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Designing a Lite-Touch Deployment (part 3) - Customizing Target Deployments

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9/20/2011 5:53:14 PM

4. Customizing Target Deployments

The previous section describes the basic LTI deployment process, but at first glance, many administrators would not consider the interaction required to be especially light. In fact, there is quite a bit of interaction involved, and performing the entire sequence on hundreds of computers can be nearly as tedious and time-consuming as installing Windows 7 manually. Fortunately, MDT 2010 provides a method for automating the deployment process even further.

4.1. Using CustomSettings.ini

CustomSettings.ini is the main configuration file for MDT 2010. Each deployment share has its own CustomSettings.ini file, located in the Control folder. Target computers read the file when they load the Windows Deployment Wizard, and the settings inside control the behavior of the wizard and the deployment process.

The format of CustomSettings.ini is the same as most Windows Configuration files. Section headings are enclosed in square brackets, and properties under each heading are separated from their values by equal signs, as in the following sample:


Many of the properties that CustomSettings.ini supports take binary values in the form of YES or NO, such as SkipProductKey=YES. Others take alphanumeric values, such as AdminPassword=Pa$$w0rd.



CustomSettings.ini properties that take the binary values YES and NO must use uppercase text for the values, as in the following example:


This is so that the deployment scripts running on the target computers can properly process the values.

When you create a deployment share, the New Deployment Share Wizard creates a CustomSettings.ini file, based on your responses to the wizard’s prompts. For example, if you select the Ask User For A Product Key check box, the wizard adds the SkipProductKey=NO command to the CustomSettings.ini file. Later, when the Windows Deployment Wizard running on the target computers reads that command, it causes the wizard to suppress the appearance of the Specify The Product Key Needed To Install This Operating System page.

A typical default CustomSettings.ini file contains the following commands:



The SkipCapture, SkipAdminPassword, and SkipProductKey commands correspond to the Allow Image Capture, Allow Admin Password, and Allow Product Key pages in the New Deployment Share Wizard, reflecting the responses you supplied when creating the share. If you ever want to change these defaults, you can simply modify the commands in CustomSettings.ini by changing the NO values to YES.

You can edit the CustomSettings.ini file manually, using Notepad or any other text editor, but you can also view and edit the file in Deployment Workbench. To access CustomSettings.ini for a particular deployment share, right-click the share in Deployment Workbench and, from the context menu, select Properties. When the Properties sheet for the deployment share appears, select the Rules tab, as shown in Figure 17.

Figure 17. The Rules tab in a deployment share’s Properties sheet

In addition to modifying the existing commands in a CustomSettings.ini file, you can add hundreds of others to customize your deployments. The following sections describe some of the ways in which you can use CustomSettings.ini to reduce the amount of interaction required during a workstation deployment.



For a complete list of the properties you can use in a CustomSettings.ini file, along with explanations and examples of their syntax, open the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Documentation Library help file included with MDT 2010 and browse to the Properties heading in the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Reference section.

4.1.1. Suppressing Windows Deployment Wizard Pages

In many cases, the interactive pages that appear in the Windows Deployment Wizard are nothing more than chores to the installer sitting at the target computers. For example, if you are deploying 100 computers, all into the same domain, requiring the installer to type the domain name and administrative credentials on every workstation is time-consuming and redundant. Using CustomSettings.ini properties, you can automate the required inputs and suppress the appearance of the Join The Computer To A Domain Or Workgroup page in the Windows Deployment Wizard. The commands you must add to CustomSettings.ini to do this are as follows:


The CustomSettings.ini commands that you can use to replace each of the replaceable pages in the deployment procedure are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. CustomSettings.ini Properties for Windows Deployment Wizard
Windows Deployment Wizard Page Add this Property to Suppress the Wizard Page Add these Properties to Replace the Controls on the Wizard Page
Specify credentials for connecting to network shares None UserID


Select a task sequence to execute on this computer SkipTaskSequence TaskSequenceID
Choose a migration type SkipDeploymentType DeploymentType
Specify the product key SkipProductKey ProductKey


