Capture and apply Windows, system, and recovery partitions

When you're deploying Windows using the WIM format, and using customized partitions, a customized system partition or an additional utility partition, learn how to capture the right partitions to apply to new PCs.

Notes:

  • If you don't need custom partitions, you usually can just capture the Windows partition, and then use files from that image to set up the rest of the partitions on the drive. See Capture and Apply Windows using a single WIM file.

  • If you're capturing using the FFU format, you'll be fine - FFU captures all of the partitions on the drive.

Capture the customized partitions

Step 1: Determine which partitions to capture

This table shows the types of partitions that you must capture and those that are managed automatically.

If you're deploying both UEFI and BIOS systems, you can reuse your primary and logical partitions across UEFI-based and BIOS-based devices, but not the other partition types.

Partition type Should you capture this partition? Can you reuse the same WIM on UEFI and BIOS firmware?
System partition (EFI System Partition or BIOS system partition) Optional. If only a simple set of partition files is required, you don’t have to capture this partition. No
Microsoft Reserved partition (MSR) No No
Primary partitions (Windows partitions, data / utility partitions that you've added) Yes Yes
Recovery partition Optional. If you haven't customized this partition, you don’t have to capture it. No
Extended partition No No
Logical partitions (Windows partitions, data / utility partitions that you've added) Yes Yes

Step 2: Prepare to capture partitions

  1. If you've booted the Windows image, generalize it so that it can be deployed to other devices. For more information, see Sysprep (Generalize) a Windows installation.

  2. Start your reference device by using Windows PE.

  3. At the Windows PE command prompt, type diskpart to open the DiskPart tool.

    X:> diskpart
    DISKPART>
    
  4. Check to see if the partitions that you want to capture have drive letters assigned.

    DISKPART> list volume
    
      Volume ###  Ltr  Label        Fs     Type        Size     Status     Info
      ----------  ---  -----------  -----  ----------  -------  ---------  --------
      Volume 0     C   Windows      NTFS   Partition    475 GB  Healthy    Boot
      Volume 1                      NTFS   Partition    554 MB  Healthy
      Volume 2         SYSTEM       FAT32  Partition    499 MB  Healthy    System
    

    If any of the partitions you want to capture don’t already have a drive letter assigned, continue:

  5. List the disks in your PC:

    DISKPART> list disk
    
    Disk ###  Status         Size     Free     Dyn  Gpt
    --------  -------------  -------  -------  ---  ---
    Disk 0    Online          127 GB      0 B        *
    
  6. Select the primary hard disk:

    DISKPART> select disk 0
    
  7. View the partitions:

    DISKPART> list partition
    
      Partition ###  Type              Size     Offset
      -------------  ----------------  -------  -------
      Partition 1    System             499 MB  1024 KB
      Partition 2    Reserved           128 MB   500 MB
      Partition 3    Primary            475 GB   628 MB
      Partition 4    Recovery           554 MB   476 GB
    
  8. Select a partition that needs a drive letter:

    DISKPART> select partition=1
    
  9. Assign a letter to the partition with the assign letter command. For example,

    DISKPART> assign letter=S
    
  10. Type exit to return to the Windows PE command prompt.

    DISKPART> exit
    X:\>
    

For more information, see the DiskPart Help from the command line, or Diskpart Command line syntax.

Step 3: Capture images for each customized partition.

  • At the Windows PE command prompt, capture each customized partition, for example:

    Dism /Capture-Image /ImageFile:C:\my-windows-partition.wim /CaptureDir:C:\ /Name:"My Windows partition"
    Dism /Capture-Image /ImageFile:C:\my-system-partition.wim /CaptureDir:S:\ /Name:"My system partition"
    

    For more information about using the DISM tool to capture an image, see DISM Image Management Command-Line Options.

Step 4: Save images to the network or another safe location.

  1. Connect an external drive, or connect to a safe network location, for example:

    net use n: \\Server\Share
    

    If prompted, provide your network credentials.

