Microsoft's free Windows 7 deployment tools from the WAIK (partly) are essential for every Windows admin: Windows Deployment Services (WDS), Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), User State Migration Tool (USMT), Windows Easy Transfer, Key Management Service (KMS), Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT), Windows 7 Security Compliance Management Toolkit.
Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

Once you have planned your Windows 7 deployment and prepared your Windows 7 master images with their answer files, you are ready to deliver the images to your PCs. This article gives an overview of Microsoft's free Windows 7 installation tools.

Windows Deployment Services (WDS)

WDS is one of the major enhancements in Windows Server 2008 and is also available for Windows Server 2003 SP2. This tool enables small and mid-sized organizations to deploy Windows. Its main limitations compared to more sophisticated commercial deployment tools are that you can only install Windows remotely within a subnet (see discussion below) and that it lacks scheduling features, and supervision capabilities. I reviewed the Windows Server 2008 WDS a while back. The Windows Server 2008 R2 version comes with the following improvements: dynamic driver provisioning, Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) deployment, additional multicast functionality, PXE provider for Transport Server, and additional EFI functionality.

Learn more | Download


Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT)

The MDT is a shell that can be used to tame Microsoft's deployment tool zoo. You can integrate the WAIK tools, USMT (see below), Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT), Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit, and volume licensing tools. It is essentially a central GUI that gives you an overview of the whole deployment process. The toolkit offers two types of installations: Lite Touch Installation (LTI), where you can deploy Windows without a systems management tool, and Zero Touch Installation (ZTI), where you would integrate MDT with Microsoft's Configuration Manager.

Learn more | Download


User State Migration Tool (USMT)

You might have heard that it is not possible to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7. You can, however, use USMT to transfer user files and settings to the Windows 7 installation. If you are lucky and you deployed Vista, you can upgrade directly to Windows 7, but you can also use USMT. USMT 3.0.1 was available as a separate download. The latest version is USMT 4.0 which is now part of the Windows AIK. You can find all the tools that belong to USMT in C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\USMT\. The documentation is in C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Docs\CHMs. Transferring user settings with USMT is not trivial. In most cases a clean install is probably the best solution. If you work with roaming user profiles, then transferring user files shouldn’t be big problem anyway.

Learn more | Download WAIK


Windows Easy Transfer

Windows Easy Transfer basically does the same as USMT—that is, it allows you to transfer files and settings from one PC to another. However, whereas USMT is for large deployments, Windows Easy Transfer is for migrating computers one at a time.

Learn more | Download


Key Management Service (KMS)

If you are migrating your PCs from Windows XP to Windows 7, you will have to deal with the new activation "feature" that was introduced with Windows Vista. Entering the product key is not enough any more; every single PC now must be activated. Microsoft offers two free tools for corporate environments that help you manage Windows 7 activation: Key Management Service (KMS) and Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT).

KMS is a central service that can activate all Vista, Windows 7, Server 2008, and Server 2008 R2 machines in your network. KMS is part of the operating system since Windows 2008. You can get help about the tool with the slmgr command. If you installed KMS 1.1 on Windows Server 2003, then you have update to KMS 1.2. The update for Windows Sever 2008 can be found here: x64, x86. Windows Server 2008 R2 comes already with KMS 1.2.


Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT)

If you prefer to activate each machine separately using so-called MAKs, VAMT helps you centrally manage Windows 7 activation. VAMT 1.2 is now part of the Windows AIK. VAMT 1.1 is available as a separate download and VAMT 2.0 is still in beta. I will probably blog about VAMT 2.0 soon.


Just in case you are not yet familiar with Vista/Windows 7 activation, see my previous articles on this topic:
How to activate Vista: MAK (Multiple Activation Key) essentials

How to activate Vista: KMS (Key Management Service) essentials

MAK vs. KMS: advantages and disadvantages of activating Vista using MAKs

Windows 7 Security Compliance Management Toolkit

Once you have deployed Windows 7, you might want to tighten the security settings in your network. The Windows 7 Security Compliance Management Toolkit could be of help here. It enables you to plan, deploy, and monitor the security baselines of computers running Windows 7 and BitLocker. The security baselines are predefined settings that offer more security than the default Windows 7 settings. The toolkit comes with an Excel sheet that gives you an overview of the settings and documentation that explains how to deploy these settings network-wide. The GPOAccelerator allows you to create the corresponding Group Policy Objects (GPOs) and the DCM Configuration Packs help you monitor the security baselines with Microsoft Configuration Manager. Note that the Security Compliance Management Toolkit Series also support other operating system versions, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer 8.

Learn more | Download


Did I forget any free Microsoft deployment tool? Please let me know!

Articles in seriesFree Windows 7 deployment tools
  1. Avatar
    TechGuy 14 years ago

    – WDS works across subnets if you setup DHCP accordingly
    – WDS is also available for Windows Server 2003

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for the tip. I added a reference to WDS availability for Windows 2003 in the article. I didn’t find instructions on how to configure DHCP to make WDS work across subnets. Do you have more information on this?

  3. Avatar
    Fred 14 years ago

    yep we’re doing it across subnets as well. I’ll have to get details from the networking guy but, it basically boils down to routing PXE packets back to the same subnet as the WDS server (tweaks in the router)

  4. Avatar
    Typo 14 years ago

    “[…]and is also available for Windows Server 2002 SP2”

    Should be Windows Server 2003

  5. Avatar
    Tom Thompson 14 years ago

    To get PXE to work over a router or Layer 3 switch you need to use a IP Helper. It basically takes packets that match the helper(DHCP usually) and forwards them over the router to the other end.

  6. Avatar

    Fred & Tom, forwarding DHCP packets does not really count. This is not an option for many organizations. For example, what would you do if you have a DHCP server for every subnet? Besides, you can make any application work across routers, if you work with VLANs. The point is that there are OS deployment solutions that can be used with a standard router configuration. Thanks for the useful hint anyway. I added a note to the article.

  7. Avatar
    Karin H (Rank ) 10 years ago

    Hi Michael Pietroforte,

    I am from Thailand. Sorry if my question is something that’s not suppose be here but I have gone through the whole articles title about Windows 7, I could not find any proper place to write a question. Please advise me for the next post.

    I have a question would like to ask you or any experts here.

    I have a Windows 7 DVD installation, without SP1, downloaded sometimes around 2009/2010. Now I want to make a slipstream of Service Pack 1 into this installation DVD. Could you just please give me some suggestion or steps how to achieve this. Any suggestion would be very much appreciated.

    Best regards,

    Karin H.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


© 4sysops 2006 - 2023


Please ask IT administration questions in the forums. Any other messages are welcome.


Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account