What's the best way to add applications to a Microsoft Vista image?

A. As with previous deployment technologies, you can install applications onto a reference machine and capture the reference machine to an image that can then be installed to target machines. However, there are pros and cons to this approach.

With Vista, we have powerful facilities to mount the Windows Image (WIM) format images and modify files within the image, so we have two options:

  1. Install applications onto a reference machine, then capture it to a WIM file.
  2. Use the standard Vista WIM image from the media, mount the WIM file, and copy the installation files for the applications to the WIM file. When the WIM file is deployed, the local application installation files execute to install the applications

Although option 1 has the applications available straight away, once the image is deployed, it has a maintenance disadvantage: When you update an application, you can't slipstream the application fix into the image. With option 2, when a fix or update is available, you copy the files to the WIM image so future deployments have the update with no need to recreate a reference machine, apply the update, then recapture the WIM file.

Use whichever option works best in your environment, but don't forget options beyond putting applications in the deployment image. Combination solutions such as using WIM files for the OS deployment and Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) to deploy applications is often the best solution.

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