Windows 7 Desktop Deployment Overview

Discover how Windows 7 improves agility by enhancing the desktop-deployment experience.

In this article:

  • Overview
  • Improved Application and Hardware Readiness
  • Enhanced Imaging and File Delivery
    • Deployment Image Servicing and Management
    • Virtual Hard Disk Image Management and Deployment
    • Dynamic Driver Provisioning
    • Multicast Multiple Stream Transfer
  • Streamlined Installation and File Migration
  • Conclusion


IT professionals are skeptical—and for good reasons. They’ve deployed numerous releases of the Windows® operating system, and issues like application and hardware compatibility have persisted with each. IT professionals simply want new Windows releases to improve operations and productivity in their environment without major application and hardware remediation, without re-engineering their image-engineering process, and without clogging their networks. IT professionals want to minimize or eliminate deployment-related impact on user productivity or the Help Desk.

Microsoft is listening to the feedback from IT professionals. Building on the technologies introduced in the Windows Vista® operating system, Windows 7 streamlines desktop deployment. Technologies within Windows 7 improve application compatibility, for example, and new tools in Windows 7 allow IT professionals to reduce the evaluation and readiness cycle. Other improvements in Windows 7 include:

  • Providing more options for engineering and deploying images, which allows IT professionals to service images throughout the operating-system lifecycle—using a single, consolidated toolset.
  • Optimizing deployment with improved driver handling through the new Dynamic Driver Provisioning feature, which enables IT professionals to reduce image sizes dynamically matching drivers against Plug and Play IDs or BIOS properties during deployment, and then pull them from a central store.
  • Improving delivery with Windows Deployment Services, reducing bandwidth consumption and improving speed and flexibility by using Multicast with Multiple Stream Transfer.
  • Improving the installation experience with faster and more consistent setup, powerful installation task-sequencing tools, and faster transfer of user files and settings.

Windows 7 gives IT professionals more tools to streamline deployment and reduce or eliminate impacts to users. This white paper provides an overview of the new deployment features in Windows 7.

Improved Application and Hardware Readiness

Windows 7 takes advantage of the investments in Windows Vista hardware and application compatibility that organizations previously made. Additionally, Windows 7 and its related tools improve the assessment and readiness cycle for IT professionals:

  • Inbox features. Windows 7 natively mitigates an extended and prioritized list of applications. It also provides more ways for users to apply compatibility modes using troubleshooting features in order to help mitigate incompatible, unknown applications. Additionally, Windows 7 uses the same driver model and hardware performance criteria as Windows Vista, so most hardware produced after Windows Vista was released will be compatible with Windows 7.
  • Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT). ACT enables organizations to create a comprehensive application and hardware inventory. ACT tools can be used to test and mitigate compatibility issues.
  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit. The MAP Toolkit is an agent-less hardware and application inventory solution that provides detailed compatibility reporting.
  • Windows Compatibility Center. The Windows Compatibility Center is a unified, online compatibility center. It provides both application and device compatibility information.

Enhanced Imaging and File Delivery

Windows 7 streamlines and extends the tools that IT professionals use to engineer and deploy operating-system images. They have more options for building images and can service images throughout the operating-system lifecycle. The following sections describe the features in Windows 7 and related tools that improve the deployment experience for IT professionals. Those features and tools include:

  • Deployment Image Servicing and Management
  • Virtual Hard Disk Image Management and Deployment
  • Dynamic Driver Provisioning
  • Multicast Multiple Stream Transfer

Deployment Image Servicing and Management

The Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool provides a unified tool for building and servicing Windows 7 images offline, including both WIM and Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) image files. DISM is a scriptable command-line tool that combines and extends the functions of several Windows Vista offline image utilities, including ImageX, International Settings Configuration (IntlCfg.exe), PEImg, and Package Manager (PkgMgr.exe). It also improves error reporting and troubleshooting support.

With DISM, IT professionals can mount and unmount system images, and they can update operating-system components with updates, security fixes, and optional components. They can add, enumerate, and remove third-party device drivers. They can add language packs and apply international settings. Importantly, they can easily maintain an inventory of offline images that includes drivers, packages, features, and software updates.

