Preinstallation Process Overview

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2


This content applies to Windows 7. For Windows 8 content, see Windows Deployment with the Windows ADK.

There are many ways to deploy a Windows® operating system. However, there are several common steps that you will go through in order to deploy Windows. The following process outlines a typical Windows deployment.

  • Plan - Determine which deployment method best meets your business needs. Gather all the required resources, including hardware and software.

  • Environment Setup - Build your deployment environment. Install Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) onto a single computer designated as the technician computer. Build a lab environment to test your installation prior to deployment. Use Windows SIM to define your network shares and other environment settings.

  • Customize - Create an answer file, Unattend.xml, by using Windows SIM. Unattend.xml is a single file that replaces a number of previous Unattend.txt and .ini files. Use Oobe.xml to customize Windows Welcome.

  • Install and Test - Assemble the new computer, also known as a reference installation. Apply the answer file and the Windows product DVD to the reference installation. Test your new installation.

  • Deploy - For high-volume deployments, capture and store an image of the new installation onto your distribution share. Deploy the image onto new computers and deliver the new computer to the customer. For low-volume deployments, apply the answer file and the Windows product DVD to each new computer and then deliver the new computer to the customer.

  • Maintain - Modify the existing image by using Windows SIM to include drivers, service packs, and third-party applications.

OEM Manufacturing Process

In a high-volume manufacturing environment, it is common to create an image for each computer model that you will ship. You develop the image in a lab environment by using Windows SIM, store the images on a distribution share, assemble the new computers on the manufacturing floor, and then copy the images by using a network. This process works well for build-to-plan (BTP) and build-to-order (BTO) business models where speed is a priority.


If you intend to transfer a Windows image to a different computer, you must run the sysprep command with the /generalize option, even if the computer has the same hardware configuration. The sysprep /generalize command removes unique information from your Windows installation, which enables you to reuse that image on different computers.
The next time you boot the Windows image, the specialize configuration pass runs. During this configuration pass, many components have actions that must be processed when you boot a Windows image on a new computer.
Any method of moving a Windows image to a new computer, either through imaging, hard disk duplication, or other method, must be prepared with the sysprep /generalize command. Moving or copying a Windows image to a different computer without running sysprep /generalize is not supported.


The default image file (Install.wim) that is included with the Windows product DVD works only with Windows Setup (Setup.exe). Do not deploy this default image directly with the ImageX tool.

In a low-volume manufacturing environment, the flexibility to quickly customize an installation that includes different kinds of hardware and software is more important. In this case, DVD-based installations or configuration set installations are the preferred methods.

You can also design your own deployment process by using parts of the previously listed methods. The tools are flexible enough to support many complex deployment scenarios. This guide will describe only the core methods.

Corporate Deployment Process

As with OEM manufacturing environments, corporate environments can also range from low to high volume. The previously described deployment methods are also applicable to this space. However, in a corporate environment, there are additional processes not applicable to an OEM environment. Corporate deployments must address upgrade and migration issues. This guide will provide some guidance on these issues, but it will mainly focus on installing the new operating system onto the new hardware. For more information about corporate deployment, see the Business Desktop Deployment Solution Accelerator.

See Also


Introduction to Deployment Tools
Preinstallation Methods