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Last week I posted about doing a rebuild of my laptop so that I could run Leopard, Vista x64 and Windows Server 2008 x64 in a triple boot fashion, as well as run Vista virtually in Leopard via VMWare Fusion. I really like doing presentations & demos of SharePoint natively off the bare metal for performance reasons. However the challenge was having a reliable imaging solution. Thankfully I found something with the help of my friend Dan Holme: the Windows Installation Automation Toolkit.

The WIA has a free imaging application called ImageX.exe. This guy makes it super easy to create an image of my D: partition that contains Windows Server 2008 and reapply it from Vista. I tried it a while back but had a problem in that Vista put the bootloader on the D:, not the C: where Vista is. The rebuild fixed that as I didn't create the Windows 2008 partition until AFTER Vista was installed.

Creating an image is this easy:

  • Open the Windows PE Tools Command Prompt... something you get with the WIA (think of it like the Visual Studio Tools Command Prompt... just sets some variables and loads some stuff for you).
  • Type the following to image the D: partition into a file called "FreshWin2k8.wim" on an external drive H: > imagex.exe /capture d: h:\FreshWin2k8.wim "Fresh Windows Server 2008 instal"

To reapply the image, simply format d: and enter the following command: > imagex.exe /apply h:\FreshWin2k8.wim 1 d:

When I turned A/V off and used a USB2 5400RPM connected drive it took about 20m to capture a 15GB partition (resulting in a ~3GB WIM file). Yet it only took about 9-10m to apply the image. Nice!

ImageX.exe also allows you to do things like mount the image as a logical drive to make changes and such. According to the documentation, you can also create bootable media to apply the image. These WIM files are the same kind of files Vista & Windows 2008 backup create so you can use them in your normal backup process!

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[Updated 12/7/2008 @ 4p] Updated the WIA download link... thanks Spence!
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