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Custominzing/Automating Windows Images for Medium Business Deployment


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#1 Jwest0460

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 02:51 PM

Hello All,

First, I hope this is in the correct forum/section. If not - Moderators - Sorry!

I am currently looking for a solution for customizing windows images and then automating the deployment/Out-of-box Experience (OOBE) for the business I work for. I have done some research for what is available, but so far I find the Microsoft solutions to be complicated or not quite what I need. I have done a bit of exploration with Microsoft Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), but found that WAIK is a bit too complicated, and I don't believe MDT will suit our needs.

Here is a bit of background information to familiarize you with our environment/needs:

Customization:

-Currently we are taking the factory Dell image that comes with the laptops and customizing it to our needs by uninstalling bloatware and installing our default applications. We are also customizing the image by configuring power settings, screen saver settings, IE homepage, etc. To do this, we are currently forced to use local group policy, which disables the option to let the user change said settings. Currently, we do not have our domain environment setup with the proper OUs to use domain group policy. Therefore, we are using local group policy as a temporary solution. Once all of these settings are set, we create a backup image of the system before using sysprep, then we sysprep the box and create another image before booting the system again so that we can install the image onto computers and have them boot into OOBE for setup.

-We want to be able to set the desktop background, profile picture, IE homepage, screen saver, and power settings as defaults - i.e. giving the users permission to change them after receiving their system. Using group policy disables the ability to let the user change the settings after receiving the computer. Of course we don’t want to use local group policy at all in a domain environment, but without our domain setup with the proper OUs, it appears we currently don’t have an alternative.

Image installation/deployment:

-Currently we use Symantec Ghost to copy our customized image to each box. The OOBE is not customized at all, so each time we image a box, we have to manually select language settings, time settings, connect to the wireless network, etc.

-What we want is to be able to automate the process by predefining most of these settings. That way, when we startup the computer with the new image, we only have to enter the user account and computer name, while the rest of the settings are automated.

From what I understand, XP deployment was done using an unattend or answer file that you used to answer the prompts in OOBE. As I said before, I have done some research on WAIK and MDT, but they don't seem to be user friendly (specifically WAIK) and will take a whole lot of time to learn and then more testing to see what works and what doesn't. My hope is that someone could show me possible third party tools for customizing the image and/or automating the OOBE/deployment process. I am currently encountering issues with setting a custom desktop background for new users, which should be a very simple task, but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to make it simple. Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Regards,
Moose

Edited by Jwest0460, 11 June 2012 - 03:11 PM.


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#2 Jwest0460

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 07:25 AM

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#3 WinOutreach4

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 03:17 PM

A lot of the requirements you have for your image can be quite easily accomplished using a combination of Microsoft tools. Windows XP deployment and Windows 7 deployment is done quite differently but there were many changes that were made with Windows 7 deployment that allowed for a more efficient and seamless deployment. Windows 7 deployments do use a unattend.XML file, otherwise known as an answer file, as opposed to using sysprep.ini and unattend.txt files.
You will most definitely want to use an answer file with each of your deployment images. This video from TechNet will walk you through the process of creating an answer file using Windows System Image Manager (WSIM). As I believe you read, WSIM is a component of WAIK and greatly simplifies the process of creating answer files and will validate the file for you. For your benefit, there are more sample unattend files here.

Customizations to the default profile should be done in Audit Mode. You would then use the 'CopyProfile' setting in your unattend file to make these customizations part of the default user profile. Remove any other profiles you have created before sysprep and the administrator profile will be copied to the default user profile.
Windows 7 still uses the unattend file to set OOBE settings for you also. The Unattended Windows Setup Reference is a great reference to help you.

Another thought to consider is that MDT is a common console for Microsoft’s free deployment tools. MDT is very customizable and has some great benefits. While the current version of MDT is MDT 2012, there is still a great introductory video on TechNet here that walks you through the process of using the deployment workbench of MDT 2010. One more benefit of MDT is that it is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2003, 2008, and 2008 R2 so you would only have to learn one utility to learn ALL of your deployments.
Another two videos that are always recommended are:
Alphabet Soup Deployment: Understanding MDT, WDS, MAP, ACT, SCCM, and USMT
Deploy Windows 7 The Easy Way: Using WDS, MDT and AIK – Step-By-Step Video
The first video outlines how simple it is to not only manage your deployments but also greatly minimize the time it takes while the second video walks you through, step-by step, the process of doing so with all the aforementioned tools.
Because there is so much information, the entire deployment process may seem a bit confusing at first, but once you get it setup, it will save you huge amounts of time.
For a step-by-step guide to deploying Windows 7 I recommend this step-by-step guide from the Springboard Series on TechNet and the Build a better desktop image image resource as it is a great article with additional detailed information on desktop image management.

