Automating Windows Vista Installations – 2

Following on from the comment in the first article, I created the xml file for Sysprep and used it to sysprep the image of the source machine. I then took two machine images, one using Ghost 11 and one using ImageX. I then loaded the Ghost image back to the original machine after formatting its C drive. The ImageX image was applied to a new Hyper-V virtual machine for further testing. Both of these computers were first booted using Windows PE. After rebooting into the respective OS images, Sysprep has done its usual thing, which is massively slower than on XP.

The documentation that is supplied with WSIM is quite comprehensive, yet at times it is too technical, for example when I set locale information I have no idea where to put in “en-nz” and where to put in “en-us” because the only “en” that I could find mentioned is “en-us”.

Issues with the process of the Sysprepped images:

  • Windows forces you to create a local user account with a password and hint, even though we set up the administrator account to be enabled and gave it a password. This creates an unnecessary extra step of having to remove this account at first login.
  • The administrator account is still disabled even though I specified that it be enabled.
  • The computer hasn’t joined the domain even though I put in all the settings for it into the sysprep xml file. Instead it has joined a workgroup with the name specified.
  • The network location setting that I specified with WSIM is not being applied.
  • The graphics driver that was installed on the reference computer has not been reinstalled at first startup. It would be quite reasonable and convenient for Windows to cache the previously installed drivers for use when the machine is loaded; but it doesn’t do this. I suspect the lack of joining the domain is due to a lack of network card drivers, although it could also be a user account problem. This is all a complete pain because we now have to specify all the drivers to be loaded with each image so it just makes extra work when a particular image is set up for use with particular hardware.
  • The Tablet Input Panel has come back when I banished it originally (the interactive whiteboard drivers are treated as a tablet device. This does have the advantage that you can use the interactive whiteboard to do some tabletty type things; but you don’t have the button controls on the interactive whiteboard that an actual tablet PC would have).

I expect most of these issues will eventually be solved satisfactorily. It is a new learning curve with a complete new set of tools. The main advantage of using Ghost is that the disk doesn’t have to be partitioned and formatted; with ImageX this is an additional step. However these are not great differences that would really make me choose Ghost over ImageX. Ghost is still the best system for deploying to multiple machines and over a network, whereas ImageX is the simple one to use with a USB hard disk or some other file based mechanism (although I mapped a network drive to install it off the network). Unless we decide to use WDS in the future, I don’t really know whether Ghost or ImageX will turn out to be the better solution for our needs.