    • SMSTSAssignmentsDownloadInterval: Use this variable to specify the number of seconds to wait before the client tries to download the task sequence policy since the last attempt that returned no policies. You can set this variable by using a prestart command from media or PXE.

    • SMSTSAssignmentsDownloadRetry: Use this variable to specify the number of times a client will attempt to download the task sequence policy after no policies are found on the first attempt. You can set this variable by using a prestart command from media or PXE.

    • _SMSTSBootUEFI: The task sequence sets the _SMSTSBootUEFI variable when it detects a computer that boots in UEFI mode.

    • _SMSTSWTG: Specifies if the computer is running as a Windows To Go device.

    noteNote
    For more information about built-in task sequence variables, see the Task Sequence Built-in Variables in Configuration Manager topic.

  • Changes to software update installation to offline operating system images:

    • Ability to continue updating an image even when one or more software updates cannot be installed.

    • Software updates are copied from the content library on the site server instead of the package source.

  • Ability to provision Windows To Go in Configuration Manager. Windows To Go is an operating system stored on a USB-connected external drive. You can provision the Windows To Go drive the same as you pre-stage media in Configuration Manager. For more information about how to provision Windows To Go, see How to Provision Windows To Go in Configuration Manager.

  • New site maintenance task (Delete Aged Unknown Computers) to delete information about unknown computers from the site database when it has not been updated for a specified time. For more information about site maintenance tasks, see the Planning for Maintenance Tasks for Configuration Manager section in the Planning for Site Operations in Configuration Manager topic.

  • Better monitoring and status for task sequence content and task sequence deployments.

  • New deployment setting lets you deploy task sequences that are available only in Windows PE.

  • You can manage Windows PE optional components from the Optional Components tab in the properties for boot images.

  • You can export and import driver packages from the Driver Packages node in the Software Library workspace.

What’s New in System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager

The following items are new or have changed for operating system deployment in System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager:

  • Support for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1. For more information about supported operating system versions, see Prerequisites For Deploying Operating Systems in Configuration Manager.

  • Support for boot images created by using the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) for Windows 7 SP1 and based on Windows PE 3.1. For more information about customizing and adding boot images to Configuration Manager, see How to Customize Windows PE Boot Images to Use in Configuration Manager.

  • Added support for PXE boot of IA32 UEFI computers. For more information about operating system requirement for a PXE-enabled distribution point, see the Operating System Requirements for Typical Site System Roles section of the Supported Configurations for Configuration Manager topic.

  • Ability to create prestaged content files for task sequence content. The Create Prestaged Content action creates a compressed, prestaged content file that contains the files and associated metadata for the content in the task sequence. By default, Configuration Manager detects and adds the dependencies associated with the task sequence to the prestaged content file. You can then manually import the content at a site server, secondary site, or distribution point. For more information about prestaged content, see the Determine Whether To Prestage Content section in the Planning for Content Management in Configuration Manager topic.

  • Added virtual hard disk management from the Configuration Manager console. You can create and modify virtual hard disks, and upload them to Virtual Machine Manager.

  • New task sequence steps:

    • Run PowerShell Script: This task sequence step runs the specified Windows PowerShell script on the target computer.

    • Check Readiness: This task sequence step verifies that the target computer meets the specified deployment prerequisite conditions.

    • Set Dynamic Variables: This task sequence step gathers information and sets specific task sequence variables with the information. Then, it evaluates defined rules and sets task sequence variables based on the variables and values configured for rules that evaluate to true.

    noteNote
    For more information about task sequence steps, see Task Sequence Steps in Configuration Manager.

  • New task sequence built-in variables:

    • SMSTSDownloadRetryCount: Use this variable to specify the number of times that Configuration Manager attempts to download content from a distribution point.

    • SMSTSDownloadRetryDelay: Use this variable to specify the number of seconds that Configuration Manager waits before it retries to download content from a distribution point.

    • TSErrorOnWarning: Use this variable to specify whether the task sequence engine treats the requirements not met warning from an application as a fatal error. You can set this variable to True or False. False is the default behavior.

    • SMSTSMPListRequestTimeout: Use this variable to specify how much time a task sequence waits before it retries to install an application after it fails to retrieve the management point list from location services. By default, the task sequence waits one minute before it retries the step. This variable is applicable only to the Install Application task sequence step.

    • _TSAppInstallStatus: The task sequence sets the _TSAppInstallStatus variable with the installation status for the application during the Install Application task sequence step. The task sequence sets the variable with one of the following values:

      • Undefined: Set when the Install Application task sequence step has not been run.

      • Error: Set when at least one application failed because of an error during the Install Application task sequence step.

      • Warning: Set when no errors occur during the Install Application task sequence step, but one or more applications, or a required dependency, did not install because a requirement was not met.

      • Success: Set when there are no errors or warning detected during the Install Application task sequence step.

      noteNote
      For more information about built-in task sequence variables, see Task Sequence Built-in Variables in Configuration Manager.

See Also

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For additional resources, see Information and Support for Configuration Manager.

Tip: Use this query to find online documentation in the TechNet Library for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. For instructions and examples, see Search the Configuration Manager Documentation Library.
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