These are two facets that are simply not available with building images on real hardware.Test on real hardware, but build in a virtual environment.From a few PCs, to hundreds, the requirements were the same, to deploy the same configuration with as little, repetitive work as possible.The ideal target being what Microsoft calls “zero-touch” deployments that require no interaction on the target computer whatsoever.The older your version of Windows, the more updates it will need, and the longer the update process will take.A fresh install of Windows 7 Enterprise SP1 x64 from MS VLC ISO required 296 updates before no more were required (as of February 2016). One might think about adding MS Office into this process to allow it to join in the update process, but there is a reason not.Place the unattend file at the root of your install media and let Windows install itself. If your build process takes longer than a month, you might need the key and activation. Next, power-down (not sleep, hibernate, or pause) the VM and create a snapshot or checkpoint.
Nothing extravagant like an Alienware, or Falcon Northwest gaming rig, but above average. Laptops are great for testing, but a desktop PC is optimal. I love my Mac Book Pro, but it isn’t meant for making Windows images. 32GB of RAM is not ridiculously expensive today, and well-worth the couple-hundred extra bucks. Working on several VMs, it is not difficult to fill a 2TB HDD (I’ve done it).An SSD for the boot volume with Windows and apps along with a large 2TB traditional HDD for VM storage is a nice setup, and not fiscally unrealistic.Create a new VM that will become your Windows image.This piece will discuss creating a Windows install for distribution. First, virtual machines provide the option to create hardware-neutral images which can be applied anywhere, regardless of what is actually in the target computer.Windows and software install media (obviously) Virtual machine software for the creation workspace. One image becomes possible for multiple hardware configurations.Take this opportunity of having a clean install of Windows, updated, and use it as a template for other VMs.