Planning: Customizing reference images for different audiences

Instead of having one device design that tries to fit everyone, Windows image management tools help you tailor device designs to meet the specific needs of various customers.

To get started, we recommend choosing a hardware design that targets a specific audience, market, or price point. Build base images for this design and test it. Next, modify the base images to create designs for for different audiences, include branding, logos, languages, and apps.

Device types

Consider creating separate designs for different device types, such as low-cost or performance laptops, or low-cost or performance desktops. Each of these styles has different sets of critical differentiators, such as battery life or graphics performance.

Although Windows includes base drivers for many common devices, some hardware requires specialized device drivers that must be installed and occasionally updated.

Many drivers are designed to be installed offline without booting the Windows image.

Use Windows Assessment tools to make sure that the apps and hardware that you're installing can perform well in a variety of circumstances.


If you plan to build devices with both 64-bit and 32-bit (x86) chipsets and architectures, you'll need separate base images. You'll also need different versions of drivers, packages, and updates.

Retail customers and business customers

If you're building designs for both retail and business customers, you can start with a single base edition such as Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro, and then later upgrade it to a higher edition such as Windows 10 Enterprise, as needed. Once you've built a higher edition, however, you can't downgrade it to the lower edition. For more info, see DISM Windows Edition-Servicing Command-Line Options.

If you're building devices to sell to retail customers, you'll need to meet a set of minimum requirements. For info, see the Licensing and Policy guidance on the OEM Partner Center.

If you're building devices for businesses, you'll have fewer restrictions. IT professionals can customize their devices in all sorts of ways. However, you should consider the implications of IT policies, as well as customer needs such as migrating data, activating security tools, and managing volume license agreements and product keys.


Consider creating different base images for different regions.

The resource files for Windows and other apps like Microsoft Office can be large - some resources like localized handwriting and speech recognition resources are several hundred megabytes.

To save drive space, we've split up the language packs. This can help you preload more languages for your customers or save space on your image. For example, to target a large region, you may preload the basic language components such as text and user interface files for many areas within the region, but only include the handwriting recognition for devices with pens, or only include voice and speech tools for Cortana on devices with integrated microphones. Users can download these components later as needed.

Sample plan

This lab uses the following three sample hardware configurations.

Hardware Configuration: 1 1B 2
Form factor Small tablet 2-in-1 Notebook
Architecture x86 x86 x64
RAM 1 GB 2 GB 4 GB
Disk capacity and type 16 GB eMMC 32 GB eMMC 500 GB HDD
Disk compression used Yes No No
Display size 8” 10” 14”
Windows SKU Home Pro Home
Region/Language(s) EN-US EN-US, FR-FR, ES-ES EN-GB, DE-DE, FR-FR, ES-ES, ZH-CN
Cortana Yes Yes Yes
Inbox apps (Universal) Yes Yes Yes
Pen No Yes No
Office (Universal) Yes Yes Yes
Windows desktop applications No Yes Yes
Office 2016 No Yes Yes
Compact OS Yes Yes No


  • We can build an image for Hardware Configuration 1B by using Hardware Configuration 1 as a base image.
  • We can't build Hardware Configuration 2 from either Hardware Configuration 1 or 1B, because they use a different architecture.