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Building a Standard Vista Image

Created: 10 Apr 2007 • Updated: 27 Jul 2007 | 14 comments
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Whether you are re-using or replacing hardware, Vista computers should be set up with a standard Vista image. Deploying standard images is the fastest and most consistent way to migrate to a new operating system.

What you need

  • A standard computer model to use as the source computer. The operating system on this computer is deleted then re-installed, so select a system without important data.
  • Source installation CD. Windows Vista Business is used as an example in this article.
  • Windows Volume License and corresponding license key.
  • Any mass storage and plug-and-play drivers required by Vista computers that are not included in the Windows Vista installation.
  • A working understanding of Sysprep and Altiris® Deployment Solution™ software.
Getting Ready to Image

Before imaging, there are a few things you need to do.

  • Selecting Imaging Format
  • Selecting Core Software
  • Booting to Automation

Selecting Imaging Format

Vista introduces a new computer imaging format called a Windows Image File (WIM, also called imageX in reference to the Microsoft tool used to deploy these images).

While comparing the advantages and disadvantages of WIM versus traditional imaging formats is beyond the scope of this document, Deployment Solution supports deploying traditional and WIM images.

This guide uses Altiris® RapiDeploy® software to perform Vista imaging because of its native support of multicasting.

Selecting Core Software

While selecting core software can become a point of philosophy, there are evaluations you can make to see which core software might fit your environment better.

First, how many applications are common across your company? These core applications are good candidates for inclusion in your image.

Second, what are your internal change control process and the tools you have available for patching and software deployment? Is it easier to update your image on a regular basis, or is it easier to manage software separately and make fewer updates to your image?

If you have a rigorous change control process, you might not want to be responsible for keeping images up-to-date with the latest security patches.

Booting to Automation

To capture or deploy an image, computers must boot into a managed preboot operating system. We recommend using WinPE 2005 or the Linux environment provided with Deployment Solution.

This section walks you through creating a CD to boot computers to automation. This CD contains a pre-boot automation operating system and additional files required to contact your Deployment Server.

When you are ready to perform broad migrations, we suggest using PXE to perform zero-touch migrations. PXE and other boot methods are discussed in article 27534 “Deployment Solution 6.8 Preboot Automation Environment” on the Altiris Knowledgebase at

If you plan on setting up your source computer using a scripted installation, create WinPE boot CD. Otherwise, you can use a Linux boot CD.

To create a WinPE boot CD, you need:

  • WinPE 2005 CD
  • Windows 2003 Server SP1 CD

To create a Linux boot CD, you need:

  • BDCgpl*.frm (Available on the Deployment Solution download page on

Click the Linux and FreeDOS Automation Environment for Deployment Solution 6.8 SP1 link.)

In the Deployment Console:

  1. Click Tools > Boot Disk Creator.
  2. Click Tools > Install Pre-Boot Operating Systems.
  3. Click Install next to the version of WinPE or Linux automation you are installing (this example uses x86).
  4. Complete the prompts.

Create a Boot Configuration

In Boot Disk Creator:

  1. Click File > New Configuration.
  2. Provide a Configuration Name and Select WindowsPE or Linux.
  3. Complete the remaining prompts, accepting the default options.
  4. When the Create Boot Disk Wizard starts, select Create automation boot disk.
  5. Complete the remaining prompts, accepting the default options.

Burn the CD Image to Disk

Use CD writing software to burn the ISO CD image you created to a disk. By default, the image file is located in the Bootwiz\iso-imgs folder on the Deployment Share.

Capturing a Vista Image

This section walks you through capturing a Vista image. The basic imaging process is as follows:

  1. A source computer is configured with a clean installation of Windows Vista.
  2. Before capturing an image, Sysprep is executed on this computer to clear it of SIDs, hardware drivers, and other system-specific settings.
  3. When Sysprep completes, an image of this computer is captured. When this image is restored on another computer, Sysprep runs as if it is configuring this computer for the first time. Sysprep searches for plug-and-play drivers, generates SIDs, and performs other initial configuration tasks.

Capturing a Vista image is divided into the following steps:

Step 1: Configure a Source Computer (page 4) The source computer is used to capture the standard image you deploy across your organization.
Step 2: Patching and Optimizing the Source Computer (page 6) The configuration settings and software on this computer are placed on each computer receiving this image.
Step 3: Gather and Prepare Device Drivers (page 7) If you have hardware that isn’t supported by the base driver set in Vista, you need to gather and provide these drivers.
Step 4: Capture an Image From the Source Computer (page 7) After capture, this image can be distributed to computers across your organization.
Step 1: Configure a Source Computer

For previous versions of Windows, we recommended using a scripted installation to ensure the source computer is set up consistently in case it needs to be restored.

With Vista, a scripted installation is not required since answer files can be used with normal disk-based installations, and the WIM format ensures consistent setup.

