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Windows Deployment Services (WDS), a service found in Microsoft's Windows Server 2012 R2 offering, enables IT professionals with the ability to deploy Windows operating systems via a network-based installation. This negates the need to install each operating system directly from installation media, such as a USB drive or DVD. Windows Deployment Services provides the following benefits to IT professionals:
Windows Deployment Services has evolved as each version is released including within the upcoming Windows Server 2012 R2. The following table compares the functionality and features added in each version of Windows Deployment Services up to Windows Server 2012 R2:
Operating systems deployed
Legacy mode: Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003
Mixed mode: Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008
Native mode: Windows 2000 Professional, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows Server 2003
Windows Server 2008
Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows Server 2012
Windows Server 2012 R2
Windows Vista SP1
Image types deployed
Legacy mode: RISETUP and RIPREP
Mixed mode: RISETUP, RIPREP, .wim
Native mode: .wim
For a new installation, only .wim images are supported.
If you upgrade from Windows Server 2003, you can convert any RIPREP images to .wim format after the upgrade. However, RISETUP images are not supported.
.vhd images of Windows Server 2008 R2 are supported as part of an unattended installation (managed by using the command line only).
.wim and .vhd images are both supported similar to Windows Server 2008 R2.
.vhd images can now be managed via the WDS management snap-in in addition to the command-line.
In addition, .vhdx files (a new file format available in Windows Server 2012) are supported directly and over multicast.
The .vhdx format supports a sparse, dynamic representation of a disk, which produces a relatively small disk image file (compared to directly storing the full contents of the disk). The .vhdx format is supported for VDH boot scenarios in addition to direct application to system volumes (similar to .wim deployments).
Legacy mode: OSChooser
Mixed mode: OSChooser and Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE)
Native mode: Windows PE
Legacy mode: Remote Installation Services (RIS) toolset
Mixed mode: RIS toolset to manage RISETUP and RIPREP images. Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in and WDSUTIL to manage .wim images.
Native mode: MMC snap-in and WDSUTIL
MMC snap-in and WDSUTIL
MMC snap-in and WDSUTIL. Windows PowerShell cmdlets added in Windows Server 2012 R2.
Supported for install images. (The Boot.wim file must be from the DVD for Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista with SP1, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2.)
Supported for install images. (The Boot.wim file must be from the DVD for Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista with SP1, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2.)
Supported for boot images for computers with EFI (managed by using the command line only).
Provides the ability to automatically disconnect slow clients and divide transmissions into multiple streams based on client speeds (the boot image must be Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2).
Provides support for multicasting in environments that use IPv6 (the boot image must be from Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista with SP1, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2).
Provides support for TFTP and multicasting over IPv6 and DHCPv6.
Improved multicast deployment by eliminating the need for making a local copy of the install.wim file. You can apply the install.wim file while it is being downloaded without significant impact to the application process.
Applying the install.wim file concurrently with the multicast download decreases overall deployment time, offers higher disk write throughput, and requires less space on the client system.
Reduced default block size fits within an Ethernet MTU and works on customer hardware that does not support IP fragmentation.
Provides the ability to deploy driver packages to client computers based on their hardware as part of an installation (the install image must be Windows Vista with SP1, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008).
Provides the ability to add driver packages to boot images (Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 images only).
Extends filters for driver groups to support manufacturer Model Number and Device Groups. Driver import automatically detects and prevents duplicate driver packages from being added to the driver store.
Supports custom PXE providers.
Supports transmitting data and images by using multicasting on a stand-alone server (Transport Server). However, you must develop a way to boot clients.
Supports custom multicast providers.
Supports transmitting data and images by using multicasting on a stand-alone server (Transport Server).
Includes a PXE provider to boot clients.
Supports transmitting data and images by using multicasting on a stand-alone server (Transport Server). Includes a PXE provider to boot clients.
Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)
Supports network booting of Itanium-based computers with EFI.
Supports network booting of Itanium-based and x64-based computers with EFI/UEFI.
Supports network booting of x64-based computers with UEFI.
Includes Auto-add functionality.
Includes DHCP referral to direct clients to a specific PXE server.
Provides the ability to deploy boot images by using multicasting.
Support x86 clients (32-bit processors) with Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) to network boot and complete an end-to-end deployment by using WDS.
PowerShell cmdlet scripting
Supported on Windows Server 2012 R2 only
A WDS server running Windows Server 2012 R2 can be managed by using the Windows PowerShell cmdlets for WDS. By using Windows PowerShell cmdlets, you can add driver packages, add client images, enable and disable boot and install images, and perform many other common WDS tasks. For a full reference, see Windows Deployment Services in Windows PowerShell.
In light of BYOD growing acceptance, WDS has been further enabled to now deploy images to ARM clients (CPU architecture specially engineered for low-cost, low-power consumption devices such as tablets, cell phones, GPS units, portable game consoles, network routers, and media players) allowing for a broader range of devices will be capable of running Windows.
Additional resources have also been available by Microsoft in regards to Windows Deployment Services and can be view in the Windows Deployment Services Getting Started Guide for Windows Server 2012 R2.