  2. Copy the partitions to your network share. For example,

    md N:\Images\
    copy C:\my-windows-partition.wim N:\Images\
    copy C:\my-system-partition.wim N:\Images\
    

Apply the images

Step 1: Prepare to apply partitions

  1. Start your destination device by using Windows PE.

  2. Connect an external drive, or connect to a safe network location, for example:

    net use n: \\Server\Share
    

    If prompted, provide your network credentials.

  3. Wipe the hard drive and create new partitions.

    To apply to multiple devices, save the Diskpart commands into a script and run them on each new device. For examples, see Configure UEFI/GPT-Based Hard Drive Partitions or Configure BIOS/MBR-Based Hard Drive Partitions. Example:

    diskpart /s D:\CreatePartitions-UEFI.txt
    

    Where D: is a USB flash drive or other file storage location.

    In these DiskPart examples, the partitions are assigned the letters: System=S, Windows=W, and Recovery=R.

    Change the Windows drive letter to a letter that’s near the end of the alphabet, such as W, to avoid drive letter conflicts. Do not use X, because this drive letter is reserved for Windows PE. After the device reboots, the Windows partition is assigned the letter C, and the other partitions don’t receive drive letters.

    If you reboot, Windows PE reassigns disk letters alphabetically, starting with the letter C, without regard to the configuration in Windows Setup. This configuration can change based on the presence of different drives, such as USB flash drives.

  4. Optional: speed up the image capture by setting the power scheme to High performance:

    powercfg /s 8c5e7fda-e8bf-4a96-9a85-a6e23a8c635c
    

Step 2: Apply the partitions

  1. Windows and data partitions: Apply the image(s), example:

    dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:N:\Images\my-windows-partition.wim /Index:1 /ApplyDir:W:\
    

    where W: is the Windows partition.

  2. System partition: You can either:

    • Configure the system partition by using the BCDBoot tool. This tool copies and configures system partition files by using files from the Windows partition. For example:

      W:\Windows\System32\bcdboot W:\Windows /s S:
      

      or:

    • Apply a custom image

      dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:N:\Images\my-system-partition.wim /Index:1 /ApplyDir:S:\
      

      Where S: is the system partition

  3. Recovery partition:

    a. You can either:

    • Copy the Windows Recovery Environment (RE) tools into the recovery tools partition.

      md R:\Recovery\WindowsRE
      copy W:\Windows\System32\Recovery\winre.wim R:\Recovery\WindowsRE\winre.wim
      

      Where R: is the recovery partition

    or:

    • Apply a custom image

      dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:N:\Images\my-recovery-partition.wim /Index:1 /ApplyDir:R:\
      

    b. Register the location of the recovery tools, and hide the recovery partition using Diskpart. You can use our sample script or perform the steps manually:

    W:\Windows\System32\reagentc /setreimage /path R:\Recovery\WindowsRE /target W:\Windows
    

    Diskpart steps for UEFI:

    set id="de94bba4-06d1-4d40-a16a-bfd50179d6ac"
    gpt attributes=0x8000000000000001
    

    Diskpart steps for BIOS:

    set id=27
    

Step 3: Verify that it worked

Reboot the device (exit). Windows should boot.

Note

If the device doesn't boot, (for example, if you receive the error message: Bootmgr not found. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL) check the steps for setting up the system partition:

  • See BCDBoot command-line options for more info about copying boot files to the system partition.
  • Use the DiskPart tool to check to make sure that the system partition is set to Active.

Complete the out of box experience (OOBE) as a new user, and check the recovery partition:

  • Check that in File Explorer that the Recovery partition is not visible.

  • View the partitions exist, either by right-clicking Start and selecting Disk Management, or by using diskpart (Open a command prompt as an administrator > diskpart > select disk 0 > list partition > exit).

Configure UEFI/GPT-Based Hard Drive Partitions

Configure BIOS/MBR-Based Hard Drive Partitions

BCDboot Command-Line Options

REAgentC Command-Line Options