This may be a little soapbox sounding, but we wanted to make sure everyone was aware that there are, essentially, two classes of computers out there and manufacturers tend to support them differently. These classes are consumer and enterprise.

Generally speaking, for enterprise-class systems, manufacturers tend to recognize that folks, such as yourselves, tend to reimage them regularly. To support that, they tend to make drivers for those models available in a relatively easy fashion. Each manufacturer does it their own way (and some not at all), but to give you a couple of examples:

  • Dell provides enterprise-class system drivers as a single, large CAB file that can be downloaded under the Systems Management category of drivers on their support site. Generally, you'd just expand that CAB file into a folder and import it directly into MDT. Easy!
  • Lenovo provides a download and maintenance system that uses its own application and storage repository to download drivers for selected models and store them centrally. This has the advantage (generally) that if a driver is supported across multiple models, it is only downloaded once. Lenovo provides a utility that can be run to facilitate the installation of drivers and software during the deployment task sequence (and we've written some scripts around that). For drivers needed in Windows PE, the management utility allows you to "export" selected drivers into a folder which can then be imported into MDT. Extra steps, but not too horrible.

For consumer-class systems, however, you will generally need to download and expand drivers individually into one or more folders before they can be imported into MDT. Kind of a pain in the rear, but you only have to do it once (generally) per system. Some enterprise-class systems, unfortunately, are in this boat since their manufacturer doesn't provide a way to download drivers in bulk.

Of these consumer drivers, there are a few that are "setup-based". This means that the driver is encapsulated within a Setup.exe file. Usually, you can use 7-Zip (or alternatives) to expand the Setup.exe's contents into a folder of files, which you can then import into MDT. Sometimes, however, the installer does its own thing and doesn't use any standardized driver installation mechanism. It is this last type that you have to watch out for and handle. If they are "ancillary" drivers, then you should be able to handle it as an application, during the later phases of OS deployment. If they are a "core" driver (as in, hard disk access or network access), then you need to do as much research as possible to find alternative drivers for the early stages of OS deployment (in Windows PE or the OS mini-setup routines). If you cannot find such drivers, than automated OS deployment is not likely to succeed for you.