Seeking the quickest way to generate an image for re-installation

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  1. Posts : 7
    Windows 10
       #1

    Seeking the quickest way to generate an image for re-installation


    Hello! I am interested in the quickest way to produce a minimally customized image for unattended re-installation, either by creating a customized .iso or imaging an existing installation. I have consulted many of Kari's guides on this site and in general they seem to be too involved for my use case - I just want a clean installation to store on an external drive, with all drivers and a couple of installed programs and registry settings changed that I can re-use in the event of any difficulties. I have looked into using Macrium or another third party program but I do have concerns about using anything proprietary - perhaps somebody can help to allay those concerns!

    If it turns out that one of methods outlined in Kari's tutorials is indeed the best way to go I will of course be happy to pursue that further. Thank you so much!

    windows 10 version 22H2 (OS Build 19045.2965)
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  2. Posts : 43,382
    Win 10 Pro (22H2) (2nd PC is 22H2)
       #2

    Kari's tutorials would support reinstallation as you describe.

    Disk imaging supports recovery- and can support that even to a new PC, and certainly to a new disk.

    It doesn't support re-installation in the way you want, but the routine and regular use of disk imaging is an almost essential means of securing what you have- for example, a full image followed by a sequence of differential/incremental images depending on the program, its license and your preferences, where these are created periodically during the lifetime of your installation.

    Images should include at least all partitions of your O/S.

    MS (as has been frequently said on tenforums) recommends AGAINST the use of legacy Backup and Restore (Windows 7) and advises the use of 3rd party tools (which are updated and maintained and documented).

    Want further confidence? Search tenforums and see how many times e.g. Macrium Reflect or Aomei Backupper are mentioned.
    Or see how many guides there are on Youtube..

    What exactly is your concern about using 3rd party software in this context? There are plenty of 3rd party backup programs, for example.

    The benefit of using disk imaging compared to Kari's 1-off use tutorials for routine recovery purposes is that it's
    - quicker (differential/incremental represent changes from the initial full image)
    - can be started with a very few clicks once the backup job/definition file has been created - when you create the first full image
    - lets you store on a single disk image files allowing you to recover the imaged partitions to several different dates
    - manages the storage space automatically according to the retention rules you specified.

    Perosnally I wouldn't even consider comparing the two. They are for different purposes.
    Last edited by dalchina; 31 Jul 2023 at 14:06.
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  3. Posts : 6,652
    Windows 11 Pro - Windows 7 HP - Lubuntu
       #3

    On a spare drive, do a Clean Install and then make sure all drivers are installed. Install the basic programs you use an then generate a disk image and save on an external drive.

    I recommend Macrium Reflect and Aomei backup free
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  4. Posts : 4,702
    several
       #4

    I do have concerns about using anything proprietary
    In that case, you could use wim or vhd format. Lot of advantages to those. I generally prefer wim.
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  5. Posts : 7
    Windows 10
    Thread Starter
       #5

    That's awesome, thank you all so much for your replies! I have indeed seen that macrium is highly endorsed - I should have indicated that my preference for a non-proprietary method owed exclusively to the possibility of a given backup platform ceasing to be supported by its developer.

    I don't really store any data on my boot drive, so I wouldn't even be particularly concerned to initiate incremental backups - just to create the "sacrosanct" image after a clean install that could be Re-used. If the concensus is that one of Macrium Reflect or Aomei Backupper is the way to go I'm happy to pursue that!

    Dalchina, I am curious about one thing - what, in your estimation, is the use case for creating a custom ISO if NOT this sort of situation?
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  6. Posts : 43,382
    Win 10 Pro (22H2) (2nd PC is 22H2)
       #6

    Hi, I'd suggest one obvious one would be replicating an installation over a number of machines.
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  7. Posts : 4,702
    several
       #7

    easy to make a wim backup. You could use microsoft dism (command line ), or wimlib (command line ) which is quicker and has more options, or for a nice gui you could use winntsetup or dism++ to create the images.

    And any of those can be used to restore as well as using the regular ms setup.exe. Plus wim images can be mounted read/write and are serviceable.
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  8. Posts : 4,167
    Windows 11 Pro, 22H2
       #8

    TellurideTwilight said:
    That's awesome, thank you all so much for your replies! I have indeed seen that macrium is highly endorsed - I should have indicated that my preference for a non-proprietary method owed exclusively to the possibility of a given backup platform ceasing to be supported by its developer.

    I don't really store any data on my boot drive, so I wouldn't even be particularly concerned to initiate incremental backups - just to create the "sacrosanct" image after a clean install that could be Re-used. If the concensus is that one of Macrium Reflect or Aomei Backupper is the way to go I'm happy to pursue that!

