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Windows System Image Manager Scenarios Overview

WindowsВ® System Image Manager (WindowsВ SIM) creates and manages unattended WindowsВ Setup answer files in a GUI.

Answer files are .xml files that are used during WindowsВ Setup to configure and customize the default Windows installation.

For example, you can use WindowsВ SIM to create an answer file that partitions and formats a disk before installing Windows. WindowsВ SIM also changes the default setting for the Windows Internet ExplorerВ® home page, and it configures Windows to boot to audit mode after installation. By modifying settings in the answer file, WindowsВ SIM can also be used to install third-party applications, device drivers, language packs, and other updates.

WindowsВ SIM does not modify the Windows image itself. You use WindowsВ SIM only to create an answer file. During Windows Setup, the answer file applies the settings to the Windows installation. WindowsВ SIM does not modify the settings in a Windows image (.wim) file.

Common WindowsВ SIM Scenarios

Create a Catalog File for a Windows Image

Before you can create an answer file, you must create a catalog (.clg) file. Catalog files contain all of the configurable settings in a single Windows image and the current values of each setting.

We recommend that you use the 32-bit version of WindowsВ SIM when you create your catalog files. The following table shows the architectures of WindowsВ SIM and the supported Windows image architectures.

x86 version of SIM

x86-based systems, x64-based systems, and Windows® RT Arm-based systems

x64 version of SIM

x64-based systems only

WindowsВ SIM architecture Can create catalogs for Windows images of the following architecture types

### Create a New Answer File for a Windows Image

You can use WindowsВ SIM to create an answer file to be used during WindowsВ Setup. You can view all of the components that are available in a Windows image, add component settings to your answer file, and choose when to apply a component setting by adding it to a particular configuration pass.

After you add component settings to an unattended answer file, you can view and customize the available settings for each component. For more information, see Answer Files Overview.

Edit an Existing Answer File

You can use WindowsВ SIM to add components, packages, or other updates to an existing answer file. You can also validate an existing answer file against a Windows image to ensure that the settings in that answer file can be applied to a specific Windows image. An answer file is typically associated with a specific Windows image. By using WindowsВ SIM, you can open the Windows image, open an existing answer file, and then make changes to the answer file.

WindowsВ SIM validates the component settings in the answer file against the settings that are available in the Windows image. For more information, see How to Validate an Answer File.

Add Device Drivers to an Answer File

You can add device drivers during WindowsВ Setup by using WindowsВ SIM. Windows Setup uses the following types of drivers:

  • In-box drivers. Windows Setup handles in-box drivers the same way that it handles packages.
  • Out-of-box drivers. By using WindowsВ SIM, you can add out-of-box drivers (INF-based) during WindowsВ Setup. Typically, these out-of-box drivers are processed during the auditSystem configuration pass. Your .inf-based out-of-box drivers must be in a distribution share subfolder that is called Out-of-Box Drivers. For more information, see How to Manage Files and Folders in a Distribution Share.
  • In-box drivers that are installed with a Windows Installer file. In-box drivers that require a Windows Installer file are added the same way that applications are added.

By using the Microsoft-Windows-PnpCustomizationsWinPE component, you must add boot-critical device drivers that are required for installation during the windowsPE configuration pass. For more information, see How to Add Device Drivers by Using Windows Setup. You can also use Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) to add device drivers to an offline image. For more information, see How to Add and Remove Drivers Offline.

Add Applications or Drivers to an Answer File

You can use WindowsВ SIM to add applications or drivers to be installed during WindowsВ Setup by using a distribution share. You use a distribution share to store all applications, device drivers, scripts, or other resources that you make available during WindowsВ Setup.

You can add more applications, scripts, and other binary files by using a data image. A data image is packaged in a way that is similar to a Windows image. By using the DISM tool (DISM.exe), you can capture a folder structure that contains the resources that you must add to Windows (or another partition on the computer) during WindowsВ Setup. You can specify where the data image is applied by using the DataImage setting in the Microsoft-Windows-Setup component. For more information, see How to Create a Data Image.

