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Vista Deployment

For the past few months it has been our plan to roll out Vista to our IT staff to start learning and becoming familiar with Vista.  Part of this planning has been to figure out how to customize and automate the roll out process.  After a bit of reading we decided that Windows Deployment Services was the best route to go rather than continuing to use Ghost to deploy our machines.  A large factor to this is WDS being free.

In the next few posts I will document our configuration and the tips and tricks we learned along the way.  This project only included one support case with Microsoft and a couple dents in the walls from my head banging activities.

Or Project Goal was to find a way to deploy vista with our Enterprise Open license on each machine with a basic set of applications that all our users will use.  In Vista the answer files for sysprep are quite a bit more involved than they were in deploying XP so using the Microsoft solution to deploy the OS seemed to be more logical than a Hybrid between Ghost and Sysprep.

Part 1:Installing WDS

Installing Windows Deployment Services is a very straight forward process, but you have to decided if you want to do the installation on a Windows 2003 server or a W2k8 server.  There are some new features installing on a 2008 server and since we are moving that way it made sense to roll this new server out as a 2008 box.

We downloaded the Step by step guide to Windows Deployment services. This document was a good resource to answer a lot of the questions about what each aspect of the service was doing.  This document includes good step by step instructions to capture a image of a workstation and then push it out to a second machine.

The catch with this process was the creating of the answer files.  When you are using WDS you boot into WindowPE which allows you to perform functions like format, partition and install the OS.  WindowsPE requires answer files for specific functions as well as the OS requiring an answer file.

There appear to be a vast number of resources on these answer files but some turn out to be very confusing.  MS provides a tool called the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK). The WAIK is designed to help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), system builders, and corporate IT professionals deploy Windows onto new hardware. The Windows AIK is a set of deployment tools supporting the latest release of Windows. The WAIK Includes Windows System Image Manger which is a GUI that creates the unattend answer files for the deployment of the OS.

One major issue with our answer files we found out later down the road you, which is contrary to all the documentation that we read you cannot partition an drive and format with that partition to 100%, you have to give a specific variable to the size you want the partition to be.  (per Tanner at MS, more on that later)

After fighting with the answer files for a while I turned to ITdiscuss.org and the CITRT IRC channel.  Micheal Sainz brought MDT to my radar.  MDT,  Microsoft Deployment Tool kit, is a great tool for prepping the OS with applications, drivers and updates and the MDT scripts the OS installation that can be done from disk or a PXE boot server.

So here are the details of the process:

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So, what do you think ?