Windows Deployment Service (WDS) for Windows 7 Desktop Deployment

Windows Deployment Service (WDS) is a successor of Remote Installation Service (RIS) which enables provision of both boot and installation images from the Windows Deployment Server. WDS supports both the WIM and VHD Technologies for Windows 7 Desktop Deployment.

Windows Deployment Service needs some basic infrastructure setup without which Windows 7 desktop deployment wouldn’t be possible. The requirements include a DHCP server for assigning dynamic IP addresses, a DNS server for name resolution along with an Active Directory Domain Controller and the Windows Deployment Server.

WDS can be installed on either a Windows 2003 Server or a Windows 2008 Server. Installation on 2003 can be done through the Windows components option in the Control Panel whereas in case of Windows 2008 (&R2), installation of WDS can be achieved through addition of Windows Deployment Service role onto the server.

WDS can be configured to run in three different modes as per the requirement. Legacy mode is for backward compatibility with RIS and enables the use of RIPrep images; Mixed mode enables the use of both the RIPrep and the .wim images for deployment; and the third mode i.e. the native mode only allows deployment of either .wim images or .vhd images.

Configuring of the Windows Deployment Service is pretty straight forward. In case the Windows Deployment Server is also the DHCP Server in the network, care has to be taken that WDS doesn’t respond to the DHCP Request packet which originate from target client systems. The reason is that both the WDS and DHCP listen on Port UDP 67. This can be configured during the WDS configuration process. Once configured, WDS will have the options like Install Images, Boot images, Drivers, etc.

Boot Image is a Windows Pre-installation Environment or WinPE. The latest WinPE would be the best to work with as it will be able to install the latest OS. For example, a Windows 7 WinPE would enable the deployment of Windows Vista SP1, Server 2003, Windows 7 and Server 2008 (&R2). If a Vista boot.wim is used, then that particular boot image cannot be used to install Windows 7 or Server 2008.

Install images section on WDS Snap-in is used to add OS Image. Both .wim and .vhd image types are supported. In case .wim is being added, elevated rights are not needed as in contrast to .vhd image where the command prompt with elevated rights needs to be invoked.

Extra Drivers that need to be deployed can be added onto the WDS through the Add Drivers option under the Drivers section in the WDS Snap-in. This is particularly helpful when the Operation system which is getting deployed doesn’t have the third party drives that might be needed for functioning of a special purpose hardware device on the target system.

Under an ideal scenario for deployment through WDS, a new out of the box desktop system would boot up and send out a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) request onto the network. The DHCP server would assign an IP to the system along with information (IP address) of the WDS or PXE server. Following that the system would be provided with boot images that have been pre-loaded onto the WDS Server. Once booted, a list of operating systems would appear on the target desktop and installation process can commence.