How to Deploy a Custom Windows 8.1 Image Onto a Surface Pro Via USB Media
With the launch of Windows 8 in fall 2012, I wrote a series of articles around Windows 8 deployment using MDT 2012. This article has been listed as one of my top articles for a few months now, so I’m assuming Petri IT Knowledgebase readers are interested in more content on the topic.
So my next batch of articles focuses on how you can deploy Windows 8.1 onto the Surface Pro using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2013. This first article will focus on getting started, while the second part of this series will continue with the deployment by covering the specifics on how to deploy the Windows 8.1 image by using offline USB device media, which is a built-in (but rather unknown) feature of MDT since version 2010.
(Editor’s note: While this article talks about installing the Windows 8.1 image on a Surface Pro, the described approach will also work for any other device you have on which you want to install your custom Windows 8.1 image using offline USB media.)
Why Update Windows 8.1 Using USB Device Media?
While most organizations are using Windows Deployment Services (WDS), Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), or even non-Microsoft deployment tools, most of them are relying on a PXE boot from the network. While this approach works fine for a Surface Pro device as well, it requires you to buy a specific Surface USB-based network controller. Although it’s not extremely expensive, I just thought it would be more fun to guide you through the offline USB media possibilities as well. Another advantage is it allows you to (re-)deploy your custom image even if you don’t have a network connection.
Say Goodbye to Traditional PC Lifecycle Management
Traditional IT tools, including Microsoft SCCM, Ghost Solution Suite, and KACE, often require considerable custom configurations by T3 technicians (an expensive and often elusive IT resource) to enable management of a hybrid onsite + remote workforce. In many cases, even with the best resources, organizations are finding that these on-premise tools simply cannot support remote endpoints consistently and reliably due to infrastructure limitations.
Before diving into how to create the image and do the deployment, it’s important to have the tools you need.
- Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013 (Required to deploy Windows 8.1.)
- Windows 8.1 ISO file (This link is to Enterprise trial version, but use your own if you have it.)
- Surface Pro offline drivers for Windows 8.1
- As not all device components in the Surface Pro are automatically detected by Windows 8.1, it is required to have the compatible drivers available, so we can upload them into MDT 2013 and have them installed as part of our deployment task sequence.
I’m not going to explain how to install MDT 2013, as the setup should be self-explanatory. Once MDT is installed, you should find an application called Deployment Workbench.
1. Create Deployment Share
- Select Deployment Shares > New Deployment Share, and give it a descriptive foldername (e.g. C:\SurfaceDeployShare).
- Create a Windows Shared folder (eg. SurfaceDeployShare$) and share description (eg. Surface Pro Deployment Share). Leave the default options activated and finish the wizard. Your shared folder will be created.
The deployment workbench should look about similar to mine:
2. Configure Deployment Share by Importing Windows 8.1 ISO File
- Go to your downloaded Windows 8.1 ISO file and right-click Mount. This will load the ISO file as a drive letter. This drive letter is used in the next step.
- From within the SurfaceDeployShare topic, select Operating Systems / Import Operating Systems / Full Set of Source Files / <path to mounted ISO file drive letter>.
- Give a descriptive name for the Destination Directory (e.g. Fresh Windows 8.1 Ent x64).
- Complete the wizard. At the end the ISO file content will be copied over to your deployment share / Operating Systems subdirectory.
3. Import Surface Pro Device Drivers
- Extract the downloaded SurfacePro device drivers to a subfolders on your system.
- From within your Deployment Share / select Out-of-box-Drivers / Create Folder (eg. SurfacePro) (this will allow us to create specific driver folders, which will make your live easier if you are using the same deployment share for different types of devices, like Surface Pro 2 for example).
- Select the folder you just created and choose Import Drivers. Browse to the folder where you extracted the device drivers, and have all drivers imported.
In my lab, the wizard imported 16 different drivers:
Resulting in the following view in the Deployment Share:
4. Create a Deployment Task Sequence
As both Windows 8.1 ISO Operating System and SurfacePro drivers are imported, we can now create our deployment task sequence. (Feel free to add additional applications first if needed, but it’s not covered in this article).
- From within the deployment share, select Task Sequence / New Task Sequence. Give this an ID, Task Sequence Name (e.g. Fresh install Windows 8.1 on SurfacePro Task Sequence), and a descriptive comment.
- Choose Standard Client Task Sequence as template in the next step.
- Select your Windows 8.1 Enterprise Operating System.
- Choose your valid option for the product key. (If you don’t enter it now, the installation will still work, and you will have to enter the appropriate product key when activating.)
- Enter your company details in the Windows information step.
- If required, enter the administrator account name and password you want to use. If this information is not entered here, the MDT deployment client will ask you for this information during the deployment itself.
To finish the configuration of your Deployment Share, select the deployment share itself and choose Update Deployment Share from the task pane on the right. This step will copy the necessary drivers and ISO file content into the deployment share folders, as well as create x86 and x64 boot media. In my lab, this step took about ten minutes.
At this point, you actually have a fully operational deployment server available, which allows you to deploy the images by using a PXE boot.
In the second part of this article, we will explain the steps that are required to build a bootable USB media to deploy the image.