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WDS Facts

The Windows Deployment Services (WDS) server role enables the deployment of Windows operating systems to client and server computers. Using WDS, computers that do not have an installed operating system boot from the network, contact the WDS server, and download and install the operating system. WDS:

  • Deploys Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and earlier versions of Microsoft operating systems.
  • Is available with Standard, Enterprise, and DataCenter editions of Windows Server 2008.

WDS uses disk images for the installation. There are four types of WDS images.

Image Type Description
Install image An installimage is an image of the operating system that will be installed on client computers.
  • A default install image (Install.wim) is included on the operating system DVD in the \Sources folder.
  • Install.wim typically includes all editions of Windows 7 within the single image file.
  • When you add the install image in WDS, you identify the editions within the install image that are available for clients to install.
  • When a client computer connects to the WDS server, and if there are multiple install images available or multiple editions within a single install image made available, a menu will be shown allowing the user to select the version and edition to install.
  • Each install image is architecture specific.
Boot image A bootimage is a minimal operating system (Windows PE) that is sent to the client when it first connects to the WDS server. Boot images are used as follows:
  1. During the boot process, the client computer locates the WDS server.
  2. The WDS server sends a boot image file to the client. The boot image file contains the Windows PE operating system and the WDS client software.
  3. The client installs the Windows PE operating system in the boot image and starts the WDS client.
  4. The WDS client retrieves a list of available full operating systems to install.
  5. The client computer downloads the appropriate install image and installs the full operating system.
When working with boot image files:
  • A default boot image file (Boot.wim) is included on the operating system DVD in the \Sources folder.
  • You can use multiple boot image files. If the WDS server has multiple boot image files, the client computer will display a menu of boot images to use.
Note: Client computers must support PXE boot (network boot) to use boot image files. PXE boot allows a computer without an operating system installed to locate and download the operating system through a network connection.
Capture boot image A captureboot image is an image that you use to create custom install images. To create a custom install image you do the following:
  1. Create the capture boot image from a regular boot image. The capture image includes Windows PE and the WDS Image Capture Wizard.
  2. Install the operating system on a reference computer. Once the operating system is installed, you can customize the installation as desired.
  3. On the reference computer, run the Sysprep utility. Sysprep prepares the computer so that an image can be created from the installation.
  4. Boot the reference computer from the network. When the computer connects to the WDS server, select the capture boot image you created earlier.
  5. After the computer boots, it runs the WDS Image Capture Wizard. Use the wizard to select the disk partition containing the operating system installation you want to capture, and a location to save the resulting image file.
  6. When the wizard completes, the resulting install image file is uploaded to the WDS server.
Discover boot image A discoverboot image is an image that is placed on removable media (such as a CD, DVD, or USB drive) that can be used by non-PXE clients to boot and locate a WDS server. To use a discover image:
  1. Create the discover image from an existing boot image.
  2. Use the Microsoft Windows AIK tools to create an ISO image that contains the discover boot image.
  3. Burn the ISO image to disc. You must use a tool capable of creating a disc from an ISO image; simply copying the image to the disc will not work.
  4. Insert the media in the client computer. Boot the computer from the media.
  5. The computer starts the Windows PE operating system and connects to the WDS server. Select a desired install image to install the full operating system and complete the process.

Be aware of the following WDS details:

  • WDS has the following requirements:
    • The WDS server must be a member of an Active Directory Domain Services domain.
    • WDS requires a DNS server.
    • DHCP is necessary for IP addressing and PXE.
    • The WDS image store must reside on an NTFS file system volume.
  • WDS automates the installation process using two separate unattend files:
    File Description
    Windows Deployment Services client unattend file The Windows Deployment Services client unattend file automates the WDS client screens (authentication, selecting the install image, disk configuration, etc.). The file uses the Unattend.xml format, and it is stored in the \WDSClientUnattend folder.
    Image unattend file The Image unattend file automates the remaining setup phases. Depending on the operating system version in the image, it uses either the Unattend.xml format or the Sysprep.inf format. It is stored in a subfolder (either $OEM$ structure or \Unattend) in the per-image folder.
  • WDS supports the following transmission methods to deploy images:
    • Unicast transmits a separate image to each individual client.
    • Multicast transmits a single image which is received by all clients configured to receive it.
  • Scheduled casting is when the image is transmitted at a pre-configured time and/or after a certain set of computers have contacted the WDS server.
  • To manage and maintain WDS from the command line, use the WDSUTIL utility.