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As you can imagine, using a flash drive is faster than installing Windows from the DVD, but it still doesn’t scale well. In order to try and eliminate the scalability problem we can also install Windows from an ordinary network share.

While this may sound like a viable option at first, it certainly isn’t without its flaws. You see, in order to access the installation files on your network you would still need to boot each PC from either a DVD or a USB that contains the WinPE (Windows Preinstallation Environment), you could then connect to the network share using the command line and kick off the installation. However, the most common method used in large scale deployments of Windows 7 is a technology called WDS (Windows Deployment Services). In order to use WDS you must have the following:

  • A server running at least Windows Server 2008
  • Your environment will need to have Active Directory, DHCP and DNS
  • Your clients must support PXE Boot (Since the installation will be done over the network).

If you have all of these things already in place there are huge benefits over an ordinary network deployment, such as:


During a typical network installation (when not using WDS), the client will first download the 3.5GB of Windows installation files to each PC before performing the actual installation. This method is tedious and a waste of bandwidth. When using multicasting instead of each PC pulling its own files from the server, the server will use a one to many method of copying the files to your clients, thus saving massive amounts of bandwidth.


Since your source files are stored in a single repository, you only have to update the image you have on your WDS server. This way any new installations you do will automatically have the latest service packs installed. You can also slipstream drivers if you get new hardware in your environment.


While partial automation is possible using ordinary answer files and a network share, you can get total automation by using tools like the Windows AIK (Automated Installation Kit), SIM (System Image Manager) and SCCM (System Center Config Manager) along with Windows Deployment Services. Just remember that no matter which method you choose to install Windows, including WDS, you will need to change the BIOS settings on the PC to boot from the correct piece of hardware.

Clean Installations

When we talk about a clean install it typically implies that the hard drive is either empty or is going to be formatted, and the previous operating system will be lost. This is in contrast to an upgrade where files and settings are kept. Starting with Windows 7, it is possible to do a clean installation on a drive that already contains an operating system. In this case you will be warned that your old Windows installation will be moved into a Windows.old folder on the root of your hard drive. One example of when a clean install is required is when you want to change the architecture of your Operating System. For example, if you wanted to change from a x86 (32 Bit) to x64 (64 Bit) copy of Windows.

Dual Booting

We are big fans of virtualization over here at How-To Geek, however it’s a fairly new concept. Before the days of quickly spinning up a VM, if we wanted to try out a new OS, or heaven forbid we had to support legacy software, we would have to dual boot our computers. In a nutshell that means we had to run two distinct operating systems, side by side.

These days, there are hardly any compelling reasons to dual boot. However, as far as exam objectives go, you will need to know that you might dual boot in the case of resource constraints. You should also note that this requires at a minimum two partitions on your hard drive. You could also opt for two separate drives altogether, one exception to this rule is the new “boot from VHD” feature which allows you to run a dual booting Windows 7 machine without partitioning your hard drive. Finally, remember that when dual booting it is always easier to install the older operating system first, this way Windows will automatically set up the boot menu for you.

Note: Since this is a Microsoft exam we will stick to Microsoft software, but you should note that there is nothing stopping you from dual booting Windows and Linux.

Choosing the Correct Version of Windows 7

It’s no secret that Windows is expensive, and even more so in the corporate environment. The key to saving on licensing costs is to pick the right edition. Lets take a look at some of the differences.

Windows 7 Starter Edition

While you cant go to your local PC shop and pick up a copy of Starter edition, you do need to know about it for the exam objectives.

  • Availability: OEMS
  • Missing Features: Aero, DVD Player, Windows Media Center, IIS, Internet Connection Sharing, Domain Membership, EFS, Applocker, DirectAccess, BitLocker, Remote Deskop Host, BrancheCache
  • Other Limitations: 2GB Memory Limit, Only 1 Physical CPU, 5 Installed Applications, x86 Only

Windows 7 Home Basic

The Home Basic version sports the same features as the Starter version, bar the application limit. It also allows for up to 4GB of memory on an x86 install and 8GB on an x64 install.

Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium comes with all the features a student or a standard home user would need on a PC.

  • Availability: OEM and Retail
  • Missing Features: Domain Membership, EFS, Applocker, DirectAccess, BitLocker, Remote Deskop Host, BrancheCache
  • Other Limitations: 4GB Memory (x86) or 16GB Memory (x64), 2 Physical CPUs

Windows 7 Professional

Aimed at the small business owner, Windows 7 professional increases the memory limit on your system by quite a bit.

  • Availability: OEM and Retail
  • Missing Features: Applocker, DirectAccess, BitLocker, BrancheCache
  • Other Limitations: 4GB Memory (x86) or 192GB Memory (x64), 2 Physical CPUs

Windows 7 Enterprise

You can’t buy Windows 7 Enterprise from the shop either as it is only available through volume licensing.

  • Availability: Volume License Customers Only
  • Extras: Boot from VHD
  • Other Limitations: 4GB Memory (x86) or 192GB Memory (x64), 2 Physical CPUs

Windows 7 Ultimate

The Ultimate edition is aimed at geeks and enthusiasts and contains all the features that the Enterprise version does. It is also available for purchase from a retail store.

  • Availability: OEM and Retail
  • Extras: Boot from VHD
  • Other Limitations: 4GB Memory (x86) or 192GB Memory (x64), 2 Physical CPUs

Screenshot Guide: How to Install Windows 7

Now that we know the requirements and have a tiny bit of background knowledge about Windows 7, let’s take a look at how to do a clean install. We will be using a DVD to do the install, so fire up your VM, mount an ISO and follow along. The first thing you will need to do is choose a language for the install wizard, its worth noting that this isn’t the same setting as locale in Windows. image

Since we are doing a clean install you can go ahead and click on the Install now button. Note: You might ask as opposed to what, if you look at the bottom left hand corner of the dialog you will see some diagnostic links, they are very useful and you should take some time and play around with them.


In typical Microsoft fashion you will have to accept the license agreement before you continue.


To do a clean install, choose a Custom (advanced) installation.


You should only have one hard drive, which shouldn’t contain any partitions at this point, so go ahead and click to kick off the installation.

It’s worth noting that the exam will quite possibly ask you about loading drivers during the installation process. This is where you would stop and click the Load Drivers link to install your SCSI or other hard drive controller driver, and then the installer will detect the new hard drive.

image At this point there’s not much you can do, so go grab a cup of coffee and check back in 10 minutes. image Once you reach the post installation wizard, you have made it. image

Congratulations on your first Windows install.



There’s a lot more to learn, and we’ll have new lessons each weekday to help you out. In the mean time, you can study up on a few things on your own if you want to.

Tomorrow we’ll cover upgrades and migrations, so stay tuned for the next lesson.

If you have any questions you can tweet me @taybgibb, or just leave a comment.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+