Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT): Pros/cons of a free tool

Customers routinely ask how well Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, or MDT, compares with SmartDeploy. One difference is upfront cost. The MDT is a free tool, and while that initial price tag may make it an attractive option, there can be hidden costs you may not see immediately.

Working with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit & Windows 10

Finding effective IT tools that fit within budget constraints can be a challenge, to put it mildly. In many cases, IT departments don’t even have a budget. Even if they do, getting what they want can require lengthy negotiations with management. Because IT professionals need to be productive, regardless of the tools they have, they’ll do whatever they have to do to complete a project. And who can blame them? Spending time trying to figure out how to use a new tool sounds better than fighting with management over money most days of the week.

MDT Comparison Post

What are the benefits of MDT?

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit has benefits—it uses the Windows Imaging File format (.wim) and Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE), so it works with modern operating systems on modern devices. It also provides a workbench that IT pros can set up and customize to do just about anything they need to. Best of all, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit does not have a licensing cost. At that point, it seems enough to give it a shot: it’s free and it works, so what’s the problem? The problem is that its zero-cost license does not mean that Microsoft Deployment Toolkit is free.

How much does MDT Really Cost?

Sure, you can download, install, and use MDT for free, but what is your time worth? Most IT pros spend weeks or months learning, training, and testing MDT in their environment (see the documentation here). Add to that the time it takes to actually deploy devices and you’ve just cost yourself valuable time away from other important initiatives and projects. If time isn’t a constraint, MDT may work for you. After all, you didn’t have to argue with management for money and you can get that pressing Windows 7 migration done…eventually.

SmartDeploy vs. MDT

But if you don’t want to waste days configuring, testing, and deploying, SmartDeploy can help. SmartDeploy uses Windows PE and the same .wim format as MDT, meaning your image is efficient, robust, reliable, and serviceable offline. But SmartDeploy takes a completely different approach to imaging and deployment. SmartDeploy uses virtualization and a modern, layered architecture to make single-image management a reality. SmartDeploy simplifies the process even further with its wizard-driven interface and built-in best practices, so IT departments can complete deployment projects faster, and more efficiently. So when you are comparing Windows deployment software, remember to ask yourself, “How much is my time worth?” The answer may surprise you.

See more details on how Microsoft Deployment Toolkit compares to SmartDeploy, Symantec Ghost, and Acronis Snap Deploy.

(Last updated October 23, 2020)