I am managing a moderately-sized computer network for school and I have been using Norton Ghost to deploy images across the network. However, recently we have been investigating a switch to another deployment solution. The first we are trying is Microsoft's built-in tool, Windows Deployment Services (WDS). To test it, I have installed a test installation of Windows Server 2012 onto a workstation and have configured the DHCP and DNS roles accordingly. This is also configured as a DC in ADDS. I have another workstation connected NIC to NIC to the DC and connected to the domain as a client. It is running Windows 7 with MS Security Essentials installed and some other software. I have been reading the MSDN documentation for MS WDS, but I have found it a little confusing. I am attempting to simply capture the image and deploy it to other machines, and not to have to go through Windows Setup on every single machine I deploy it on. I was wondering if there was a way to do this, and, if so, how? I am also a little unclear on how it utilizes the boot and installation images and why they must be present, which ones to use, what they contain, etc. As always, any help is greatly appreciated.

To specify: To test, currently I am isolating these two workstations. One is the DC, one is the client which I am trying to capture the image from, and later I will deploy the image to it. They are on their own network, with the client connected directly to the NIC of the DC.

  • 1
    Are you syspreping the machine before you capture it? or are you not even PXE-booting to get to that point.
    – tombull89
    Jan 30, 2014 at 20:55
  • I syspreped and then PXE booted. I started the image creation process, but no image was created (or it was deleted, or I did something wrong, not sure which) but I did not really understand what everything was for. I think I do now, but I also don't think this is the solution I'm going for. I think a better solution is MDT and WAIK to make the image, and then WDS to deploy it.
    – Kevin
    Jan 30, 2014 at 21:28

3 Answers 3


What is a boot image?

A boot image is a slimmed down WinPE environment that is delivered to the client via PXE. It's similar to the first stage of the Ghost PXE install, where the client boots to a slim program before applying the image. It's what gets you started.

What is an install image?

This is the image that you capture (or the generic install.wim image from the install DVD if you're into thin images - I am). The install image is the image that the client downloads and applies after being booted by the boot image.

How do I get my own install image?

If you want to use thick (captured) images, as you've indicated, you need to use a capture image. So, you'll boot your client to the boot image, then you'll use a capture image to capture the state of the current PC after you've customized and sysprepped it. The captured image can then be used as an install image for other PCs.

As an aside, I would strongly encourage you to look at the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) to augment your installation process. It's much more flexible than WDS alone. MDT will give you a "LiteTouch" boot image that is pre-configured with everything you need to kick off the installation. You simply add that to WDS as the boot image and manage everything else through MDT.

  • Thank you, this helps. I have already begun to look into MDT + WAIK + WDS, but that combination has some problems I need to work out before I can get it going to really see if it is what I am going for. From what I have read about it, it seems like that is the desired solution, but I am not quite sure yet. In any case, thank you for the help.
    – Kevin
    Feb 4, 2014 at 18:39

To be able to have unattended installation of Windows from WDS server you need to create an unattended answer file using Windows System Image manager and assign it the image you captured.

Unclear of what you have already completed so far I suggest looking up this for setup and this for creating unattended answer files

  • Sorry, so far I have been able to add boot and install images, and I have syspreped the client and began the image capture process, but the image was gone when I went to go check for it, I think I did something wrong. I have been looking into creating the images with MDT and WAIK, then deploying them with WDS. I think this is the solution I have been looking for.
    – Kevin
    Jan 30, 2014 at 21:25

so if you want to capture an image, step one, is to create a capture image.

once you have your capture image, you would need to sysprep the target system, then reboot and connect to the WDS server via PXE, or however you're going to do it, and run the capture image. then you'll have your initial image to deploy out to other clients.

edit: it wasn't clear if you'd actually done this, if so, I apologize.

  • Thank you. I was able to get that far, but it had some issues. I'm still evaluating this solution to see if it is what I am looking for in terms of image deployment.
    – Kevin
    Feb 4, 2014 at 18:42

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