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Deploying Windows 7 Pro over network after sysprep

Posted on 2011-02-25
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I am ready to migrate my users to Windows 7 Pro.  90% of my hardware is like with the exceptions of a few desktops and laptops.

I have already configured an installation of Windows 7 with the programs and settings I need.  I'd like to sysprep this and copy the image (i have a ghost boot disk that can copy the image to and from the network).

Are there step-by-step guidelines for doing this properly without much user interaction?  I would like the product key to already be filled out (volume open license) and things like Regional Settings and time to be pre-determined in the image.  The only thing I need to manually configure each time is the Hostname and possibly the domain to be added to as the image is loaded on the new workstations.

Also, if there is a better way to push the image that using ghost, I would love to know.  Even if it was as simple as running a script on the current XP machines to the path of the image.  But that isn't a huge concern.
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Question by:DrPcKen
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WBGames earned 400 total points
ID: 34984062
My suggestion is using WDS ( Windows Service Deployement ).

Then use an unatend.xml file . You update this file with all the pre-configured settings you want.

For WDS follow these step http://www.windows-noob.com/forums/index.php?/topic/93-windows-deployment-services-wds/

This guide will help you setting up and configuring WDS.

Good luck and enjoy ! :)
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Assisted Solution

by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 100 total points
ID: 34984073
First, You may not be able to do this if you don't have Software Assurance/Volume License versions of Windows 7.  OEM versions and Retail versions do not include re-imaging rights (unless you purchase Software Assurance within 90 days of obtaining the system).

If you do have the appropriate licensing, then you really should review the Microsoft Deployment tools - there are many, they are highly detailed and make using third party software such as Ghost entirely unnecessary.

Things to look at:

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT)
Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK or Windows AIK - note there's a poorly named update to the current version that implies you only need the update).
Windows Deployment Services/Server (WDS)
User State Migration Tool (USMT)
Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP)

(Google any of these and you should find LOADS of information).

The three products above are all free (well, WDS is a part of Windows Server, so if you have a Windows server, it's no extra cost).  One thing - use WDS on 2008 or later - 2008 and later offer multicast deployments - with a multicast you could deploy MANY machines at the same time - potentially, for example 30 computers at once.
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 34984135
We have volume licensing.  I'll look over these options.
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 34986048
Ok I got WDS setup on my Server 2008 server.  I have a default base image (from the Win7 sources vim file).  I'm just not sure how to get the image I've already prepped onto the WDS server to push out.
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 34986051
Never-mind the last post, I think I found the answer and I'm going through some reading now. Thanks for suggesting WDS, it looks amazing and very helpful for me to manage images for my workstations.  Incredible :)
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 34987463
Ok I have setup my WDS server, have install and boot images and I have a Windows 7 image ready to go.  How do I create the answer file though?

Leew has mentioned the following:
Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT)
Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK or Windows AIK - note there's a poorly named update to the current version that implies you only need the update).
User State Migration Tool (USMT)
Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP)

But I don't see where to setup the answer file.  All searching points to Windows System Image Manager, which hasn't' been listed here yet.  Is that the preferred route?

Thank you both for the guidance!
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 34988418
Ok here's what I've done so far (this can be overwhelming at first).

1. Setup WDS.  
2. Setup Install Images using Win7 Installation disc
3. Setup Boot Images to Capture a Sysprep'd installation (I'm still confused about Install Images vs Boot Images)

4. Setup the initial Win7 Install on a machine (with needed software) and sysprepped it.
5. Used the Capture boot image to grab the image from the machine and add it to WDS.
6. Added the captured boot image to my Boot Images.

Now I booted PXE on a test workstation and it pulled the image no problem. However it automatically added it to my domain (which is fine) with a hostname of ADMINISTRATOR1.

I'm guessing my next step is to setup the answer file? How do I do that in WDS?  I want to automatically have the regional settings/date time/ etc... setup when the image is pulled from the WDS server to the workstation.  The only thing I want to setup is the hostname
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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 34988637
You use WAIK (the Windows System Image Manager) to build the answer file (curious - have you looked into any of the other products I mentioned -WAIK, MDT, etc?  Installed any of them?)
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by:WBGames
ID: 35011265
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 35011314
Haha thats the one I'm using as we speak.  Thank you both! I'm about to run a test deploy on several machines and then will award points.

Thank you both!
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by:WBGames
ID: 35021908
Anytime man :)
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 35033692
Well good news and bad news...

I have my image sysprepped and uploaded to my WDS server.  I Opened WSIM and created a Distribution Share for my custom image.  I then Exported the Install Image I want to use and put it in the root of my Distribution Share folder (doesn't matter where it goes right?).  When I tried to add the image to the distribution share, it made it to the end and then gave an error saying:
The operation failed to complete. ---> System.Reflection.TargetInvocationException: Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation. ---> System.ArgumentNullException: String reference not set to an instance of a String.

Open in new window


Searching around for this error, I think it has to do with the fact my Install image is x86 and my WDS Server I'm running WAIK tools on is x64 ...   I would have to build a x86 server and add to the domain I'm guessing.

Is there a way to create the unattended file without having to move everything to a x86 environment?  I'm bummed because I put a lot of effort and time into this.  I guess I COULD manually go to each workstation and answer all the questions if I had to but the idea of not having to is what turned me on to WDS (was using Ghost before).

Do I have any other options?  Planned image push begins tomorrow night and I play on staying on top of it all weekend making sure everyone's machine is stable.
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 35037056
Ok so instead of loading my own image in WISM, I loaded the default  Windows 7 install image from the dvd and was able to make an answer file.   Just enough to add the keys, etc....

Booting now with answer file.  Thanks!
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 35038837
Well I just ran a test deployment and I'm not getting the results I want at all.

For some reason it isn't adding to domain automatically anymore, and I can't get it to auto login with my domain account the first time, and the product key isn't working and errors out with
windows activation error code 0x8007232B

Open in new window

when I try activation.  If I manually change the key again it works.

Honestly I think I've convoluted my Unattended.xml file along with the OOBE.xml file.  I'm going to scratch them and start all over using http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc749317(WS.10).aspx.  

I'm still confused if I should ad a OOBE xml file. It seems to pick up settings I specify that my unattend does not.
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 35038894
Also, it seems when I made my capture image that was sysprepped, it made a folder for it in RemoteInstall\Images\CaptureGroup\Win7Pro_Capture\Unattend that has an ImageUnattend.xml file.

Or was this created when I added the unattend file to the WDS server?

I'm so confused, there are so many unattend files...
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by:Xiurzeph
ID: 35150423
Were you in Audit Mode when you attempted to create a sysprepped image? Also, if you have the key removed, can u post your unattended file?
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by:DrPcKen
ID: 35150603
I completely forgot about this post.  I was able to rebuild my unattend file and everything worked perfectly.  Thanks for all your help!
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