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I have been using Acronis for years, however my new job wants me to use imageX, WindowsPE, WDS, etc. I have done alot of reading about this but it is just plain confusing.

What I have is an HP laptop that has been configured by hand. Everything is set up the way it is supposed to be, all software is installed, etc. I want to be able to make an image of this machine and then deploy the image to the other 29 laptops.

I have already gotten the image from the configured laptop using WinPE and imageX. I am now trying to work my through answer file so all of the set up on another laptop will be less work.

All the documentation and tutorials I have read go through the procedure using a plain vanilla Windows 7 CD, creating an answer file for that, loading it on a reference machine, then using sysprep, and reimaging it, then using the reimage to deploy to the target machines.

Is there a way I can take my image from the already configured laptop and load that image on another laptop using an answer file to automate the windows setup?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Nov 11 '11 at 10:53

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From a technical standpoint, you should be able to sysprep and image the laptop in exactly the same way as in the documentation and tutorials. Just start from the point at which the reference machine is ready to be sysprepped. –  Harry Johnston Nov 11 '11 at 1:15
One non-technical problem is that unless Windows was installed on the laptop using enterprise media, the license doesn't permit you to make an image of it. –  Harry Johnston Nov 11 '11 at 1:17

3 Answers 3

Is there a way I can take my image from the already configured laptop and load that image on another laptop using an answer file to automate the windows setup?

Yes, while you COULD use just standalone WAIK tools, you should really use them in conjuction with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. (AIK is just commandline tools, MDT is the GUI and scripts) Part of the confusion here is what toolset does what. You really need both MDT and AIK to deploy windows 7 successfully. AIK is the toolset, MDT is the workbench. MDT is the automation framework you're missing, AIK alone won't cut it.

While in theory you could use just imagex and sysprep, you're making things more complicated than they need to be. Using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012 Update 1, you can build, capture, and deploy windows image files (WIM). WAIK is the set of tools that MDT uses to automate the whole process.

Download the MDT 2012 Update 1


Theoretically one could use just WDS and WAIK. but it's not really recommended. Most people don't need WDS unless you're PXE booting, and pushing dozens and dozens of PCs at the same time, besides, you need Server 2008 or 2012 to get WDS. MDT can be hosted from any vista, win7 or 8 box you have laying around. Once MDT is installed you would use the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) in conjunction with MDT. In your case, this laptop you want to build a thick image with can be captured and used as an reference, you need to capture it first then import into a deployment share.

MDT uses deployment shares to push both thick and thin images. Traditionally, most people have used thick images in the past, but where MDT really shines is in its ability to push drivers and software after an a lean clean and mean thin image has been applied during a task sequence. Its widely regarded as best practice in MDT to build two shares, one for builds with it's own task sequence, and another for deploying. If your systems are 100 homogeneous, you can get away with using the old school "thick images"

Confusing? Yes, but here's the deal, MDT builds images for you, captures them, and then formats, images, names the workstations installs drivers, applications, windows updates, and can even join them to a domain or workgroup if you even want to.

Build two shares in MDT, one for building images, one for production. Do yourself a HUGE favor and build your image in a VM. That way it can run on anything.

Install MDT & AIK 1. Install MDT 2012 2. Install WAIK 3.0 3. Install WAIK Supplement (3.1)

Building a Reference Share

  1. Create Deployment Share
  2. Import OS (Vanilla .wim NOT a customized .wim)
  3. Create Task Sequence & enable windows updates
  4. Customize unattend.xml answer file
  5. Insert LTI Suspend in state restore in the task sequence(optional)
  6. Import Applications (optional)
  7. Update Deployment Share
  8. Burn ISO

Capturing Reference Image

  1. Boot to CD in VM
  2. use MDT to apply updates, tweaks, install apps
  3. When LTI suspend executes, make changes then resume from icon on desktop
  4. Capture image

Building a Production Share

  1. Create a Second Deployment Share
  2. Import OS (customized .wim) from VM capture
  3. Create Task Sequence & enable windows updates
  4. Customize unattend.xml answer file
  5. Import Drivers (optional)
  6. Import Applications (optional)
  7. Update Deployment Share
  8. Burn ISO

Deploying Captured Image

  1. Boot to MDT CD
  2. Select Task Sequence
  3. Deploy Image & Repeat until deploys are complete.

Deployment Soup Video


Deploying Windows A - Z


Learning to use MDT litetouch


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You sir, are my new favorite novelty account name. –  francisswest Dec 31 '12 at 18:07
+1 - supporting links –  Carl B Feb 25 '13 at 5:51
"Do yourself a HUGE favor and build your image in a VM." Follow this advice. It helped us at our company with a weird issue with USB drivers not installing. –  ultrasawblade Dec 16 '13 at 21:53
agreed, there's no excuse to build images on physical hardware anymore, it always, always, always comes to bite you in the rear! –  MDT Guy Dec 16 '13 at 21:55

Here's a start-to-end Sysprep/ImageX process that may be of benefit to you.


Hope this helps.

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If you have a WDS server already setup, then you should be able to configure a capture image on it. You'll need to sysprep your laptop again, then PXE boot to your WDS. If you setup your capture image on WDS properly, then you can select "Capture", and it will pull it off of your laptop and post it onto your WDS server for future deployment.

The basic setup you need is to simply add WDS role to one of your 2008R2 servers, then copy the boot images(x86 and x64) from your Win7 CDs. Once you've got this setup, you can PXE boot to the WDS. Once booted to PXE, there's an option to capture an image. This is the most basic way to do this. We simply create a new reference PC twice a year with all patches and software, and capture its image to our WDS server. Nice and easy! We still run windows updates, but these baselines keep us close enough so base installs don't take hours downloading windows updates, but rather 10 minutes or so. PC turn around time is less than 45 minutes.

This is the ultra-basic way of doing this MDT Guy's setup allows for alot more flexibility.

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