Deploying Vista - Part 31: Configuring Task Sequences

by [Published on 12 May 2009 / Last Updated on 12 May 2009]

How to configure task sequences for 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:

Types of Task Sequences

Once you have created your distribution share and deployment points using the Deployment Workbench, you can create your task sequences. A task sequence is a series of steps that are performed during a deployment. When performing a Lite Touch Installation (LTI) deployment, a task sequence is associated with an XML answer file (Unattend.xml) and a series of scripts. These scripts are then executed and the answer file is applied in order to install Windows on the destination computer.

MDT 2008 allows you to create five types of task sequences:

  • Standard Client Task Sequence – Selecting this option creates a task sequence that can be used for deploying Windows operating system images to client computers such as desktop and laptop computers.
  • Standard Client Replace Task Sequence – Selecting this option backs up the destination computer, backs up user state information, and wipes the disk. This allows application settings and user state information to be restored to the computer after Windows has been installed.
  • Custom Task Sequence – Selecting this option creates a plain vanilla task sequence that doesn’t install an operating system. For example, you could customize this type of task sequence for installing applications on destination computers that already have Windows installed on them.
  • Standard Server Task Sequence – Selecting this option creates a task sequence that can be used for deploying Windows Server operating system images onto server computers.
  • Litetouch OEM Task Sequence – Selecting this option lets you pre-load Windows images onto computers for staging purposes before deploying them into a production environment. This type of task sequence is intended mainly for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and can only be used with Media deployment points.

Creating a Standard Client Task Sequence

Creating a new task sequence is performed using a wizard. To launch the New Task Sequence Wizard, right-click on the Task Sequences node in your Deployment Workbench and select New to display the General Settings page of the wizard (see Figure 1 below). Specify a name and ID for your task sequence along with an optional comment. Note that the task sequence ID cannot be changed afterwards, so before creating task sequence it's a good idea to plan some sort of naming convention for this. In the example below, the ID of 6-1-E-a-001 refers to:

6 = Windows Vista (or Windows 6)

1 = Service Pack 1

E = Enterprise edition

a = x86 (as opposed to b for x64 platforms)

001 = sequential number for all task sequences for this platform

Note:
You only have 16 characters to work with for this ID, so you will need to use a concise naming convention like in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Creating a new task sequence

On the next page of the wizard, select the type of task sequence you want to create (Figure 2):


Figure 2: Creating a Standard Client task sequence

The next wizard page displays a drop-down list of operating system images available for deployment on your distribution share (Figure 3). We will select the OS version that matches the task sequence name and ID specified on the first page of the wizard:


Figure 3: Specify the operating system image to deploy using the task sequence

The next wizard page lets you specify a product key if this is needed (Figure 4). If you are deploying a retail OS edition, select the first option and type your product key here. If you are deploying a volume-licensed OS edition such as Enterprise edition, you can either select the first option and type your Multiple Activation Key (MAK) product key, or if you are using a Key Management Service (KMS) server to activate your Windows clients you can choose the second option. For more information about activating Windows Vista Enterprise edition, see this information on Volume Activation 2.0.


Figure 4: No product key is needed when KMS is being used to activate Enterprise clients

The next wizard page lets you specify your name, organization, and hope page (Figure 5):


Figure 5: Specifying name, organization and home page

The next wizard page lets you specify the password for the local Administrator account on the destination computer (Figure 6). Alternatively, you can supply the password during installation when the Windows Deployment Wizard runs on the destination computer.


Figure 6: Specifying the local Administrator password

Once your new task sequence has been created, it is displayed in the details pane of the Workbench (Figure 7):


Figure 7: The new task sequence has been created

Double-clicking on the task sequence opens its properties for display and editing. The General tab lets you change the name and comment for your task sequence, and lets you enable or disable the task sequence (Figure 8):


Figure 8: General tab of task sequence properties

The OS Info tab displays the OS version that the task sequence can be used to deploy (Figure 9):


Figure 9: OS Info tab of task sequence properties

If you click the Edit Unattend.xml button on the OS Info tab shown above, the XML answer file (unattend.xml) that is associated with the task sequence will open in Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) as shown in Figure 10 below. Doing this lets you view detailed information about which answer file settings are used when deployment is being performed using this task sequence. You can also edit the answer file to further customize deployment if needed.


Figure 10: The answer file associated with a task sequence can be viewed and edited using Windows SIM

The Task Sequence tab of the properties for the task sequence displays in detail the various steps that are performed when the task sequence is executed. You can customize these steps if needed by configuring their settings, moving them up or down in the task sequence ordering, deleting unneeded steps, or adding new steps. For example, you can select the package group associated with your task sequence by selecting the Apply Packages node (Figure 11):


Figure 11: Customizing the steps of the task sequence

Finally, if a task sequence is no longer needed, you can right-click on it in your Workbench and select Delete.

Note:
Be sure to update your deployment point after creating a task sequence for it.

Conclusion

This concludes my series of articles on Deploying Windows Vista, which has looked at how to deploy Windows Vista SP1 Enterprise edition using the tools of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) 1.1, using the Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS) role of Windows Server 2008, and using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2008. My next series of articles will examine the deployment enhancements found in Windows 7 and how to deploy Windows 7 using MDT 2010.

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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