Best Practices for Image Deployment

The following sections describe best practices for deploying Windows images.

If you intend to transfer a Windows image to a different computer, you must run sysprep /generalize, 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.

Selecting the Windows Image to Install During Windows Setup

In most installations, the product key specified in the Microsoft-Windows-Setup component is used to select a Windows image during Windows Setup. However, there may be instances when you have multiple Windows images of the same edition, particularly if you maintain a single .wim file that includes Windows images for multiple architecture types and languages.

When you capture a Windows image, you can use the imagex /flags option to create the metadata to apply to the image you are capturing. For example, you can add a metadata description of "Windows Vista Ultimate AMD64".

If you store more than one Windows image in a .wim file, you must specify the correct Metadata setting in your unattended answer file. For example, if you maintain a single .wim file with multiple Windows images for different editions and architecture types, you can use the Metadata setting to specify the exact Windows image to install.

In the Microsoft-Windows-Setup component, the ImageInstall\OSImage\InstallFrom\MetaData setting specifies unique data for each Windows image in a .wim file. You can use the MetaData setting to select a specific image in a .wim that matches one or more values specified by the Metadata setting.

For more information, see the ImageX Technical Reference and the Metadata setting in the Unattended Windows Setup Reference.

Create architecture-specific sections for each pass in an answer file

If you are performing cross-platform deployments, you should not duplicate components for different architecture types in an answer file. If there are multiple components that apply to different architecture types in an answer file, there may be instances when the settings in the components are applied more than once, or are incorrectly applied.

For cross-platform deployments, you should create architecture-specific settings for each configuration pass in an answer file. For example, for a 32-bit preinstallation environment and a 64-bit destination computer, you should specify only x86 components in the windowsPE pass, and amd64 components in all other passes.

Itanium deployments

Deploying Itanium images to Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) and Unified EFI (UEFI) requires additional preparation. Because EFI systems require a dedicated partition for EFI, you must capture both the Windows image and the EFI system partition. If you are applying the Windows image by using imagex /apply, you must apply both the Windows image and the EFI system partition image.

For more information, see Apply a Windows Image to UEFI-based Computers.