Windows Deployment Services : Finally done

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Sometimes, the most difficult things look easy, when they get finished. For me Windows Deployment Services was almost joined in the unfortunate list with TCExam; things, which irritated me a lot, while I was trying to learn them. I really remember the day, when I deployed RIS and it really taken lots of R-n-D to handle network drivers and also many manual entries as well. But it was done and then we moved with it pretty well for a while. The recent challenge arrived, when I was to deploy WDS from entirely scratch and that too within a timeline along with my all other works. The requirement was to create a kind of locked up image having necessary software/ drivers along with many vulnerable and un-necessary services disabled. I was to use Windows Deployment Services for the same.

WDS been a straight improvement over RIS in the same way as WSUS has been over SUS. Either its been image management or driver compatibility or speed or be it space requirements. Its one step ahead in every way. But unfortunately, it troubled me a lot due to minor things.

Initially I was much troubled with the network driver injection thing as I started with Riprep (like RIS days) and it refused to take every possible way to get it done. The issue was kind of more highlighted due to much time taken in experiments due to lesser RAM.

After giving up with all RIS things, I finally started from scratch with help of following article. The basics were requiring simply sysprep an Ideal System and use the image as install image and in addition, to inject network drivers in boot image via imagex from Widnows AIK. But after sysprep, my Image PCs will not getting started and were in continuous reboot cycle.

Much later, finally somehow, I pinpointed the trouble and it seemed to do something with disabling services; specially Telephony Services. I prepared an updated system along with required software/ drivers without disabling any services and then sysprep it and it worked. 🙂

Here I am going to give all the steps, whcih worked for me in the end (from Lucius Craig blog).

Step 1 – Installing WDS on your Windows 2003 Server SP2

  • Logon to the Server with Domain Administrator rights
  • Navigate to the control panel and click Add/Remove Programs
  • Click Add/Remove Windows Components
  • Scroll down and check Windows Deployment Services
  • Click Next and Finish (once installed WDS can be found under Administrative Tasks)

Step 2 – Configure Windows Deployment Services

  • Navigate to Start > All Programs > Administrative Tools > Windows Deployment Services (WDS MMC should appear)
  • Expand Server and right click [sever name] and click Configure Server
  • Click Next to start the Wizard
  • Check the Path if needed (I used D:\Remoteinstall because of disk space on system drive C:)
  • If you have DHCP Server on the same server, then For DHCP Options 60 Check both “Do not listen on Port 67″ and “Configure DHCP option 60 to “PXE Client” and Click Next. If not then leave it as it is.
  • For PXE Server Initial Settings select “Respond to all (known and unknown) client computers” and click Finish

Step 3 – Install OS and all needed Applications (excluding Windows Media Player 11)

  • Enable network boot option in BIOS 
  • Install Operating System – In my case I installed a Volume Copy of Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Join to the Domain and install needed Application and Updates
  • Remove from Domain

Step 4 – Setup Boot Image in WDS

  • Create a folder on the sever to copy two WIM files to (WinPE.WIM and Boot.WIM)
  • Insert a Vista Business DVD in to the DVD-ROM drive and browse the Disk for a file called Boot.WIM and copy to folder recently created folder
  • Navigate to Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\PETools\x86\WinPE.WIM and Copy to recently created folder
  • Now I opened up WDS expanded Server and right clicked the Boot Image Folder and Clicked Add Image
  • Browsed to Boot.WIM  and click OK
  • Repeated for WinPE.WIM and click OK
  • Next, In WDS I right clicked WinPE and Clicked Capture Image
  • Finally, In WDS I created a Master Image Group called “Windows XP Image”

Step 5 – Sysprep the Master Image

  • To Run the sysprep I inserted the XP Professional SP2 Disk and Browsed to the file (in my case it was D:\Support\Tools\
  • I used WinZip to extract the file to a new folder I created called sysprep (C:\sysprep
  • Navigate to the C:\sysprep folder and launch setupmgr.exe
  • Click Next to Start the Wizard
  • Select “Create new” and click Next to continue
  • Select “Sysprep setup” and click Next to continue
  • Selct “Windows XP Professional” and click Next to continue
  • Select “No,do not fully automate this installation” and click Next to continue
  • For Gernerl Settings enter the Name and Organization, Display Settings (default), enter the Time Zone applicable and then enter the Product Key
  • For Network Settings select “Automatically generate computer name, Select “Use the following Administrator password (127 characters maximum ; case-sensitive” and enter local administrator password and confirm. Select Typical settings and finally select Workgroup.
  • For Advanced Settings specify Country or region, enter area code, Regional Settings select “Specify regional settings in the answerfile” and check ”Customize the default regional settings” Click Custom and verify and enter sysprep Identification String (example Windows XP Deployment for HP DX2480)
  • Click Finish and OK
  • Click Cancel to Close Setup Manager ( This is an annoying microsoft glitch)
  • Now runs Sysprep by navigating back to c:\sysprep and launch sysprep.exe
  • Click OK to Continue
  • The System Preparation Tool 2.0 windows should appear. Check “Use Mini-Setup and then Click Factory
  • Once PC shuts down press the power button to restart the PC (PC will take some time to reboot)
  • Once at the Desktop Click Reseal and OK to Shutdown the PC
  • PC should Shutdown (do not boot to windows you need to PXE boot and capture the image
  • Sysprep is Complete

