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Deploy Windows 8.1 from a USB stick

Applies to: Windows 8, Windows 8.1

Ready to test Windows 8.1 in your environment? With the free Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013, you can quickly create a USB-based deployment media that not only installs Windows 8.1, but also installs the needed drivers, your applications and much more. Everything part of an automated deployment. This is possible because, in addition to the normal network-based deployments, MDT 2013 also supports the use of offline media-based deployments. You can very easily generate an offline version of your network-based deployment solution. The generated offline media can be burned to a DVD or copied to a USB stick for deployment.

Offline media is useful not only when you don’t have a network available for deployment, but also when you have a limited network connection and don’t want to copy several gigabytes of data over the wire. Offline media can still join the domain etc., but you save the transfer of operating system images, drivers, and applications over the wire.

Now let’s get going:

Step 1: Install MDT 2013 and Windows ADK for Windows 8.1

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013 requires Windows ADK for Windows 8.1, which is quite straightforward to install. Simply download the kit from Microsoft and run the adksetup.exe. A quick tip: if you want to download Windows ADK for Windows 8.1 only, without running the normal install, you can run: adksetup.exe /layout "C:\Setup\Windows ADK 8.1".

During the Windows ADK for Windows 8.1 setup, select the following components (as shown below):

  • Deployment Tools
  • Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE)
  • User State Migration Tool (USMT)

Select the features of Windows ADK for Windows 8.1 to install

Once Windows ADK for Windows 8.1 is installed, download and install MDT 2013 using the default settings. After the install, you find the Deployment Workbench on your Start screen.

Step 2: Create a deployment share

Using the Deployment Workbench (via the Start screen), right-click Deployment Shares and select New Deployment Share. Use the following settings for the New Deployment Share Wizard.

  • Deployment share path: C:\MDTProduction
  • Share name: MDTProduction$
  • Deployment share description: MDT Production
  • Options: <default settings>

Step 3: Import the Windows 8.1 operating system

Note: These steps assume you have downloaded the Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64 ISO and extracted it to the C:\Setup\Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64 folder.

Using the Deployment Workbench, expand the Deployment Shares node, expand MDT Production, and select the Operating Systems node. Right-click the Operating Systems node, and select Import Operating System. Use the following settings for the Import Operating System Wizard:

  • Full set of source files
  • Source directory: C:\Setup\Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64
  • Destination directory name: WIN81X64

After adding the operating system, using the Deployment Workbench, in the Operating System node, change the operating system name to Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64, as seen here:

Deployment Workbench in MDT

Step 4: Import applications

MDT 2013 can install applications (well, in fact, run any executable) as part of the deployment. Here is an example on how to add Adobe Reader XI to MDT 2013.

Using the Deployment Workbench, in MDT Production node, select Applications. Right-click the Applications folder, and select New Application, Use the following settings for the New Application Wizard:

  • Application with source files
  • Publisher: <blank>
  • Application name: Adobe Reader XI
  • Version: <blank>
  • Language: <blank>
  • Source Directory: C:\Setup\Adobe Reader XI
  • Specify the name of the directory that should be created:  Adobe Reader XI
  • Command Line: msiexec /i AdbeRdr11000_eu_ES.msi /q
  • Working directory: <default>

Step 5: Import drivers

Windows 8.1 already contain drivers for quite many devices, but it’s likely that you need to import additional drivers to support hardware not included by default. Driver handling in MDT 2013 would be an article on its own since MDT supports many different options to inject drivers. The method I like the most is the “total control” method in which you assign drivers on a per model basis. When using this method, you create a folder for each hardware model and configure MDT 2013 to inject only the correct drivers to the correct model. If you want to learn more about driver handling in MDT 2013, please review the “ MDT 2013 Lite Touch Driver Management” article that I posted recently.

Step 6: Create and configure a task sequence

Once you have added the operating system, and any applications and drivers you want, you can create a task sequence. Using the Deployment Workbench, in the MDT Production deployment share, select the Task Sequences node. Right-click the Task Sequences node, and select New Task Sequence. Use the following settings for the New Task Sequence Wizard:

  • Task sequence ID: W8-X64-001
  • Task sequence name: Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64
  • Task sequence comments: <blank>
  • Template: Standard Client Task Sequence
  • Select OS: Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64
  • Specify Product Key: Do not specify a product key at this time
  • FullName: ViaMonstra
  • Organization: ViaMonstra
  • Internet Explorer home page: about:blank
  • Do not specify an Administrator password at this time

Step 7: Create the MDT 2013 media

Now it’s time to create an offline media from the MDT Production deployment share. Using File Explorer, create the C:\MDTMedia folder, and then using Deployment Workbench, in the MDT Production / Advanced Configuration node, select the Media node. Right-click the Media node, and select New Media. Use the following settings for the New Media Wizard:

  • Media path: C:\MDTMedia
  • Selection profile: <default>

Automate parts of the deployment wizard by opening the C:\MDTMedia\Content\Deploy\Control\Bootstrap.ini in Notepad, and in the Default section, add the SkipBDDWelcome=YES option. If you want to automate further, please review the “Quick Start Guide for Lite Touch Installation” in the downloadable MDT 2013 documentation.

note iconNote: To avoid the selection of x86 and x64 boot images when starting the media (which is default), you can right-click the MEDIA001 media, select Properties, and clear either the x86 and x64 option depending on what you are deploying, and click OK.

At this point, you’re almost done. T generate the media, right-click the MEDIA001 media, and select Update Media Content. The Update Media Content process now generates the offline media in the C:\MDTMedia folder, as seen here:

MDTMedia folder

The ISO that you generated when updating the offline media item can now be burned to a DVD and used directly (it will be bootable), but it’s often more efficient to use USB sticks instead. They are both faster and can hold more data. For example, a dual-layer DVD is limited to 8.5 GB.

To make a bootable USB stick, copy the content of the MDTMedia\Content folder to the root of the USB stick. Then make the USB stick active (for example using diskpart). That’s it, you’re done! You now have a media-based deployment solution that deploys Windows 8.1 quite quickly. This is how it looks when you start a deployment (booting on the ISO or USB stick):

Windows Deployment Wizard

Additional resources

About the author

Johan Arwidmark is a consultant and all-around geek specializing in systems management and enterprise-level Windows deployment solutions. Johan speaks at several conferences each year, including TechED events around the world. Johan is also actively involved in deployment communities like deploymentresearch.com and myitforum.com, and has been awarded the Microsoft MVP award for more than seven years.


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