Automating Windows Vista Installations – 3

Continuing the series on automation of Windows Vista installations, the first article covered the creation of our first Vista image. Prior to this time I had some experience of ImageX from using it to image a PC that was running Vista, however I had not used Sysprep with this PC and therefore the image was not suitable for cloning. When we updated Ghost to version 11, I became aware that it was Vista capable. At that time also I was mainly familiar with the use of Ghost without Sysprep, in which with Windows 98 machines in the main a SID regeneration process was not required. My next step when our network transitioned to XP was to learn the use of RIS with the consideration that we might eliminate the use of Ghost within our organisation. Due to the limitations of RIS (such as not being able to copy junction points, meaning incompatibility with Microsoft .NET Framework) I moved back to the use of Ghost and learned in relatively recent times how to use Sysprep with its answer file to prepare an image for cloning on our network. Thus it is only in the last two years that we have made use of Ghost with Sysprep for imaging Windows XP machines. Rather than learn WDS I will be continuing the use of Ghost, but also hedging my bets by creating a WIM version of each Vista image as well, in the event we might decide to use ImageX or WDS in the future instead of continuing with Ghost.

The second article covered the lessons learned in our first production deployment of an image to a laptop, and the issues created. Subsequently the same image was deployed to a different hardware platform as a first step to creating a specific image for that platform.  This third article will cover changes made to our configuration and answer file as well as the imaging and production deployment experience. As before, I am making use of a Hyper-V virtual machine to test the WIM version of the image. The first issue I am addressing is the non enablement of the administrator account. I identified that I had entered the NET USE command instead of NET USER, However, the WSIM documentation does not advocate the use of the NET USER command to enable; instead it suggests using Autologon settings. I addressed the issue of non joining the domain by using the account specified in the answer file to join this reference machine to the domain, so that hopefully the account should be recognised this time. One thing that did work out was the locale settings, which turned out to be more or less correct, but I am changing them using this reference. The final issue that I would like to resolve this time around is the installation of the graphics driver. There are a lot of methods provided in Vista Setup tools to add the drivers. The easiest for me is to specify the drivers path in the answer file, since I am already familiar with this use of WSIM. The best place, of course, to have these drivers is in a file on the laptop’s HDD that is deployed with the image. This is why HP laptops have the SWSETUP directory; a variation of this is very commonly seen in mass deployed PCs such as OEM built systems. One thing I learned with RIS, waaaay back, was how to deploy Intel NIC drivers at the early stages of RIS text based setup when the target PC had to connect to the network for the very first time to get Setup started. That is a boot level driver deployment and may be required for WDS type scenarios, or using Windows PE. We don’t need it here because of using Ghost instead. In this scenario the graphics drivers are to be deployed in the OfflineServicing pass.

Having completed our answer file, I copy a predefined command script to C:WindowsSystem32Sysprep and then copy my answer file and rename it to the filename specified in the script. I then run the script to sysprep the reference PC and automatically shut it down, before Ghosting and ImageX-ing it.  The results will be published in Article 4 of this series.