Arthur Installs and Configures Windows Deployment Services

As brave Arthur discovered in our previous installment, Windows Deployment Services can be used to assist in the rollout of new systems across an enterprise.

WDS is primarily positioned for migrating the organization to a new operating systems like, oh I don’t know, let’s just say, Vista?

However, the new WDS features in Windows Server 2008 can be used for pretty much any full system install or restore.

When Arthur returned to the Kingdom of Network, he laid out the magical items he had acquired on his quest.

He saw that WDS is comprised of three main components:

  • the first is PXE which replaces the old boot-into-DOS method
  • the second is TFTP Servers which will hold the images
  • the third are the images themselves which are created in a format called WIM (Windows Imaging Format)

Arthur was aware of other deployment systems out there that may have had more features, or be a little more seamless, but fairies and elves who controlled those systems demanded a trade of gold, and Arthur was pretty sure he couldn’t get the King or any of his Management Ogres to agree to such a thing.

So, since the Land of Microsoft is including WDS in with Windows Server 2008 for free, Arthur figured it would be a good place to start.

On paper, the basics seemed pretty easy to grasp. You would create a system image in the WIM format and then upload that image to the TFTP server.

Then, you would boot a system with PXE and pull the image down from the TFTP server. But as Arthur discovered, the devil is always in the details.

Arthur and the TFTP Server

It came to pass that Arthur realized that he could start either by creating the images or installing the server. Since creating the images meant needing a place to store them, Arthur figured he would start with the TFTP server instead of having to copy the images to it later.

Installing the TFTP server is easy enough. It is simply another one of the role available for a Windows 2008 Server.

So, Arthur fired up Server Manager, and activated the Add Roles Wizard. He chose Windows Deployment Services as the new role. Suddenly, a leprechaun appeared beside him and gave him three warnings:

  • First, WDS can only be installed on Windows Server 2008 and that server must be a member server of an Active Directory Domain.
  • Second, in order for the clients to emerge functional, they must have access to both DHCP server and a DNS.
  • And finally, the folder in which the images are stored must be shared with the name REMINST and thus security needs to be maintained via NTFS permissions.

So warned, Arthur clicked the leprechaun’s Next button and the leprechaun disappeared; then he proceeded to click Install.

With the server role installed, Arthur now needed to configure it to work in the realm of Network. This would be done in Server Manager like any other task by right clicking the server name and choosing configure.

For the initial configuration, Arthur needed only to choose which folder to store the images in, and how the server would respond to PXE clients.

Arthur and the Images

Having successfully installed and configured the WDS server, Arthur was now ready to create his images.

This is where he discovered he had been tricked a little bit, for it was not as simple as it might have sounded. There were actually four image types:

  • Boot images
  • Capture images
  • Discover images
  • Install images

Boot images were not created from the client, but rather from the magic discs supplied by the Lands of Microsoft. Yet, loading them was not part of the installation of the WDS server despite their critical importance to the process.

Arthur wondered whether the trolls who slaved in the Lads of Microsoft did it intentionally, most likely in the name of licensing. But of course, it did not matter. He would have to load the boot images himself.

Fortunately, it was not a difficult task. Arthur activated the WDS console and selected his server. He chose the Boot Images folder and selected Add Boot Image.

From there he pointed the console to the location of the installation media for the type of operating system boot image he wanted. The console whirred and copied and finished with an evil laugh that unnerved Arthur.

With the boot images in place, Arthur moved on to the Capture Images. The Capture Images were created in similar fashion, only Arthur selected Create Capture Boot Image.

Again, Arthur wondered about the trolls. He could picture them laughing with glee at the confusion that would be caused by having used the names "Boot Images" and "Capture Boot Images". No matter, he pressed on.

To create a Capture Boot Image (Did you hear troll laughter?) Arthur selected the name of the Boot Image (There it was again!) to use and then entered the name, description, and path for the Capture Boot Image.

Then, he right clicked the Boot Images folder and chose Add Boot Image (Seriously, are there trolls near here?) in order to add his Capture Boot Image to the list of Boot Images. (They’re coming to take me away, hah, hah …)

Finally, with the madness of Boot Images and Capture Boot Images behind him, Arthur set forth to create an Install Image. The Install Image reminded Arthur a bit of the old images he used to create with the program he got from the Ghost Swamp.

This image was created from an installed system and when used would produce a clone of the original system. An Install Image works similarly, but not exactly the same.

To create an Install Image, Arthur created a reference system that was setup the way he wanted other systems to be setup.

He used a magic system from the Land of Microsoft called sysprep to get the image in the right state to be copied. (See Robin Hood and the Castle of Sysprep for more information on sysprep)

Once the system was configured just right, Arthur uttered the magic words — while simultaneously typing them on the keyboard into a command prompt under c:windowssystem32sysprep:

sysprep /OOBE /Generalize /Reboot

Arthur and PXE

The system rebooted, and instead of loading the normal Windows operating system, the computer booted into PXE mode. (Arthur also could have pressed the Boot Option key at the BIOS screen and chosen Boot from Network.)

The system connected to the WDS server and obtained the current list of available Boot Images. Arthur chose the Capture Boot Image he had just created.

Using the fabled TFTP server component, the Capture Boot Image loaded to the system and brought forth a familiar Windows Dialog Window. Arthur selected the volume he wanted to create an image of and gave it a name and description.

He then selected to Upload Image to WDS Server. And, with that, the WDS services from the Land of Microsoft took over and imaged the computer, storing the finished file on the WDS server.

For some systems in the remotest corners of Network, Arthur could not use the standard Capture Boot Image to get images of his systems. For these instances, Arthur used the Discover Boot Image.

The Discover Boot image is a similar process except that instead of the image being loaded over the network to the PXE client system, the client system is booted from CD or DVD and the image is loaded from there.

Having triumphantly created the WDS infrastructure necessary to deploy systems all over the land, Arthur left behind his monumental task knowing that the next feat would be actually using the system to load one of the images he had created. But, for today, he had triumphed.

Arthur mounted his trusty Honda Civic and joined with other knights and squires at the local tavern for some futile flirting with the waitress, some electronic trivia and happy hour priced Buffalo wings.