Imaging and Desktop Engineering


Published: September 11, 2006

The new Windows Vista deployment architecture enhances or enables new scenarios. For all scenarios, the Windows AIK defines the following process:

Preinstallation Planning. Determine which deployment method best meets your business needs. Gather all the required resources including hardware and software.

Preinstallation Preparation. Build your deployment environment. Install the tools on a single computer designated as the technician computer. By using the Setup Manager tool, define your network shares and other environment settings.

Preinstallation Customization. Create an answer file (Unattend.xml) by using Windows System Image Manager. Unattend.xml is a single file that replaces previous Unattend.txt and other .ini files. Apply the answer file and the Windows product DVD to a master installation. Test your new installation. Capture and store the image on your distribution share.

Image Deployment. Deploy the image on a new computer. If necessary, test the image further on the new computer. Deliver the new computer to the customer.

Image Maintenance. Modify the base image by using Windows SIM to include new drivers, service packs, and third-party applications.

The following sections describe scenarios for the Creating the Image and Maintaining the Image steps.

Creating the Base Image

By creating a base image, you can apply the image to multiple computers. Each computer will have a standard, consistent configuration (i.e., each computer will start with a known and tested configuration). Image-based installations are the most flexible and quickest way to deploy Windows Vista to multiple computers.

The following steps describe the process for creating a base image:

  1. On a lab computer, build and customize a master installation. Customizations include tasks such as installing applications and configuring computer settings. These customizations apply to the entire group of computers to which you will deploy the image. Test the installation.
  2. After the installation is fully customized and ready for delivery, shut down Windows Vista by using Sysprep. You can use the sysprepgeneralize command or, if you plan to further customize the installation during installation on each computer, use the sysprepaudit command.
  3. Start the computer using Windows PE, and run ImageX to capture the master installation to a .wim file. Store the .wim file on a distribution share that you created with Windows SIM. You can script this process.
  4. Start the destination computer using Windows PE. Then run setup to apply the image.
  5. If you used the sysprepaudit command to shut down the computer, customize the installation and run sysprepoobe to hand off the computer to the end user.

Adding and Updating the Image Using Offline Servicing

You use Windows SIM to service a Windows Vista image offline. Using Windows SIM, you can add and remove the following packages:

  • Device drivers that did not ship with Windows Vista (out-of-box device drivers)
  • Language packs
  • Service packs
  • Operating system updates

The following steps describe the process for servicing an image while it's offline:

  1. Start Windows SIM.
  2. Open a distribution share. The distribution share contains a configuration set, which is the device drivers, language packs, updates, service packs, and applications that you want to install.
  3. Open a Windows Vista Image. The first time you open a .wim file, Windows SIM will create a catalog that indexes the contents of the .wim file, the components it contains, and the dependencies between them.
  4. Create a new or open an answer file. You see the answer file in the Answer File pane. Beneath Components, you see settings organized by configuration pass. After adding packages (e.g., device drivers, language packs, updates), you'll see them beneath Packages.
  5. After you've opened the distribution share, image, and answer file, you can service the image. For example, you can drag device drivers, language packs, and updates from the Distribution Share pane and drop them on the answer file. To add an application to the image, copy the application's source files to the distribution share, and then add a command to the answer file that installs the application.

The previous instructions describe the general steps for servicing an image offline. You can also mount an image file to a folder and maintain the image's files and registry settings. To maintain the image's files, you use any file manager, such as Windows Explorer. To maintain the image's registry, load the image's registry hive files in Registry Editor (Regedit.exe), update the offline registry hives, and unload the hive files.

Consistency in Offline, Online Servicing

Windows Vista provides consistent capabilities whether you're servicing an image offline or online. In other words, what you can do online, you can offline. For example, you can apply operating system updates to Windows Vista whether the image is online or offline. The same is true for language packs and out-of-box device drivers. Consistency between offline and online servicing has the following benefits:

  • Updating the operating system is easier. For example, you only have to maintain a single update file, whether you choose to apply it offline or online.
  • You use similar tools and techniques to service an image offline or online. You have to learn how to use fewer tools, regardless of how you service the image. This requires less training.
  • Consistency between offline and online servicing means you can maintain fewer image builds.

The new installation architecture enables consistency in other ways, too. For example, the consolidation of answer files to Unattend.xml helps ensure that settings are applied consistently across all installation passes. Another example is an image file's manifests. Manifests list dependencies between components to ensure consistency during installation.