Windows System Deployment

Information and disucssions about preparing for, and installing, Windows and associated components.

Windows 7 Deployment Changes

Windows 7 Deployment Changes

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Welcome back to the Windows system Deployment blog!


With the public availability of Windows 7 Beta on January 9, I thought it might be a good idea to talk a bit about the changes to deployment in Windows 7, as well as some of the reasons behind the changes. Don’t worry though – these are mostly enhancements (where in Windows Vista we pretty much changed all the tools and infrastructure used to build and deploy Windows). Early reviews tell us that we made some very good decisions, ruffled a few feathers, and probably have some (small) things to tweak before we release.

We took the feedback people were giving us about our deployment tools, processes, and documentation and thought long and hard about what we could to make them better.  When we looked at all the requests it was obvious that we couldn’t get all of them done in the timeframe associated with what is now Windows 7, so we prioritized the feedback and figured out where we could make the customers happy, then set about trying to do so (you, or course, are the final judge on whether we succeeded).

We heard multiple requests around three main areas:

·         Windows Setup

·         Servicing Infrastructure and Tools  delivered in the Windows Automated Installation Kit (for corporate customers), or the OEM Pre-installation Kit (for resellers)

·         Network-based deployment

I’ll cover these topics at a high level now, but (based on feedback) we’ll dig deeper into these over the next few weeks.

OK, some details… Here we go!

Windows Setup

You can’t install the beta without using Windows setup (at least once) and we made some minor changes to setup in Windows 7. Note that Minor doesn’t mean insignificant in either effort or impact.

Some of the biggest things we heard were and acted on:

In Windows 7 we moved the license key to the Windows Welcome page, so you can enter it after the install. This makes it easier for people to evaluate and get started with Windows. We also provide a better experience when upgrading editions (i.e., from Home Premium to Ultimate) by enabling specific, licensed components, not reimaging the system.

Bitlocker and recovery environments are better supported as we created an additional, hidden partition by default. In Windows 7 Beta it’s small, about 200 megabytes, and we’re making it even smaller in the final release. Although it’s hidden from the end user (so it is less likely to be unknowingly deleted) you can still see it in the Disk Management MMC if you really want to.

Finally we wanted to improve the end users experience during the machine configuration phase (the second to last phase - the last phase is Windows Welcome) of setup. In Windows 7 we’ve taken pains to resolve some of these issues, making it faster and providing better graphics with information about what’s going on so users can understand what the machine is doing (and that it will soon be ready for use). Why invest here? Because many resellers’ save time in their factory process by shutting down the machine before this phase begins, boxing it up, and shipping it to the customer. When the customer gets the machine, they’re excited to set it up and use it (I know I am). Windows Vistas’ experience here left a lot to be desired, even causing some users interrupt the process which caused system corruption, something we needed to invest in to avoid.

Servicing Infrastructure and Tools

We recognize that a very small number of Windows users ever see the setup part of Windows Setup. Most machines have Windows installed from an “image,” using something like a high tech disk copy process. To start, someone installs Windows on a machine, modifies it by adding adds apps, patches, IE home pages, etc., and then recaptures that system as an image that can be redeployed to many machines. Although there is value here in small numbers (even small companies can take advantage of this approach), large resellers and corporations get the most value because they have the most machines to deploy and customize. The downside is that Windows is not static – there are fixes released on a regular basis and once these deployment images are created they have to be maintained. That presented considerable cost prior to Windows Vista as the only way to update an image was to deploy it, start the machine and make the changes.

In Windows Vista we delivered an infrastructure and set of tools to update the images without having to install them first. We got lots of feedback on the process and tools and made some changes to make this better. Here’s a synopsis:

·         ImageX and its underlying infrastructure, which is used to manage Windows Image (WIM) format images, now allows multiple images to be modified simultaneously, supports interim saves and with a newly re-written underlying supporting architecture for mounting and manipulating images, is more robust than in Windows Vista.. The extensible infrastructure (WIMGAPI) and supporting mount capabilities are now included in every Windows edition.

·         Using Diskpart, you can mount a VHD offline and service that VHD using the servicing tools (just like you can with WIM).

·         We consolidated a number of offline management tools (including pkgmgr.exe and intlcfg.exe) into a single tool, known as DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management). DISM also supports more features and functionality than it did in Windows Vista, including logging, inventory commands with parsable output, detailed help, offline INF driver package installation, direct application of MS update packages, and integration of international settings .

·         WinPE support has changed in two ways:

o   PEImg functionality has been incorporated into DISM.

o   The PE feature package model has changed; instead of starting with an image containing all of the feature packages and then removing the ones that aren’t enabled, you start with a base image and add only the feature packages you want.

·         The Windows Recovery Environment (RE) is now installed by default in Windows 7, reducing the time and effort required to get basic diagnostic and recovery capabilities into the system for no-boot situations. The customization options in the new Windows RE have also been expanded compared to Windows Vista.

·         The User State Migration Tool (USMT) has several new features that improve its flexibility and performance.  The hard-link migration store significantly improves performance in refresh scenarios, offline migration enables user state capture from within Windows PE, and the document finder reduces the need for custom migration XML when capturing all user documents.  It is now distributed through the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK).

·         Although not directly included in the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), we’ve made getting the Application Compatibility Toolkit, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, and Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkits easier by presenting links on the WAIK autorun (StartCD) page. Because these tools are often released more often, or at different times than the OS, the target pages can be updated as new versions become available.

We’ll be diving in deep in later posts.

Network-based Deployment

WDS (Windows Deployment Service) replaced RIS (Remote Installation Service) in Windows Server 2008. New features in Windows Server 2008 R2 include:

·         Multicast with Multiple Stream Transfer allows you to set performance thresholds on multicast clients, allowing slower clients to move to slower “streams“ so that they don’t slow down your fast machines, a limitation in the original multicast feature.

·         Dynamic Driver Provisioning allows drivers stored on the WDS server to be dynamically chosen at deployment time. This makes updating your images with new drivers less important (as you just add them to the store), lowering OS bloat and image maintenance costs. You can also insert drivers into boot (WinPE) images directly from the WDS driver store.

·         WDS VHD Native Boot. Deploy a Windows 7-based VHD file to a machine and boot from it.

If you’d like to be better acquainted with WDS, this link is a good place to start.

What’s next?

So, is there anything here you really want to hear more about??? Let us know and we’ll give you more information.


Helpful Links:

Windows Automated Installation Kit Beta Download

User State Migration Tool team blog

  • Patrick Azzarello (program manager in the Windows Core Operating System Division) just posted a blog

  • Welcome back to the Windows system Deployment blog! With the public availability of Windows 7 Beta on January 9

  • Dear Sir,

    Can you go a little bit deeper in how to configure the OOBE pass phase ? We already had some troubles configuring the OOBE settings in Vista (for example, we do not want OOBE asking for a username, only a computername).

    It seems it is not working anymore with Windows 7.

    Thanks in advance


  • Feed: Michael Niehaus' Windows and Office deployment ramblings Patrick Azzarello (program manager

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  • dism slowness on unmounting

    do you have any tips or recommendations on unmounting using dism?  it is painfully slow.

  • I've been pretty happy with Win7, and the new Live essentials tools seem good. Livewriter keeps rocking it. The photo organizing tools are still a little dodgy but getting better fast.

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