Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (2010)

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Important

Due to the variety of hardware and driver issues, MDT2010 is proving to be a very fragile and maintenance-intensive deployment tool. As of May 2013, we are looking into alternative deployment methods.

Overview

As of January 2011, we are now using the Microsoft Development Toolkit (MDT2010) for deploying installations of Windows XP and Windows 7.

MDT2010 is a free toolset that allows us to automate:

  • installation of Windows operating systems,
  • installation of software,
  • installation of drivers and service packs,
  • capturing images of virtual and physical computers,
  • and deploying images of virtual and physical computers.


Operating systems and software can be using three different installation types:

  • Thin: The installation files for the OS and drivers are stored on the deployment server and run on each deployment target machine.
  • Thick: The installation file is based on an image of a reference target machine that is fully-installed with the OS and all the available applications.
  • Hybrid: Basically a thick image but with only the OS and only the absolutely necessary software.


Because we load our computers with a rather large group of programs, many of which have very long installation times, we are going to use the thick model for our MDT deployment process. Because programs have already been installed into a thick image, no time is spent on unpacking installation files during deployment. Installing XP and the standard program load onto a machine by hand used to take around 6 hours. Now it can be done in about one hour.

How It Works

The actual MDT2010 program can be installed on any computer, but the deployment share where all the installation and capture files will be stored should be set up on a server. In this case, we are using:
\\Hurricane\software\windows\deployment2.

A detailed, step-by-step discussion of how to setup MDT2010, build and capture images, and deploy the final image is beyond the scope of this entry. For that, I strongly encourage you to go through the links in the Sources section of this entry. But generally speaking, the process goes like this:

One time only tasks:

  1. Import the operating systems we'll need into the MDT deployment folder.
  2. Import the drivers we'll need for our machines. We group them into two folders, 32- and 64-bit. 32-bit machines will automatically get drivers from the 32-bit folder, and 64-bit will get from the 64-bit folder (based on some settings we made on the deployment folder's properties).
  3. Create a task sequence (TS) that deploys the OS to a reference machine. A reference machine is the computer we're going to use as the source for the image which will then be copied to all other machines.
  4. Create a TS that captures an image from a reference computer.
  5. Boot the reference machine with the MDT boot disk that was just created. It will present us with a list of available TS's. We'll click on the TS we created for deploying an OS to a reference machine.
  6. Once the TS has completed and the OS is installed on the reference machine, we can start installing the programs (eg: MS Office, Photoshop, etc.).
  7. After the programs have been installed, we open a command line window in Windows, and then run the the LiteTouch.vbs script:
    cscript.exe \\hurricane\software\windows\deployment2\litetouch.vbs
    This time, when presented with the list of available TS's, click on the TS for capturing an image. This will create an image of the reference computer.

Deploying a captured image

  1. Import an operating system but instead of specifying an operating system, we'll import a WIM file (the WIM file was created when we did an image capture in the earlier step).
  2. Next, create a TS to deploy that "OS," or new image that we just imported.
  3. Update the deployment folder and burn a new boot disk if required.
  4. Boot the target machine with the boot disk, and then choose to that new TS we created for deploying the captured image onto that machine.

The deploy image -> modify the target machine -> capture image cycle can be repeated indefinitely to support software updates or additions.

Note: Every time we make any kind of a change within the deployment folder, we must update the folder (right-click on the folder, then choose Update Deployment Share). At the end of the update process, if it says that the boot ISO file was changed, then we'll need to burn a new MDT boot disk, as well.

Useful Tips

  • Although Windows 7 reference machines can be built using virtual machines, for XP, it is strongly recommended to use a physical machine.
  • If you are going to use a virtual machine for your reference, make sure you add the drivers (network, scsi, etc) for that vm to the Out of Box drivers in the Task Sequence.
  • An XP deployment that was built using a 32-bit reference machine will probably not work when deployed to a 64-bit machine.
  • Windows 7 installations can only be deployed three times. After that it cannot be sysprepped for a fourth deployment. That means that if a reference machine's deployment "ancestry" involves using that same particular OS installation 3 times, you cannot use it for a reference machine anymore.
  • Windows 7 source installations should not have recovery partitions built into them. In other words, when building your source installation, first partition and format the disk manually, and THEN install Windows 7. Don't let the Win 7 install do the partitioning and formatting.

Notes

The images don't always install properly on a machine, and this could be due to a myriad of reasons. For those cases, I am building a Task Sequence that only installs software and drivers, not the OS. This TS will take longer than installing an image, but it should also work on all machines.

Sources