In one of our client's environments (and probably in many others out there), network connectivity between sites isn't high enough to facilitate reliable network-based operating system deployments from an MDT share. MDT tries to remedy this somewhat by having a mechanism to create additional shares (ostensibly on servers located in remote networks). MDT also allows for the creation of deployable media, with the intention that the media is a fixed optical disc (such as a DVD or BD disc).

For the environment that we were challenged with, the customer wanted to a) get rid of servers on premises and b) facilitate deployments across remote networks at multiple locations. In order to do this, we came up with a solution that uses external, USB attached rotational drives (such as the WD My Passport) to handle the data/file transport to the remote sites and facilitate OS install and customization. In our solution, the network is only used to a) update the disks and b) facilitate domain join and Windows Update tasks during OS deployment.

Solution Components

  • A "master" laptop or workstation that runs the MDT workbench, Hyper-V, and manages the capture of new images and sharing of master files. This computer should have at least two or more USB 3.0 ports available to it (direct or via a hub).
  • A minimum of two USB 3.0 disk drives of at least 500 GB size. One will act as the master repository disk and the second will act as the deployment disk. It is recommended to have at least two disks acting as the master repository (with a script that backs up one disk to the other) and multiple disks for deployment (the quantity is driven on how many locations need to "own" a disk and how many simultaneous deployments are desired).
    • By keeping the master repository on an external disk, it allows the solution to be easily migrated from one laptop/workstation to another or for the laptop/workstation to be reimaged as necessary.
  • Hyper-V, which is used for operating system image development and capture, running on the "master" computer.
  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.
  • Custom Intro Screen wizard that simplifies operation and replaces the MDT database "roles" functionality.
  • Inno Setup 5.x, which is used for application packaging for Intune (this is optional).
  • Lenovo Update Retriever, which is used to facilitate downloading of drivers and software for Lenovo Think series laptops and workstations (this is optional).