Understanding Servicing Strategies

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2


This content applies to Windows 7. For Windows 8 content, see Windows Deployment with the Windows ADK.

A Windows® image can be serviced at various phases of deployment in the following ways: offline, during an automated installation, or online. The phase of deployment that you choose depends on your deployment strategy.

  • Offline Servicing. Involves adding and removing updates, drivers, and language packs, and configuring other settings, without booting Windows. Offline servicing is an efficient way to manage existing images that are stored on a server because it eliminates the need for re-creating updated images. You can perform offline servicing on an image that is mounted or applied to a drive or directory.

  • Servicing an Image by Using Windows Setup. Involves providing an answer file (Unattend.xml) that Windows Setup implements. The answer file contains specific servicing operations like adding drivers, updates, language packs, and other packages. Servicing an image during an automated installation can be easily implemented and is ideal for Setup-based deployment.

  • Servicing a Running Operating System. Also known as online servicing; involves booting to audit mode to add drivers, applications, and other packages. Online servicing is ideal for drivers when the driver packages have co-installers or application dependencies. It's also efficient when the majority of your servicing packages have installers, when the updates are in .msi or KB.exe file formats, or when the applications rely on Windows installed services and technologies (like the Microsoft® .NET Framework or full Plug and Play support).

This illustration shows the servicing opportunities that are available during the various phases of deployment:

Offline Servicing

Windows Vista® introduced offline servicing. Offline servicing occurs when you modify or service a Windows image entirely offline without booting it first. Windows Vista provided the Package Manager command-line tool for updating Windows images. In Windows 7, the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command-line tool replaces Package Manager. For Windows 7, most operations for servicing the operating system can occur on an offline Windows image via DISM. DISM is installed with Windows 7, and it's distributed in the Windows OEM Preinstallation Kit (Windows OPK) and the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK). For more information about DISM, see Deployment Image Servicing and Management Technical Reference.

You can use DISM on an offline image to:

  • Mount, remount, and unmount an image within a .wim file for servicing.

  • Query information about a Windows image.

  • Add, remove, and enumerate drivers that are provided as .inf files.

  • Add, remove, and enumerate packages, including language packs, that are provided as .cab files.

  • Add .msu files.

  • Configure international settings.

  • Enable, disable, and enumerate features of the Windows operating system.

  • Upgrade to a later edition of Windows.

  • Check the applicability of a Windows Installer application patch (.msp file).

  • Enumerate applications and application patches that are installed in a Windows image.

  • Apply the offline servicing section of an unattended answer file.

  • Update a Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) image.

For more information about how to service a mounted image, see Service a Mounted Windows Image.

For more information about how to service an applied image, see Walkthrough: Service an Applied Windows Image Offline.

Servicing an Image by Using Windows Setup

Use an unattended answer file with Windows Setup to service an image during the various configuration passes of Windows Setup. The answer file contains all the settings that are used to configure and update the Windows image. Setup calls the answer file multiple times during the deployment process. After the operating system is installed, you can boot in audit mode or Windows Welcome. For more information about Windows Setup, see Windows Setup Technical Reference. For more information about configuration passes, see Windows Setup Configuration Passes.

You can use an unattended answer during setup to:

  • Add or remove a language pack.

  • Configure international settings.

  • Add and remove drivers.

  • Add and remove packages.

  • Enable and disable features of the Windows operating system.

Servicing a Running Operating System

There are several tools that you can use to service a running operating system (also known as servicing an online image). You should boot in audit mode to add updates to your Windows image. Audit mode doesn't require settings in Windows Welcome to be applied. This enables quicker access to the desktop. After you've booted to audit mode, you can add Plug and Play device drivers, install applications and system components, and test the validity of the installation. For more information about how to use audit mode, see Customize Windows in Audit Mode.

You can use these tools to update a running Windows 7 operating system:

See Also


Phase 5: Managing and Servicing Your Windows Image
Best Practices for Servicing
Deployment Image Servicing and Management Technical Reference