Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Utilizing WinPE in deployments

Browsing the web I found a good page highlighting some advantages of WinPE.

The article is a little old and WinPE is now available to downlad from MS sites and will be available with Vista. As well there is now a way to load the whole WINPE CD image into RAM so you don't require a CD drive.

In my environment I use WinPE to help with the deployment process and it does it's job wonderfully. I've modified it to use Windows Post Installer (WPI) to give an interface for the apps that should be deployed to the target system.

My current environment is setup as follows:

1) WinPE boots and logs the IP address of the present machine onto a network share. Our company has a site license for RAdmin so that is installed on WinPE. This logging of its IP Address allows me to RAdmin into it and administer the WinPE environment without being physically present.

2) WinPE presents a batch file "choices" screen, Reimaging is one of the options.

Choosing reimage causes the following to happen:

3) WinPE prompts for your user name, password and computer name which are stored in text files on a RAM drive in WinPE.

4) WinPE opens up WPI with a list of programs.

5) Clicking "Begin install" causes WPI to output the programs selected into a text file on the WinPE RAM Drive.

6) RDeploy is then called to image the drive with the corporate standard image (I've learned I may need to add a choice to select between Tablet, MultiProcessor or Single Processor soon. I've thought another way around it I'll describe later).

7) After imaging the drive, FIRM.EXE (File System Independent Resource Management) copies over the approriate sysprep.inf while which contains your user name, password and parses the computer name you entered earlier to determine the correct OU that the system will be placed under. With this information the sysprep file contains enough information to join the machine to the domain without user intervention.

FIRM also copies over all the text files that contain your user name and password onto the machine for parsing later (this later is to map file shares and execute commands under a domain account).

8) The machine reboots and joins to the domain as per the sysprep script.

More to come later.

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