In this first article in a series of four, we will setup and configure Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to deploy Windows 7 across our network.

As a systems administrator, your time is probably quite precious, you don’t really have time to be juggling DVD’s around and watching progress bars to install operating systems and applications on each workstation. Over the next few articles I will take you through deploying operating systems and applications automatically over your network.

There are a few prerequisites that we must have in place before we start with this walkthrough. Firstly, we will need a functioning Active Directory setup, with DNS and DHCP. The server we use for Windows Deployment Services will also require an NTFS partition for its file store. Our client systems need to support PXE (Network) booting, and finally we will require some installation media to load onto our deployment server –in my examples I will be using the 32bit Windows 7 SP1 DVD.

We start by adding the Windows Deployment Services role to your server - click ‘Add roles’ from server manager, select Windows deployment services, and install both of the role services. You should reboot your server after the installation of the WDS role.

You should now have a Windows Deployment Services MMC in the Administrative tools folder, when you open this you will see that the WDS server is not yet configured. Right click on the WDS server on the left tree, and select ‘configure’ from the context menu to launch the WDS configuration wizard.

As I’m testing this setup in a lab, I’ve just got one server running AD, DHCP and WDS, so will tick both of the DHCP options, and then set my PXE server initial settings to respond to all clients without requiring administrative approval. These options are not set in stone – we can always adjust them later in the WDS server properties.

At the end of the configuration wizard, we’re asked if we want to add an image – unselect this option, as we will manually add the images, to help us understand where they go.

We should now be able to see our WDS server running, and should now be showing some items beneath it.

Windows 7 - WDS

Windows Deployment Services

Before our WDS server is of any use to us, we will need to add two images – the boot image (Basically a Windows PE image that we use to start the installation off), and an install image of the operating system that we want to deploy to our clients.

To add a boot image, right click on the ‘Boot Images’ node in the WDS tree, and then select ‘Add Image’. Point the Add Image Wizard at the boot.wim located on your Windows 7 media (D:\sources\boot.wim). The wizard will copy the WIM file to the WDS server, and you should then see it listed in the main area of the WDS console.

The process for adding an installation image is very similar, apart from the fact that images must be contained within an image group. Right click on the ‘Install Images’ node, and select ‘Add Image’. You will be prompted to create an image group, and then for a WIM file. This time we will use the other WIM file from the Windows 7 media (D:\sources\install.wim). This file will contain multiple images within it – select the editions that you will require, I have just selected Windows 7 Professional in my example.

Deploy Windows 7 - WDS

Deploy Windows 7 with WDS

At this point we should be ready to deploy Windows 7 from our WDS server. On your client system, configure the BIOS to enable PXE booting, and then press F12 when prompted (You can disable the F12 functionality in the WDS server properties – I do this normally, as Dell systems use F12 in the BIOS to force a PXE boot, so I don’t need to press it twice!

Windows 7 - WDS - Windows is loading files

Windows 7 - WDS - Windows is loading files

Once your client system starts booting, you should see it connect to the WDS server and start the WDS client. From the client, you will need to select your language, and then login as a user with domain administrative privileges. Based on the credentials supplied, you will be presented with a list of install image that you have access to – you should see the Windows 7 image that we loaded into WDS earlier.

Windows 7 - WDS - Windows image

Windows 7 - WDS - Windows image

Once you have selected the image to install, the following screens will look like a familiar Windows 7 installation, although you won’t be asked for a computer name – this is automatically generated via WDS. You can change the naming format that WDS will use, by right clicking the WDS server in the console, and selecting properties. The client naming policy is located on the ‘AD DS’ tab.

At this point you should have managed to successfully deploy a Windows 7 operating system to your client. In my next article we will build on this walk through, to allow us to deploy Windows 7 unattended with WDS (without having to answer all the setup questions.)

1 Comment
  1. Leos Marek (Rank 4) 3 years ago

    Old article but anyway useful. I had a little struggle with the PXE boot, as I have external DHCP server (Mikrotik). I had to use TFTP IP Helper in Mikrotik and point it to the WDS server, then it started to work like a charm.

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