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Creating images of Windows 7 for mass deployment

Posted on 2011-03-21
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hi.  I want to create an image of Windows 7 that can later be pushed to other desktops using something like Ghost.
With Windows XP, it seemed simpler.  Install Windows XP and all applications and patches on a desktop.  Then run the wizard to create a sysprep.inf file with the product key and other settings.  Then run sysprep.  Clone image.
I know Windows 7 has sysprep, and I know how to run that.  But how do you create an answer file to automatically configure certain settings, like the product key and joining the domain, like you were able to do with the sysprep.inf file?
Thanks.
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Question by:JohnLeo9
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Expert Comment

by:BCipollone
ID: 35184671
I always use Acronis. I create the base image exactly how I want it then do a full backup and then restore it onto multiple systems. The good thing about Acronis and Windows 7 is even with dis-similar hardware the image goes through pretty flawlessly. Acronis has a Universal Restore option.

I usually just try to make sure that the base image has VL's or OEM licenses to make things easy.
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Expert Comment

by:cantoris
ID: 35185230
You need to look at the MS Deployment Toolkit and WinAIK.
It really is a horrible set of stuff to learn!

http://www.windowsnetworking.com/articles_tutorials/Deploying-Vista-Understanding-Windows-AIK.html
Have a look at Mitch Tulloch's set of articles about deploying Vista and then the subsequent series about Windows 7.

You can ignore the Deployment Toolkit method and do the following:
 - make a base image by hand
 - use System Image Manager from the WAIK to make an answer file - the WAIK help files will tell you which settings you need
 - sysprep the image
 - create a WIM file of it using imagex or dism from WinPE
 - deploy that by various methods - eg WDS (ie the new RIS)
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Expert Comment

by:JohnnyIT
ID: 35185366
This is not cheap, but may save you a lot of time: http://www.smartdeploy.com
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Author Comment

by:JohnLeo9
ID: 35186086
Cantoris, I will take a look at those articles, thanks.  I get the part about making the base image and creating an answer file and then running sysprep, but do I have to create a WIM file?  I saw how to do that too, but that can be done with Ghost.  I guess what I really need to know is how do I get the unattend file to run after running sysprep?  With Windows XP, you just put the file in the same folder as sysprep and when it rebooted it took the configurations from that file.
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cantoris earned 250 total points
ID: 35187013
The sysprep command includes the switch "/unattend" to specify an answer file to use.
Yes you can use Ghost and its GHO files instead of WIM etc if you want.

Have a look here:
http://blog.brianleejackson.com/sysprep-a-windows-7-machine-start-to-finish
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Assisted Solution

by:ivanoviola
ivanoviola earned 250 total points
ID: 35194920
Here is the process I use in my organization.
http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/Windows_7/A_3095-Windows-7-Sysprep.html

You'll find a lot of answers to problems you may encounter. I update the article as I stumble across fixes and improvements. I've been using this process for the last couple of years without problems. The great things about this process is that it allows you name the computer and add it to the domain during the sysprep stage. I use ghost to re-image our computers but you can also use imagex if that's the way you decide to go.

Hope this puts you in  the right direction.
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Author Comment

by:JohnLeo9
ID: 35201815
This is good stuff, but I think I would like to know more about which components to add to the unattend.xml I am creating in WAIK.  I know someone pointed me to a sample and another has a website for configuration, but I would like to be able to create this from scratch and just do not have a definition of each component or know what order to add it to the xml file.
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