Setting up a scripted installation through Deployment Solution can automate up the process, though it requires WinPE.

Selecting a Source Computer

The source computer should be a standard model with no unique or custom configurations. If your organization uses a set of standard hardware models, one if these is a good choice.

If you are using a scripted installation, this computer must have a 30 GB or larger hard drive.

Creating a Base Answer File

Microsoft provides a tool, called the Windows System Image Manager, to create unattend answer files. To download this tool, search for “WAIK” and download the Windows Automated Installation Kit.

The goal of an answer file is to implement a consistent, easily repeatable process for future efforts. Answer files can be created from scratch using the Windows System Image Manager, and an example tokenized answer file is included on the Deployment Share in the Samples folder.

Before using this sample unattend file, make the following changes:

  1. Manually replace the %PROCTYPE% token with the processor type of the computer you are deploying (for example, x86). This token must be replaced or the file does not validate.
  2. Add your volume license key to the <Key>Mention Product Key Here</Key> section.
  3. The default Administrator password is altiris. We recommend changing this to something unique.
  4. As an example, a new user is added in this unattend file. For most migrations, users are added when the personality is restored so this section can usually be removed.

    Open this answer file in the Windows System Image Manager to make additional changes.

Building the Scripted Install Job

If you are not using a scripted installation, follow the instructions provided by Microsoft to perform a disk-based installation using an answer file.

In the Deployment Console:

  1. Create a new job and add a Scripted OS Install task.
  2. Select Windows, then on the following screen, select Windows Vista and the OS language.
  3. Click Next.
  4. Select the OS profile. If you have not performed a scripted install of the selected operating system, select add new and provide the path to the source files on the installation CD.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Leave the default partition and format options selected and click Next.
  7. Review the selected options then click Next.
  8. Browse to your unattend.xml file and then click Finish.

Assigning the Scripted Installation Job

  1. Insert the automation CD you created in Booting to Automation (page 2) into the CD drive of the source computer, and configure the BIOS to boot to CD.
  2. Restart the computer.
  3. When the computer restarts, the Deployment Agent enters wait mode:
  4. In the Deployment Console, the computer appears in the New Computers folder:
  5. Assign the Scripted Installation job to the computer using a drag-and-drop.

    The scripted install can take some time, and you might notice the source computer performing several reboots. Wait for the status in the Deployment Console to indicate that the job is complete before you continue.
Step 2: Patching and Optimizing the Source Computer

If required, use a USB drive or CD to install the network adapter. This is the only additional driver we recommend installing.

When the computer has network connectivity, the Deployment Agent connects and appears in the Deployment Console. (If you performed a disk-based installation, the Deployment Agent can be installed manually by running dagent.msi located in the agents\aclient folder on your Deployment Share.)

Do not add this computer to your corporate domain. You can use Sysprep to add computers to your domain when they are deployed, but for initial creation leave the source computer off the domain.

Patch the Operating System

Patch the operating system to include the latest security fixes. Run Windows Update until no new critical patches are identified restarting as necessary.

Install Base Software

Install any software applications you want to include in your image.

Final Configuration

Make any final configurations or modifications to the operating system or installed applications. Some companies add a global administrator user account or apply other settings that need to be enabled system-wide.

After you have completed all changes, reboot the computer one additional time and make sure everything is installed correctly.

Step 3: Gather and Prepare Device Drivers

In this step, you gather required OEM drivers.

Vista is advertised as being hardware independent; this is true in the sense that all Vista installations use the same hardware abstraction layer (HAL), but you still need to provide the correct mass storage and plug-and-play drivers for each computer.

Any additional OEM drivers you wish to include in your standard image should be copied to a folder on your Deployment Share. Deployment Solution can include these drivers in your standard image.

Step 4: Capture an Image From the Source Computer

After you have prepared your source computer and gathered OEM drivers, the next step is capturing a sysprep-enabled image. The Sysprep files are included in Vista by default, so they do not need to be copied to each computer as with previous Windows versions.

Create the Image Capture Job

In the Deployment Console:

  1. Create a new Job and add a Create Disk Image task.
  2. Provide a name and location to store the image on your Deployment Share.
  3. Select Prepare using Sysprep, select the Windows Vista, and then provide a Product Key.
  4. Click Advanced and provide the path to the OEM drivers you collected in Step 3:

    Gather and Prepare Device Drivers
    (page 7). If you want to include all of the drivers you installed on the source computer select Persist all PnP devices installed:
  5. Click OK and then Finish.

