6 steps to zero-touch, automated computer imaging

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Joanne Yip|April 11, 2022
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Imagine that you’re part of a small IT support team that manages and maintains 500 computers within the organization. In this scenario, you’re responsible for installing Windows and software, plus configuring your company’s security, domain, and VPN settings on each device. With remote work becoming the norm thanks to the pandemic, you now must figure out a way to do all this remotely for your distributed workforce.

And you’re probably thinking: is there an efficient way to tackle this task that won’t require extensive budget and training?

The answer is yes!

Unlike conventional computer imaging software, a flexible, layered solution like SmartDeploy is easy to use and will save you a tremendous amount of time and effort. SmartDeploy breaks down the Windows imaging process into separate OS, driver, and application layers that can be deployed and managed together or independently. Plus, it offers the ability to perform fully attended, light-touch, or zero-touch Windows imaging via USB, network, or cloud.

Did I hear that right? I can deploy my corporate Windows image to remote endpoints from the cloud?

Yup, that’s right!

SmartDeploy enables remote computer imaging quickly and securely over the internet, using your existing cloud storage providers. Out-of-box support is included for Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. Achieve seamless deployment to any device, no matter where it is located, even if users are not connected to the corporate network.

The setup is straightforward. Our quick start videos break it down into six simple, wizard-driven steps.

1. Create your reference virtual machine (VM)

  • Install Windows and all available updates on your VM.

  • You don’t need to run Sysprep on your reference VM as SmartDeploy runs Sysprep automatically at deployment time.

  • You can install applications that apply to all the machines within the deployment group (except Antivirus software) and then capture the image. Or you can deploy them via Application Packs later (see Step 2). You can also do both.

  • Fully shut down the VM using the command line shutdown /s /t 0

2. Build in the target OS

  • On the SmartDeploy console, go to Activities > Reimage Devices > Capture Image.

  • Using the Capture Wizard, browse and select your reference machine’s virtual hard disk file.

  • For your first image, select standard image.

  • Choose a name and location for saving your .WIM file (Microsoft’s standard format) and the specific image.

3. Download model-specific driver packs from SmartDeploy’s library

  • SmartDeploy’s unique Platform Packs are downloadable model-specific driver packs created and maintained by SmartDeploy’s team of driver experts.

  • Select from our library of 1,500+ driver packages (many of them also support multiple OS versions).

  • SmartDeploy uses WMI queries to deploy only drivers specific to each hardware make, model and OS version.

4. Create an answer file to automate deployment

An answer file contains all the information needed to deploy an image with limited or no interaction from you or the end user. It contains responses to different deployment options including computer name, time zone, IP settings, and domain-join information.

You can create an answer file with the Answer File Wizard that can be used to automate your deployment. This can be used on future deployments for attended or unattended installations*.

  • Go to Activities > Reimage Devices > Create Answer File

  • Using the Answer File Wizard, select your image source (local network or cloud storage).

  • Follow the steps in the deploy wizard, review your selection summary, and click Finish.

  • For applications not included in your Windows image, you can choose to install them post-image via Application Packs. Application Packs allow you to automate the deployment of individual applications, patches, or tasks. You can download pre-built Application Packs or create your own.

  • Within the wizard, advanced options include setting default Windows settings, disk options, and running custom scripts. Refer to our user guide for more information.

  • Include the SmartDeploy client in your answer file. If you install the client on the endpoint machine, it’ll also show up under Computer Management in the SmartDeploy console.

* By default, answer files are fully unattended with the option to select light-touch deployment.

5. Create boot or deployment media

  • Go to Activities > Reimage Devices > Create Media

  • Using the Media Wizard, follow the steps to choose your settings.

  • To use a USB/DVD for deployment, select Boot media or Offline deployment media.

  • To use your existing WDS service to boot into SmartDeploy via the network, choose WDS boot media. More on WDS for PXE boot here.

  • For deployment from the SmartDeploy console, select Deployment package.

  • Regardless of the selected deployment option, make sure the right Platform Packs are selected when you create your media.

  • Follow the rest of the wizard instructions to finish creating your media.

6. Deploy your image to your target device

  • For deployment from the SmartDeploy console to the SmartDeploy client on a test or user machine, go to Computer Management > select your test or user computer > Deploy Image

  • Select the deployment package you want to deploy (if you have more than one).

  • If you want, you can schedule your deployment for a later time.

  • For larger batches (25 machines or more), you also have the option to multicast.

SmartDeploy also enables cloud deployment via the SmartDeploy agent, without requiring VPN connectivity, to machines that are located remotely.

Want to know more?

Learn about the technology and design behind SmartDeploy’s computer imaging software — or browse additional resources to get things up and running.

joanne profile
Joanne Yip

Joanne has always loved the impact that words can make. When she isn’t typing away in the world of sysadmin, Joanne loves hiking with her husband and dog, true-crime podcasts, and dreaming of her next scuba diving adventure.

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