Deploying Vista – Part 20: Working With Discover Images

by [Published on 8 Jan. 2009 / Last Updated on 8 Jan. 2009]

How to create and use Discover Images.

Readers interested in understanding how to perform image-based unattended installs of Windows Vista using Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) tools such as Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM), the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE), the System Preparation Tool (Sysprep) and ImageX are referred to articles 1 through 13 of my Deploying Vista series here on WindowsNetworking.com.

Readers interested in understanding how to use Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS) for server-based unattended installs of Windows Vista are referred to articles 14 through 23 of my Deploying Vista series.

For more information on using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit for deploying Windows Vista, see the following articles in this series:

This present article continues our look at the Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS) server role by examining how to create and use Discover Images.

Note:
Readers interested in understanding the basics of deploying Vista using the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) are referred to the first 13 articles of this series, which are listed on the author's home page on WindowsNetworking.com.

Working with Windows DS Images

If you may recall from previous articles of this series that Windows DS employs two types of Windows images (.wim files) to work its magic:

  • Boot images – Used to boot PXE-enabled bare-metal systems in order to install Windows Vista on them.
  • Install images – Images of the Windows Vista operating system which you can install onto systems.

On your Windows Vista Enterprise edition DVD, you'll find two plain-vanilla images in the Sources folder:

  • Boot.wim – A default boot image you can use to boot bare-metal systems whose network cards support PXE booting from the network.
  • Install.wim – A default install image you can use to install the default (i.e. un-customized) Windows Vista operating system on a computer.

In the simplest scenario, you can use Windows DS to boot a bare-metal PXE-enabled system using Boot.wim and then install Vista on the system in a plain-vanilla configuration using Install.wim and you may perform this installation manually, or you can use answer files to automate the process.

There's more to Windows DS image management than this however. For instance, you can customize the default boot image by adding additional drivers to it. You can also create a special type of boot image called a Discover Image that can let you use Windows DS with systems that do not support PXE. And you can add multiple boot images to your image store and configure the boot menu that appears when the client boots. You can also customize the default install image to deploy a pre-configured installation of Vista instead of the default installation. You can also create another special type of boot image called a Capture Image to capture an install image from a preconfigured reference computer. In this article, and the next few of this series, we will examine these various ways of managing Windows DS images.

Understanding Discover Images

We will begin by discussing Discover Images, which are special boot images that can be used for installing Vista onto systems that are not PXE-compliant, that is, which do not have a PXE-enabled network card that can be used to acquire a TCP/IP address from a PXE server. (Remember that Windows DS includes a built-in PXE server that can work together with a DHCP server to enable destination computers that have no operating system to boot over the network.)

If you have older systems that do not have PXE-enabled network cards in them, you can boot these systems using a bootable Discover Image and then install Vista onto them over the network using Windows DS. However, even if you do not have such an old system, there are other reasons you may want to use Discover Images. For instance, Discover Images can be very useful for deploying Vista in high-security environments where PXE booting is not allowed for reasons of policy.

Another scenario where you may want to use Discover Images is when you have more than one Windows DS server servicing your network (see Figure 1). In this case, you could create multiple Discover Images and then configure each of them to connect to a different Windows DS server from which to perform deployments. This is the scenario we will focus on for the remainder of this article; How to create and configure Discover Images to allow you to select which Windows DS server to use for installing Vista on a particular destination system.


Figure 1: Environment with two Windows DS servers

Creating and Using Discover Images

Creating a Discover Image is straightforward. Begin by selecting the Boot Images folder for your server in the Windows Deployment Services console. Then right-click on the default boot image in the right-hand pane and select Create Discover Boot Image (Figure 2):


Figure 2: Creating a discover image from your default boot image

This launches the Create Discover Image Wizard as shown in Figure 3 next:


Figure 3: The Create Discover Image Wizard

Fill in the information needed on the Discover Image Metadata page of the wizard. In this example, we're going to create a Discover Image that will enable the client to connect to the Windows DS server named SEA-WDS2 in the contoso.com domain. We will append "WDS2" to the name of the Discover Image so we can distinguish it from the default boot image, and we'll give the discover image a better description than the default one provided. We will also specify that our new discover image will be named discover_WDS2.WIM and will be created in the W:\DiscoverImages folder. Figure 4 shows the Discover Image Metadata page of the wizard with all this information entered.


Figure 4: Configuring the name, description, location, and Windows DS server for our new discover image

Clicking “Next” causes the wizard to begin extracting the image information from the default boot image file (Figure 5):


Figure 5: Image information is being extracted from boot.wim

Once the image information is extracted, the image is captured to the discover_WDS2.WIM destination file (Figure 6):


Figure 6: Capturing image information as discover_WDS2.WIM

Once the Discover Image has been captured and metadata written, click Finish to end the wizard. Now, right-click on the Boot Images folder and select Add Boot Image to launch the Add Image Wizard, then add your new Discover Image to the image repository of your Windows DS server. (Refer back to article 17 in this series for a walkthrough of adding boot images to the Windows DS image store.)

Tip: You can also use the WDSUTIL /New-DiscoverImage command to create a new Discover Image.

Now let us repeat the process above to create a second discover image, only this time the image will direct the client to the server named SEA-WDS instead of SEA-WDS2. Once this second Discover Image has been created, add it to the Boot Images folder of your Windows DS server.

The Boot Images folder will now look like this (Figure 7):


Figure 7
: Three boot images—one default boot image and two discover boot images

Now, if you turned on a PXE-enabled bare-metal client system and it happened to connect to server SEA-WDS2, you would be offered three boot images to choose from:

  • Microsoft Windows Longhorn Setup (x86)
  • Microsoft Windows Longhorn Setup (x86) – WDS
  • Microsoft Windows Longhorn Setup (x86) – WDS2

Since we do not want to use the default boot image, let us disable it, which will remove it from the client's boot menu. To disable the default boot image, right-click on it and select Disable as shown in Figure 8:


Figure 8: Disabling the default boot image (boot.wim)

Disabling a boot image changes its status from Online to Offline as shown in Figure 9:


Figure 9: The default boot image is now offline (disabled)

Finally, use the Windows Deployment Services console to add your two Discover Images to the Boot Images folder of the other Windows DS server. (You do not need to copy the two Discover Image .wim files to the other server in order to do this, you can simply launch the Add Image Wizard by right-clicking on the Boot Images folder belonging to your other server and selecting Add Boot Image from the shortcut menu.) Then disable the default boot image on the other Windows DS server so clients will not be able to use it to boot and connect to a Windows DS server.

Both Windows DS servers (SEA-WDS and SEA-WDS2) now have the same two Discover Images added to their repositories. Now if you boot a PXE-enabled bare-metal system onto the network, the network card on the system will obtain an IP address from one of the PXE servers (i.e. Windows DS servers). At that point, you press F12 and the Windows Boot Manager menu is displayed, showing the two Discover Images as options to choose from (Figure 10). You can then choose the Windows DS server you want to use to install Vista onto the system.


Figure 10: Boot menu showing two discover boot images to choose from

Conclusion

In this article we have examined how Discover Images work. In the next article we will look at capture images, another type of boot image you can crate and use in Windows DS.

Readers interested in understanding how to perform image-based unattended installs of Windows Vista using Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) tools such as Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM), the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE), the System Preparation Tool (Sysprep) and ImageX are referred to articles 1 through 13 of my Deploying Vista series here on WindowsNetworking.com.

Readers interested in understanding how to use Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS) for server-based unattended installs of Windows Vista are referred to articles 14 through 23 of my Deploying Vista series.

For more information on using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit for deploying Windows Vista, see the following articles in this series:

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