Hope this helps,
David
Windows Outreach Team - IT Pro

#4 Jwest0460

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 01:35 PM

David,

thanks a lot for the detailed post. I'll be checking out the links provided over the coming week and a half or so as I work at it. I'll certainly ask more questions if I find them along the way.

#5 WinOutreach4

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 01:44 PM

I'm happy to help. I'll keep the watch on this thread in order to catch any questions you have.

David

#6 Jwest0460

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 07:21 AM

David,

I been poking around with some options, but I have a question about using Audit mode. In all of the instructions I have seen listed, it says to install Windows and then go into audit mode. Using my answer file I've created, I've done this. However, none of the drivers or windows updates are installed on the computer, which requires restarting several times. Are you able to restart and return to audit mode without disrupting anything?

Also, there are instructions that say I should use the copyprofile command in my unattend xml file. Should I have a separate unattend xml file just for syspreping the computer before capturing the image, or should I be using the same file that I used to install windows?

Hope my questions make sense.

Thanks!
JW

#7 WinOutreach4

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 10:06 AM

JW,

The system will automatically restart into audit mode until you run sysprep with the /oobe option. So you can restart as many times as you want. However, when you run Sysprep with the /generalize switch, it will remove any drivers you install unless you use the PersistAllDeviceInstalls setting in your answer file. It is easier to put your device drivers in the MDT driver store, and let them install during deployment. By the way, you don’t need to use the unattend file to get into Audit mode. After you install Windows, when it comes up to the welcome screen you can press Shift+CTRL+F3. This will bring you to Audit mode also.
There are certain phases of your answer file that run before capturing the image, and phases that run on startup after deploying the image. While this can be done in one file, it can also be done with separate files. If you run sysprep from a command line (before the capture), you can specify an unattend file to use. This article explains what passes run during which part of the process. This article shows the command to use when specifying an unattend file and the implicit answer file search order that setup uses when the unattend file is not specified. The copyprofile command runs during the specialize phase of Windows Setup, and you must use Sysprep with the /generalize option.

Hope this helps,
David
Windows Outreach Team – IT Pro

Edited by WinOutreach4, 26 June 2012 - 10:09 AM.


#8 Jwest0460

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 09:11 AM

Thanks for the quick response. That does help. I am currently reading through this article that explains the configuration passes and such for the answer file. I think that is what I really need, to learn how the answer file works and what options I have. Getting familiar with answer files and Windows SIM will likely be a big help to me. I have a feeling that I'll be asking more questions in the future so I hope you keep an eye out.

Thanks for your help this far!

JW

#9 WinOutreach4

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 02:18 PM

I'll be watching for your questions. :thumbsup:

#10 Jwest0460

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 01:31 PM

Alright Dave, I've got another question for you.

I have successfully created a base image except for one customization setting that hasn't transferred over - the user account picture. We have a company logo that we'd like to use as the default profile picture. However, when I syspreped the machine and got to the windows desktop on the new installation, the orange flower was there. Any thoughts? I have seen that you can replace the user.bmp file in the %windir%\ProgramData\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\ directory, but I'd like to know the proper way of doing it.

Thanks,
JW

Edited by Jwest0460, 28 June 2012 - 01:33 PM.


#11 WinOutreach4

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 02:49 PM

JW,

According to this blog post, not all settings are copied. However, there is a Group Policy Object that can set the user pictures to your company logo. According to this thread, the setting can be found under 'Computer Configuration, Administrative Template, Control Panel, User accounts. The setting is 'apply the default logon pictures to all users'.

Hope this helps,
David
Windows Outreach Team - IT pro

#12 WinOutreach4

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 03:29 PM

JW,

I was talking with some co-workers and this subject came up. The location for the user.bmp file is under %programData%\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\User.bmp, and as long as you replace it with a 128 x 128 BMP file, it should make your picture choice the default user picture. The User Profiles Tiles section in this article explains the locations and why it didn't work for you.

David,
Windows Outreach Team - IT Pro

Edited by WinOutreach4, 09 July 2012 - 03:41 PM.





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