Setting up a WDS Sever from Scratch : Part 1

Setting up a WDS Sever from Scratch : Part 1


This post will describe how to get WDS working on Windows Server 2012 R2 from scratch.  I am pretty sure there are many tutorials out there but I needed something as a reference for myself as I end up looking at various sources whenever I want to accomplish this.  If this helps anyone else, then all the better!


The following assumptions are made on your setup:

Configure your WDS Server

  • Open the Windows Deployment Services snap-in.  You should see it in the Start screen of WS2012.
  • When the WDS snap-in is displayed, it should display a warning sign since it has not been configured:

  • Select the server and from the Action menu select Configure Server:

    • The WDS Configuration Wizard will begin, hit Next:

  • The first screen asks whether you want to support Active Directory.  In my case, I’d like the possibility of pre-staging machines in the WDS using AD, so I’m going to go for the default option and click Next:


    • As the next wizard screen explains, you need to select a directory for the Remote Installation folder.  The WinPE boot images will reside here along with other configuration files.  Select a local path that is fast and has enough space to accommodate these requirements (I would avoid spaces in any paths you are going to be using with WDS):

  • The next screen wants to information as to which requests over the network should the WDS server should respond to.  The first option is self-explanatory.  The second one requires the machines to be pre-staged (more on this later) on Active Directory before they can be imaged with WDS and the last option responds to any request on the network.  To play it safe and not image anything by mistake, the second option is my choice:


PXE Server Respond Settings

  • The wizard will begin and copy the files it needs for the initial setup.  When it’s done, uncheck the Add images to the server now as we’ll be doing that manually to better explain the process.

Disable add images to server option


  • Once the installer finishes, your WDS console should now look like the following:


WDS Server Configured

Creating the Boot Image

Now that the WDS is configured, we need to add an image that will allow Windows installations.  Insert (or mount) a Windows 8.1 CD/ISO and follow these instructions.

    • Right click on the Boot Images folder and select Add Boot Image…

  • The first screen will prompt you for the image file to use.  Assuming you want to install a 64-bit version of Windows, you should look for the boot.wim file which will be located under the DVD/ISO of Windows 8.1:


    • Click Next and name the file what you would like, the default is a good name.  Click Next.
    • Click Next once again to begin the process of copying the boot.wim file to your server.  When it finishes, you should see it under the Boot Images folder:

Creating the Install Image

The boot.wim image is used to boot the target machine from a PXE boot.  We now need to have an option as to what to install.  In order to do this, we need to have Operating System images and they must be in the wim format.  Fortunately, creating wim images from install disks is very straightforward.  In this procedure, we will create a Windows 8 install image.  Bear in mind that you can create as many install images for your WDS server.

  • Assuming you still have the Windows 8.1 media mounted, right click in the Install Images folder in WDS and select Add Install Image.

  • You need to create a group to which your image will be created.  The hierarchy you follow is up to you.  In my case, I will divide the install images into bit architecture groups of clients and servers – click Next after you have decided your group name:

  • We must now locate the install.wim file from the Windows 8.1 media, it should be in the path described in the image below:

    • Click Next and the various operating system versions from you media/ISO will be displayed.  Select the ones you would like to have in your WDS serve and click Next:

    • Click Next twice and the process will begin.  Images are usually around 3 GB (depending on your OS), so this process can take a while:

  • Once images finishes copied, click Finish.

Pre-staging your Target Machine

You now have everything you need to have a machine boot off the network and install Windows 8.1 from your WDS server.  If you try and do this right away, you’ll machine will fail to contact the WDS server.  The reason is because when we set the WDS server, we specified that we wanted only to respond to known computers, and as far as AD goes, the bare metal target machine you are trying to PXE boot is nowhere to be found in AD.

For this reason, we must pre-stage it first (if you don’t want to go through this process then simply get properties from the WDS server and from PXE Response settings select Respond to all machines and proceed to the next step).

Before you begin, you must know the MAC address of the machine you are trying to get to PXE boot from the WDS server.

  • Under the WDS console, right click Active Directory Pre-staged Devices and select Add Device…

  • In the following dialog, enter the name you would like this machine to have in Active Directory.  Under Device ID enter the MAC address.  Feel free to leave the rest empty and click Next:

  • Next, specify the FQDN of the WDS server under Referral Server.  If you don’t want any user interaction when the machine is PXE booting, select Always continue the PXE boot.  At this point you can select which Boot Image to use (click Next when you have entered your values):


  • The next screen allows us to select an unattend file to automate various process of the Windows install.  We will touch base with this on the next tutorial, so for the time being you can just click Next.
  • In order to join the domain, you must specify a user who can create Computers in the domain.  Click Configure User and select this user  (if you need help delegating these rights, check out this excellent tutorial).  Click Finish when done.
  • You should receive a message that the device was presaged successfully:

    • Your target machine now appears in the list of pre-staged devices.  Underneath, the computer account was created under Active Directory:

Testing it Out

    • Configure the machine you would like to target so that it boots from the network (if you are using a physical machine, look under the BIOS, if you are using a Hyper-V machine, make sure you use a Legacy Network adapter).
    • Boot the machine, after a while you will see that it contacts the server and it proceeds to boot the machine:

Needless to say, there are hundreds of ways in which you can make a mistake.  There are a lot of components working together (DNS, DHCP, WDS, AD) and this synchronization has to be perfect or errors will occur.

I had not played with WDS since Windows Server 2008 R2 and I am so pleased to see how many things have evolved that make this process so much easier.  In the next tutorial, we’ll look at unattend files and creating and deploying your own custom images.


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