Creating a fully updated Windows 7 image (Part 2)

by [Published on 20 Dec. 2016 / Last Updated on 20 Dec. 2016]

This is the second and final part of a two-part article that walks through steps for using third-party tools to create a Windows 7 image for deployment that incorporates all available software updates for the operating system.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Creating a fully updated Windows 7 image (Part 1).

As indicated in the first part of this two-part article, Ben Shoemaker, one of the readers of our popular weekly newsletter WServerNews, recently approached me with a detailed step-by-step explanation of how his own organization solved the problem of deploying new Windows 7 PCs that have all the necessary software updates incorporated into them. We'll pick up where we left off in the previous article and continue with Ben's explanation of the procedure he follows.

Step 4: Preparing to use NTLite

Once you have your updates list, there are two different ways that you can proceed: the hard way and the easy way. I initially rushed into things and did it the hard way, that is, I stepped through each update on the list and copied it from the WHDownloader directory to an NTLite updates directory. The easy way would be to make one text file, get rid of all of the garbage and only keep the KB numbers, then modify a script like this one on StackOverflow to do all of the copying for you.

Step 5: Using NTLite to integrate the updates

Once you have all of the needed updates copied into a NTLite updates directory, fire up NTLite. If you've never used it before, NTLite lets you do tons of customization, integrate updates and drivers, and do post installation of pretty much anything. Grab your stock Windows 7 disc or ISO and copy its contents to a convenient directory. Note that NTLite won't work with an ISO natively, so you'll need to temporarily mount it and copy everything. Also, NTLite will modify the files in this directory so keep a clean/stock copy elsewhere if you need to go back to it for some reason.

In NTLite, add the Windows 7 directory that you just copied. Select the version that you want to update, like Professional, and select load. Note that I highly suggest using an SSD for NTLite as it makes everything go much faster!

Once it's loaded, go to the Updates section. Click the Add button and browse to your NTLite updates folder. Add everything except for any .NET exe install files as those need to be done post-installation. Also add IE11 (IE11-Windows6.1-x64-en-us.exe). By installing IE11 along with the other updates you won't run in to problems with it trying to launch a welcome screen or needing a reboot, which are the problems that they ran into in the original Raymond.cc article. At this point you can also add other updates like native support for NVMe drives using KB2990941.

Once you add the updates, click Analyze. It will check the added updates and look for any missing pre-requisites. It will typically suggest multiple options. If it suggests KB976932 or KB3125574, ignore it and go with the other listed prerequisite as those are SP1 and the Convenience Rollup, respectively, neither of which you want in your update list.

If for some reason, the update that you need isn't in your WHDownloader directory, do a search on the Microsoft Update Catalog website. As of August 29th 2016 the list of the updates that I had to manually download is as follows:

KB3140245, KB3150513, KB3172605, KB3122661, KB3127233, KB3136000-v2, KB3142037, KB3143693, KB3164025, KB2901907, KB3102436, KB2446710, KB2478662, KB2894844, KB2952664-v10, KB3042058, KB3076895, KB3076949, KB3121461, KB3139923-v2, KB3153171, KB3155178, KB3167679, KB3170735, KB3177725, KB890830-x64-V5.39

Here's another side note: don't attempt to base your updates on the KB3125574 Convenience Rollup. This will cause tons of headaches. If you try installing it, Windows Update doesn't recognize it as superseding tons of other updates. It even asks for SP1 in some cases. A royal mess on Microsoft's part, in my humble opinion.

Step 5: Adding post-Setup items

After you've added your updates and everything is happy, add your Post-Setup items. This is where you want to put your .NET exe installers and any of your other programs. Make sure to use the appropriate command line switches to make the installers silent, or else you may get an unwanted dialog box. I like to throw a copy of resmon in there at the top so I can watch it's progress. Also, make sure to put the updates in ascending order. KB2972107 then KB2972216 then KB29784128, and so on.

At the end I have a Ninite installer. With Ninite Pro you can create a "freeze" installation which makes a single exe file that installs Acrobat Reader, 7-Zip, Firefox, TeamViewer, and many more, all silently. The standard Ninite also works but it doesn't have all of the programs that the Pro version does and I don't know if it has a silent install option. Here's a screenshot:

Image

Step 6: Process everything and create the ISO

Once you are done with the above, go to the Apply section and click Process. You can also click Create ISO at this time as well (or you can always do it later). The first time that you do this step, it will take quite a while. Over an hour, if I remember correctly. But once it's integrated that first massive set of updates, you'll just add on from there.

Step 7: Loading the ISO onto a bootable USB flash drive

Now fire up Rufus and load the ISO on to a nice fast USB thumb drive.

Step 8: Rinse and repeat, then you're done!

Install Windows and go through the Windows Update process like before. Use SysExporter to grab the new updates lists. Update your NTLite image with the additional updates. After 3 or 4 rounds, you will have a completely updated image. The last time that I updated my image was on August 29th and at that time I had 349 updates and 16 post install items. Because NTLite integrates the updates, the Windows 7 install goes quickly. It takes 15 minutes from the start of the installation process until the login screen. Then after that it takes another 15 minutes for the post setup items. 30 minutes total for a completely updated PC with the Ninite programs installed. No more excruciating 4 hour wait for Windows to check for updates. Install and done!

An additional step: Using Driver Genius to remove unwanted software

One other thing that I like to do is to use Driver Genius to create a backup of an updated PC's drivers. You can also do this on a PC right out of the box, then use the ISO that you've created in the previous steps to give it a clean Windows 7 install and get rid of any unwanted software.

When using Driver Genius' Backup option, you want to create an Auto-Installer Archive. Note that the name is kind of misleading. The exe that it creates is a program that lets you pick and choose what drivers that you want to restore. I do this for each make/model of PC that I have. That way I don't need separate ISOs. I just run the appropriate Driver Genius backup installer file and a few minutes later, along with a reboot, it has all of its appropriate drivers. By the way, I never use Driver Genius to update a PCs drivers, just to back them up and install them on a different PC.

Final observations

So far, my main directory of NTLite updates has worked perfectly when applied to a stock Pro or Ultimate image. I didn't need different updates for each. I also used the same updates for a Dell Windows 7 SP1 disc and a HP Windows 7 SP1 disc and both worked perfectly. I was originally worried that these discs may have SP1 plus some updates. That looks not to be so. They are just bone stock Windows 7 SP1 with some minor Dell/HP customizations, namely Login/lock screen backgrounds and wallpaper, typically.

Just in case I forgot something in the above procedure, you can check out the original Raymond.cc article to see if that will fill in the blanks. By the way, on the Raymond.cc article they mention being able to make on single updated ISO that will install Home, Pro, or Ultimate. I haven't had any luck with that yet. But I am using a Dell disc as my base so that's what may be causing that problem--I haven't tried that with a retail Win7 disc. 

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Creating a fully updated Windows 7 image (Part 1).

See Also


The Author — Mitch Tulloch

Mitch Tulloch avatar

Mitch Tulloch is a well-known expert on Windows Server administration and cloud computing technologies. He has published over a thousand articles on information technology topics and has written, contributed to or been series editor for over 50 books.

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