You can create custom install images using Windows Deployment Services. To do this, use the instructions in this section to create a capture image, prepare a reference computer using Sysprep, and then capture the operating system using the Image Capture Wizard. Note that install images that are older than Windows Vista are hardware abstraction layer (HAL)–specific, so you cannot deploy an image with one type of HAL to a computer with a different type of HAL. However, Windows Vista images are not HAL-specific, so you only need one image for each architecture. For more information, see Creating Images (

Creating a capture image

To create an install image, you must first create a capture image. Capture images are boot images that you boot a client computer into to capture the operating system into a .wim file. You can also create media (a CD, DVD, USB drive, or other type of media) that contain a capture image, and then boot a computer from the media. These images provide an alternative to the command-line utility, ImageX.exe. Except in advanced scenarios, you should create a capture image by using the Boot.wim file from the Windows Server 2008 R2 DVD. You can also use the WinPE.wim file from the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) to create a capture image, which is slightly smaller than the Boot.wim file.

To create a capture image
  1. In the Windows Deployment Services MMC snap-in, expand the Boot Images node.

  2. Right-click the image to use it as a capture image. In most cases, you can just use the Boot.wim file from the DVD.

  3. Click Create Capture Image.

  4. Type a name, a description, and the location where you want to save a local copy of the file. You must specify a location in case there is a problem with the network when you deploy the capture image.

  5. Continue to follow the instructions in the wizard and when it is complete, click Finish.

  6. Right-click the Boot Image node.

  7. Click Add Boot Image.

  8. Browse and select the new capture image, and then click Next.

  9. Follow the instructions in the wizard.

  10. After you have created the capture image, follow the instructions in the next section to boot a computer into the capture image and capture the operating system.

Creating a custom install image

Now that you have a capture image, you need to prepare a reference computer and then create the install image. The reference computer can be a computer with a standard Windows installation or a Windows installation that has been configured for your environment. First, you boot a computer that has been prepared with Sysprep into the capture image. Then a wizard creates an install image of the reference computer and saves it as a .wim file. After that, you can deploy the .wim file to a computer. Note that in the Image Capture Wizard, you will only see drives that contain operating systems prepared with Sysprep. If you do not run Sysprep on the computer before you boot into the image, you will not see any drives to capture.

To create a custom install image
  1. Create a reference computer (install the operating system, applications, and make any other changes that you want).

  2. Ensure that you have the correct version of Sysprep.exe on the computer.

  3. At a command prompt on the reference computer, change folders to \Windows\System32\Sysprep or the folder that contains Sysprep.exe and Setupcl.exe.

  4. Run sysprep /oobe /generalize /reboot. If you prefer, you can also use the Sysprep graphical user interface by double-clicking Sysprep.exe.


    On computers running Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, run sysprep -mini –reseal -reboot.

  5. When the computer restarts, perform a network boot on the computer by pressing F12.

  6. On the boot menu, select the capture image that you created in the preceding procedure, and then click Next.

  7. Follow the instructions in the Image Capture Wizard to name, save, and upload the image to the Windows Deployment Services server.

After you add the image to the server, you can PXE boot a client computer to install this image. For instructions, see Install an Operating System.

Additional references