Creating a Distributable Image

In my company we rarely get new PC’s especially now with the shortages, orders from Dell are listing at 4-6 months. Also we hardly ever need to reimage a PC, but there are times.

I have been trying to find a way to create a full base image with everything pre-installed and setup the way we want it and be able to just put in a USB and put it on the PC.

I want to stay away from SCCM or MS imaging from a server, it’s too difficult to setup and get going. I have managed to figure out how to create my own WIM from an install, but I can’t find a way to use that in a distributable fashion from a USB. The MS Install Creator just makes an install USB from a base Windows install files.

I am trying to figure out how to use WinPE to do it, but that only uses FAT32 and doesn’t support a 14GB image on the USB. I could use WinPE to boot from USB and pull the image from the network, I have managed to do that, but it doesn’t create the partitions correctly and the disk won’t boot. Apparently there’s some scripting involved to create the partitions and whatnot, but it’s also jumbled and confusing for me at this moment.

Is there anything out there that will do what I want? And did I mention that it should probably be free?

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Use Rufus to write your Windows 10/11 ISO to a USB drive. Be sure to choose NTFS for the USB filesystem type. Then all you need to do is replace sources\install.wim with your custom WIM file. Secure boot must be disabled during installation but can be re-enabled afterwards.

Creating an unattended installation is a separate task from building an installation USB with your custom image. Start by getting the USB install to work manually first (ie. you guiding it through the install prompts) then you can start digging into unattended setup. It’s very well documented.

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Honestly not worried that much about it being unattended. I just want it to install my custom WIM.

I’ll test this tomorrow.

Well, that seems to have worked. Thanks again 404.

Now why couldn’t I find that information on google as easy?

Most of Microsoft’s documentation is geared toward network deployment rather than from USB. They touch on putting your image in the network share path WindowsDVD\sources\install.wim in this article but I agree, it’s a bit obscure. I think their Configuration Manager tool will build an ISO for you but they don’t explain what it’s doing.

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I tried that too. All it wants to do is download the ISO from MS and make a bootable USB with the default install options.

Granted MS’s info is geared that way, it would seem that this solution would show up somewhere else on the internet for an ease of use fix.

An alternative is to use Ventoy. Rufus only offers ISO to USB capabilities while Ventoy allows both ISO reading and booting from a disk image file with read/write.

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