Configure the computer name SkipComputerName OSDComputerName
Join the computer to a domain or workgroup SkipDomainMembership JoinDomain





Specify where to save your data and settings SkipUserData UDDir


Specify whether to restore user data SkipUserData UDDir


Language and other preferences SkipLocaleSelection KeyboardLocale


Set the time zone SkipTimeZone TimeZoneName
Administrator Password SkipAdminPassword AdminPassword
Specify the BitLocker configuration SkipBitLocker BDEDriveLetter







Ready to begin SkipSummary None
Operating system deployment completed successfully SkipFinalSummary None

4.1.2. Grouping Target Computers

When you place commands in the [Default] section of the CustomSettings.ini file, they apply to all target computers that access the deployment share. However, this does not mean that you can’t use CustomSettings.ini commands if you have to assign different property values to some of your computers. You can define groups in a CustomSettings.ini file and assign properties with different values to the computers in each group.

MDT 2010 enables you to group your target computers by location or according to hardware or software attributes. For example, to create groups based on locations in a CustomSettings.ini file, you assign group names to the default gateway addresses of the subnets on your network, as in the following sample:

[Default Gateway]

You then create sections named for the groups and place your group-specific properties in those sections. For example, the following commands join the target computers to a different domain depending on the city where they are located:




4.1.3. Configuring Individual Computers

Some properties require values that must be unique on every computer, such as the OSDComputerName property, which specifies the computer name assigned to a target computer during the Windows 7 installation. To assign properties like these to individual computers, you must create separate sections for each computer in the CustomSettings.ini file. As with the group capabilities, you can use different criteria to identify individual computers, including hardware, software, and user-defined attributes.

For example, to identify target computers using the media access control (MAC) addresses assigned to their network interface adapters, you create a section for each computer named using the six-byte hexadecimal value of its MAC address. Then you add the computer-specific properties into each section, as shown in the following example:

Priority=MACAddress, Default





To display the MAC address of a Windows computer, open a Command Prompt window and run the Ipconfig.exe program using the /all parameter.

In the [Settings] section, the Priority property specifies the order in which the Windows Deployment Wizard on the target computer should parse the settings in the CustomSettings.ini file. Adding the MACAddress property to the Priority command causes the computers to apply the commands in the MAC address sections first, and then to apply the commands in the [Default] section.



Automating a truly large deployment project using CustomSettings.ini files alone can still be a huge task. For this reason, MDT 2010 also provides the ability to use a SQL Server database to store the settings for individual computers and define group settings as well. Deployment Workbench includes the ability to create and interact with a database on a computer running SQL Server.

4.2. Multicasting LTI Deployments

A large operating system deployment product normally requires the build computer to transmit a separate copy of the captured install image to each target computer. Because these images can run to several gigabytes in size, the amount of network traffic generated by the deployment process can be enormous. Part of your initial planning for your project should include issues such as when you plan to perform the target computer deployment, how much network bandwidth is available, and how many workstations you can safely deploy at the same time.

One way to reduce the amount of network bandwidth the deployment process consumes is to use multicast transmissions to deliver the image files to the target computers. A multicast is a type of TCP/IP transmission that delivers a single copy of the data to multiple destinations. Most TCP/IP transmissions are unicasts, which are transmissions to a single destination, or broadcasts, which are transmissions to all possible destinations. A multicast falls between these two by transmitting to a selected group of destinations—in this case, a group of target computers that you want to receive a single transmission of an image at the same time.

The versions of Windows Deployment Services included in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 have multicasting capabilities, and you can use WDS to deploy your captured images directly to target computers using multicasts. However, this method bypasses the MDT 2010 deployment share, which prevents you from using task sequences to control your deployments.

Fortunately, MDT 2010 is capable of utilizing the multicasting capabilities of WDS when transmitting images from its own deployment share. To do this, your build server must be running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2, and must have Windows Deployment Services, Windows Automated Installation Kit 2.0, and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 installed and configured. You must also create an MDT 2010 deployment share that uses the share name LTI$.