DISM supports using Windows Vista scripts against Windows 7 images by translating Package Manager commands to DISM commands. DISM can also manage Windows Vista images.

Virtual Hard Disk Image Management and Deployment

Virtual machine images, or virtual hard disks (VHDs), traditionally require separate management and deployment solutions from the native file-based Windows images (WIM). Windows 7 enables IT professionals to manage Windows 7–based VHD images using DISM and to deploy VHD files using Windows Deployment Services (WDS). IT professionals benefit from reduced network bandwidth consumption when performing automated network deployments.

IT professionals can also deploy VHD files like WIM files for automated deployment scenarios. These capabilities are especially valuable when using tools for server deployment in the data center.

Dynamic Driver Provisioning

With Dynamic Driver Provisioning in Windows 7, IT professionals can reduce the size of their images and reduce the number of images they maintain. They don’t need to update images when they introduce new hardware into their environment.

By storing drivers centrally on deployment servers, separate from images, IT professional can install drivers dynamically or assign sets of drivers based on information contained in the BIOS. If they choose to install drivers dynamically, Windows 7 enumerates Plug and Play devices during installation. Then, it chooses drivers based on the Plug and Play IDs of the actual devices on the PC.

Reducing the number of drivers on individual PCs reduces the number of potential driver conflicts. This ultimately streamlines installation and setup times, and improves the reliability of the PC.

Multicast Multiple Stream Transfer

The Multiple Stream Transfer option in Windows 7 Multicast enables IT professionals to deploy images across networks more efficiently. Instead of requiring each client to connect directly to a deployment server, Multicast enables deployment servers to broadcast images to multiple clients simultaneously.

In Windows 7, Multiple Stream Transfer enables servers to group clients that have similar bandwidth capabilities into network streams, ensuring the fastest possible transfer rate. In standard Multicast mode, introduced in Windows Server® 2008, the slowest PC throttles the file transfer rate for other client PCs. In standard Multicast mode without using Multiple Stream Transfer, IT professionals can now define minimum transfer performance thresholds to automatically remove slower computers from the multicast group.

Streamlined Installation and File Migration

Windows 7 improves the installation experience with a faster and more consistent setup, powerful installation task sequencing tools, and faster transfer of users’ files and settings. Windows 7 gives IT professionals more tools to reduce or eliminate the deployment impact to users.

For example, the User State Migration Tool (USMT) has new features to improve performance for Windows 7. USMT is a command-line tool that IT professionals use to migrate users’ files and settings, including application and operating-system settings, from one Windows installation to another. For example, USMT adds the Hard-link Migration feature, which migrates files and settings without physically moving those files on the disk when refreshing the PC with a clean installation. This feature significantly improves the performance of migration compared to previous methods that USMT used. Additional USMT improvements for Windows 7 include:

  • Reducing the need for IT professionals to write custom migration XML files by providing a dynamic algorithm to discover user documents during deployment.
  • Enabling offline user state migration, which increases flexibility and performance of gathering users’ files and settings.
  • Migration of in-use files using the Volume Shadow Copy service.

Microsoft is also updating the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) for Windows 7. MDT provides installation task sequencing that fully integrates imaging, setup, and migration. IT professionals use MDT to create and manage layered images. It automates application and software update installation, as well as joining the domain and creating user accounts. Importantly, MDT enables IT professionals to easily deploy images based on PC roles, locations, hardware models, etc.


For Windows 7, Microsoft has made numerous improvements that streamline image deployment. These improvements include native compatibility mitigation for an extended range of applications, new and improved image-engineering tools that improve the deployment experience for IT professionals and users alike, as well as improvements that streamline migration of users’ files and settings.


This is a preliminary white paper containing information that may be changed substantially prior to final commercial release of the software described herein. The information contained in this document represents the current view of Microsoft Corporation on the issues discussed as of the date of publication.  Because Microsoft must respond to changing market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Microsoft, and Microsoft cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.


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