I've pretty much come to the end of my initial learning curve on how to automate Vista installations using the AIK. There is some great documentation out there on how to execute the specific tasks necessary to add drivers and packages to the image. However, there are some gaps on how to tie it all together. It's the subtlties that really hurt my learning curve (and installing the OS over and over and over... to test the effect of each change) that don't seem to be well documented anywhere. I'm hoping to share at least the trickiest items that I encountered in order to save someone else many hours of learning. As a note, I have not tried to use what used to be called "Business Desktop Deployment" (BDD) and is now "Microsoft Deployment Toolkit" (MDT) and some of the challenges I have below may be addressed in that.
I'm doing my deployments via Windows Deployment Server (WDS), the replacement for Remote Installation Server (RIS). In RIS, I never really used the RIPREP functionality because I found the administrative burden of creating a new RIPREP image for each hardware platform and every time I needed to deploy new software excessive. Though RIPREP could push the complete OS and applications much faster than going through the install process, I just found it easier to deal with one scripted install I could add drivers for all the hardware to, and deploy applications via SMS.
First off, for anyone who has used RIS and the "unattend.txt" methods of installs in the past, there are a couple of features I really miss or have not yet figured out how to do in WDS:
What I really like about the new tools: