Deploying Windows 7 - Part 11: Capturing an Existing Installation

by [Published on 21 Oct. 2009 / Last Updated on 21 Oct. 2009]

This series of articles on deploying Windows 7 continues with a walkthrough of how to use MDT 2010 to capture an image of an existing installation.

If you would like to read previous articles in this series, please go to:

Tip:
You can find more information about automating LTI deployment in the Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press. I'm the lead author for this Resource Kit and I also maintain the Unofficial Support Site for the Windows 7 Resource Kit where you will find the latest updates and other useful information.

Introduction

In the previous article of these series we saw how to use MDT 2010 to deploy Windows 7 to a reference computer and then capture an image of this reference computer so you can deploy it to multiple target computers. The steps involved were as follows:

  • Step 1: Install the reference computer and capture its Image
  • Step 2: Import the captured Image
  • Step 3: Deploying the captured image to target computers

All three steps can be performed using MDT 2010 alone, that is, without needing Windows Deployment Services or System Center Configuration Manager. This procedure lets you build and deploy a customized Windows 7 image using Lite Touch Installation (LTI) for small- and mid-sized deployments.

But there is another way you can use MDT 2010 to build, capture and deploy customized Windows 7 images and that is to capture an existing installation of Windows 7 that you have manually customized. The steps for doing this are as follows:

  • Step 1: Install the reference computer and manually customize it
  • Step 2: Capture an image of the reference computer
  • Step 3: Import the captured Image
  • Step 4: Deploying the captured image to target computers

Note the difference:

  • In the first approach, which is outlined in article 10 of this series, you customize your reference computer using MDT alone. This means you use MDT to deploy the operating system, applications, drivers, and software updates. And if you want to further customize the operating system you can open Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) from within MDT to customize the unattend.xml answer file for your installation. Customizing applications however may require some advanced tricks involving your answer file. You have to carefully plan all your customizations ahead of time as the process of using MDT to deploy and capture an image of your reference computer is automated.
  • In the second approach, which is outlined below in this article, you use MDT to deploy Windows (and if desired applications, drivers and software updates) to create your reference computer. Then you log on to your reference computer and manually perform any additional customizations that may be needed. Finally, once your reference computer is fully customized, you use MDT again to capture its image. This capability of using MDT to capture the image of a Windows installation that has already been deployed is new in MDT 2010 and was not possible in MDT 2008 (with MDT 2009 you had to use Windows Deployment Services to create a capture image as described in my earlier article Deploying Vista – Part 21: Working With Capture Images).

Let us examine the second approach now.

Step 1: Install the reference computer and manually customize it

Begin by creating your reference computer. You can do this either by manually installing Windows 7 and the needed applications, drivers and software updates on a system, or you can use MDT 2010 to perform these tasks either manually or by automating them. See my article Deploying Windows 7 – Part 6: Light Touch using MDT 2010 for how to manually deploy an image using MDT and my article Deploying Windows 7 – Part 7: Automated LTI Deployment for how to automate LTI using MDT. Once your reference computer has been deployed, log on to it and customize the operating system and applications as desired.

Step 2: Capture an image of the reference computer

Now you are ready to capture an image of your reference computer. To do this, you are going to use the Sysprep and Capture task sequence template, a new type of task sequence template included in MDT 2010. This task sequence does not install Windows on a computer. Instead, it syspreps an existing Windows installation on a computer, reboots the computer into Windows PE, captures a .wim image file of the installation and uploads the captured image to a network share you specify.

To create a task sequence for doing this, open the Deployment Workbench, expand your deployment share, right-click on the Task Sequences folder and select New Task Sequence. The New Task Sequence wizard opens displaying the General Settings page. Specify a task sequence ID and task sequence name as shown in Figure 1:


Figure 1: Creating a new task sequence for capturing an existing installation of Windows 7 Enterprise Edition

On the Select Template page of the wizard, select Sysprep and Capture as the task sequence template to use for creating the new task sequence (Figure 2):


Figure 2: Select the Sysprep and Capture template

On the Select OS wizard page, select the image of the operating system you are going to capture (Figure 3). Why do you need to do this if you are not going to install the selected image? Because MDT needs this information to get the appropriate unattend.xml answer file needed to perform the sysprep and capture process.


Figure 3: Select an image of the OS you are going to capture

For the remaining steps of the wizard it does not matter what information you provide—just provide something when prompted.

Now before you use this new task sequence to sysprep and capture an image of your reference computer, I recommend that you restore the CustomSettings.ini and Bootstrap.ini files for your deployment share to their original values. Specifically, change your CustomSettings.ini file back to this:

[Settings]

Priority=Default

Properties=MyCustomProperty

 

[Default]

OSInstall=Y

SkipAppsOnUpgrade=YES

SkipCapture=NO

SkipAdminPassword=YES

SkipProductKey=YES

And then change your BootStrap.ini file back to this:

[Settings]

Priority=Default

 

[Default]

DeployRoot=\\SEA-DC1\DeploymentShare$

I recommend these changes because of my own personal experience trying to get the Sysprep and Capture task sequence template working properly.

Now boot your reference computer normally and log on using an administrator account. Do NOT boot your reference computer using your LiteTouchPE_x64.iso CD or a Windows PE bootable CD—you are not trying to install an image, just sysprep and capture it. Once you have logged on, open a command prompt window and type the following command to manually start the Windows Deployment Wizard on the computer:

\\<computername>\<share>\Scripts\LiteTouch.vbs

Here \\<computername>\<share> is the UNC path to your deployment share. Figure 4 shows this command in my test environment:


Figure 4: Manually launching the Windows Deployment Wizard from the reference computer

After a few moments the Windows Deployment Wizard will open and you'll be prompted to specify credentials for connecting to your deployment share (Figure 5):


Figure 5: Supply credentials to connect to your deployment share from your reference computer

Now, if when you click Next you get an error message like that shown in Figure 6 below, you can try and resolve this issue by either:


Figure 6: Credentials error

I have personally tried the first approach and got it working. The fix described in the second approach was just published the day before writing this article so I have not had time to test it yet.

Anyways, assuming that the credentials you supplied are accepted, clicking Next displays the wizard page asking you select a task sequence. Choose the task sequence you created earlier for sysprepping and capturing an existing installation (Figure 7).


Figure 7: Select your sysprep and capture task sequence

On the next wizard page, select Capture An Image Of This Reference Computer and accept the default image upload location (\\<computername>\<share>\Captures) and name for the captured image (<tasksequenceID>.wim) as shown in Figure 8 below. Note that if you replaced <computername> with <IPaddress> on the credentials page you should do the same here as well.


Figure 8: Specifying a name and upload location for image to be captured

Click Next and review the summary page (Figure 9).


Figure 9: Summary of what your sysprep and capture task sequence will do

Now click Begin, and shortly you should see a progress indicator showing the image being sysprepped (Figure 10).


Figure 10: The reference computer is being sysprepped and captured

If sysprep fails with an error, go back and try one of the fixes described earlier. Otherwise, everything should work and the captured image of your reference computer will be uploaded to the Captures folder in your deployment share.

Steps 3 and 4 : Import the captured image and deploy it to target computers

Now you can import the captured image of your reference computer using the process outlined in "Step 2: Import the captured Image" of my previous article (Deploying Windows 7 - Part 10: Capturing and Deploying an Image of a Reference Computer). Once this is done, you can automatically deploy the captured image to your target computers using the procedure outlined in my article Deploying Windows 7 - Part 7: Automated LTI Deployment.

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