    Dalchina, I am curious about one thing - what, in your estimation, is the use case for creating a custom ISO if NOT this sort of situation?
    As dalchina noted, a custom image is not a backup of your existing installation, but it is a means used to perform a new installation of Windows.

    However, there are several scenarios in which you might use a customized ISO image:

    Unattended Installation

    This is an image that is 100% unchanged from the original except that you add a single file to it called autounattend.xml. This allows you to perform a clean install of Windows fully automated without having to do a single thing. You quite literally boot from that media and a few minutes later Windows is fully installed without you doing anything whatsoever. During the installation, setup automatically creates a user account for you and sets your password, sets your locale settings (language, time zone, keyboard type, etc.), and more.

    Unattended Installation with a Modified Windows Image

    This is very likely what you saw in Kari's tutorial. In this scenario, you configure a "reference system" by installing Windows to it. You then customize that installation of Windows by modifying settings, tweaking the appearance and personalization settings, installing apps, etc. Basically, you are fully customizing Windows just as you would after installing Windows clean on any system. The difference is that you then capture an image of that reference system when everything is customized how you want it and you replace the standard Windows image on your installation media with this customized image. So now, if you install Windows using that image, all your customizations will already be in place when Windows is done installing.

    Adding "Boot Critical" Drivers to a Windows Image

    "Boot Critical" drivers are drivers that are necessary for the Windows setup to function properly. As an example, when you start the installation of Windows, it needs to be able to see your hard drives or SSDs in order to install onto one of those drives. If you have a controller for which Windows does not have a driver (typically a RAID controller) you can manually load the driver during installing. However, you could also modify your Windows image to add those drivers in advance. Here is another real example: I have two laptops with touchpads that do not work in Windows setup. This means that I have to either attach an external mouse or I have to go through all of Windows setup using a keyboard (yuck!) and no pointing device. After Windows is installed, I still have no working touchpad until I install the appropriate drivers. Rather than go through that trouble, I simply modify my Windows image to include the appropriate drivers and then the touchpad works flawlessly during setup.

    Add ALL Drivers for a System to a Windows Image

    Aside from just boot critical drivers, you can modify your Windows image to include ALL drivers for your system. This means that when you are done installing Windows ALL of your drivers will already be installed and you will not need to add any drivers after installation. This is really helpful in an organization where you have many systems with the same hardware. It's also great if you use a system for testing and you reinstall Windows frequently.

    Summary

    I'm sure that there must be other scenarios that are simply not coming to mind at the moment, but the above are several reasons to create a custom ISO image. I just used a custom image last night to install Windows to a VM. This is something I do frequently. I timed it. Installation took 4 minutes and 50 seconds from power on to being on the desktop and this included all my customizations so I didn't have to add any drivers or modify any Windows preferences after that 4 min 50 sec. A HUGE time saver!

    I hope that this gives you some insight into how this can be helpful. If you have any questions, do give a shout!
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  9. Posts : 7
    Windows 10
    Thread Starter
       #9

    hsehestedt, thank you so much! I have researched some tools for customizing the ISO and injecting drivers and programs and have discovered that both NTLite and DISM++ are highly endorsed in the community. Do you recommend one or the other, and / or are there any other tools that you would endorse?

    Also, how are you able to incorporate your custom settings and preferences? I would like to have some very basic settings, like disabling three- and four-finger gestures on the touchpad and file grouping in all Explorer windows. I haven't seen anyway to do so in NTLite.

    Thank you again!
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  10. Posts : 4,167
    Windows 11 Pro, 22H2
       #10

    There are a few ways that you could go about that.

    1) You could follow this tutorial from @Kari:

    Create media for automated unattended install of Windows 10

    In brief, this has you setup a reference system, capture an image, and replace the standard install.wim image on your Windows installation media with this customized image. However, please note that if you are planning on making changes to settings for specific types of hardware, your reference should actually have that type of hardware.

    2) You could create a standard unattended setup file but without the need to create a reference system. Then, once Windows is installed, you could simply run a script or batch file that applies all your customizations.

    My Personal Preference

    I used to go with the customized Windows image, but it was simply too much of a hassle to maintain for me. So now I use method 2 above. I have a single batch file that applies all sorts of customizations, and I can easily comment out any modifications I don't want on a specific machine. Much easier than having a different custom image for each system!

    If you have any interest in seeing what it is that I am doing, please let me know and I'll post my batch file here for you. You can simply use it as a reference to get an idea of what I do and maybe save time for you if you want to do some of the same customizations.

    As for the tools that I use...

    I've seen a lot of posts here where people use third-party tools but invariably end up having problems. I'm not saying to not use these tools, I just prefer to avoid them. I'm one of those people who like to use only Microsoft tools, wherever that is practical. So, I install the Windows ADK with only the "Deployment Tools". That's all. It's simply a preference for me.

    Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I would love to help!
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