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Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10 -- Part 2 of 6

By Kari the Finn, guest blogger for Ed Tittel (Windows install expert at

This blog post is Part 2 in a 6-part series devoted to “Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10,” Creator’s Update (coming sometime in April). The topic for this post is the first step in a 5-step process to customize and create a Windows 10 ISO that includes not just the OS, but also the additional software and personalization you want your deployed systems to possess. As the title for this blog post says, the topic in this part of the series covers installing windows and preparing some of your customization assets.

Step 1.    Install Windows and Prepare Assets

Install Windows normally until it stops at the “Region selection” screen after the last reboot. When a product key is requested, select “I don’t have a product key” as your response. As it happens, Windows does not need to be activated for our purposes.

I’m using a Hyper-V Generation 1 virtual machine (from now on VM) as the technician machine, with a 64 GB virtual hard disk. Before starting the VM, I change its settings to use Standard Checkpoints instead of default Production Checkpoints. Later on, this helps me to maintain and update my install image.

Installation takes 15 minutes or so to complete. While it’s running, you have time to prepare some assets on your host machine. First, download and install the Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). Next, create a so called unattended answer file using the Windows System Image Manager (SIM), which is a part of the Windows ADK. Don’t panic even if you are a Windows SIM newbie: it’s easy to use. See Parts Three & Five in my customization tutorial on Ten Forums for ADK / SIM install instructions and how to create your first answer file. Once you get comfortable with the process it will seem less daunting, I promise!

If you are feeling unsure about this, or if Windows SIM looks too scary, you can download this answer file code and paste into a new (blank) file using Notepad:

Create a Custom ISO for Windows 10

NOTE: please do not try to cut’n’paste the preceding info. It’s a graphic image file. Download the answer file instead!

The values shown in bold red above are explained below. You may change them as you like. Remember, you can download the answer file, courtesy of Kari himself.

ProcessorArchitecture  = adm64 for 64 bit Windows, x86 for 32 bit
Logo                                = OEM logo (120*120 pixel bitmap (.bmp)) file
Manufacturer                  = Whatever you like
SupportHours                 = text string (9 AM to 5 PM, 10:00 – 18:00, 24/7 etc.)
SupportPhone                 = any phone number
SupportURL                     = any URL
OEMName                        = Whatever you like
RegisteredOwner            = Whatever you like
TimeZone                         = As per Microsoft time zone names (see list)

All the preceding answer file components are optional, except ProcessorArchitecture (it is mandatory, and must be included). If you do not need them you can remove their respective lines. For instance if you do not need or want to set a time zone, remove this line:

            <TimeZone>W. Europe Standard Time</TimeZone>

When you’re done save the answer file as unattend.xml (exactly that name and extension!). I recommend that you create a new folder on OneDrive, and name it Deployment Assets. Save your answer file in this folder.

Next, prepare an OEM logo image if one is needed. Any bitmap image (.bmp) will do, but its size must be exactly 120 x 120 pixels. Save the image as oemlogo.bmp in the Deployment Assets folder.

Modify background images, colors, sounds and screensavers on your host machine, then save your settings as a theme file. Save all the themes you’d like to include in the custom ISO into your Deployment Assets folder as well. (Hint: this folder is where you’ll find the items you need to customize your ISO again and again. If you don’t know how to do this, try the TenForums tutorial Theme — Save in Windows 10 Customization)

Windows should soon be installed, so it’s time to start customizing! This concludes part 2 of this 6-part blog post, in which I explain how to customize and maintain a Windows 10 ISO for easy installation. Part 1 (the introduction) preceded this post, and Part 2 (Update and Customize Windows, Install Software) will follow in a few minutes. There are three more installments to come after that, all of which will post this week sometime. Stay tuned.

Links to All Series Parts (1-6)

Part 1: Introduction & Overview
Part 2: Install Windows and Prepare Assets
Part 3: Update and Customize Windows, Install Software
Part 4: Generalize Custom Windows Image with Sysprep
Part 5: Capture Custom Windows Image, Create ISO
Part 6: Update/Change Custom Windows ISO

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