Step 6 – Create Master Image for WDS

  • Boot up the PC that you want to image and press F12 to enter Boot Menu
  • Select Onboard Network Controller and press Enter
  • Press F12 again to Boot from network
  • Select Windows Vista PE (x86) and press Enter
  • From the command prompt type wdscapture.exe
  • Click Next to start the WDS Image Capture Wizard
  • In the Image Capture Source use the dropdown to select the volume to capture (in my case it was C:\) and enter an Image Name and Image Description. Once complete click Next
  • In the Image Capture Destination you will need to browse to a local Destination ( I had problems finding the WDS server when I checked “Upload image to WDS server:”)
  • Click Finish to begin capturing Image
  • Once I had the Image I restarted the Master-Image PC and Join to Domain
  • I copied the image file to a local directory on the WDS server
  • Once complete I opened WDS and expanded Servers> [Server Name] > Install Image
  • Right Click Install Image Group and Select  Add Install Image
  • Browse to the Image and Click OK to upload the Image to WDS

Step 7 – Image New PC

  • Press F2 to access the BIOS and make sure that PXEboot is enabled on the NIC
  • Press F12 to access the Boot Menu
  • Select “Onboard Network Controller
  • After DHCP issues IP address press F12 to continue
  • Select “Microsoft WindowsVista PE (x86)” and press Enter
  • Once wpeinit launches type the following:
    • Diskpart
    • Select disk 0
    • Clean
    • Exit
  • Type exit to let system restart
  • Press F12 and Boot from Onboard Network Controller
  • Press F12 to continue
  • Select “Microsoft Windows Longhorn setup (x86)” and press enter
  • Click Next to start the WDS wizard
  • Enter the domain administrator’s credentials and click OK
  • Highlight the Master Image and Click Next
  • Highlight Disk0 and Click Next – Installation will begin
  • After PC reboots the windows setup should appear click Next to begin
  • Select “Yes, I accept” to click Next
  • Enter the product Key and click Next
  • Enter Computer Name and click Next
  • Enter and confirm the local administrator password and click Next
  • Select No, don’t make this computer part of a domain and click Next
  • Click skip and slect No, not at this time and click Next
  • Click Finish
  • Once PC reboot confirm that you can logon to the desktop as a local administrator
  • Reboot in to the BIOS and disable Network PXE

You will be happy to know that its actually taking less than 30 mins to install a full image of Windows Professional Service Pack 3 along with all updates till 1st November 2009. 🙂 Here is a short video:


PROBLEM: Not able to PXE Boot to WDS – “WdsClient: An Error occurred while starting networking: a matching network card driver was not hound in this image. Please have your Administrator add the Network driver for this machine to the Windows PE image on the Windows Deployment Services server.”

CAUSE: Boot Image missing network driver

RESOLUTION: Need to inject the network driver in the Windows PE image. I used the procedures at James Bannan’s article as given below:

PROBLEM: Not able to capture second image

CAUSE: Till now, I am not sure that what causes this.

Solution: In place of using WINPE image for capturing boot image, I used Longhorn one (modified with drivers in it and it started capturing the image to local drive (not tried for uploading to WDS directly, as it don’t work most of the time, coz don’t get IP Address or network card don’t get initialize due to same network driver issue)

PROBLEM: WinPE quiting with giving blank Error msg with OK

CAUSE: Somehow I came to figure out and the reason was simple, lesser ram. WinPE requires at least 512 MB of RAM, which means you need to have at least 512 MB RAM in PC, you are going to install Windows XP by WDS.

Solution: Although I come to read that this 512 MB check could be bypassed, if you are using unattended installation, then it is told to be solved by changing one entry in xml file, but as I have not got it succeed in my case, so can’t comment much on it.


Although its not a bug, but as pointed out by GuillaumeD’s blog, I got to know that  it could be trouble, if your default installation is not in \Windows Folder. Although most of us will not bother about such a situation as there might be more and more obvious issues, but still I would like to put the solution found by the author.

To provide to wdscapture.exe the folder name of your installation, you have to modify the wdscapture.inf located in the \Windows\System32 of the WDS Capture wim file.

