I have to hand it to Aidan Finn, he doesn’t stop at sharing information via his blogs or the community. He joined forces with Darril Gibson & Kenneth van Surksum went the extra mile. The wrote a readable, useful book Mastering Windows 7 Deployment about a subject on which consolidated documentation is scarce, scattered around the internet or written badly so you still can’t figure it out or is to boring you just don’t read it. If I need to define the goal of this book: get people a good head start for Windows 7 deployments in a planned and organized fashion.
This is not a book for the absolute newbie who doesn’t know the difference between a local and a domain account. It isn’t targeted at the WDS/MDT experts who’ve solved, fixed and worked around any and all PXE boot, network errors, cryptic WDS or MDT deployment errors & configuration challenges known to man kind. In that case this stuff is known to you (or should be). The point is those experts have already learnt a lot the hard way and they put in a considerable effort to do so. But knowledge needs to be transferred and spread around and to do that you need to cover the basics and work up from there, showing progress and results. The progress and results motivate people.
In that respect, this books get’s you started on that path from chapter one and by page 5 you’re already being guided into auditing & reporting via MAPS to prepare a roll out proposal. The effort put into discussing the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) is important. I remember the work that we needed to do for Vista x64 bit and how that paid off when deploying Windows 7. What surprises me it that a lot of IT Pro’s don’t even know about the ACT, file and registry virtualization or shims. I recommend another blog on this subject http://blogs.msdn.com/b/cjacks/ , Chris Jackson, the “App Compat Guy” and a very good conference speaker on the subject. The scenarios with the User State Migration Tool will benefit system administrators who dread touching end users their PC and the precious data it might contain. If so, I hope you are backing up the data on those workstations, if not than that is really scary.
Perhaps some readers will already be using certain tools touched upon in the book but not others. In that case this is a great way to start with them and see where they fit in and what they can do for you. We did Vista x64 bit deployments in 2008 with WDS; rolled out Windows 7 x64 in 2010 using WDS/MDT and I still found this book interesting enough to buy some copies and add it to the toolkit of my team. What I’d like to add as a useful hint: look into disable rearming by using <SkipRearm>1</SkipRearm> in the unattended XML file you can pass to sysprep as in “/generalize /quiet /unattend:<file_name.xml” so you don’t run into a when you do it more than 4 times on the same image (An error message occurs when you run "Sysprep /generalize" in Windows Vista or Windows 7: "A fatal error occurred while trying to Sysprep the machine").
The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) sections point you directly to some gems we found very useful in our deployments. That you can pre stage computers in the MDT database to help make the roll outs as “light touch” as possible is cool, but that you can automate that with the MDT PowerShell module makes it really very valuable. See http://blogs.technet.com/b/mniehaus/archive/2009/05/15/manipulating-the-microsoft-deployment-toolkit-database-using-powershell.aspx for more details. Michael Niehaus is to MDT what Chris Jason is to ACT. As identifier we use the MAC address as we get that on a label on the PC and we can easily get a list of those to mass import them together with creating the computer objects in Active Directory. We also added driver profiles depending on the client make & model. When you combine this with boot from PXE provided by WDS to boot to an MDT WinPE, and remember WDS also gives you multicast, you have a real sweet solution going. This is the route we went last year and has served us well (we came from a pure WDS solutions, and RIS before that when we still did XP rollouts but that was more than 4 years ago … time flies.
Task sequencer is a gem that we indeed also use to roll out certain default software like 7zip, a pdf reader, ISO burner, anti malware, etc. The fact that these are not in the image makes it very easy to deploy newer versions as they come available.
The chapter on KMS, VAMT, volume licensing will be of use to people who have never dealt with it coming from Windows 2003/XP
This book will come into its own for any SME or enterprise departmental system administrator with who needs to be launched swiftly and on his or her way to their targets, which are smooth Windows 7 deployments. A lot of production system administrators are in the progress of looking at Windows 7 and might have a lot of experience with Windows XP and Windows 2003 but not with Windows 2008(R2) and Vista/Windows 7. If you’re in that bracket you’re definitely going to get a kick start with this book and it contains some neat tips and tricks to get over some initial gotchas. Don’t think that this is for big enterprises only. Apart from the system center products most tools are free downloads or a part of the Windows server license you already own.
As always, the only way to understand technologies is to work with them, use them. That’s the way to gain insight, experience, and context. So play with this stuff in a lab. Run into a bunch issues and fix them. If you need to get up to speed with all this stuff then you should dig into this book with a hands on approach. The book will also help you make more sense of other information out there and you’ll be able to put that into context better. As a bonus, I’m pretty sure that anything you learn from it will help you with deploying Windows vNext as well.