Matt McSpirit IM'd me a couple of days ago  to ask if I'd built a custom Windows Vista installation DVD. And I had to confess that I'd only looked at it briefly - I know Microsoft IT have an image we can burn to a DVD, and I've done about every other install (boot and manually run imageX, install from the network with Windows deployment services, and complete PC restore), but I never found the right switches to do my own DVDs. I suggested if he found the answer he post it on his blog which he has now done.

Since I don't reboot my machine from one month to the next, I'd take issue with Matt's suggestion of rebuilding machines on a monthly basis (I've used complete PC Restore to rebuild demo machines quickly - but that's destructive). I'm also wedded to the idea that Windows Deployment Services and installing from the network is the best way to build machines when you have to a lot over a long period of time. But what if you're not the person who controls the corporate Deployment server ? Or what if you have to install batches of machines where server/network bandwidth would be an issue ? (longhorn's version of WDS has multi-casting - the Windows server 2003 version doesn't). Or what if you need to be able to rebuild machines which aren't on the corporate network ? Since Longhorn Server 2008 shares the same install process, what if you need a standard disk to set-up a branch office server ? Sooner or later you need to be able to do it from a DVD.

I've explained before how to set up a Windows PE disc, and how to customize it. So making a USB drive or CD from which you can boot and run imageX is pretty easy - Matt's blog post goes through the steps . Having built and sysprep'd the "Golden" Machine We boot from the PE disk, and the critical bit is you run ImageX with the FLAGS switch. Matt links to the page where all the imageX switches are explained.  "The /flags value is required if you are going to re-deploy a custom Install.wim with Windows Setup. The straight quotation marks are required." it takes an edition ID which can be "HomeBasic", "HomePremium", "Starter", "Ultimate", "Business", "Enterprise" (and for Server 2008, "ServerDatacenter", "ServerEnterprise", "ServerStandard"). The minimum you need is

imagex.exe /flags “Ultimate”  /capture c: D:\install.wim "ULTIMATE Golden Image"

Where "D:" is a drive with enough space to hold the WIM file. You copy the installation DVD and replace Install.wim (in the sources folder) with the one you've just built, and then you can use OScdIMG to make an ISO you can burn. Job done.