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Windows 7 Migration: Step 2 -- Build Standard Windows 7 Images

Created: 22 Feb 2010 • Updated: 24 Mar 2010 | 6 comments
blairthomas's picture
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Step 2: Build Standard Windows 7 Images

Deploying a standard hard disk image is the fastest and most consistent way to install a new operating system. Symantec allows you to use our Ghost or Microsoft's WIM image format, depending on what makes sense for your environment. You also can choose to create a single-hardware independent image, or build and maintain a small set of base images. Depending on the complexity of your environment, a small set of base images may be most effective. As a best practice, keep images as small and generic as possible. Only include applications in the base image that must be installed on all computers, and install other applications in the same job, but separately from the OS image. Regardless of what image strategy you choose you will need to follow these steps:

  • Create standard images with settings and configuration for multiple users
  • Includes applications those are required on all computers in the base image
  • Create generic image

Create Standard Images With Settings And Configuration For Multiple Users

The first choice to be made when building a base image is what hardware to use for the client. One good approach is to use the most common type of system on the network. Another possibility is to use a virtual machine that has the ability to make snapshots and revert to those snapshots easily. During many of the planning and testing phases it will be very helpful to revert back to a previous snapshot without having to create and deploy image files. If done correctly when the image is deployed, whichever hardware is used for the client system should be hardware independent.

Once the base operating system is installed it is important to make a snapshot of the system. This is not a snapshot that will be used for the migration process, and it is important that if you are building a Windows Vista or Windows 7 image that you make the snapshot without using Sysprep. This snapshot will be used when there is a need to revert back and reinstall base software on the image, or if modifications are needed but a clean starting point is wanted. This snapshot should include just the base operating system without any third-party software.

If you are using VMware, or some other PC visualization software creating a snapshot is a very simple built-in process. If you are using physical software you will need to capture an image file with RDeploy or Ghost. Manually boot the client machine into a pre-boot environment, such as WinPE or LinuxPE, and assign a job that captures an image without booting to Production.

Create a job in the Deployment Server console named "Create backup snapshot". Add a "Create Disk Image" task to the job. It is recommended to use a token in the image file name so that the job creates a separate image file for each client that it is run against. Depending on where images are stored the path will vary. If computer images are stored in the eXpress share in the images directory the image storage path might be .\Images\%COMPNAME%.img. Make sure that the check box "Prepare use Sysprep" is unchecked and also "Do not boot to Production" is checked. This will prevent clients from doing any type of image pre-configuration.

The difference between a basic snapshot image and a generic deploy-able image is whether any pre-configuration is done. When a generic image is created the agent installed on the client machine will run Sysprep which will force a Windows setup on the client, it will also remove it from the domain, pull out any network configurations, such as static IP addresses, static routes, etc. After a generic image is captured is can be deployed to multiple other systems regardless of their hardware or configuration. A snapshot image that is not made generic should only be used to restore a previous state on the same system the image was captured from.

Include Applications That Are Required On All Computers In The Base Image

Certain applications might need to be installed on all client systems. These should be installed in the base image, not on clients after image deployment. Identify what software is required for all client systems and what software will only be needed by some users. Take into account licensing required and any asset management that needs to be done. While it might be simpler to include all software into the base image, it might cause license compliance problems if a limited number of software licenses are available.

After installing all applications that will be included in the base image, it is highly recommended to capture another snapshot of the client system. Do not overwrite or replace the first snapshot that was taken. You will keep two snapshots, one with only the OS installed, one with all base software installed. The second snapshot will be useful when testing out other software installation packages that will be installed after image deployment. It can also be used if you need to recreate your generic image.

Create Generic Image

When the client system is set up with all software and configurations that are required for the base system you are now ready to create a generic image to be used for deployment. Before a generic image can be created you must have installed the Altiris Deployment Agent (Dagent.exe) on the client system. This agent will automatically run Sysprep and perform other image preparation tasks prior to imaging. When this agent is installed on the client system and reporting into the Deployment console, you are ready to proceed.

Create a job in the Deployment Console named "Create generic image" and add a "Create Disk Image" task to the job. In this job make sure that "Prepare using Sysprep" is checked, and that "Do not boot to Production" is NOT checked. Make sure that the proper operating system is selected and a valid Product key is selected as well. This will allow the client system after imaging to reapply its license, which is required after running Sysprep. When the job is created assign it to the client system while the client is currently in production and the Deployment Agent is actively connected to the Deployment Server and showing active in the console. You should see the client system run Sysprep, shut down, reboot into automation such as WinPE, and then start capturing the image with RDeploy or Ghost.

Windows 7 only allows the application of a license file up to 3 times. After this you will no longer be able to run Sysprep on that system. This is one of the reasons for creating a backup image that was captured without Sysprep. If you need to make changes to your generic image, revert to the image snapshot, make modifications, and then recapture the generic image using Sysprep.

Return to: Windows 7 Migration: Introduction

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Palvaran's picture

How does it upload or download the image without bootworks?  Also, how do you get bootworks to install remotely to Windows 7?  It doesn't appear to work the same way anymore.

When I run the "Create generic image" job it sends the sysprep files, reboots, DS says "Restarting computer to prepare for imaging", and then reruns sysprep re-identifying everything, then boots back into Windows.  The DS stays saying "Restarting computer to prepare for imaging" and the Windows 7 machine sits at the CTRL-ALT-DEL screen at which point it will eventually reboot and reinstall the remaining devices.  Eventually, it will state in the DS Error Code 116, "Unable to boot to Windows automation."

I surmise that this is because there is no automation partition to upload the image to the DS.  However, when you try to push bootworks to the Windows 7 computer, successfully pushes it according to the DS, but when you check the Computer Properties from within the DS, it states there is no automated partition installed...

Systems Administrator
Rice University

Remember, "The happiness of your life, depends on the quality of your thoughts."

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Palvaran's picture

We figured it out by manually pulling the WinPE package from our DS Server and running it with administrator rights.  The DS Server itself is unsuccessful at pushing the WinPE package to a Windows 7 machine.

P.S. The guide listed is 100% Accurate for imaging as well as part 5 on deploying.  Thanks much!

Systems Administrator
Rice University

Remember, "The happiness of your life, depends on the quality of your thoughts."

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GlennBC's picture

How do you get third party drivers pushed down for multiple hardware platforms with Altiris?

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kubasa's picture

I've been using WIM images simply because I can take advantage of Microsoft's tools for things like adding drivers.   I can't speak for other image formats but for WIM images, all I need to do is launch a tool called DISM, mount the image offline and add my drivers.  It's pretty simple.  Removing drivers is also pretty simple.  You can read about it here:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd799258(WS.10).aspx

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/dd490958.aspx

Unfortunately, I have heard a rumour that Altiris won't be supporting WIM images in version 7.1 which will pose a huge problem for us.  I'm verifying this rumour at this point with our rep because I find it extremely hard to believe that Altiris wouldn't support WIM images.  If this is true, then all of what I'm saying won't really help you much in the long run.

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DMobley232's picture

Is there any step by step instructions on capturing and deploying a Win7 image using SYmantec Ghost.

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Pascal KOTTE's picture

It is possible to use WAIK for setting some additionnal options, for reuse OEM installation, or any volume licenses key Windows, to build a Sysprep image without needing to redo each time.

But it is necessary to keep safe the reference image, for building other version of the master image: eg. after a service pack. We keep a multi-hardware master use for about a year.

Thanks for the share.

~Pascal @ Kotte.net~ Do you speak French? Et utilisez Altiris: venez nous rejoindre sur le GUASF

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