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What is the best way to deploy windows 7 without buying 3rd party applications? Is there any way to do it with virtual disks? I want to create a base install with application configurations etc and somehow copy that disk to other machines? But it needs to have its own computer name and SSID, how would I go about accomplishing this?

Edit: Sorry I should add that I want to do it without touching the server ie adding deployment services. I'm looking for something as easy to managing as deploying one base virtual machine in vbox, but for doing it to actual PC’s.

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You can use the windows AIK for windows 7 to build your own windows media, including pre-installed programs. You can then deploy either by DVD or USB pen, whichever is your preference. The kit is available here: http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=5753 and a walkthrough from MS http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee523217(WS.10).aspx.

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Are there any alternatives to AIK? –  0x8032 Jun 28 '11 at 20:18
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AIK is the de-facto method of creating custom media for Windows; it allows you to do everything from add updates to image and deploy a prebuilt system, why would you want to use anything else? –  Alex Berry Jun 29 '11 at 11:23
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"Sorry I should add that I want to do it without touching the server ie adding deployment services. I'm looking for something as easy to managing as deploying one base virtual machine in vbox, but for doing it to actual PC’s."

It's going to be impossible in a sense to get that functionality without using some type of server to deploy the images, That type of functionality you are looking for a product more along the lines of Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager which will run you thousands of dollars.

If you don't have access to a deployment server I would recommend Alex Berry's method of using windows AIK to create, modify and deploy images. I have previously used this method and it was pretty slick. Build a bootable flash drive using the steps provided here:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc709665(WS.10).aspx.

Create a base machine, sysprep it. Capture it to your flash drive using imagex. Modify in AIK, deploy from flash drive.

If you can get access to a deployment server, this becomes quite a bit easier with WDS. Takes some work to setup, but once it's going it works great. Good link to help out with that:

http://www.petenetlive.com/KB/Article/0000180.htm

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Instead of using just the base WAIK, I'd suggest using MDT 2010 (or 2012 if you fancy betas). It's basically a lot of pre-built scripts and tools that wraps up the WAIK funtionality into a nice easy to use package. It can use a deployment server if you wish or you can just generate bootable media.

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