With the end of life is approaching fast for Windows 7 systems, I racked up my nerve and set up a Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) system lately to replace my ages-old ImageX imaging system for Windows 10 deployment, either new installations or upgrades from old Operating Systems like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
Setting it up wasn’t too bad, especially with very detailed documentation Microsoft has put in place. But it could be very overwhelming for anyone new to the system. Therefore, a simplified version of instruction would be beneficial in that regard.
There are two components you need to install to get a working MDT system.
- Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK), and
- Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT)
You can install it on any of the operating systems you have, Windows Server or Windows 10. Installation is pretty straightforward. Because of the software size, it may take a little bit time to download and install.
Setting Up MDT
Deployment Workbench is the program you will use to prepare your MDT system for system deployment.
First thing first, you will need to create a new Deployment Share, which is simply just a hidden network share to store image files and installation scripts. By default, it uses DeploymentShare$ as the share name for remote access.
Next, import Operating System for system fresh installation or upgrade. Here is a post to follow for latest Windows 10 May Update upgrade via MDT.
Then, create Application Packages for specific software deployment, such as MS Office, Adobe Acrobat, or any required applications that can be silently installed during the deployment.
Finally, make some Task Sequences for either fresh installation, apply stored reference image, or upgrade. There are numbers of predefined Task Sequences that you can use out of the box. For example, a Standard Client Task Sequence is the most used procedure for fresh installation or image apply and a Standard Client Upgrade Task Sequence is made specifically for OS upgrade.
Making Bootable WinPE USB Drive
Right-click the MDT Deployment Share and choose Update Deployment Share. The system will create a list of bootable ISO files in Boot folder where you can use tools like Rufus to make a bootable USB drive that lets you boot into the WinPE environment where you can perform a new installation.
Building a Reference Windows 10 Image
Here are the steps I took to make a fully loaded Windows 10 image that can be deployed through MDT.
- Boot to the bootable MDT USB drive.
- Pick a Windows 10 install sequence for fresh installation.
- Select all the applications to install during the installation.
- Install the rest of the software that cannot be installed via MDT.
- Apply all Windows security patches.
- Sysprep the machine to generalize a Windows installation and shut down the computer.
- Boot to the bootable MDT USB drive again.
- Use command line DISM to capture the newly Sysprepped computer.
- Now import the captured image (.WIM file) in MDT as a new Operating System.
There are more steps involved in some of the steps above but that’s basically you need to perform to get a fully loaded and functional reference image for deployment.
Deploying Windows 10 via MDT
There are two ways to deploy a Windows 10 installation.
- Boot to WinPE to start a clean installation, or
- Perform an in-place Upgrade by going to the MDT shared folder and launch one of the deployment scripts, i.e. LiteTouch.vbs.
Either way, you will be prompted with a deployment wizard that guides you through the whole process.
A few comments
MDT is a perfect OS deployment solution for those who can’t afford a full-blown SCCM system. After I prepared one in place, I wish I could have done it years ago. It’s way more efficient than what I used before and works perfectly for both new installation and in-place upgrade. One benefit of using it to deploy a Windows 10 system is that it’s ready to use right away once deployed. No more tedious pre-configuration setups and domain joining afterward.