Windows Installation Sources

Before you start

Objectives: learn which installation sources are available and when should we use them.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites

Key terms: installation, cd, dvd, usb, network share, windows deployment services, answer files


CD/DVD

Windows can be installed from the traditional CD/DVD which we can buy in a local store or purchase it online. We can also download ISO image from Internet and then burn it to the CD/DVD. When installing form CD/DVD, we have to ensure the proper boot order to boot from the CD/DVD drive. If BIOS settings cannot change to ‘boot from CD/DVD’, we should update the BIOS firmware. When the proper boot order is set, we simply insert Windows CD/DVD in the drive and then restart the computer. The autorun menu should automatically start. Then we simply follow the installation prompts to complete the installation process.

USB Drive

For faster and more customizable installation we can use a USB drive which must have at least 4GB of free space (for Windows 7). The USB drive can store both the Windows source files and any additional software and drivers that a Windows DVD can not store. We also have to make sure that we format our USB drive with a FAT32 file system.

Network Share

Windows can be installed from a network share in a similar fashion as from a DVD or a USB drive. We have to have a network installation prepared before we can install Windows form a network. To install Windows from the network first we have to boot our computer to the network using network boot disk or WinPE. Then we connect to the network share and then simply run Setup.exe. The setup files must be copied to an accessible network location. WindowsPE replaces MS-DOS as the Windows pre-installation environment. It is a bootable startup environment in which Windows can be installed. For Windows deployment, Windows PE contains tools such as Netcfg (used to configure network access), Drvload (used to install drivers and use hardware without restarting the computer), DiskPart (used to partition and format the computer’s hard drive) and Net Share (used to connect to a shared folder containing Windows installation and setup files). If we want to do a custom installation across the network we have to pre-create custom WIM image file which can be done using ImageX. Installations from a network share can be slower than a DVD and USB installations, but their main benefit is that they allow us to have our source files centralized. By having all our Windows installation files centralized we only need to update one location. Also, we don’t need to have Active Directory environment to do installations from a network share.

Windows Deployment Services (WDS)

We can also use Windows Deployment Services (WDS) which replaces Remote Installation Services (RIS). RIS was used in Windows 2000 and 2003 networks. WDS is used for installations of more than one computer in business environments. WDS requires that we have an Active Directory environment running Windows Server 2008. This method can be used to install more than one computer at the time over network. WDS allows an administrator to upload customized installation sources for the different types of computers they might have. The client computer will access WDS server by PXE booting (Pre-eXecution Environment) of the network and downloading the available image. The main difference between installing from WDS compared to network installations is that we don’t have to copy installation files across the network to the client. Instead, the client pulls down a premade customized Windows image from the WDS server. We can choose which image to download and use for installation.

In addition to the installation sources mentioned here, there are many other third-party tools that can perform Windows installation as well.

Answer Files

For all installation sources that we mentioned here we can create answer files. Answer files can be created with Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) which replaces Setup Manager Tool used in 2000 and 2003 environments. Answer file is now XML file and the default name isAutounattend.xml. If we are installing from a network resource, we have to make sure that the Autounattend.xml file is in the same directory as the Setup.exe file. If we are installing from DVD, we have to put the Autounattend.xml file on the root directory of removable media, such as a USB drive or DVD. If we place the answer file in the correct location with the default name, the answer file will be used automatically when we run the Setup.

Remember

Installation sources are CD/DVD, USB drive, network share and Windows Deployment Services (WDS). When installing form CD/DVD, we have to ensure the proper boot order to boot from the CD/DVD drive. For faster and more customizable installation we can use a USB drive which we have to format with a FAT32 file system. Windows can be installed from a network share in a similar fashion as from a DVD or a USB drive. The setup files must be copied to an accessible network location. We can also use Windows Deployment Services (WDS) which require that we have an Active Directory environment running Windows Server 2008. For all types of installation we mentioned here, we can create answer files for automated installation.

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