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Image creation on Windows 7 seems slightly different than what we used to do with Windows XP. Under Windows XP, I used sysprep to generalize the system (get rid of device-dependent stuff), reboot on a Norton Ghost or Acronis boot CD and take an image of the system from there.

Under Windows 7, sysprep seems different. I first tried what I used to do under Windows XP environments : running sysprep, reboot, take image, done. The problem is, after an image restore on another pc (same model, same peripherals), third-party drivers are gone and everything seems just... ...screwed up.

I then searched the web and found a Microsoft article that explains how to deploy Windows 7 environments. The articles teaches how to create a Windows PE USB boot drive, put imageX on it (imageX is new to me, as it looks like a new MS supported way to create system images), then boot into audit mode, remove the user profile used to configure the system, then create an image using imageX.

I'll have to teach level-1 support technicians to create images under Windows 7 environments. This procedure is quite long and the many steps to get through the whole thing leaves a lot of human error possibilities.

Anybody deploying Windows 7 systems and could suggest the quickest way to do it ?

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manual sysprep and imagex is really, really ugly to create images.. (I used to do it that way). Look at the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010. (its free) There is some virtual labs you can take online with it.. Moving our process from a manual one to MDT cut our time to create master images from a few days to about 45 min. One thing that is very, very nice in MDT is you can add your own scripts and applications to the image. So we would manually setup certain file structures, and write VBscripts to do all those 'little things' that you always forget when you manually create images. You boot from some boot media (we used virtual machines for this part) and it sets up windows 7 for you, installs all the apps you tell it to (and your custom stuff) runs sysprep for you, and then takes an image (using ImageX) for you.. Its completely automated, and if you get a new version of adobe reader, or some new windows updates, you drop them into MDT, and tell it to create a new master image, and walk away for about 40 min...

Seriously, look for the virtual labs for MDT. I'm a certified windows 7 desktop administrator, and have done a ton of deploying, (in the thousands) la and once you get used to how windows deployment has changed since XP, (like sysprep), its really much, much nicer, and don't even get me started comparing it to ghost!

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"You boot from some boot media (we used virtual machines for this part) and it sets up windows 7 for you, installs all the apps you tell it to (and your custom stuff) runs sysprep for you, and then takes an image (using ImageX) for you.." I have installed the deployement toolkit. Which software does that ? The only thing I have found is documentation that teaches me how to create a USB Windows PE boot drive and do everything myself in command line. – Steve Hémond Apr 5 '11 at 16:24
when you update the deployment share, depending on that shares properties, there should be an ISO file that it creates. I used HyperV running on the same computer (you could use virtualbox or something else too) and booted from the ISO.. you could also burn that ISO to a disk and use it in another computer on the same network. – Brian Apr 5 '11 at 20:27

You can do quite the same you did with Windows XP, only you will need to specify a custom sysprep configuration file (XML format) with the option "PersistAllDevicesInstall" enabled. With this your drivers won't disappear during the generalize pass.

Another option which can be of interest to you is the CopyAdminProfile option which will copy any customization done to the Administrator profil of the pre-sysprepped machine to the DEFAULT profile of the post-sysprepped one. (So quite no need for audit mode)

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The quickest way to do it might well be dedicated deployment systems like Dell's KACE tools, for example, which we're considering. Only makes sense on a network though, so no help if you're talking about deploying standalone laptops that only ever get imaged off a USB drive.

As Brian says, the MDT is well worth a look too. However, I think that no matter what happens, you'll still find occasions where the only answer to a deployment issue is going to be WinPE and ImageX. Windows 7 does a lot of things very differently to how they were done in Windows XP, and a lot of old "tips and tricks" are not going to work quite the same, I'm afraid.

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