Right now I’m working on my second RIPREP image. Even though we have WDS, we will still be using RIPREP (legacy) images for a while, probably until Vista rolls into town. I have, however, started looking at the transition, installing Business Desktop Deployment 2007 and Windows Automated Installation Kit on my desktop. Since we don’t have SMS, this would be a “Lite Touch Installation” scenario for BDD (in the Vista install jargon).

Let’s take a quick look at the new Windows Image (WIM) based installation system for Windows Vista. Some of the important components and features of this system are:

  • Componentised OS installs. Vista has a Package Manager (like most Linux distros) and changes to an image can be made fairly easily to apply updates, service packs, drivers and so on. You can also customise what is in the installation that you are setting up.
  • Setup is WinPE based. There is no text-mode installation any more. This means text-mode network card drivers aren’t needed for WDS installs.
  • HAL restrictions on images are removed. Vista installation can detect and install the correct HAL. This means fewer images are needed for different hardware configurations.
  • WIM imaging is file-based rather than sector based as tools such as Ghost are. This means an image doesn’t run into problems with disk size or partitioning differences.

Let’s also look briefly at how WDS works with existing Windows XP and new Windows Vista installations:

  • WDS does not support RIS images natively. However it can deploy Sysprepped images of Windows XP computers.
  • WDS is much more robust and easier to configure/support than RIS.
  • WDS will offer different functionality depending on which version of Server it is installed on. “Longhorn” Server will only support the native mode, whereas legacy/mixed modes are available on Server 2003.

Steps for creating a WDS image of Windows XP in summary are:

  • Set up the reference machine with the operating system and software
  • Run the new version of Sysprep which is available for WDS.
  • After Sysprep is finished, the PC must be PXE booted for the image capture process. You provide information for naming and identifying the image much as you would with RipRep.

I expect we are going to start using Vista much sooner than I originally planned; the reason being that with 20 odd laptops coming in, it will be to our advantage to image them as other schools do. However the timeframe at this stage is likely to be rather cramped; I’m expecting to get started on the transitional steps of learning about the new technologies fairly soon.