After configuring WDS and MDT in the usual manner, you configure the deployment share to use multicasting by opening the share’s Properties sheet and, on the General tab, selecting the Enable Multicast For This Deployment Share check box, as shown in Figure 18. Then you must update the deployment share in the usual way to create boot images that support multicasting.



To use multicasting successfully with MDT 2010, you must be using Windows AIK version 1.1 or later on your build server. This is because earlier versions of Windows AIK include Windows PE boot files that do not support multicasting.

Figure 18. The Enable Multicast For This Deployment Share check box in an MDT 2010 deployment share

This action in Deployment Workbench triggers the creation of a Multicast Transmission in WDS, as shown in Figure 19. You can then add the MDT 2010 boot images to the Windows Deployment Services console. This process does not add the MDT 2010 install images to WDS, but it does enable the MDT deployment share to use WDS multicasting for its transmissions.

Figure 19. The WDS multicast transmission created by MDT 2010

WDS supports two types of multicasting, as follows:

  • Auto-cast The server initiates a multicast transmission when an eligible client connects and requests an install image. If, while the transmission is in progress, other clients on the network request the same image, they are added to the multicast group and receive the same transmission as the first client.

  • Scheduled-cast The server initiates a multicast transmission when a predetermined number of clients request the same image or when a scheduled date and time occurs. An administrator can also start a scheduled-cast transmission manually.

MDT 2010 supports the creation of only auto-cast multicast transmissions. To use scheduled-cast multicasting, you must deploy your images by using WDS directly, and not through MDT 2010.

To use multicasting effectively, any routers located between the build server and the target servers must support multicasting using the Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP). Routers that do not support multicasts treat the transmissions as broadcasts, sending them to all of the computers on the network, instead of to only the ones requesting the transmission.

4.3. Practice: Customizing a CustomSettings.ini File

By working with the CustomSettings.ini file, you can automate elements of the LTI deployment process that by default require interaction on each target workstation.

EXERCISE 1 Modifying the Default Commands

A Windows SIM distribution share provides a directory structure in which you can store device drivers and other files you want to deploy to a workstation.

  1. Click Start. Then click All Programs | Microsoft Deployment Toolkit | Deployment Workbench. The Deployment Workbench console appears.

  2. Expand the Deployment Shares folder.

  3. Right-click your deployment share and, from the context menu, select Properties. The Properties sheet appears.

  4. Click the Rules tab.

  5. You want to assign the same Administrator password to all your target workstations, so in the [Default] section, make sure that the value assigned to the SkipAdminPassword property is YES.

  6. Specify an Administrator password to assign to your target computers by adding the following command to the [Default] section.


  7. You will not be using MDT 2010 to capture reference computer images, so set the SkipCapture value to YES.

  8. Change the value of the SkipProductKey property to NO so that the installer can specify a unique key on every deployed workstation.

  9. Click OK.

EXERCISE 2 Suppressing Windows Deployment Wizard Pages

Create your own CustomSettings.ini file based on the default commands created by the New Deployment Share Wizard, adding the code needed to accomplish the following tasks.

  1. To suppress the Specify Credentials For Connecting To Network Shares page, add commands that supply the credentials needed to access your deployment share, as follows:

    UserDomain=<user_domain_name>Note Supplying Customized Values

    Replace the bracketed placeholders in this exercise with values appropriate for your network.

  2. To suppress the Join The Computer To A Domain Or Workgroup page, add commands that will join the target computer to your domain, as follows:


  3. To suppress the Specify Where To Save Your Data And Settings and Specify Whether To Restore User Data pages so that the target computers do not capture or restore user state data, add the following command:


  4. To suppress the Specify The BitLocker Configuration page and add commands that implement BitLocker on the target computers using TPM and a startup key on drive L, storing the recovery key in Active Directory, use the following code:


  5. To suppress the Configure The Computer Name page and add commands to specify the name Client1 for your computer only, based on its MAC address, use the following code:

    Priority=MACAddress, Default

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