There are a handful of tools that can help streamline the process of deploying Windows 7 across the enterprise.
Adapted from “Microsoft Windows 7 Administrator’s Reference” (Syngress, an imprint of Elsevier)
There are many tools now available to help streamline the Windows deployment process. Some of these include the Windows Automated Installation Kit version 2.0 (WAIK 2.0), Windows System Image Manager (WSIM), and the Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE). Microsoft also has several additional solutions to help you with enterprise-wide deployment, such as the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010.
WAIK 2.0 and these other tools are available for free from Microsoft, although they aren’t bundled with the Windows 7 installation media. Download them from the Microsoft Download Center.
You’ll find the following components play an important role in the Windows 7 deployment process:
Windows XP and earlier editions had milestones at different stages of the setup process of getting the OS deployed onto the computer. It was a notorious step to go from the text-based portion of the setup interface to the GUI or mini-setup phase. These stages gave you a general understanding of the types of operations being performed, such as copying setup files, installing drivers, customizing user settings and so on.
The Windows 7 installation process can similarly be divided into three stages. Each stage marks a milestone and progress with the setup:
Windows Setup also undergoes several configuration passes within these previously highlighted stages. These configuration routines provide the system with specific configuration functions. They apply related settings established in the Unattend.xml answer file. The following list, cited from the Windows 7 Resource Kit, describes each pass the Windows Setup routine runs:
With its entirely image-based installation—and considering the richness of Windows PE—there’s no need for you to run any text-based setup for Windows 7, or Windows Vista, for that matter.
You can customize each of these configuration passes with specific instructions to automate the setup and mold it to the organization’s needs. These setup passes can be individually configured through the use of an answer file. You can also automate Windows installation using the MDT.
If you were to automate the process without the help of the MDT, you would have to use the WAIK to create the Unattend.xml answer file that describes particular settings for Windows 7. The information on this file includes parameters and values for these settings in order to automate the “answers” a user would have to provide to move from one phase of the setup to another.
Using the tools Microsoft provides can certainly help streamline the Windows 7 deployment process, especially if you’re deploying to numerous systems across an enterprise.