Windows 10: Best way to create W10 Pro reference computer and deploy the image
Best way to create W10 Pro reference computer and deploy the image
I've got some new DELL AIO Optiplex 3240s that are now running W10 Pro after successful clean installs. I am needing to set one up as a reference computer and then deploy that image to the rest of them. This is for the small library I work at, so we don't have a server or anything. I assume I will need to make some sort of bootable custom image on a USB drive or DVD. My questions are as follows:
1) What's the best way to go about creating a reference computer? What tools and resources are pre-built into W10 Pro that make this easy?
2) As far as deploying the image, what's the best way to accomplish this since I don't have a server? I know there are some built-in ways to accomplish this, but am not sure which route to go. Or should I opt for some free third-party software of some sort?
I have previously tried using Sysprep to do this by following an online tutorial, but it turns out that there is some sort of issues with AIO computers that Sysprep doesn't like...or at least the DELL AIO Optiplex line. For the curious, the error I experienced can be found here: https://goo.gl/Lc6Tg5
After further research, it appears the Sysprep is a bit antiquated and that there may be better ways to prep and deploy and image anyway. Any help will be much appreciated.
How many machines are we dealing with?
The 'best way' to go about this is going to depend on how you would want to go about doing this. Obviously, without a server you aren't going to be able to have a full scale imaging solution say with the machines doing something like network booting and using PXE.
>>The best way would probably be for you to develop your own Hard Disk imaging solution by modifying a copy of WinPE. You'll want to start by downloading Windows ADK for Windows 10 to a machine that isn't going to be one of your new computers. WinPE, or Windows Preinstallation Environment has tools that are helpful for capturing and deploying a hard disk image (specifically DISM). You can create your reference machine, use DISM to capture the current Windows image then save that somewhere so you can deploy it to your other machines with DISM.
>>As far as deploying goes, its up to you for what you would want to do. You could load the Windows image onto a USB stick and then deploy it one by one to the machines. If you have alot of machines (like 20 or so) this might not be the best idea. If possible, you'll need to make a 'server' by putting another Windows machine on the same network and sharing off a folder from that computer so you aren't imaging one machine at a time. What your best option for deployment is will depend on your setup.
I have done this before but never before on a large scale. I can't guarantee it'll work, and how well things will work will depend on your setup.
It's only 4 computers this go around. I am trying to use this as a learning opportunity since we have plans to apply for grants to get 15-20 new computers in the relatively new future. I have always just manually done this which is obviously slow and inefficient.
Would I download Windows ADK onto the reference machine since it's the one I want to clone?
If your going to be getting that many computers it might be a good idea to get some sort of server and some sort of actual imaging solution set up, it will be easier for you in the long run, although it might not be ideal for your setup. I can't say.
You can download ADK to the reference machine if you want to. I would highly advise you don't as it isn't going to be necessary for the people using the machines afterwards and would be wasted space on the disk. Download it to some other computer since all you'll likely need it for is copying WinPE.
Things to consider before you do anything:
-Are these machines going to be joined to a Windows domain?
-How are you activating Windows?
OK, that makes sense. I didn't fully understand how WinPE worked, but after rereading your first post I am gathering that you use it to setup an image to deploy rather than capturing the image of the computer itself (like what I think system does). Is that correct? If that is the case, where does the reference machine fit into all this? It doesn't seem like it would really apply here, but maybe I am missing something.
As for connecting to a Windows domain, no I don't think so. That would only apply if a server was involved, correct? These computers are staff computers, and I will want them to be apart of the same workgroup to setup some basic file sharing and such, but that is about it.
These computers are already W10 activated. I assumed that if I reimage them with a custom image, it would automatically pull that activation key like it does now if you clean install...but maybe it doesn't?
