Getting Started with OSD and MDT D3Damon/iStock/Thinkstock

Getting Started with OSD and MDT

OSD Is Not Easy

Way back when I was an SMS administrator, there were few things that frightened me more at first than having to go into my SQL Server for something.  Coming in at a close second to SQL was operating system deployment.  At the time, Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) was just coming into its own and I had yet to install the SMS 2003 OSD feature pack, but I knew the time was drawing near for me to learn about this new functionality. Of course I eventually got over my fear of SQL Server, but I never really explored much into the OSD world before I joined Microsoft and left my SMS site in the capable hands of others. So, almost 10 years later, when I was given the opportunity to author a TechNet solution to make operating system deployment a little bit easier for everyone, I jumped right on it.

What Is the Problem?

It’s no secret that enterprise Windows operating system deployments can be complicated and costly. It can also be very difficult to ensure consistent results with so many different methods and tools available to enterprise desktop administrators these days. Finally, adding to the complexity of managing operating system deployments is the overabundance of guidance available to you from TechNet to any number of operating system deployment related blogs. Don’t get me wrong, those are all excellent resources, but it can be confusing if you are new to OSD and just want to get started with the tools.

What Is the Solution?

So, when it comes to all of the available documentation resources out there about OSD, who do you trust? Which tool do you use when and for what? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single source of Microsoft best practice recommendations that described how to perform operating system deployments using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) in a test environment and System Center Configuration Manager in production? Wouldn’t it be great if that content was reviewed by product team, MVPs, and community experts? Wouldn’t it also be a great idea to talk to everyday IT pro desktop administrators and incorporate their real-world feedback before it was published?

I hope you just said yes to all of that, because with my ex-SMS administrator hat on, I set out to document the simplest, Microsoft recommended path for IT pros to navigate the world of operating system deployment that now includes MDT and System Center Configuration Manager. I’ve spent the past few months learning more about OSD to write this solution and we’ve just published it to TechNet here: Automate and manage Windows operating system deployments.

What Is In It?

This solution is meant to show you in a step-by-step fashion when and how to use MDT in combination with Configuration Manager to provide both the test and production environment solutions for deploying Windows operating systems. While there are certainly many different operating system deployment methods out there (and they are often interchangeable based on your individual needs), if you are looking for a single recommended path to learn about, or getting started with operating system deployment, then this is the place to look. This solution will hopefully finally provide a much needed single source of truth for OSD (and MDT) that combines both engineering team best practices and real-world customer experiences without getting too far into the weeds about specific product versions or very advanced, complicated turns and twists that get so many people confused when learning about OSD. 

In this solution, you can learn about the Microsoft best practices and recommendations for subjects like:

·         When to use the various operating system deployment methods (MDT standalone, MDT & Configuration Manager, Configuration Manager standalone, or MDT integrated with Configuration Manager) to deploy Windows operating system images.

·         What tools and steps you should follow in the test environment to build and test your operating system images.

·         What tools and steps you should follow in the production environment.

·         When to create “thin” or “thick” images.

In addition to best practices, you can also learn the basic information needed to get everything set up from scratch as well as a few tips and tricks involved with these processes like:

·         A basic overview of MDT and how it is used to create operating system images.

·         When to deploy 32-bit or 64-bit boot images.

·         How to modify deployment share settings stored in the CustomSettings.ini file like the organization name displayed by MDT and advanced logging options.

·         How to provide Windows PE network access credentials in the Bootstrap.ini file

Help Me Help You!

So, if you are looking for Microsoft recommendations or just starting out learning the MDT and OSD ropes, hopefully this solution will make a great starting point to look at first without trying to decipher the best path from the multitude of documentation options available online. If you are just starting to learn about MDT or OSD and use the solution, I would love to hear from you and learn how to make it better.



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