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Getting started with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010

Windows client or server roll outs can be tedious. Microsoft's own Deployment Toolkit 2010 may help streamline the process. Here's how to get started.

This is the first part in a four-part series on Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010. Part one explores basic functionality and the look and feel of the tool. Part two covers the importance of WIM files to MDT 2010. Part three will highlight more complex features in MDT 2010.

Although I'm not a deployment admin, I have provided a fair amount of troubleshooting support over the years. I've found that while deployment tools have a bit of a learning curve, the benefits are exceptional, especially in larger enterprises.

Still, administrators who have done mass installations of client servers have struggled to adequately account for differences in hardware. Even if a company standardizes on a particular hardware vendor, there are different makes, models and configurations, so users need and a good deployment tool to account for those distinctions.

Microsoft has provided a variety of Windows deployment tools, from the old Sysprep and unattended answer file to today's sophisticated tools with graphical user interfaces. This includes Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 (MDT), which was designed with automation capabilities to simplify Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 migrations.

Installing MDT and the Windows Automated Installation Kit
The MDT installation process can be tedious and includes several configuration elements. The first step is to download MDT and the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) as follows:

1. Identify which server will be used as the MDT server (I used a virtual machine). I highly recommend using Windows 2008 R2, as anything older will have various installation requirements.

2. Download the MDT files, and choose from the documentation options. Also consider downloading the release notes and the Optional-MDT 2010 Update 1 Print-Ready file for details on how to use MDT.

3. Download the WAIK from the Microsoft Download Center by searching for "Windows AIK" and choosing a kit. I used the Windows 7 version. Since it comes as an ISO file, you can burn it to a DVD and run the installation or use an ISO cracking tool like Magic ISO or ISOBuster. Because my MDT server is a virtual machine, I downloaded the ISO image to my Hyper-V server and mounted it on the virtual CD drive in the virtual machine.

4. Install MDT on the server using the console (shown in Figure 1). In order to deploy MDT, however, shares must be created under the Deployment Shares folder in the MDT console. This requires installation of WAIK.

5. Install the Windows Automated Installation Kit.

Once MDT and WAIK are installed, one or more deployment shares can be configured to accomplish various tasks. Figure 2 shows the containers for deployment files under a configured share, including applications, operating systems, out-of-box drivers, language packs, task sequences (scripts) and advanced configurations from the administrator.

Multiple shares can also be arranged for remote sites or logical groupings. Component files required by those sites are replicated from the hub share and installed separately via MDT.

In addition, lab or test deployment shares can be built to include all drivers, applications, operating systems and a production share for testing in lab and production environments.

Configuring deployment shares in MDT
To install a deployment share, right-click on the Deployment Shares node in the MDT console tree, and select New Deployment Share. Answer the following questions in the wizard:

  • Path -- Specify the desired deployment share path (see Figure 3). Note that if a second share is created for remote sites, a different path must be indicated.
  • Share name: Choose a name. I used Hub Site Deployment Share$ for this example.
  • Deployment share description: This is the name that will show up in the MDT console, for example, Hub Deployment Share.
  • Allow image capture: Allows the image to be captured in a bare-metal deployment for a workgroup, but this option is not recommended for a domain-joined computer.
  • Allow admin password: Allows the user to define the local admin password during the installation. Again, this is not recommended in a domain for security reasons.
  • Allow product key: Prompts the user for a product key.

Click Next on the summary page for a confirmation of choices, and click Finish.

The new deployment share is now configured, as shown in Figure 2. Producing this share also creates a directory structure (see Figure 4). Note the Scripts folder, which contains Virtual Basic Scripting Edition (VBS) scripts. For instance, LiteTouch.vbs lets clients map to the deployment share and see the drivers, OS, language packs and other components that are configured in MDT for that share. Each time a new share is created, a new directory structure is created.

From here, admins can load appropriate components into each of the deployment share folders. While it is possible to build scenarios manually, the Advanced Configuration -- Database option permits greater flexibility and makes deployments easily searchable because they are stored in the database. Deployment scenarios can be built for the following enterprise needs:

  • Users -- administrators, other IT staffers, knowledge users, executives, etc.
  • Make/Model -- scenarios for various hardware manufacturers and computer models.
  • Location -- scenarios that apply to machines at specific locations using the default gateway IP address.
  • Combination -- scenarios that incorporate multiple options. For instance, an IT staff member with an HP laptop in Paris can combine the OS, drivers, language packs, etc. that apply to that set of circumstances.

Although this is a basic breakdown of the installation process, there are additional elements that can help enterprise admins with the more complex features in MDT. Part two will highlight some of these components, including Windows Imaging Format (WIM) files and MDT applications, while part three will cover advanced configurations.

Gary Olsen is a Solution Architect in Hewlett-Packard’s Technology Services organization and lives in Roswell, GA. Gary has worked in the IT industry since 1981 and holds an MS in Computer Aided Manufacturing from Brigham Young University. Gary has authored numerous technical articles for TechTarget, Redmond Magazine and TechNet magazine, and has presented numerous times at the HP Technology Forum. Gary is a Microsoft MVP for Directory Services and is the founder and president of the Atlanta Active Directory Users Group.

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