>Over the years, I have used many deployment and imaging methods including but not limited to: OS Installation Answer files, Ghost, Power Quest PQDI and ZENworks. Each of these methods had pros and cons as a complete deployment choice. Most of the cons center around the following: cost of the product, inflexible methods of creating and updating boot images to connect to your deployment server, and inefficient methods of managing existing images (such as adding updates, patches and drivers). Let me introduce you to a Microsoft Product that can eliminate most, if not all, of these cons.
Windows Deployment Services (WDS) is a free server role and it is the replacement for RIS (Remote Installation Service). WDS allows you to deploy both Windows workstation and server operating systems using manual, Lite Touch, or fully automated methods.
I prefer WDS over other imaging solutions because it supports Offline Image Services. Offline Image Servicing means that I can add patches, updates, drivers, files and folders to the image without having to drop the image on a target machine – edit the image – then save it. With MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit), I can also attach an MSI application to an image to automatically be installed. For example, I could have Office 2007 installed automatically with the Image Deployment.
Windows Deployment Services provides the following benefits:
• Allows network-based installation of Windows operating systems, which reduces the complexity and cost when compared to manual installations.
• Supports mixed environments including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 through Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
• Uses standard Windows Setup technologies including Windows Pre-Installation Environment (Windows PE), .wim files, and image-based setup.
• Uses PXE Boot to eliminate the creation of Boot CDs or DVDs.
• Supports transmissions of data and images by using multicast functionality.
• Allows the creation of images of a reference computer using the GUI based Image Capture Wizard, which is an alternative to the ImageX tool.
• Allows you to add driver packages to the server and configure them to be deployed to client computers along with the install image. In addition, you can add driver packages (such as network adapter drivers, mass storage drivers, and bus drivers) to your Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 boot images.
• Allows you to deploy virtual hard disk (.vhd) images as part of an automated deployment.
• And remember it is FREE!
The WDS Console is the main tool to manage your images. The WDS Console can be accessed directly from the server, or from a MMC, at your administration workstation.
Using the WDS Console, you can configure the following:
• Install Images folder contains the images you have placed on your WDS Server.
• Boot Images folder contains the boot images that WDS will use when your machine uses PXE. You could have a few boot images, depending upon which operating system you will be deploying, and if some hardware supports 64-bit technology and others only support 32-bit.
• Pending Devices and Multicast Transmissions folders allow you to configure multicast sessions and control the computers in the multicast group.
• Drivers folder allows you to slip stream drivers to be delivered with your image. This is a great method to have a basic image and add drivers for a wide variety of your hardware.
Overview of major WDS tasks
After you have configured your images, patches, drivers and updates in the WDS Console, you are ready to deploy an image.
1. PXE boot the target machine by pressing [F12]. Your WDS Server is automatically located.
2. Select the desired Boot Image from WDS.
3. Wait while boot image loads.
4. Select the correct Locale and Keyboard or Input Method language.
5. Logon as your domain account.
6. Select your Image.
7. Select the Hard Drive and Partition you would like to use.
8. A progress screen will display the image being applied as well as the drivers, patches, and updates.
9. Once the machine has received an image, it will automatically reboot.
LRS offers 2 courses which fully explain the Deployment process including WDS and MDT:
MS6294: Planning and Managing Windows 7 Desktop Deployments and Environments*
MS6418: Deploying Windows Server 2008
*Deploying XP is also discussed in the MS6294 course.