You can also use $OEM$ folder structures to place binary files and other applications in specific locations during WindowsВ Setup. Applications are added from distribution shares through subfolders in $OEM$ . You must also add a RunSynchronous setting to the answer file to open the Windows Installer file or the .exe file that installs the application. For more information, see How to Manage Files and Folders in a Distribution Share.

Add Updates to a Windows Image Offline

WindowsВ SIM enables the addition of offline updates to a Windows image. These updates include software updates, device drivers, language packs, and other packages, which Microsoft provides.

DISM.exe is the tool that you use, with or without an answer file, to apply packages to Windows. Any package installation, removal, or modification in the answer file is applied to the Windows image. For more information, see How to Add or Remove Packages Offline.

Packages that exist in the offlineServicing configuration pass are applied to the offline Windows image. For more information, see Windows Image Files and Catalog Files Overview.

Create a Configuration Set

A configuration set is a subset of files that are available in a distribution share that is explicitly called in an answer file. When you create a configuration set, any files in a distribution share that are referenced in the answer file are saved to a specific folder. Paths to these files are updated in the answer file to point to the specific folder.

Configuration sets are smaller, more portable versions of a distribution share. A configuration set is ideal for installations that cannot access a distribution share. For more information, see Distribution Shares and Configuration Sets Overview.

Import Packages to a Distribution Share

WindowsВ SIM imports packages that are not part of a Windows image file to an optional set of folders called a distribution share. You can then add packages to an answer file from the distribution share. To import a package to a distribution share, you must use the WindowsВ SIM tool or the Component Platform Interface (CPI) APIs. For more information, see Distribution Shares and Configuration Sets Overview.

You can also import a package directly into an answer file. The answer file includes a pointer to the path of the package.

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Windows System Image Manager Overview Topics

WindowsВ® System Image Manager (WindowsВ SIM) is a GUI that you use to create and manage answer files. Answer files are .xml files that are used in WindowsВ Setup, Sysprep, Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM), and other deployment tools to configure and customize the default Windows installation. You can access Windows SIM by searching for «Windows System Image Manager» on your computer.

You can use answer files to customize different aspects of Windows, including the default language settings, the partitions to create and format during installation, and the default settings for the Windows Internet ExplorerВ® home page.

You can use WindowsВ SIM to do the following:

  • Create and manage answer files.
  • Validate the settings of an answer file against a Windows image (.wim) file.
  • View all of the configurable component settings in a Windows image.
  • Create a configuration set that contains a complete set of portable folders with Setup files.
  • Add third-party drivers, applications, or other packages to an answer file.

In This Section

Describes WindowsВ SIM scenarios and when to use which scenario.

Describes the user interface of WindowsВ SIM.

Describes conceptual information about Windows image files and catalog (.clg) files.

Describes conceptual information about the structure of answer files.

Describes recommendations to consider when you are creating and managing answer files.

Describes information about distribution shares, how they work, and when to create a configuration set.

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Windows System Image Manager User Interface Overview

The Windows System Image Manager (WindowsВ SIM) user interface contains a series of panes. You can use these panes to open Windows image (.wim) files, create unattended answer files, and then add components and packages to the respective configuration passes in an answer file.

The following screen shot illustrates the WindowsВ SIM user interface.

WindowsВ SIM Panes

Distribution Share Pane

The Distribution Share pane displays the currently open distribution share folder in tree view. You can select, create, explore, and close distribution share folders by selecting the top node and then right-clicking in the pane. You can add items in an open distribution share folder to an answer file by right-clicking the item. For more information, see Distribution Shares and Configuration Sets Overview.

Answer File Pane

The Answer File pane displays the WindowsВ Setup configuration passes, the settings to apply in each pass, and the packages to install. You can open and change an existing answer file, validate the settings in an answer file against a Windows image, or create a new answer file. For more information, see Answer Files Overview.

