Configuring operating systems
for automated deployment is a fundamental task of desktop management. Over the
years, Microsoft has provided some tools and methodologies, and third-party
vendors have filled in the gaps. Recently, however, Microsoft has begun to
fill in those gaps itself with the development of Business Desktop Deployment
(BDD) and User State Migration tools, as well as the introduction of the
Windows Image format with Windows Vista.
BDD 2007 was a big step
toward bringing those tools together in a cohesive framework, and it has now
evolved into the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT). The reason behind the
name change was that MDT supports automated deployment of Windows Server 2003
and 2008 operating systems as well as Windows XP and
. Using the tool, you can automate
a complicated OS configuration, including custom drivers, patches and
applications. You can deploy your OS using this scripted installation or have
MDT automatically Sysprep and capture a reference image that can be deployed
via Windows Deployment Services, Systems Management Server 2003 or System
Center Configuration Manager 2007.
You can install the MDT
Workbench on a workstation or server. For a production environment, you’ll
want to use Windows Server. The MDT installation is straightforward. The
initial download is about 30 Mb, expanding into 130 Mb after installation.
Once you launch the toolkit, a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) interface
opens into an information center that will walk you through the steps required
to configure MDT, introduce you to the documentation, check for news and
updates and prompt you to download the components. At this phase, it’s easy
to skip the documentation and dive right into the toolkit, as the User
Checklist interface walks you through installing the components and loading OS
source media, drivers and applications. However, to really understand how to
leverage the capabilities of the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and task
sequencer, spending time reading the documentation is recommended.
The first step in configuring
the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit is to download and install the required
components. This includes the Windows Automated Installation Kit, Microsoft
Core XML Services 6.0 (MSXML), User State Migration Tool and additional tools.
If these components were installed ahead of time, MDT will recognize them and
not prompt you to download them.
The next step is to configure
the distribution share, which includes installing the Windows Automated
Installation Kit (if you haven’t already) and creating a distribution share.
This share will be where MDT loads the script libraries, components for
Windows PEand operating system source media, drivers and applications. When
configuring the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit on a server, I typically place
the distribution share on a larger secondary drive (instead of the C: drive)
to allow the directory size to expand.
size requirements will depend on how many operating systems you are loading,
as well as the number of applications, drivers and patches. Typically, around
200 MB should be a working minimum for a production server. When the share is
created and populated by MDT, you’ll notice that it isn’t configured as a
“share” -- just as a folder. Do not configure the share manually at this
point, as MDT will configure it later.
After the share is created,
upload the Windows Operating System source media. This is as simple as
pointing MDT to a CD drive or network path containing the files. The Microsoft
Deployment Toolkit recognizes the media and will import the files for you. You
can load both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of multiple operating systems.
Adding applications is an
optional step that uses a similar process. You can import the application
source media into MDT’s shared folder or reference an existing directory in
another location. Either way, you’ll need to type in the application name,
version and specific path to the executable, as well as any installation
Operating system packages are
patches and other files required by the OS that you would like included in the
base install. This directory will only work with Windows Vista and Server 2008
updates. If you wish to deploy Windows XP updates, you may be better off using
MDT to call a WSUS server or a batch file to install the updates from the task
The last step is to install
drivers. The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit handles this automatically -- simply
point it to a driver directory and it imports and segments the drivers for
you. You can create custom groups for specific drivers and use WMI queries to
install them to specific hardware platforms. These drivers can also be
automatically integrated into your WinPE boot CDs using MDT with just a few
Once the components are
configured, you’ll configure a task sequence that tells MDT what you would
like to do. Microsoft has built in a number of templates that will get you
started quickly, but you can also create a custom sequence from scratch.
first component is to name the sequence and choose the operating system
you’ll be deploying. Next, configure the Unattend file with your
organization name and license information. Then, using the task sequencer, you
can tell MDT to load specific applications and groups of drivers, capture an
image of the workstation, back up the user profile, customize the desktop,
restore the user profile, or configure server roles. This area is the most
complicated (and most powerful) component of the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit,
and you’ll need to dive into the MDT documentation to get the most out of
Once a task sequence is
completed, have MDT finally create the actual deployment share. In this step,
MDT shares the Distribution directory you created earlier and configures a
WinPE boot CD for you. You can also use SQL Server or SQL Express to create a
database for you that can configure workstations automatically based on MAC
Address, Asset tag or other criteria. For more details on the advanced
capabilities and features of the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, check out the Deployment Guys blog.