Automating Windows 7 Installation : Getting Familiar with Microsoft Images (part 2) - Creating Operating System Images

10/27/2013 7:37:01 PM

3. Creating a Bootable WinPE Image

WinPE images are not intended to be a primary operating system. Instead, WinPE provides an interface for the user with enough access to the hardware to complete a full installation. You can boot to a WinPE image using a bootable CD, a USB flash drive, or a hard disk, or you can use a preboot execution environment (PXE) client to connect to a WDS server.

When you start the Windows 7 installation, Setup will load WinPE from the boot.wim file located in the \sources\ folder of the installation DVD. While the WinPE meets the needs of most users, you can customize it. For example, you can create your own bootable USB drive or CD and includes extra files like the ImageX utility to capture an image after booting to the WinRE.

4. Creating Operating System Images

Operating system images are also known as install images. They include a full operating system. A thin image (also called a basic image) is just the default operating system and nothing else. Thick images (also called custom images) include the operating system along with any customization and applications you may need.

A WIM file can hold multiple images. For example, install.wim on the installation DVD typically holds images for multiple editions of Windows 7. You can query the contents of an image file by issuing the following command at the WAIK Deployment Tools command prompt:

ImageX /info targetlmageFile

The target is the location of the image file. For example, if your installation DVD is in the E: drive, the target location is e:\sources\install.wim and the command would look like this:

ImageX /info e:\sources\install.wim

Listing 1 shows a partial output from this query. We left all the details in for the first image (IMAGE INDEX="1") but included only the index number and name for the remaining four images.

Example 1. ImageX information included on the install.wim file
ImageX Tool for Windows
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp. All rights reserved.
Version: 6.1.7600.16385

WIM Information:
Path: e:\sources\install.wim
GUID: {4db440bc-7222-4651-9192-1798c4b29bcb}
Image Count: 5
Compression: LZX
Part Number: 1/1
Attributes: 0xc
Integrity info
Relative path junction

Available Image Choices:

<PRODUCTNAME>Microsoftr Windowsr Operating System</PRODUCTNAME>


When working with images using either ImageX or DISM, you'll frequently need to know either the index number or the name. The index number is much easier to enter, but you may want to use the name to ensure you're working on the correct image.

While you probably won't have a need for an image file with multiple editions of Windows 7, you may want to create an image file with multiple versions of Windows 7 installations. For example, you can create one image that includes the software and configuration needed by sales people and name it Windows 7 Sales. You can create another image needed by personnel working in IT and name it Windows 7 IT.

A benefit of storing multiple images in a single WIM file is that the imaging format uses single file storage for efficiency. That way, if five images in a WIM file have an identical application named Notepad.exe, it is stored only once instead of five times.

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