Planning for Capturing Operating System Images in Configuration Manager
Updated: May 14, 2015
To capture the operating system image that you want to deploy in your System Center 2012 Configuration Manager environment, you must use a reference computer.
You can configure the reference computer manually, or you can completely automate the configuration of the reference computer and capture an operating system image. The extent to which you configure the reference computer manually is up to you. You can completely automate the configuration of the reference computer by using a build and capture task sequence, you can manually configure certain aspects of the reference computer and then automate the rest using task sequences, or you can manually configure the reference computer without using task sequences.
After you have captured an image from a reference computer, do not capture another operating system image from the reference computer because registry entries are created during the initial configuration. Create a new reference computer each time that you capture the operating system image. If you plan to use the same reference computer to create future operating system images, first uninstall the Configuration Manager client, and then reinstall the Configuration Manager client.
The following table outlines advantages and disadvantage for an automated and manual configuration of the reference computer.
The configuration can be completely unattended, which eliminates the requirement for an administrator or user to be present.
You can reuse the task sequence to repeat the configuration of additional reference computers with a high level of confidence.
You can modify the task sequence to accommodate differences in reference computers without having to recreate the entire task sequence.
The initial action to build a task sequence can take a long time to create and test.
If the reference computer requirements change significantly, it can take a long time to rebuild and retest the task sequence.
You do not have to create a task sequence or take the time to test and troubleshoot the task sequence.
You can install directly from CDs without putting all the software packages (including Windows itself) into a Configuration Manager package.
The accuracy of the reference computer configuration depends on the administrator or user who configurs the computer.
You must still verify and test that the reference computer is configured correctly.
You cannot reuse the configuration method.
Requires a person to be actively involved throughout the process.
The following table lists the basic items to consider when you configure a reference computer.
Reference computer configuration items
Operating system to deploy
The reference computer must be installed with the operating system that you intend to deploy to your destination computers. For more information about the operating systems that you can deploy, see Supported Operating Systems and Hard Disk Configurations for Operating System Deployment.
Appropriate service pack
Make sure that the operating system running on the reference computer has the most current service pack applied.
Appropriate software updates
Install all software applications that you want included in the operating system image that you capture from the reference computer. You can also install software applications when you deploy the captured operating system image to your destination computers.
The reference computer must be configured as a member of a workgroup.
Appropriate version of Sysprep or another migration tool.
The System Preparation (Sysprep) tool is a technology that you can use with other deployment tools to install Windows operating systems onto new hardware. Sysprep prepares a computer for disk imaging or delivery to a customer by configuring the computer to create a new computer security identifier (SID) when the computer is restarted. In addition, Sysprep cleans up user and computer-specific settings and data that must not be copied to a destination computer.
You can manually Sysprep the reference computer by running the following command:
Sysprep /quiet /generalize /reboot
You can automate Sysprep by using the Prepare Windows for Capture task sequence step or capture media. For more information about how to create capture media, see the How to Create Capture Media section of the How to Deploy Operating Systems by Using Media in Configuration Manager topic.
For more information about Sysprep for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, see the System Preparation (Sysprep) Technical Reference topic.
Appropriate tools and scripts required to mitigate installation scenarios
You can install the application compatibility tools and scripts on the reference computer that are required to troubleshoot known installation scenarios on destination computers when you deploy the captured operating system image to your destination computers.
Appropriate desktop customization, such as wall paper, branding, and default user profile
You can configure the reference computer with the desktop customization properties that you want to include when you capture the operating system image from the reference computer. Desktop properties include wall paper, organizational branding, and a standard default user profile.
Before you deploy an operating system image in Configuration Manager, consider the following factors to plan the deployment:
Operating system image size
Cache size of the Configuration Manager client
Capturing the user and computer state
Windows User State Migration Tool (USMT) package
Task sequence deployment
The size of an operating system image can be quite large. For example, the image size for Windows 7 is 3 gigabytes (GB) or more. The size of the image and the number of computers that you simultaneously deploy the operating system to affects the network performance and available bandwidth. Ensure that you test the network performance to better gauge the affect that the image deployment might have and the time it takes to complete the deployment. Configuration Manager activities that affect network performance include distributing the image to a distribution point, distributing the image from one site to another, and downloading the image to the Configuration Manager client.
Also ensure that you plan for sufficient disk storage space on the distribution points that host the operating system images.
When Configuration Manager clients download content, they automatically use Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) if it is available. When you deploy a task sequence that installs an operating system, you can set an option on the deployment so that Configuration Manager clients download the full image to a local cache before the task sequence runs.
In general, when a Configuration Manager client must download a package, or in this scenario, an operating system image, but there is not enough space in the cache, the client checks the other packages in the cache to determine whether deleting any or all of the oldest packages will free enough disk space to accommodate the new package. If deleting any or all of the oldest packages does not free enough disk space, the client does not download the new package and the deployment fails. This scenario might occur if the cache has a large package that an administrative user has configured to persist in the cache.
If deleting any or all of the oldest packages does free enough space in the cache, the client deletes them, and then downloads the new package into the cache.
The default cache size on Configuration Manager clients might not be large enough for most operating system image deployments. If you plan to download the full image to the client cache, you must adjust the Configuration Manager client cache size on the destination computers to accommodate the size of the image that you are deploying.
For more information about how to manage the client cache, see the Configure the Client Cache for Configuration Manager Clients section in the How to Manage Clients in Configuration Manager topic.
If you plan to capture the user and computer state settings as part of your operating system deployment, you must decide whether to store the data remotely on a state migration point or locally on the destination computer. For more information about how to manage the user state, see How to Manage the User State in Configuration Manager.
The task sequence that you create can deploy the operating system image on a Configuration Manager client computer in one of the following ways:
Download the image and its content first to the Configuration Manager client cache from a distribution point and then install it.
Install the image and its content immediately from the distribution point.
Install the image and its content as it is required from the distribution point
By default, when you create the deployment for the task sequence, the image is downloaded first to the Configuration Manager client cache and then installed. For more information about task sequences, see the How to Deploy a Task Sequence section in the How to Manage Task Sequences in Configuration Manager topic.
If you select to download the image to the Configuration Manager client cache before you run the image, and the task sequence contains a step to repartition the hard drive, the repartition step fails because repartitioning the hard drive erases the contents of the Configuration Manager client cache. If the task sequence must repartition the hard drive, you must run the image installation from the distribution point by using the Run program from distribution point option when you deploy the task sequence.
You can create a stand-alone CD, DVD set, or a USB flash drive to deploy the operating system manually to a destination computer. However, the size of the image might affect your choice of the type of stand-alone media that you create. For more information about how to create stand-alone media, see the How to Create Stand-alone Media section in the How to Create Stand-alone Media.
In addition, if Configuration Manager does not currently manage the destination computer, you must add the computer to the Configuration Manager database before you initiate the operating system deployment process. You cannot use stand-alone media to deploy an operating system to an unknown computer. This requirement applies whether the computer has an existing operating system or not. For more information about how to import a new computer into Configuration Manager, see the How to Add a Computer to the Configuration Manager Database section in the How to Deploy Operating Systems in Configuration Manager topic.