Windows Image Pane

The Windows Image pane displays the currently open Windows image in tree view. When the tree is expanded, all of the components and packages for the image are visible and available to add to an answer file in the Answer File pane. For more information, see Windows Image Files and Catalog Files Overview.

Properties Pane

The Properties pane displays the properties and settings of a selected component or package. You can use the Properties pane to change the settings, and, in the case of packages, Windows feature selections. At the bottom of the Properties pane, WindowsВ SIM displays the name of the setting and the associated MicrosoftВ® .NET type. For more information, see Component Settings and Properties Reference.

Messages Pane

The Messages pane consists of three tabs: XML, Validation, and Configuration Set. Clicking a tab in the Messages pane displays the type of message, a description, and the location of the issue.

The types of messages that the Messages pane displays are informational. Messages appear on the Configuration Set tab if a configuration set has been created. For more information, see Distribution Shares and Configuration Sets Overview.

WindowsВ SIM Menus

File Menu

New Answer File

Creates a new answer file.

Open Answer File

Opens an existing answer file.

Close Answer File

Closes the currently open answer file.

Save Answer File

Saves the currently open answer file.

Save Answer File As…

Opens a dialog box to enable naming of the answer file with which you are currently working.

Select Distribution Share

Opens a valid distribution share folder.

Close Distribution Share

Closes the currently open distribution share folder.

Select Windows Image

Browses to and selects a Windows image file.

Close Windows Image

Closes the currently open Windows image file.

Exit

Closes WindowsВ SIM.

Edit Menu

Cut

Deletes the highlighted text or tree structure (Unattend and Properties).

Copy

Copies the highlighted text or tree structure (all panes).

Paste

Pastes text or tree structure (Unattend and Properties).

Delete

Deletes the currently selected item or text. (This command may be disabled if the item is not removable.)

Find

Opens a search dialog box to scan a Windows image and answer file, distribution share, or message for a specific item.

Revert Change

Reverts the most recent customization.

Write Image Value

Writes the value of the setting in the currently open Windows image to the answer file.

Add to Answer File

For components, a submenu opens that shows the available passes. The item and its children are added to the Unattend.xml answer file. Packages are automatically added to the packages section of the Unattend.xml answer file.

Insert Menu

Synchronous Command

Adds a synchronous command to a configuration pass. You can select the windowsPE, specialize, auditUser, or oobeSystem configuration pass. After you select a configuration pass, a window opens so that you can specify the command line and the order of execution.

Driver Path

Adds a driver path to a configuration pass. You can use Driver Path to select the configuration pass in which to add the driver path. Driver Path then opens a window where you can select a file or folder.

Package(s)

Opens a window where you can browse to the location of a package. Then, it inserts a package from a file or folder into the currently open answer file.

Tools Menu

Hide Sensitive Data

Stores local account passwords in an answer file as unreadable text. Domain passwords, product keys, and other sensitive data are not hidden.

Validate Answer File

Validates the XML and other settings in the answer file. Settings are validated against the currently open Windows image.

Create Configuration Set

Generates a new configuration set.

Explore Distribution Share

Opens a distribution share folder in Windows Explorer or File Explorer view.

Create Distribution Share

Creates a distribution share folder and subfolders.

Import Package(s)

Enables you to browse to a folder that contains a package, and then import it into the currently open distribution share. For more information, see Add Packages to a Distribution Share.

Create Catalog

Generates a catalog file. For more information, see Open a Windows Image or Catalog File.

Help Menu

Image Manager Help

Displays the User’s Guide.

Unattended Reference

Displays the Unattended WindowsВ Setup Reference.

About

Displays version, copyright, and licensing information.

WindowsВ SIM Buttons

New Answer File

Creates a new answer file.

Open Answer File

Opens an existing answer file.

Close Answer File

Closes the currently selected answer file.

Save Answer File

Saves the currently open answer file.

Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete

Find

Enables you to search through a Windows image and answer file, through a distribution share, or within the Messages pane.

Validate Answer File

Validates the answer file against the settings in the opened catalog file.

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