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New tool makes workstation image management easier in Windows 7

The Windows Automated Installation Kit has been revised to ease deployments of Windows 7, and the Deployment Image Servicing and Management Tool is a command-line tool that you can use to manage desktop images.

Although Microsoft has offered several different utilities for managing Windows Vista-based desktop images, the company has significantly changed its offerings for Windows 7. Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) is going to be one of the primary tools for managing Windows deployment and AIK has received a complete makeover since Windows Vista.

One of the most notable improvements involves the Deployment Image Servicing and Management Tool (DISM). This new imaging tool, which is designed to allow customized Windows images, replaces a number of tools in the Windows Vista version of AIK. These tools include the International Settings Configuration Tool, the Package Manager and the Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) tool.

DISM is a command-line utility that keeps images up-to-date once they have been created. Best of all, this tool works seamlessly with both Windows Installer images (.WIM files) and virtual hard drive (VHD) files, and it can be used to service Windows Vista images (Service Pack 1 or higher) or Windows Server 2008 images. According to Microsoft, all old Package Manager scripts will continue to work.

Some of the more common tasks that can be performed through DISM include adding, removing and enumerating packages and drivers. Packages include things like language packs, security patches and utilities. DISM can also be used to enable or disable Windows features, upgrade a Windows image to a different edition or even prepare a Windows PE image.

The bad news is there is no graphical user interface for DISM. All of the image management tasks must be performed from the command line. This sounds like a daunting task, but it really isn't that bad. The commands are set up to prevent image management from being an overwhelming task.

Acquiring DISM
As mentioned earlier, DISM is a part of the Windows 7 Automated Installation Kit. Although it is still in the Release Candidate phase of testing, the AIK can be downloaded here. The download consists of a 1.4 GB ISO file, which can be used to create a DVD image.

Working with DISM
Unfortunately, I can't give you a full DISM walkthrough within the confines of a single article. However, I can show how some of the basic maintenance tasks work.

Mounting an Image
Mounting an image allows you to interact with and update that image. The exact method for doing so varies depending on whether you're working with a .WIM file or a .VHD file. In either case, you will have to open a Command Prompt window as an administrator. A .VHD image can be mounted by entering the following commands: Diskpart
Select vdisk file=c:\ .vhd
Attach vdisk
Assign letter=R


The Windows Vista version of Diskpart does not recognize the Vdisk command, so this set of commands will work only when executed from a Windows 7 command prompt. The commands listed above are designed to mount the .VHD file that you specify and make it accessible through a drive letter (R: in this case).

Adding a Driver
There are several variations of the commands used to add a driver to a .VHD file. At its simplest, a new driver can be added by using the following command:
Dism /Image:R:\ /Add-Driver /Driver:C:\Drivers\ .inf

This command tells DISM to use the assigned R: drive as the image of choice. The command then uses the /Add-Driver parameter to tell DISM that a new driver is being installed. The /Driver parameter is then used to specify the path and filename of the driver that is being installed. After that, we can verify that the driver was installed by entering the following command: DISM /Image:R:\ /Get-Drivers

This command causes DISM to display a list of all of the drivers that are included in the image.

Installing a Package
Installing a package works in a similar way. The command for installing a package looks like this: Dism /image: R:\ /Add-Package /PackagePath C:\packages\ .cab

Once again, we are pointing DISM to the image that we have already mounted by referencing R:. This time, though, we are using the /Add-Package parameter to tell DISM that we want to install a package. The /PackagePath parameter allows us to specify the path and filename of the installation package.

There are far too many things that you can do with DISM for me to cover them all in one article. Fortunately, Microsoft provides a series of TechNet articles to guide you through the image management process.

About the author:   
Brien M. Posey, MCSE
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Exchange Server, and has received Microsoft's MVP award for Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Posey's personal website at www.brienposey.com.


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