Here's what I'm talking about:
Capture Images of Hard Disk Partitions Using DISM
(Skip to step 3: Capture Partition Images Using DISM)
This tool (DISM) works similarly to other hard disk capturing/ imaging tools that are out there. You can capture a Windows partition as is (say on the reference machine) and lay it down on another hard disk in its exact state. This is a very similar process to what businesses and schools use to install Windows on hundreds of computers. The only problem is that it is a total clone of the Windows installation on the drive- so I would be very cautious about licensing. It does not seem you are using some sort of volume activation solution for activating Windows. If you're using the key that was preinstalled on your reference machine, the key is likely an OEM key or some other key on the retail channel. This means that it cannot be installed/ activated on any more than one machine. This *might* be an issue considering you'd be laying down a Windows image with the key from the reference machine installed onto different machines.
>>Before you touch any of your computers, go into Windows and retrieve the Windows product key that was preinstalled using a tool like 'Belarc Advisor' on each machine. Write down each key and keep it with the computer it came with in case Windows doesn't activate on all machines. You should be able to activate the preinstalled key on the machine it came from. You might want to backup one machine's harddisk and test it to get the hang of how to do it and to make sure everything works
>>The point of the reference machine is to get one computer to a state that you want all of the other machines to be at and then sort of clone that machine's hard disk to all of the other machines. Imaging is a very convenient process that businesses and schools, who have hundreds of computers, use to avoid having to manually do everything on each machine. If its within your organization's budget or goals, I would recommend looking into getting a more professional imaging solution or at the very least look into getting some sort of volume activation server. With a volume activation server, you'll be able to install the same product key on many computers and activate all of them. It would eliminate the need to be swapping product keys out after each install and would be more convenient.
>>I have developed my own imaging solution using this process for my own use, since I'm constantly using virtual machines. However, I have never done anything on this scale using this. I see no reason for it not to work, and I can continue to answer your questions throughout your adventure with it. Just know the little technicalities (like licensing) before you go and do anything on all the computers. I would recommend you test it on one machine just to make sure this is what you're after.
>>If you want to do some more reading on DISM search for things on the line of 'capture and deploy a windows image with DISM' (try and stick with tutorials and such that explain using DISM). You might also want to read up a little on WinPE and why it's going to be important for this project.
Is this what you're looking for?
Windows 10 Image - Customize in Audit Mode with Sysprep - Windows 10 Forums
Edit: I see you tried it, but, if you have problems with Sysprep on your PC, maybe @Kari can help you in that thread.
Last edited by Cliff S; 13 Jul 2016 at 04:06.
If pcs are nearly identical, you can create an image backup using one of a number of image backup tools, and restore image to each pc.
Not all versions are free for non-personal use.
You would have to activate each pc afterwards with each key.
Ok. So I was a little confused on how ADK, WinPE and creating a referencing computer all fit together. I read the page to the link you provided along with a few additional pieces of information that were linked in the TechNet article and think I am starting to grasp it. But let me make sure, just in case...
I will install ADK on another computer running W10. From there, I would utilize WinPE to create a bootable usb, which I would then plug-in to my determined reference computer. Boot to the USB on the reference computer and do the DISM procedure. I know that's skipping a few things, but is that the generally gist of how I would go about this using the methods you have described for me?
Also, does it matter whether or not I install ADK on a computer running W10 Home if the computers I am imaging are running W10 Pro?
And yes, these computers just have an OEM key. I will definitely pull the keys off each one using the tool you've suggested. That sounds like an all-round best practice just in case something goes awry. And I will only do this on one computer first to test things out and get comfortable with how the process works. I'll do a system image backup of my test computer as well per your suggestion.
As a side question, I understand volume licensing and generally how it works as we use it for our Microsoft Office software, but if a computer comes with W10 pre-installed and activated with some sort of OEM/Retailer license what would be the advantage to purchasing volume licensing? It seems that you would just be spending money on something you already have??? Or is it just to make things much, much easier when deploying an OS across a large network?
Last edited by ahelton; 13 Jul 2016 at 18:12.
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