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Windows SIM Scenarios Overview

Updated: October 20, 2013

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

Windows® System Image Manager (Windows SIM) creates and manages unattended Windows Setup answer files in a GUI.

Answer files are .xml files that are used during Windows Setup to configure and customize the default Windows installation.

For example, you can use Windows SIM to create an answer file that partitions and formats a disk before installing Windows. Windows SIM also changes the default setting for the Windows Internet Explorer® home page, and it configures Windows to boot to audit mode after installation. By modifying settings in the answer file, Windows SIM can also be used to install third-party applications, device drivers, language packs, and other updates.

noteNote
Windows SIM does not modify the Windows image itself. You use Windows SIM only to create an answer file. During Windows Setup, the answer file applies the settings to the Windows installation. Windows SIM does not modify the settings in a Windows image (.wim) file.

Before you can create an answer file, you must create a catalog (.clg) file. Catalog files contain all of the configurable settings in a single Windows image and the current values of each setting.

We recommend that you use the 32-bit version of Windows SIM when you create your catalog files. The following table shows the architectures of Windows SIM and the supported Windows image architectures.

 

Windows SIM architecture Can create catalogs for Windows images of the following architecture types

x86 version of SIM

x86-based systems, x64-based systems, and Windows® RT ARM-based systems

x64 version of SIM

x64-based systems only

You can use Windows SIM to create an answer file to be used during Windows Setup. You can view all of the components that are available in a Windows image, add component settings to your answer file, and choose when to apply a component setting by adding it to a particular configuration pass.

After you add component settings to an unattended answer file, you can view and customize the available settings for each component. For more information, see Answer Files Overview.

You can use Windows SIM to add components, packages, or other updates to an existing answer file. You can also validate an existing answer file against a Windows image to ensure that the settings in that answer file can be applied to a specific Windows image. An answer file is typically associated with a specific Windows image. By using Windows SIM, you can open the Windows image, open an existing answer file, and then make changes to the answer file.

Windows SIM validates the component settings in the answer file against the settings that are available in the Windows image. For more information, see How to Validate an Answer File.

You can add device drivers during Windows Setup by using Windows SIM. Windows Setup uses the following types of drivers:

  • In-box drivers

    Windows Setup handles in-box drivers the same way that it handles packages.

  • Out-of-box drivers

    By using Windows SIM, you can add out-of-box drivers (INF-based) during Windows Setup. Typically, these out-of-box drivers are processed during the auditSystem configuration pass. Your .inf-based out-of-box drivers must be in a distribution share subfolder that is called Out-of-Box Drivers. For more information, see How to Manage Files and Folders in a Distribution Share.

  • In-box drivers that are installed with a Windows Installer file.

    In-box drivers that require a Windows Installer file are added the same way that applications are added.

    noteNote
    By using the Microsoft-Windows-PnpCustomizationsWinPE component, you must add boot-critical device drivers that are required for installation during the windowsPE configuration pass. For more information, see How to Add Device Drivers by Using Windows Setup. You can also use Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) to add device drivers to an offline image. For more information, see How to Add and Remove Drivers Offline.

You can use Windows SIM to add applications or drivers to be installed during Windows Setup by using a distribution share. You use a distribution share to store all applications, device drivers, scripts, or other resources that you make available during Windows Setup.

You can add more applications, scripts, and other binary files by using a data image. A data image is packaged in a way that is similar to a Windows image. By using the DISM tool (DISM.exe), you can capture a folder structure that contains the resources that you must add to Windows (or another partition on the computer) during Windows Setup. You can specify where the data image is applied by using the DataImage setting in the Microsoft-Windows-Setup component. For more information, see How to Create a Data Image.

You can also use $OEM$ Folders folder structures to place binary files and other applications in specific locations during Windows Setup. Applications are added from distribution shares through subfolders in $OEM$ Folders. You must also add a RunSynchronous setting to the answer file to open the Windows Installer file or the .exe file that installs the application. For more information, see How to Manage Files and Folders in a Distribution Share.

Windows SIM enables the addition of offline updates to a Windows image. These updates include software updates, device drivers, language packs, and other packages, which Microsoft provides.

DISM.exe is the tool that you use, with or without an answer file, to apply packages to Windows. Any package installation, removal, or modification in the answer file is applied to the Windows image. For more information, see How to Add or Remove Packages Offline.

Packages that exist in the offlineServicing configuration pass are applied to the offline Windows image. For more information, see Windows Image Files and Catalog Files Overview.

A configuration set is a subset of files that are available in a distribution share that is explicitly called in an answer file. When you create a configuration set, any files in a distribution share that are referenced in the answer file are saved to a specific folder. Paths to these files are updated in the answer file to point to the specific folder.

Configuration sets are smaller, more portable versions of a distribution share. A configuration set is ideal for installations that cannot access a distribution share. For more information, see Distribution Shares and Configuration Sets Overview.

Windows SIM imports packages that are not part of a Windows image file to an optional set of folders called a distribution share. You can then add packages to an answer file from the distribution share. To import a package to a distribution share, you must use the Windows SIM tool or the Component Platform Interface (CPI) APIs. For more information, see Distribution Shares and Configuration Sets Overview.

You can also import a package directly into an answer file. The answer file includes a pointer to the path of the package.

See Also

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