Thursday, December 23, 2010

Imaging Windows 7, Useful Resources

As I've said, one of the biggest frustrations that I've run into as I've learned how to image and deploy Windows 7 has been finding good information, documentation and tutorials. Below is a list of resources that I've found to be valuable and refer back to quite a bit. Also, I've been saving resources as I find them using Pinboard. You can browse them by going to

Sysprep a Windows 7 Machine, Start to Finish (Brian Lee Jackson's terrific blog)
  • Terrific step-by-step instructions on how to prepare a Windows 7 reference machine, creating a basic Sysprep answer file, and running Sysprep to prepare the reference machine to capture an image.
  • This is a great place to start if you already have a good idea of how Sysprep used to work with Windows XP and just want to figure out the differences in Windows 7
  • Brian has also created a custom WinPE 3 bootloader that you can use to create a bootable WinPE drive
Desktop Deployment, Microsoft TechNet (Microsoft clearinghouse for all Windows 7 desktop deployment information)
Windows 7 Deplyment with Sysprep (University of Missouri in Saint Louis College of Education blog)
  • This article is similar to Brian Lee Jackson's, but fills in some of the gaps and is also very user-friendly
Creating a Windows PE 3 Bootable USB Device (David Owen's blog)
  • Need to create a WinPE 3 Bootable USB drive? This is a great place to start

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Imaging Windows 7, An Introduction

Like many K12 school districts, we're beginning to deploy Windows 7 clients out in our schools. We completely skipped over Vista and stuck with the reliable old stand-by, Windows XP, but as we purchase new machines, it makes sense to deploy Windows 7. In our limited testing, and my own extensive personal use, Windows 7 has turned out to be an excellent operating system and offers some performance and functionality improvements that will benefit teachers and students.

We upgraded all our domain controllers to Server 2008 R2 in preparation for deploying new Windows 7 machines and even worked out the daunting 32-bit and 64-bit printer driver issues by using the terrific HP Universal Print Driver.

Now, it's time to learn how to create images for our new Windows 7 (both 32-bit and 64-bit) machines and figure out the best method to deploy them quickly and easily. We have been using Altiris Deployment Solution (6.9) to image and deploy our XP machines and we've gotten pretty good using all the tricks over the years to automate the process as much as possible, thanks to Sysprep and lots and lots of trial and error. However, there are changes in Windows 7, Sysprep, and even Altiris (version 7.1) that contribute to make this seem like a gargantuan mountain to climb.

I've done my fair share of searching for documentation online, reading tutorial after tutorial, and just plain trial and error of installing (and re-installing) Windows 7 in an attempt to find the process that works best. I find it incredibly frustrating that all the required information can't be found in one location, presented in an easy to follow (and understand) format. I started thinking that documenting our own process, discoveries, and struggles may prove to be helpful to others, so this is the first post in a series doing just that. I hope that you find it helpful and, if you have found better methods, tricks or shortcuts, please share them in the comments.