MMS2013: Choosing the Right OS Deployment Tool (MDT)


  • Johan Arwidmark
  • Mikael NyStrom 

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting these guys a few times in the past, notably at a couple of the Microsoft MVP summits a couple years back. They both teach deployment-focused classes regularly for TruSec and are not only very knowledgeable guys with lots of technical experience; they also present well together. Instead of introducing themselves they gave their video introduction.

Because I knew their specialties and because this was MMS, I was confident it would be about when to use SCCM, when to use MDT (and maybe when to use InTune) and would not be a competitive comparison like I suspect many of those attending would have liked.  Big proponents of MDT, my expectation was a presentation telling you less about when to use what and more about how they can actually work well together. In MVP sessions Michal in particular was the most vocal in the group of Deployment MVPs when it came to the need for Microsoft to make it much easier to understand the many tools and how they fit together. Adding more tools and overlapping solutions has been an ongoing problem with regards to confusion over when to use what.

They started right off clarifying with a list of what was to be covered:

  • ADK
  • WDS
  • MDT
  • WSIM
  • Unattended.XML

Translated: this is a session about MDT (the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit).

Creating a Unattend.XML and putting it in the right folder is all that is needed to automate a Windows installation. WSIM is a tool for authoring an Unattended.XML file. They ran through a demo of WSIM and covered the sections and pointed out that you can hit F1 within this tool to get contextual help about the many settings available.

WinPE 4 requires some BIOS functions that may make it fail on some servers. Upgrading BIOS/Firmware has fixed this issue in every case they have encountered.

If you name Unattend.XML to AutoUnattend.XML and place it on a virtual floppy. With that in place, it will automate the installation with the specified values. Intentionally or not, they demonstrated that you have to choose the right architecture (x32 or x64). The ISO you choose must match that set in the Unattend.XML.

Tip: Shift F10 during the “Setup is starting” message will let you get access to a command prompt where you can view logs and run commands.

They next covered PXE and how to configure it via Windows Deployment Services (WDS). There are some more things that can be specified in the latest release.

WDS has not previously let you include updates, drivers, etc. on its own but the latest version offers more capabilities to do so. You can specify “Expected Deployment Results” via a wizard.

WDS is for new machines—wipe the machine, deploy the OS, done. Good for OEMs or classrooms. MDT uses WAIK and WDS to support task sequences to automate everything more dynamically.

One nice tip was to test out a CustomSettings.ini file there is a script ztiGather.wsf, which will let you specify additional values on the command line. It provides an output list of how the Unattended would have run for testing purposes.

The SCCM team took over development of MDT last year, which explains why MDT task sequences look familiar to those running SCCM (which was most everyone in the audience). CustomSettings.ini is the same file though there are some values that are unique to one solution or the other.

Other third party solutions essentially do the same, updating the Unattend.xml at the right time in the deployment process to inject desired settings.

Watch out that the default template instructs the “Apply Windows Settings” task sequence sets the local admin password to blank, so be sure to set something here.


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