WDS – booting from UFD (USB Flash Drive)

Booting to WDS can be a bit pokey over lower-bandwidth connections. Even over GbE, WDS boot images take significantly longer to load than the original RIS menu system. Bummer!

I expedite loading of the “WDS Discover” boot image (this is the image that allows loading of WDS server images) I decided to try creating a bootable “WDS Discover” image on UFD. The Vista Beta 2 BDD (and included AIK) include instructions on generating WinPE-bootable UFDs. However, there are two problems:

  • The instructions do not work… the resuling UFD is not bootable!
  • The image generated results only in a standard WinPE environment, not a WDS deployment GUI

Here are the missing bits fo informaiton:
When formatting a UFD for WinPE, you must set the formatted partition as “active”. To do this, plug your UFD into a Vista OS:
diskpart
select disk 1
select partition 1
format fs=ntfs override quick
active
assign

Failing to make the UFD partition “active” will result in an unbootable UFD. Note that the Vista build 5472 AIK includes these updated instructions.

In order to make a UFD-bootable WDS Discover image, you need to use the “WDSUtil” CLI (with /new-discoverimage or /new-captureimage options) or WDS MMC GUI.
Here are the steps:

  1. Use ImageX to extract the Windows Vista SETUP image from the boot.wim that ships with the Vista DVD (e.g. “imagex /apply [path to boot.wim>] 2 [path to apply image]”)
  2. Apply custom drivers (e.g. “peimg /inf: [path to driver] [path to applied image “windows” directory]”)
  3. Capture the custom image (e.g. “imagex /boot /compress maximum /capture [path to applied image] [wim file name] [image name]”)
  4. Import the image into WDS using the GUI or CLI
  5. Use WDSUtil with /new-CaptureImage or /new-DiscoverImage and /Image:[image Name] to create a new capture or discovery image based on the custom WIM generated above.

You can now write your image to CD (using “oscdimg”) or to UFD (using the BDD/AIK instructions).

NOTE! If you expect to be able to capture using the WDS Capture image, you must first run “sysprep” on the OS in question. The WDS Image Capture Wizard will not work without sysprep!