Discovering Windows Embedded Standard 7– Part 6 – New name and OfflineServicing Configuration pass

17 02 2010

It seems to turn into a natural law that Microsoft changes the names for its embedded products every six to twelve months.  Again, this is exactly what happened yesterday. Windows Embedded Standard 2011 now turns into Windows Embedded Standard 7.
I do not think that this frequent name changing is beneficial in a market that adores stability and availability, such as the embedded one. In my eyes, a plain “Windows 7 Embedded” would have done a perfect job as successor of XP embedded, but this seems to be a too simplistic approach. But, I am just a plain technician, so what do I know of marketing.

However, let us move on and have a look at the next configuration pass in WES 7. 🙂

OfflineServicing is a pass that enables you to apply changes to a Windows image that currently is not running on the system. The pass is initiated by Image Builder, after it has extracted the OS image from the WIM file and thus the WinPE pass has been completed. Image Builder starts a tool called DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) to work down the settings specified in the unattended.xml file. DISM is a very powerful tool and can be used to service and configure offline and online Windows installations outside of Image Builder, as well. A detailed documentation for DISM can be found in the Windows Automated Installation Kit, which is available as a free download from the Microsoft website.
During OfflineServicing  e.g. language packs, updates such as hot fixes and feature packs are installed to an offline image.
This makes this pass essential to keep images up to date without modifying the original WIM file.

Advanced scenarios
A valid example for an advanced scenario would be to have an original WIM image file and to update only the OfflineServicing section of the unattended.xml file to include the newest security patches, other QFEs or newer drivers. This could be of use e.g. in a factory process, where, with the help of some intelligent scripts, this can be used to update a larger number of installations on a production server without changing WIM files.
All one needs to do is to create a (PowerShell :-)) script that traverses the installation folders, adds the new entries in the unattended.xml file of each installation as well as the required new binaries. This will save a lot of time in contrast to doing this by hand, which would be quite an effort.

Alexander

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