Windows Deployment Services

Windows Deployment Services (WDS) provides a convenient way to install Windows onto computers, both via network distribution and via CD/DVD distribution. This page documents the centralization of WDS on campus and how to use the service. Note: all of the information here is intended for end-users. Documentation for WDS server administrators and others on-campus who manage custom images is available from the WDS Management section.

Prerequisites for Using WDS

In order for WDS to work, you must have a network card and an active network connection. Your computer must be connected to and registered with the campus network and using the campus DHCP servers. Additionally, your target computer(s) must reside in one of three DHCP templates: PXE-all, WDS-Main, or WDS-Centennial.

  • PXE-all allows you to use other PXE servers on campus, which can allow you to change between WDS, WolfPrep, and Realm Linux environments. However, using this environment limits you to the default boot image only. If you need additional functionality, such as installing Windows 7 or creating new images, do not use this DHCP template.
  • WDS-Main brings you the full functionality of WDS. This DHCP template connects to a server located on main campus, and will also allow you to choose your boot image. You will not, however, be able to switch to other PXE environments from this template.
  • WDS-Centennial connects to a server located on Centennial campus. It contains the same functionality and features as WDS-Main, but should provide better performance for users on Centennial campus.

Computer Account Prestaging

WDS installs your computer and in most cases joins it to an Active Directory domain (most commonly WolfTech). When this domain join occurs, WDS searches the directory for a computer account that matches the computer it is joining. If a computer account is recognized, that computer account is used for the domain join; otherwise, the computer is set up with a new computer account in the directory. The first case is known as prestaging, and it has the benefit of offering a much more automatic installation experience. By utilizing a preexisting computer account, the machine being installed will automatically set the correct computer name, apply any applicable group policy objects, and install any software that has been assigned. Compare this to a new computer account which will require the computer administrator to move the account into the correct OU location within the directory, have group policies assigned, and assign software membership.

To prestage a computer in Active Directory, create the computer object, assign it a name, and check the “This is a managed computer” box when prompted if you are using a version of ADUC that asks. Fill in the computer’s GUID, which is a 32-character hexadecimal value embedded in the computer and generally viewable when attempting to PXE boot. Enter in this value without any spaces, dashes, braces, or brackets, even if the value is presented to you with those characters in the value. Alternatively, the MAC address of the network adapter that will be used to PXE boot can be used – in this case, fill in the MAC address without any spaces or dashes, and then prepend zeroes (0) to the value until it is 32 characters long – you’ll know when you have the correct number of zeroes because the Next button will become available to press when the correct length is entered. When using the MAC address this information goes into the NetBootGUID attribute of the computer object that is only visible with the Advanced Features enabled. Finish creating the computer account and then assign it to group policies, software or group membership as necessary. Now, proceed with PXE-booting the computer. WDS will recognize the computer and join it to the domain using that computer account.

For more information, please reference the following documents:

How to PXE Boot

To take advantage of WDS, you must boot your computer into a network environment that will then install your desired operating system image. This is known as PXE booting your computer. Almost all modern computers have this functionality built-in; you just have to enable it or tell your computer to do it.

  1. If your computer is running, reboot it or power it off and back on after a few seconds.
  2. While it is running its startup diagnostics, look at the screen. You will probably see a message like “Press F12 for Boot Menu” or “Press F10 for Network Boot” – if you see a message similar to these, press the corresponding key on your keyboard.
  3. If you are presented with a menu asking you which device to boot from, choose your network device and press Enter.
  4. The computer will attempt to boot into the network environment, which may take a few seconds.

If you were unable to complete these steps, you may need to enable PXE booting in your system’s BIOS. Refer to your computer’s documentation for instructions on how to do that, or email for assistance from the rest of the community in getting the correct setting enabled.

If your machine is for some reason not capable of PXE booting, a CD image is available that will allow your system to start the installation process. This is provided as an ISO image, so you will need to burn it to a CD prior to using it. The image is available for download here.

Please note that even if you use the CD image to boot, you may still be unable to use WDS if the CD image does not contain appropriate network drivers for your hardware. If this is the case, follow the procedures in the Requesting Drivers section below to request that the drivers be included in the boot and CD images.

Installing an Image

Once you have PXE booted your computer, you may have to choose a boot image to execute. If you are using the PXE-all DHCP template, simply type ‘wds’ and press Enter. If you are using the WDS-Main or WDS-Centennial DHCP templates, you will need to choose your boot environment. The default selection is fine for installing Windows, but you may need to use a different environment in certain special circumstances.

Note: You must be a member of your organizational unit’s <OU>-Allow Imaging security group to install any custom image created by that organizational unit!

  1. Once the computer has finished booting, you will be sitting at a screen prompting you for a locale and keyboard input method. The defaults are fine, so press Enter (or Next).
  2. You will be prompted for your WolfTech user name and password. Enter these in, making sure to enter “wolftech\” before your user name.
  3. Next, choose an image that you want to install. If you know the name of the image, you can type the first few letters of the name and it will be automatically selected for you.
  4. Choose the drive to install the operating system onto. You may optionally reformat the target drive as well by clicking “Drive Options”.
  5. Let the image install. Depending upon the size of the image, it may take some time to finish installing. Once it is finished, you should be able to use the image, but you may need to reboot to allow any lingering system changes to take effect.

Requesting Drivers

If you are not able to use WDS because of a lack of driver support in a boot image (manifested as a pop-up window stating that no network card/connection is available) or install image (if you need integrated storage, chipset, or network drivers, for example), you can request that these drivers be integrated into the image.  See Drivers Used in Imaging for information about requesting additional drivers.

How to Create Your Own Install Image

This is a basic overview. Creating custom images is a complicated topic and highly dependent upon the configuration of your deployed operating system and hardware. It is highly recommended that you join the wds email list for support while creating your custom images.

  1. Obtain a copy of Sysprep for your deployment operating system and service pack revision.  Windows 7 includes it at %WINDIR%\System32\Sysprep.
  2. Install a target computer with your operating system and perform any needed customizations, including copying files to the computer, installing programs, and configuring settings. You can perform the installation using an existing WDS install image if you desire.
  3. Sysprep the computer to get it into a generalized state.
  4. PXE-boot the computer into the WDS boot environment.
  5. Once you are prompted for keyboard locale information, press Shift and F10 at the same time to bring up a command prompt.
  6. In the command prompt window, type “[[wdscapture]]” (without quotes) to launch the image capture wizard.
  7. Follow the steps in the image capture wizard to generate an image to be stored on the local computer.
  8. [[Copy]] the image to \\\deployment\Staging\Images – you may also want to copy the image to another location of your choosing to keep in the case you need to edit the image in the future. You can accomplish this step in either of two ways:
    • by transferring the image to another computer via flash drive or external hard disk and uploading the image from the other computer
    • from the imaged computer by copying to a [[mapped network drive]] that refers to the location above, or by booting the computer and transferring the image once the computer has finished its setup process
  9. Test your image by [[manually deploying]] it to a test computer. This step is optional but highly recommended.
  10. Inform the WDS administrators of your request to install the image on the WDS servers by emailing
  11. Ensure that everyone who should be able to deploy this custom image is a member of your <OU>-Allow Imaging security group.