What I need to do is create a standard image of a Windows machine with some various drivers and software pre-installed, and then use that image on any new machines I want to spin up. I saw a number of questions about "free imaging" on this site already, but I don't really care whether the product is free or not. I'm fine with buying a proprietary product if it's the right tool for the job.

Also, I'm honestly not sure how Windows licensing works with images, since I would expect that the serial number would be part of the image. Maybe an enterprise license is required? Or something like that?

Anyways, what are your recommendations for disk imaging software?

  • You're looking for slipstream? For deployment? Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 19:57
  • @Raystafarian yep, both!
    – soapergem
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 19:14

3 Answers 3


You will be pleased with Symantec Ghost. Windows should be installed unregistered and registration should be made after image is applied to a new machine. Or the enterprise license which is not always possible to use.

Key Features

  • Intelligent driver-to-device mapping
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  • Windows, Mac and Linux support
  • Scripted operating systems installations
  • PC user and application settings migration
  • [...]

I'm not sure how Windows licensing works with images, since I would expect that the serial number would be part of the image.

Prior to imaging the system partition, you will need to generalize the system using SysPrep:

  • Run SysPrep
    • GUI: %SystemRoot%\System32\SysPrep\SysPrep.exe
      1. System Cleanup Action: Enter System OOBE
      2. Tick box for Generalize
      3. Shutdown Options: Shutdown
        • You must boot into WinPE/RE at this point
        • If Windows begins to boot, SysPrep must be redone once OOBE finishes
    • CLI: %SystemRoot%\System32\SysPrep\SysPrep.exe /generalize /shutdown /oobe

As to licensing, per the Windows EULA, users are allowed to image their partitions an unlimited amount of times.

  • SysPrep removes device specific drivers and all identifying info (Machine ID, Activation, etc.)

Windows, for at least as far back as Windows 7, if not Vista, comes with it's own imaging tools in all WinPE/WinRE WIM images.

  • WinPE: Windows Preinstallation Environment
    • Such as a Windows Setup boot media
      • Press [SHIFT] + [F10] to access terminal
  • WinRE: Windows Recovery Environment
    • Only difference between a WinPE/RE image is WinRE contains a few extra WinPE Optional Components, of which are vital to recovery


  • Using the native imaging tools included in Windows frees one from the non-standard image formats used, more often times than not, by 3rd parties, of which are coupled with the Linux OS 3rd party tools relied upon in order to run their imaging utilities.


For Windows >8, DISM would be utilized to capture an image of a drive:

  • DISM /Capture-Image /ImageFile:Z:\Base.wim /CaptureDir:C: /Name:"Windows Backup" /Description:"Base Image 2017.07.14 @ 20:30" /Compress:Max /CheckIntegrity /Verify /NoRpFix /ScratchDir:Z:\
    • /ScratchDir is required, else the capture will likely fail since WinPE/WinRE only has 32MB of scratch [temp] space set aside for it by default.

In Windows <7, ImageX would be utilized in lieu of DISM.

  • ImageX /Capture C: Z:\Base.esd "Windows Backup" "Base Image 2017.07.14 @ 20:30" /Compress:Recovery /Check /Verify /NoRpFix /ScratchDir:Z:\


  • It's impossible for an ESD/WIM image to become corrupted

    • Provided imaging commands are always issued with:
      • Windows >8: /CheckIntegrity & /Verify
      • Windows <7: /Check & /Verify
  • ESDs can only be taken of a system partition

    • /Compress:Recovery is the only compression algorithm available.
      • ESD compression ratio is ~33% more efficient than the WIM compression ratio.
  • ESDs/WIMs are smart compression image formats

    • Only changed files are added to an image when a new image is appended to it
      • Newly appended images utilize the same copy of unchanged files already contained within the image from the previous image(s).
        • This allows for an image to remain small in relation to the data contained within.

DISM Prerequisites


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SmartDeploy has been praised by many IT personnel and it came up multiple times while I was searching for something similar.

It also doesn't require for the drivers to be reinstall and you can set up, pre or post-installation tasks.

I haven't tested it myself but you can request a demo.


This link might help you to find similar tools as well


About licensing:

As licensing has been come more difficult to understand you should speak with a company that provides licenses and work out what's the best for your business/situation.

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