Provisioning in a Post-Imaging World

Is this the end of MDT? The end of imaging as we know it? The Windows 10 operating system has made bare-metal OS management much easier. With utilities like “Reset this PC”, the only time a fresh copy of the OS needs to be installed is on new hardware. Even upgrading hardware such as hard drives, from HDD to SSD doesn’t require a fresh install. The traditional DISM.exe utility allows for capturing a WIM file from drive partitions for application on different hardware, but it won’t image a whole disk. Third party utilities like Acronis TrueImage and Macrium Reflect make transferring an existing Windows install to different hardware a snap. 

What does our organization do to set up new PCs for our users?

Image? No longer, we provision. Bigfix, our endpoint management system, allows for control of Windows’ every facet. With that, we can install all of the software we need end users to have and configure all of the settings as per organizational policy. Bigfix even offers a self-service option for applications that may need to be installed later on, by end users, without admin access. 

The Windows Configuration Designer (WCD) can run an automatic setup for a fresh Windows install, coming out from OOBE. Just place the PKG file on a USB key, insert USB into the target computer and boot. Setup first-run will ask if you want to apply the PKG file and that’s it. Depending on the config options chosen when building the package, you’ll have a desktop that is ready for software deployment when finished. WCD is not a complete desktop deployment solution, but it can get you through the inane first run questions, set up a local admin user and install small applications such as the Bigfix client. Once WCD is done, I can manage the PC through the Bigfix console.

We no longer have to replace one operating system with a customized version of the same thing. Provisioning is not the biggest timesaver in IT but it reduces the time spent performing repetitive tasks which should be automated. Bigfix can even upgrade the Windows Sku from Pro to Enterprise per our organization’s license agreement with Microsoft. If a hard drive fails, then we’re reinstalling on replacement hardware. Aside from that, we’ve found no reason to perform fresh installs anymore. Windows Reset works well along with System Restore to roll-back changes or just start from fresh.