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Creating Offline Media with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT)

Sometimes you need to deploy a Windows OS to a PC or PCs that are not connected to a network, or to a PC that exists on a network where deployment services (PXE/network boot) are not provided. What do you do? Revert back to old sneakernet procedures and suffer the 45-60min manual setup which, due to its mundane nature, will inevitably result in a Windows configuration that is not entirely consistent? What if you have an entire office of machines that need to be imaged?

Well, most modern Operating System imaging solutions include an off-network or offline option that will allow you image PCs regardless of their network connectivity. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) is no exception. But just like any other OS deployment solution, additional considerations must be made in order to optimize this process in your environment.

First, you need to determine what operating systems and applications need to be made available in the offline media package. Will you be using more than one version of Windows? What applications will the user(s) need? Which applications are you prepared to install manually (one-offs)? Be thorough.

Next, configure your MDT Task sequence or sequences in a manner consistent with your network policies to ensure consistency in your environment. Now, if you simply create offline media with MDT, all applications will be included in the ISO. This can get large and unwieldy, making media creation inordinately lengthy and increase the time required to image each individual PC. See the problem? There is a solution. Create sub-folders in the Deployment Share and copy appropriate content from the Deployment Share to each sub-folder created.

Next, create a New Selection Profile, choosing only the Applications and Operating Systems that are desired for the particular off-network deployment. Note that some plug-ins will require that you create a subfolder for their inclusion in the final, offline media build.

Then, when the offline media is built with MDT via Create New Media, simply mount the ISO and copy the contents from the designated Content folder to a bootable, physical, removable media (USB is recommended due to the probable large size) and boot on the necessary PCs. Let the MDT Task Sequence do its trick. I know I don't have to say it, but I will anyhow; make sure to test your MDT offline media prior to use in production.

Here's a sample procedure:

  1. The configured MDT environment must have ability to deploy images (prerequisite).

  2. Prepare the desired offline deployment task sequence. (According to network policies)

  3. Creating off network media

    1. If Deployment Share has multiple operating systems, applications, or packages, now is the time to create folders so that an optimized (slim) offline selection profile can be created. Copy appropriate content from the Deployment Share to each folder created. These folders may be selected individually to exclude unwanted applications from being copied to the off-network media.

    2. Under Advanced Configuration>Selection Profiles, create a New Selection Profile choosing only the Applications and Operating Systems that are desired for the particular off-network deployment.

      NOTE: Selecting more than what is necessary will result in larger than necessary ISO files and USB storage requirements.

    3. Once the selection profile has been created, right-click on Advanced Configuration>Media and Create New Media using the selection profile above. Remember the Save Location that you designate in this wizard for later use.

    4. Format USB drive (recommended) using Diskpart.exe. This USB drive should be large enough to hold the entire media as defined by the Selection Profile used. (As a point of note, the inclusion of Win7x64 and the off-network task sequence bare bones configuration is approximately 3 Gb in size. )

      1. On a computer running the Windows 7 operating system, insert the USB drive.

      2. From a command prompt, run Diskpart.exe

        1. Execute the command list disk to determine the disk number associated with the device. 
        2. Input the following commands, where N is the disk number identified in the previous step:
           - select disk N
           - clean
           - create partition primary
           - select partition 1
           - active
           - format fs=fat32 [ntfs] [quick]
           - assign - exit 

          Note: UEFI partitions will only boot with fat32 formatted USB drives. Diskpart.exe is a powerful utility and can cause damage to your system. Make sure to format the correct drive! 

    5. After media has been created there will be a Content folder in the save location that was chosen in step 4.c. Copy the contents of the Content folder to your freshly formatted USB.

  4. Test the bootable USB containing the off-network media for desired results before implementing the process in any production environment.

    In summary, although additional planning and configuration is required, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit is capable of deploying Windows operating systems and applications regardless of network connectivity or network boot services.

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Showing 1 Comment
Avatar  Hollie 9 years ago

Thanks for shrngai. Always good to find a real expert.


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