  1. Imagex /mountrw X:\RemoteInstall\boot\x86\Images\wdscapture.wim 1 E:\Mount
    X: represents the volume on which the WDS system folder is stored
    E:\Mount is a temporary empty folder used to mount the WIM file
    x86 represents the target architecture of the WDS Capture wim
  2. Edit the file e:\mount\Windows\System32\wdscapture.inf
  3. Modify the value of SystemRoot :
  4. Close the file wdscapture.inf (save the changes !)
  5. Unmount the WDS Capture wim : Imagex /unmount E:\mount /commit

How to use the available tools to modify Windows PE-based boot images:

This is a pretty important issue, because Windows PE is also used for the Windows Distribution System (WDS), Microsoft’s new software for deploying Vista across a large number of PCs via a network. Since WDS, by its nature, must work across various hardware platforms, it probably needs more drivers than the smallish set that comes with it.

Here’s how to get around the problem.

HOW TO: Inject Drivers into Windows PE 2.0

This tutorial assumes that you’re running Windows Deployment Services and want to update the default BOOT.WIM file to enhance platform compatibility, but the processes for injecting extra drivers into a WIM file are exactly the same for ANY WIM-based image.

You’ll need a full install of the WAIK, as it contains the necessary tools to manage WIM files. Note that its a download of more than 1GB. This can be done on any system, but if you’re running WDS it will install properly on the WDS server. Insert the DVD and select “Windows AIK Setup” and install WAIK.

WAIK InstallWAIK Install

Next you’ll need to create a folder to easily modify BOOT.WIM. I found it easiest to create a Temp folder, and then two more folders within that called Mount and Drivers. Then copy BOOT.WIM from the Vista DVD to the TEMP folder and rename it CUSTOMBOOT.WIM.

Now download the drivers you need, and extract them to \Temp\Drivers.

You’re not after DOS drivers – remember that this is Windows PE 2.0 so XP drivers are the best ones to use (or Windows Vista, if they’re available).

WinRAR is a great tool for extracting the contents of an EXE while maintaining the folder structure – this is very important as you need to be able to get at the INF driver files.

Once that’s done, go to the Start Menu, Microsoft Windows AIK, Windows PE Tools Command Prompt. This loads a command window with the PE tools IMAGEX, PEIMG and OSCDIMG loaded into the path, which makes life much easier.

PE Tools Command PromptPE Tools Command Prompt

Navigate to \Temp and type in:

imagex /info DRIVE:\Temp\customboot.wim

Where DRIVE is the appropriate drive letter. This checks the CUSTOMBOOT.WIM file and lists the images contained within it.

ImageX InfoImageX Info

There are actually two images, but the one we want is the Longhorn Setup image – number 2. Now type in:
imagex /mountrw DRIVE:\Temp\customboot.wim 2 DRIVE:\Temp\Mount

This mounts image 2 of CUSTOMBOOT.WIM into the \Temp\Mount folder in read/write mode. You can navigate to this folder and browse the contents and make any changes you like.

PE Tools - Mount ImagePE Tools – Mount Image

Now go back to the command window and type in:
peimg /inf=DRIVE:\Temp\Driver\FOLDER\*.inf /image=DRIVE:\Temp\Mount

Where FOLDER is the appropriate folder which contains the INF driver files. This injects the drivers straight into the mounted image. You can manually specify which driver is to be installed, or just use the wildcard to install all the drivers found in that folder. Repeat this process for all the drivers you want to install.

Once that’s done, type in:
imagex /unmount /commit DRIVE:\Temp\Mount
This unmounts the image from the \Temp\Mount folder and commits the changes you made. Do NOT forget the /commit statement or you’ll have to do the whole thing all over again. Not fun.

Now go back to the WDS console and right-click on the boot image, then select Disable. Right-click again and select Replace Image, then browse to \Temp\CUSTOMBOOT.WIM. This will replace the contents of BOOT.WIM with the updated CUSTOMBOOT.WIM. It doesn’t erase BOOT.WIM, and the boot image will still use the original file, but the extra drivers are now loaded into the Longhorn Setup image. Being able to replace the image means that you can maintain an offline master boot image, so you never need to directly work with the WDS boot image.

Unlike RIS where any such change required a restart of the service, WDS accepts this change on the fly. Connect your clients to the WDS server and they will use the updated setup image with the incorporated drivers.

At the end, I really want to thank Lucius Craig and James Bannan for their invaluable resources, which I am sharing with others now.

Cheers! WDS is ready to run now.  

