I am preparing an article for a German magazine about Windows Vista's new features from a system administrator's point of view. I would like to share some of the results of my research here. In this post, you will find a list of Microsoft's free deployment tools for Windows Vista with short descriptions.
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User State Migration Tool - USMT 3.0:
USMT is a set of tools and configuration files which enables you to migrate user accounts during large deployments of Windows. We have never used USMT 2.6 for Windows XP since we work with server based profiles. We have all the user settings and data in the user profiles. So, when we switch to a new Windows version all settings are copied automatically. USMT 3.0 has some new features but nothing really revolutionary. The configuration files use XML now. I guess, nobody will miss the old .inf files. Microsoft has a complete list of the new features of USMT 3.0.
You've probably heard it; installing and deploying Windows Vista basically means imaging. So the running debate between imaging advocates and supporters of unattended installations is, hopefully, over now. This is good news for me. I always was a big fan of OS cloning. ImageX (formerly XImage) is part of the free Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). There was a download page for WAIK, but it seems that Microsoft removed it. It is now part of BDD 2007 (see below). You use this command line tool to create and apply images in the WIM format. The best feature of this utility is that it is HAL-independent. This reduces the number of images you have to manage since the same image can be used for different kinds of hardware. ImageX is also used for offline image editing.
Windows System Image Manager (WSIM):
Basically the WSIM is the Vista version of Windows XP's setup manager. You can use WSIM to create and edit the XML-based unattended-configuration files, and to add, modify, or delete optional components such as languages, service packs, updates, and device drivers within an existing Vista image. It is possible to script WSIM from the command line.
Windows Deployment Services (WDS):
WDS is also a part of the WAIK. It is the replacement for Microsoft's Remote Installation Services (RIS). WDS is used for network-based deployments of Windows Vista. It is has to be installed on Windows Server 2003. The clients boot-up using PXE (Pre-boot Execution Environment) and load Windows PE from the server to start the imaging process. Thanks to PXE, you can use it for bare-metal installations. I played a little with RIS when it came out, but I didn't like it. I didn't try WDS yet, but now I am curious to see if it has become a better tool. The main new features of WDS certainly are the support of WIM images and Windows PE 2.0.
Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0 (ACT):
You might have worked with ACT 4.0. or 4.1 after Windows XP SP2 came out. Many applications encountered problems after the installation of SP2. The new Windows Firewall was especially a big problem. ACT helps to identify these compatibility issues. ACT 5.0 is also for Windows XP SP2, but its main target is Windows Vista. The changes in Vista are certainly bigger than in XP/SP2. So you should expect more compatibility problems. User Account Control and Internet Explorer 7 will probably cause many troubles. ACT 5.0 helps you to analyse problematic applications.
Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor:
I tried the beta of the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor a while ago. At the moment I can't recommend using this tool. It produces more or less useless output. The idea is that you get information if a Windows XP-based PC can run Windows Vista. Since many hardware vendors don't have drivers yet for Vista, Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor has many complaints on most computers. So don't be shocked when you try it; if your PC has enough memory and CPU power, Vista will most probably run on it.
Windows PE 2.0:
Windows PE plays an essential role in deploying Windows Vista, especially for remote bare-metal installations. Windows PE 2.0 is a subset of Windows Vista. It can be loaded across the network to start the imaging process of the Vista installation. Last week, I posted an article about the new features Windows PE 2.0.
Standard User Analyzer:
The fact that many users work with administrator rights under Windows is one of the major complaints of security experts. In Windows Vista, Microsoft finally tried to address this issue. Most prominent is the User Account Control (UAC) feature. The biggest problem of UAC are these annoying pop-ups, informing you that you don't have enough rights to perform a certain task. Microsoft Standard User Analyzer shall help developers and administrators to identify the rights an application needs. So if you are a careful administrator, you should check all your applications with this tool to prevent these ugly UAC messages from popping up. The only problem of this utility is that system administrators will have a difficulty using it. Please, check out my review of the Standard User Analyzer.
Business Desktop Deployment for Windows Vista:
BDD 2007: BDD 2007 (sometimes you will also find BDD 3.0) is not a tool, but a guide and a collections of deployment tools for Windows Vista. Some of the tools mentioned above are included in in BDD 2007. At the moment, there is only the beta version and you have to apply first at Microsoft Connect to be able to download it. Microsoft offers something similar for Windows XP, the Microsoft Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment or BDD 2.7. Of course BDD 3.0 and BDD 2.7 discuss other tools since the deployment of Windows XP is quite different to that of Windows Vista.
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Did I forget any free Microsoft deployment tool? Please, let me know!