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I'm fairly new to the Imaging world, and I'm going to be imaging some Dell Venue tablets that don't support PXE booting. I've been reading up on WDS and see that I could potentially create something called a discover image in order to effectively find the WDS server, but I'm wondering if I can forgo that in favor of the old-school route.

In other words, I'm wondering if I can make some kind of capture image, put it on a USB flash drive, and then transfer the captured image back via the same flash drive to finalize it on the WDS server machine, and then create whatever final image to, likewise, be put onto a flash drive. Basically, I want to know if I can create bootable media without involving my local network that will have the final image on it.

I'm sure people will tell me all about how superior PXE booting is, but the only reason I shy away from doing that is honestly that my networking skills are not the best and I'm worried that if I start messing with DHCP it's going to bring down the network. Of course I recognize that doing things by flash drives is physically slower, but I'm wondering if it's technically possible.

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If you're interested in capturing an image automatically from your computer(s) to physical media (E.G. CD, DVD, BD, USB, etc...) you can use a tool that Microsoft created called: Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.

MDT Supports all media types as long as it is bootable on your system. So if that is USB then it will work. If it is PXE then use that.

You can create a sequence of commands called a task sequence to automate whatever you're doing from deploying operating systems to capturing an image of an operating system. MDT includes example and template task sequences for the vast majority of deployment/imaging scenarios. It includes support for drivers, applications, SQL monitoring, ADDS, and much more!


Final thoughts: PXE booting is only if you need it. If you have an environment with a lot of computers then I would recommend PXE. If you can handle it with DVDs, CDs and USBs then go for it. Go with whatever you're comfortable with.

PXE ain't hard if you have a MS DHCP server because WDS auto configures it (if you check the box in properties of the WDS server).


Links:

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (It is free):

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dn475741.aspx

How to include all of the boot files on physical media (it is tailored to deployment but the same principles apply to image capture, just make sure you have a writeable medium for recording the image):

http://www.vkernel.ro/blog/creating-an-offline-mdt-deployment-media


TL;DR:

It is possible to image capture automatically from physical media (E.G. CD, DVD, BD, USB, etc...) as long as you have a place to store the image after it is captured.

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What you can do is prepare a Windows PE image configured to connect to WDS and then write that image on the device from some USB flash. Once initialized this way the device would boot into WinPE, load the necessary drivers (good luck with that! :) ) and then do the WDS talking. If you set up the Windows answer file correctly, you can actually preserve that WinPE partition and be able to use it later for reinstallation or whatnot.

Customizing WinPE is not too big of a deal - just tends to be very tedious with troubleshooting.

Of course, setting up the PXE boot it MUCH easier. I had to bypass that because I was dealing with network-less devices (used a USB ethernet adapter), but if you have a PXE bootable device - then you should use it.

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  • Lucky for the OP, he is talking about imaging tablets, and therefore probably not dealing with Windows 7. KMDF updates, etc. – blaughw Sep 29 '15 at 1:26
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You can create USB media to capture an image. If you have the dock with your Venues (presumably Pro 11s), the NIC should be functional to ship the image to the WDS server. If not, additional external storage might be possible. That would be tough to configure though.

I can't be much more helpful in your specific case, but Google should be able to help.

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