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Windows Deployment Services (WDS)

Part 3. Capturing a base image

. Posted in Windows Deployment Services (WDS)

This article will explain how to capture a SYSPREPed base image to a configured WDS server ready for deployment.

With the base machine having been shutdown following SYSPREP, it must now be configured to boot from the network card using PXE.

PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment) works with the network interface card (NIC) in the machine and makes the NIC a valid boot device.  It allows the client machine to boot from the network by receiving a 'boot image file' from the WDS server.

1. Configure the client machine to boot from the NIC.

This must be done within the BIOS settings of the client machine which is usually accessed by entering a key during power on.  The keys vary by model and brand although F1, F2, F12, DEL and ESC are common choices.  If you don't already know the correct key for your particular machine, it is a good idea to find out before running SYSPREP/MySYSPREP.  If the machine continues booting into Windows, Mini-Setup will run and you will have to repeat a lot of prior work!

In BIOS setup, locate the menu for changing the startup sequence.  Set the first boot device to be the NIC card (sometimes refered to as a PXE or LAN option).

It may not be necessary to perform this step if your machines allow you to alter the boot device at power on.  The Dell machines that I work with predominently allow me to enter the boot menu by pressing F12 at power on.  From here, I can select to boot from the onboard NIC without altering the default startup sequence.

2. Capture the base image.

Boot the base machine from the network card (either by altering the startup sequence or by pressing F12 as detailed above).

The base machine will attempt to contact a DHCP server to obtain an IP address after which you will be prompted to press F12 to initiate the PXE boot process.  You will only have a few seconds to press F12 before the network boot process is cancelled and the BIOS will move to the next configured boot device.

The machine will then contact the WDS server and boot the client into a DOS like environment - 'Windows Boot Manager'.  You are then prompted to select the boot image to use and, if you have followed the steps in the previous articles, should look like the options below:

  • Capture Windows XP Image
  • Deploy Windows XP Image

Select 'Capture Windows XP Image' and a Vista-like PE (Pre-installation Environment) will boot.  Select the volume to capture (usually 'C:\'), enter a suitable image name (e.g. by date: 'XPddmmyy', by use: 'XPSTAFF', etc) and a description before clicking 'Next' to continue.

Choose where you would like to store the image by clicking 'Browse'.  The location is largely irrelevent (simply specify the C:\ drive) as the image must be built and stored locally on the base machine first.  When the capture is complete, the image will automatically be uploaded and added to the WDS server.

Check 'Upload image to WDS server:' and specify the server name.  When you click 'Connect' you will be prompted to enter a valid username and password to connect to the WDS server.  This will typically be a 'Domain Admin' account or the server 'Administrator' username/password combination.  Specify the username as DOMAIN\username (replace with your domain name). 

When authenticated, you will be able to select the 'Image Group name' that you specified when setting up the WDS server earlier.  Once complete, click 'Finish' to begin the image capture process.

3. Close and verify.

After the image is captured and uploaded to the WDS server (this'll take a while!), click 'Close'.

On the server, open the WDS management console again (Start Menu > Administrative Tools > Windows Deployment Services) and verify the image is visible in the 'Install Images' folder and is in the correct image group.

The capture process is now complete.

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