Deploying Vista - Part 28: Configuring Distribution Shares

by [Published on 7 April 2009 / Last Updated on 7 April 2009]

Automating Windows Vista deployment continues by examining how to create and configure distribution shares using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2008.

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:

The previous four articles in this series introduced you to Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2008 (MDT 2008) using two walkthroughs, one that could be used to deploy Windows Vista manually to a bare-metal destination computer, and another that showed you how you could automate the installation process. This present article and several following it will dig deeper into configuring various aspects of MDT 2008.

Understanding Distribution Shares

As you learned in the previous articles, the distribution share is the place in MDT where you bring together your operating system installation files and package files, your application installation files, and any out-of-box device drivers you will need to perform your deployment. The distribution share is therefore where all of your installation-related files will reside, including various configuration files used by MDT for performing Light-Touch Installation (LTI) deployments. Let us examine how to create a distribution share and how to populate the share with operating system images, drivers, packages, and applications.  

Creating the Distribution Share

Before you create your distribution share, make sure you have enough disk space available for all the installation files that will be stored in it. Then to create your distribution share, open your Deployment Workbench, right-click on the Distribution Share node and select Create Distribution Share Directory from the shortcut menu as shown in Figure 1:


Figure 1: Creating your distribution share

By default MDT prompts you to locate your distribution share folder on your boot volume (see Figure 2):


Figure 2: Specifying the location of your distribution share folder

You will probably want to use a separate disk volume for your distribution share. Click Finish to create your distribution share folder.

Note:
The option for upgrading your distribution share is for when you are upgrading from BDD to MDT.

Adding Operating System Installation Files to the Distribution Share

Once you have created your distribution share, your next task is to add operating system installation files to it. To add OS installation files, right-click on the Operating Systems node under Distribution Share and select New from the shortcut menu. This launches the New OS wizard as shown in Figure 3:


Figure 3: Adding OS installation files to your distribution share

Using this wizard, you can add the following types of OS installation files to your distribution share:

  • The OS installation files found on your Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 product DVD media.
  • A custom .wim file that you've captured from a sysprepped reference computer that you've suitably configured.
  • An install image located in the image repository on a Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS) server somewhere on your network.

If you choose the first option in Figure 3 above, you first specify the drive letter of the DVD-ROM drive that has your product DVD media in it. Then you give your OS installation files a descriptive name like "Windows Vista SP1 Enterprise x86" as appropriate. Note that adding OS installation files to your distribution share can take several minutes.

If you choose the second option, you first specify the location of your custom .wim file. Then you are presented with the choices showin in Figure 4:


Figure 4: Adding a custom .wim file to your distribution share

As long as you have already added OS installation files for the OS your custom .wim file uses, you can leave the first choice selected here. But if you captured an image of an OS whose installation files have not previously been added to your distribution share, then you must choose the second option.

The third option (Windows DS) is a bit more complicated so we will examine it in a future article where we will examine how to integrate MDT with Windows DS.

Note:
Once you have added your OS installation files to your distribution share, they will be listed in the details pane (Figure 5):


Figure 5: A distribution share with various OS installation files added

Note that only four product DVD media were used to populate the Operating Systems node of this distribution share:

  • Windows Vista SP1 Enterprise x86
  • Windows Vista SP1 Enterprise x64
  • Windows Server 2008 x86
  • Windows Vista SP1 Retail x86

Why then are there 15 different operating systems here? Because a single install image (.wim file) on a product DVD can contain multiple editions of the operating system. You can view additional details concerning each operating system by scrolling to the right in the details pane of your Deployment Workbench. You can also view the details of a single operating system by right-clicking on it and selecting Properties (Figure 6):


Figure 6: Properties of an operating system

Adding Out-of-Box Device Drivers to the Distribution Share

If the operating system you are going to deploy does not have in-box device drivers for all of your destination computer's hardware, you can use the Deployment Workbench to add additional out-of-box device drivers as needed to your distribution share. For example, you may need to add out-of-box drivers for boot-critical SCSI adapters so that Setup can detect the fixed disks and install Windows.

To add an out-of-box device driver, right-click on the Out-of-Box Drivers node under Distribution Share and select New to launch the New Driver Wizard. Browse to the location where the driver files (.inf and other files) are located (Figure 7):


Figure 7: Adding an out-of-box device driver to your distribution share

You can typically assign your driver to the All Drivers driver group. Otherwise create a new driver group and add your driver to it if you plan on using different driver groups for installing to different types of hardware, but note that if you do this then you must edit your CustomSettings.ini file accordingly for this to work.

Once you have added your drivers to your distribution share, they will be displayed in the details pane as shown in Figure 8:


Figure 8: Out-of-box drivers have been added to the distribution share

To view details concerning a driver, right-click on it and select Properties (Figure 9):


Figure 9: Properties of a driver

Note:
By default, any drivers you add to the share are enabled. You can disable a driver by deselecting the checkbox at the bottom left of Figure 9 above. You can also delete a driver from the share if it is no longer needed by right-clicking on the driver and selecting Delete.

Conclusion

This article has shown you how to create a distribution share and add operating system installation files and device drivers to the share. The next article in this series will continue by examining how to add packages and applications to a distribution share.

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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