What is Windows Deployment Service (WDS)

Windows Deployment Service (WDS) is a windows technology that enables you to deploy Windows operating systems over the network from one central location. It allows you to set up new clients without requiring administrators to visit each computer or install directly from CD or DVD media, enabling the faster and easier deployment of windows images.

Using WDS is an effective way to manage windows operating system deployments. As part of its core features, WDS allows you to configure a server for network-based installation, perform automated installations, and update images. Configuration is done through the Windows Deployment Services Configuration Wizard and can be fine-tuned with additional settings via the WDS console or command line tools

WDS (Windows Deployment Services) is available on Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2008 till Windows Server 2019. This server needs to be joined to a domain or be a domain controller, but it’s not recommended for larger networks. If the server isn’t part of a domain already, an event will occur when you try to add it for the first time in the Windows Deployment Services console.

Add WDS Role on Windows Server

Step 1: Open server manager and go to Manage then select Add Roles and Features as below picture.

Step 2: Click on Next

Step 3: Select the option as below picture and press the Next button.

Step 4: Select the option as below picture and press the Next button.

Step 5: Select the Windows Deployment service and click Next button.

windows deployment service

Step 6: Wait for the installation succeeded message as below picture and press the close button.

WDS Configuration Steps

Step 7: Open Server Manager and go to Tools and select Windows Deployment Service.

Step 8: Right click on the server name and click on Configure Server.

Step 9: Click on the Next button.

Step 10: If the server you are configuring is a member server of a domain then select Integrated with Active directory otherwise select Standalone server.

Step 11: Select the install folder where you want to store all the Windows images. These images are basically the boot.wim and install.wim files. 

Step 12: Select the option as shown in the picture below.

Step 13: Uncheck the option Add images to the server now.

How to add boot images in WDS

Step 14: First of all you need a Windows installer media or ISO file and make it accessible through file browser.

Step 15: Right click on Boot Images and select Add boot image option.

Step 16: Browse the boot.wim file in your Windows installation media. The default location is the source folder in your Windows installation media.

Step 17: Wait for the successful message and click on Finish.

Step 18: Right click on Install images and select Add Image Group.

wds server

Step 19: Give it a descriptive name. For example, you will add Windows 10 images in this group so the group name could be “Windows Desktop”.

Step 20: Right click on the image group name and select Add install image.

wds server configuration

Step 21: Browse the install.wim file in your Windows installation media. The default location is the source folder in your Windows installation media.

Step 22: Wait for the successful message and click on Finish.

Your Windows Deployment server is ready. Now go to the client PC and enable PXE boot in BIOS setup. The client PC should be in the same ip addresses of your existing network and it should have a DHCP Server. Once you boot the client PC from PXE network boot it will automatically discover the WDS server and will start the installation.

How to capture an image

A capture image is helpful when you want to deploy a similar OS with commonly needed software. It will save lots of administrative efforts and time required for large deployment.

Step 1: Right click on an existing boot image and select Create capture image.

Step 2: Select a temporary location to store the captured image.

Step 3: After successfully creating the capture image we have to upload that image to the server for that check the Add image… checkbox and press the Finish button as in the picture below.

Step 4: By default, the newly created image should be selected if not please select the same.

Step 5: Give it a descriptive name so you can identify the image as a capture image and finish the process.

Capture a Windows 10 Image in WDS

Steps to Sysprep and Capture a Windows 10 Reference Image for WDS Server.

Step 6: Make sure you have logged in as administrator on the Windows 10 PC. Go to Run and type sysprep and hit Enter.

Step 7:  A folder will open and it will contain a sysprep application as in the picture below. Run the sysprep application by double clicking it.

Step 8: Check the Generalize checkbox and select the Shutdown option as Shutdown and press the ok button. This process will take time and the PC will shutdown automatically.

Step 9: Configure your system to boot from the network for that you have enabled PXE boot in your BIOS setup.

Step 10: Now select Capture Image from the list to capture Windows 10 reference image. You can use arrow keys for navigation.

Step 11: Click Next on the Welcome page.

Step 12: Specify the volume to capture. Specify the image name and description then click Next.

Step 13: Click on browse to specify the location to save this reference image file locally.

If you want to upload the image to the WDS server at the same time, then check on the “Upload image to a Windows Deployment Services Server”.

If you chose to upload the image to the WDS server, Enter the name of the WDS server in the Server Name field and click on connect.

Step 14: Enter the credentials and click on OK.


Step 15: Select the group menu from the drop-down menu and click on Next to start capturing Windows 10 reference image.

Step 16: Click on Finish to close the wizard.

Create a Windows Server image in WDS

Note: Separate Boot image is not required as we can use the existing boot image to boot to the Windows Setup process

Step 1: Created a new group under install images as Windows Server

Step 2: Create a server image using the Windows Server ISO and the same steps as creating the Windows Desktop image

how does windows deployment services work

Install VM through PXE Boot Image

Step 1: Go to settings of the VM and set Legacy Network adapter at top in BIOS.

Step 2: Start the VM and it should boot from PXE Network Boot.

Step 3: Select the non-capture Operating system to start the installation.

Step 4: Set Keyboard or input method to US.

Step 5: Put the WDS server credential.

Step 6: Select the Operating system you want to install.

Step 7: Create partitions as your need and select the same.

WDS Server FAQs

What are the benefits of using Windows Deployment Service?

Windows Deployment Services (WDS) is a server role in Microsoft Windows Server that enables administrators to deploy Windows operating systems over the network, using an automated installation process.

There are many benefits of using WDS. One of the primary benefits is that it allows administrators to automate the installation process, which can save time and money. Additionally, WDS can be used to deploy operating systems to multiple machines simultaneously, which can speed up the deployment process.

How do I deploy an image using WDS?

To deploy an image using WDS, you must first create a deployment share and add the appropriate images to the share. You then create a task sequence that will install the image on client computers. Finally, you configure a boot image and set up a server to distribute the boot image to client computers.

What are some common troubleshooting tips for WDS?

1. Check your WDS server’s event logs for errors.

2. Make sure the WDS server is joined to the same domain as the target PCs.

3. Make sure DHCP and DNS are both configured and working correctly on your network.

4. Verify that the target PCs can connect to the WDS server using PXE boot.

5. If you’re using TFTP, make sure there is enough free disk space on your TFTP server to store all of the Images you want to deploy.

6. Verify that Image files are accessible from the WDS server share folders and that they have the correct permissions set up.

What is the difference between WDS and SCCM?

SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) is a comprehensive systems management solution that enables you to manage devices and users across your organization from a central point. It offers features for deploying, managing, monitoring and securing Windows operating systems and applications.

WDS (Windows Deployment Services) is a server role in Windows Server that enables you to remotely deploy Windows operating systems over the network, without needing any media. WDS can be used to install Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and later versions of the Windows operating system. You can use it to deploy both client and server versions of the Windows operating system.

What are some common best practices for using Windows Deployment Service?

Creating a custom image for your organization’s standard desktop configuration. This will help to ensure that all desktops are configured the same way and that any software or updates deployed through WDS are applied uniformly.

Ensuring that your DHCP server is enabled and properly configured to provide addresses to clients booting from the WDS server.

Testing your WDS deployment before rolling it out to production systems. This will help to identify any potential issues and allow you to fix them before users are impacted.

Conclusion on Configuring WDS Server

WDS is an efficient server deployment solution that can help to quickly install and configure Windows operating systems over networks without the need of physical media. It helps in reducing time, resources and cost associated with large-scale deployments. Administrators can also use the imaging feature to capture single or multiple client images for future deployment.

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