Creating Custom Install Images

Applies To: Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2

You can use Windows Deployment Services to create custom install images. To do this, use the instructions in this section to create a capture image, prepare a reference computer using Sysprep, and then capture the operating system using the Image Capture Wizard. These images provide an alternative to the command-line utility, ImageX.exe, which is included in the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK). For more information including a comparison of capture images and ImageX.exe, see Creating Images (


Note that images that are older than Windows Vista are hardware abstraction layer (HAL)–specific, so you cannot deploy an image of one HAL type to a computer with a different HAL.

Prerequisites for creating custom install images

  • Ensure that there is enough disk space to create and store the new images.

  • Be a member of the Local Administrators group on the Windows Deployment Services server.

  • Have a Boot.wim file on the server. In most cases this should be the Boot.wim file from the product DVD, although you can create a capture image using a custom boot image. For more information, see Creating Images (

Steps for creating a capture image

To create an install image, you must first create a capture image. Capture images are boot images that you boot a client computer into to capture the operating system into a .wim file. You can also create media (a CD, DVD, USB drive, or other type of media) that contain a capture image, and then boot a computer from the media.

To create a capture image

  1. In the Windows Deployment Services MMC snap-in, expand the Boot Images node.

  2. Right-click the image to use as a capture image. In most cases, this should be the Boot.wim file from the Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 product DVD. For instructions about creating custom boot images, see Creating Images (

  3. Click Create Capture Boot Image. Note that this will create a new image using the image you select (it will not overwrite your existing image).

  4. Type a name, a description, and the location where you want to save a local copy of the file.

  5. Continue to follow the instructions in the wizard, and when it is complete, click Finish.


If you have Windows Server 2008 R2, you can select the check box on the last page of the wizard to add the image to the server (instead of following steps 6-8).

  1. To add the image to the server, right-click the boot image folder and click Add Boot Image.

  2. Browse and select the new capture image, and then click Next.

  3. Follow the instructions in the wizard.

  4. After you have created the image and added it to the server, follow the instructions in the next section to boot a computer into the capture image and capture the operating system.

Steps for creating an install image

Now that you have a capture image, you need to prepare a reference computer and then create the install image. The reference computer can be a computer with a standard Windows installation or a Windows installation that has been configured for your environment. First, you boot a computer (which has been prepared with Sysprep) into the capture image. Then a wizard creates an install image of the reference computer and saves it as a .wim file. After that, you can deploy the .wim file to a computer.

To create a custom install image

  1. Create a reference computer (install the operating system, applications, and make any other changes that you want).

  2. On computers running operating systems earlier than Windows Vista, ensure that you have the correct version of Sysprep.exe on the computer.

  3. At a command prompt on the reference computer, change folders to \Windows\System32\Sysprep or the folder that contains Sysprep.exe and Setupcl.exe.

  4. Run the command sysprep /oobe /generalize /reboot. If you prefer, you can also use the Sysprep graphical user interface by double-clicking Sysprep.exe.


On computers running operating systems earlier than Windows Vista, run sysprep -mini –reseal -reboot.

  1. When the computer restarts, perform a network boot on the computer by pressing F12.

  2. In the boot menu, select the capture image that you created in the preceding procedure, and then click Next.

  3. Choose the appropriate drive, and then provide a name and description for the image. Click Next to continue.


You will see only drives that contain operating systems prepared with Sysprep. If you do not run the command in step 4, you will not see any drives to capture.

  1. Click Browse and then browse to a local folder where you want to store the captured install image. We recommend that you use a local location to avoid image corruption in the event of a network malfunction, but you can specify a mapped network drive.

  2. Type a name for the image, using the .wim file name extension, and then click Save.

  3. Select Upload image to WDS server.

  4. Type the name of the Windows Deployment Services server, and then click Connect.

  5. If prompted for credentials, provide a user name and password for an account with sufficient permissions to connect to the Windows Deployment Services server.

  6. In the Image Group list, select the image group in which you want to store the image.

  7. Click Finish.

  8. Now you can PXE boot a client computer to install this image.