This series in three parts gives an overview of the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) to get started quickly with this free OS deployment toolset.
MDT and WAIK
Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) is Microsoft’s core tool to automate installing a Windows OS for desktops, servers, and portable or even virtual machines. Ironically, the first thing to about MDT is that it is an iceberg product; underneath the water is 1GB of code from Microsoft called the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK, pronounced “wake”). The WAIK does the bulk of the heavy lifting. MDT itself is a lightweight (25MB) standalone Microsoft management console (mmc) based tool with a comprehensive deployment guide in help-file format.
MDT and WAIK tools
At its simplest, MDT takes source OS setup files and automates the wizard. Advanced use lets you integrate language packs, inject drivers for specific hardware, and add role-based software installs. You can even add WMI rule filtering. Together, MDT and the WAIK allow you to package everything into a single file you can boot and use to build a machine.
Owing to the reliance of the WAIK, MDT includes a feature to download the mandatory prerequisites, WAIK and MSXML 6. Note there are two versions of the WAIK. Version 3.0 (KB3AIK_EN.ISO) is for Windows 7 and 2008 R2. The older version, 1.0, supports Vista and is an img file. To support Windows 7 SP1 deployments, you also need the WAIK supplement version 3.0 (waik_supplement_en-us.iso) that adds WinPE 3.1 but has no WinRE component.
Windows Imaging Format or WIM
The IT industry had long been using disk-based imaging tools. However, with updated hotfixes, security patches, drivers, and new versions of applications you had to update the image continually. This meant you had to start from scratch to clone the updated build. The other main downside of most of these imaging formats was that you needed one image per model, owing to the driver and hardware differences.
Microsoft’s imaging format (Windows Imaging Format, or WIM – avoiding the humor of calling it WIF) is a compressed file that offers single-instance storage and has an XML template description. You can merge WIMs, mount them as a virtual file-system, and edit files as normal and then save changes. If you are building Windows 7, you can even update the WIM offline, injecting drivers or patches directly into the WIM. This makes updating and customizing the build much easier, given the right tools.
In the next post, I will discuss the MDT requirements and the MDT add-ons.