Also check Rathenkomputindo’s Weblog. Could be very useful, if you are looking for screenshots.

photo of Nitish KumarNitish Kumar

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38 thoughts on “Windows Deployment Services : Finally done

  1. Hi Nitesh,

    I had query, The Image which you have described as master image does it support only for that Specific model or for all hardware paltforms, I mean to Say X86 family , Dual Core,Core2Duo, Pentium 4.


  2. Hi Ajinkya,
    Name is Nitish by the way, not Nitesh.

    As about your question, boot images are generic and do not depends over what you are going to deploy, although needs to get drivers incorporated in them most of the time.

    Next to come is Image, we put for deployment, then its strictly HAL dependent (H/W dependent, Model etc in your terms). Occasionally, it may happen that image of one model worked for another, but most of the time it supports only specific model.

    Hint 1: It supports other model only if its showing in list.
    Hint 2: This is the story about older OSs like Windows XP, if you are going to deploy Windows Vista or Windows 7 then those images are not HAL dependent in this way

  3. Hello Nitish!

    I am testing WDS solution now. I need to automate Windows XP install with predefined drivers and soft.
    I was created WinXP Image (with sysprep) and had captured this image with Capture Image (created from Vista DVD boot.vim). All ok. But when I trying to deploy this image to PC with PXE boot I have problem. When all OS files copied PC restarts and never start Windows – continuous reboot cycle.
    After some testing I was able to start Windows with booting from XP Recovery Console and run this command: fixmbr and fixboot.
    My question is how to avoid this issue when deploying Windows XP systems with WDS? Is it possible to run this commands automatically? Or may be another solution?

    1. Daniyar,
      Most probably, you are facing trouble coz of some wrong step at sysprep. Are you able to boot that system properly from which you sysprep the system? Specially, have you checked reseal while syspreping. One more thing might be size of RAM… keep it 512 MB at least in client station.

      Hope that it would resolve your issue. If not then revert me back

  4. Hello Nitish!
    Thanks for reply.

    Yes, reseal is working properly on PC from which I made sysprep. RAM – 512 MB.
    I have read that Vista disk utility that come with standard Vista Windows PE, is working differ than WIndows XP disk utility. And that is why I must do fixmbr and fixboot from Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 Recovery Console.

  5. I am not sure that why you still need to do the same, but I am sure that it could be fixed as mine is working perfectly every time with at least 4-5 different OEM PCs.

    Note that you need Boot.VIM from Vista DVD and WinPE.VIM from Windows AIK Installation. If not so, then better to replace the existing ones.

  6. Hello Nitish!!!

    It is great day! We do it. My new PC ‘take’ master Image and restart well. Sysprep work fine and I log in to my new Clone PC.
    Sorry, but I forgot to do diskpart clean operations:
    1. Diskpart
    2. Select disk 0
    3. Clean
    4. Exit

    It is was my fault. When I done this operations before select OS to install – all installation (and rebooting) run fine! I must be careful when read you post first time.
    Thanks for you help and this post!

    1. Congr8s Daniyar,

      For the job done and specially for sharing the experience. Yeah Cleanup Step was important one as if disk don’t seem to be cleaned then WDS avoid to clean it up on its own for data safety reasons I guess.

      I would sure love to, if you keep on posting your experience with it as mine one is quite settled coz if other aspects are controlled then we don’t move into some other scenario. So, I would really like to hear that in scenarios what tips and tricks with it might be or what could go possibly wrong.

      Cheers again.. have a nice time.

  7. У меня проблема! не каждый ПК видит образы на серваке! Одни видят все, другие ниодного!

  8. For my russian reader:

    Уважаемые, к сожалению, блог на английском языке и я не понимаю русский. Поэтому лучше разместить комментарий на английском языке для избежания быть помечено как спам.

    Хотя, как о вашей проблеме то причиной может быть компьютер, на который вы пытаетесь найти изображения на сервер, Dont один за это. Для каждой конфигурации, необходимо отдельное изображение. Как для меня, если я использую HP 2280, то мне нужно создать отдельные изображения на сервер.

    In English, if the russian translation is crap (used Google Translate)

    Dear, unfortunately, the blog is in English and I dont understand russian. So better to place comment in English for avoiding to be marked as spam.

    Although as about your problem then reason might be your pc, for which you are trying to find the images on server, dont have one for that. For each configuration, you need a separate image. Like for me, if I am using HP 2280, then I need to create a separate image on server.

  9. hi Nitish,

    Configured WDS on DP, while imaging a system getting below error “windows boot configuration data file does not contain a valid OS entry”, please suggest.

  10. hi,
    I am trying to install Windows7 using WDS, In client machine when installing updates, giving the error ” Windows could not apply Unattend settings during pass(null)” then automatically cancelling all. Kindly help on this issue.


    1. Check the unattended settings. Seems that the image is not prepared properly or the security settings were altered later on for not allowing non complex passwords

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