Assign the Image Capture Job

  1. Configure the BIOS to boot from CD. Do not insert the automation CD at this time.
  2. Start the source computer normally and let Vista finish loading.
  3. Insert the automation CD you created in Booting to Automation (page 2) into the CD drive of the source computer.
  4. Assign the Image Capture Job to the source computer. Before rebooting, the bcdedit utility and Sysprep execute in Vista on the source computer to prepare the computer for imaging.
  5. The computer restarts automatically when Sysprep completes. When the computer restarts, automation loads and the image capture job is processed. This image is now ready to be deployed.
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erikw's picture

This is a very good article to build and deploy Vista images with Deployment solution 6.8.
Thnxss for the info.


Regards Erik Dinamiqs is the home of VirtualStorm (

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riva11's picture

Nice tutorial. I really like it.
Thanks for sharing.


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tmsmith2's picture

Where can I find Windows System Image Manager?

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Admin's picture


I had to poke around on Microsoft's technet site for a while but I eventually found these instructions to launch Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM):

Open Windows SIM by clicking Start, All Programs, Microsoft Windows AIK, and then clicking Image Manager.



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Jeff_Wright's picture

It seems that the install instructions fork into two scenarios in step 1:

a scripted OS capture and a non-scripted capture.

I don't need a "base" image at this point, I just want to get Vista imaging working with Altiris. To do that, it seems all you would need to do is:

configure a target system with Vista
create an unattended.xml answer file
install dagent on the target
patch the OS and install apps
create an image capture job

Does that seem like a fair synopsis? Have I missed something? If so, please chime in the Altiris forums on the thread titled "Vista imaging step-by-step". I am not getting any answers regarding Vista there.


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jorm76's picture

Is very good article post, but download cannot be done file .FRM from the URL contained in this article.

In KB-article is update, now is article number id 33370 or click in the next link

Download Direct File FRM



IT Consultant
Altiris Certified Engineer

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jflem69's picture

I have Altiris 6.5 sp1, I haven't had any luck in deploying Vista with it. Does Vista require Altris ver 6.8 to deploy it with? Can this be done with the version that I currently have? Also is the upgrade to Ver 6.8 a free download?


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hfrench's picture

I am trying to create a Vista image with an additional 1.5GB partition for Bitlocker. It seems to create OK but upon reboot of the laptop the image was made from it can no longer find winloader.exe and I have to use the Vista DVD to repair the PC. Subsequent deployment attempts of the image that was made fail as well with the same error.

I saw a post that suggested using WinPE (we usually use PXE) to run the following script to resolve the problem:

c:\windows\system32\bcdedit /store c:\boot\BCD /set {default} device PARTITION=C:
c:\windows\system32\bcdedit /store c:\boot\BCD /set {default} osdevice PARTITION=C:
c:\windows\system32\bcdedit /store c:\boot\BCD /set {legacy} device boot

Unfortunately, this script fails each time so I must be doing something wrong when running the script.

Has anyone else run into this? If so, what is the fix?


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jpmorgan's picture

I had similar problem and hope this addresses yours:

If you DONT Ssysprep and Generalize and try to deploy the image then the BCD will not be re-created by Sysprep.

I posted my findings at URL :

After posting my findings , someone else had the solution already documented, Se the URL below

I ran into this problem as well.

On a system I wanted to dump an image to, I would run a diskpart performing these actions: select disk 0, clean, create partition primary, assign letter=c:, active, exit and then format c: /q /y.

After that I booted to PE and ran an imagex /apply from an image located on a server. Every single time I was getting that same error. The issue is that the devices and the osdevice in bcdedit is set to unknown (run bcdedit from a working Vista system and one from PE on a non working Vista system and you will see what I mean).

To resolve the problem, I did these three commands from PE which resolved my problem:

x:\windows\system32\bcdedit /set {default} device partition=c:
x:\windows\system32\bcdedit /set {default} osdevice partition=c:
x:\windows\system32\bcdedit /set {bootmgr} device partition=c:

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hfrench's picture

Thanks for the help, but where is your X: drive mapping to?

I must have my WinPE boot disk hosed or something. When I get to a command line in WinPE and try to execute any of the bcdedit commands I get:

The boot configuration data store could not be opened.

Where am I supposed to be running BCDEDIT from? Are there some special preparation steps for the WinPE boot disk? Currently I have BCDEDIT stored in the express\WAIK folder and I am trying to run it from there.

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ka8hkc's picture

I am having trouble making a Windows PE 2005 Cd, is this something that I do in the WAIK or do I have to download the iso image?

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rherling's picture

BIG HELP! I have been tasked to get vista up and running ASAP this article really helps thanks!

Roger Herling
Systems Engineer
IT, Technical Services, & Support
Flashpoint Academy of Media Arts and Sciences

Roger Herling
Systems Engineer
IT, Technical Services, & Support
Flashpoint Academy of Media Arts and Sciences

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Alaa Yehia's picture

I have windows xp on 300 pc and i have altiris deployment solution 6.8.can i use this version to deploy windows 7 if not what is the solution?

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