ImageX is a command-line tool that enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and corporations to capture, modify, and apply file-based disk images for rapid deployment. ImageX works with Windows® image (.wim) files for copying to a network, or it can work with other technologies that use .wim images, such as Windows Setup, Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS), and the System Management Server (SMS) Operating System Feature Deployment Pack.
This topic includes:
- Benefits of
- Limitations of
- Technologies Related to
Benefits of ImageX
The limitations of sector-based imaging led Microsoft® to develop the ImageX tool and the accompanying Windows image (.wim) file format. You can use ImageX to create an image, to modify the image without extracting and recreating the image, and to deploy the image to your environment. Because ImageX works at the file level, it provides the following capabilities:
- More flexibility and control over the
- Rapid extraction of images to decrease setup
- Reduced image size due to "single
instancing", which means that the file data is stored separately
from the path information. This enables files that exist in
multiple paths or in multiple images to be stored once and shared
across the images.
- Non-destructive image application. The ImageX
tool does not perform an all-inclusive overwrite of the contents of
your drive. You can selectively add and remove information.
- The ability to work across any platform
supported by Windows.
- Two different compression algorithms, Fast
and Maximum, to reduce your image size further.
- The ability to treat an image file like a
directory. For example, you can add, copy, paste, and delete files
from a file management tool, such as Windows Explorer.
Many OEMs and corporations need to deploy and install Windows as rapidly as possible, including all relevant updates, applications, and settings. Reduced deployment and installation time lower manufacturing costs for OEMs, and can decrease cost and scheduling risks for corporate deployments.
In the past, if OEMs and corporations needed to
minimize the amount of time required to install Windows, they used
sector-based imaging formats or the
xcopy command to
copy an installation of Windows onto new hardware.
The sector-based imaging format and the
xcopy command have certain limitations. Sector-based
- Requires that the destination computer use
the same Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) as the reference
- Requires that the destination computer boot
from the same mass-storage controller as the reference
- Destroys the existing contents of the
destination computer’s hard drive, complicating Windows deployment
- Duplicates the hard drive exactly; therefore,
the image can deploy only on partitions of the same type as the
reference computer, and are at least as large as the partition on
the reference computer.
- Does not enable direct modification of imaged
- Might require the purchase of third-party
applications and services.
Common ImageX Scenarios
ImageX is a command-line tool that enables the creation, the modification, and the deployment of images, by using a shared imaging format across operating system images, including applications. The following scenarios are particularly compatible with the ImageX process.
Creating an Image for Rapid Deployment
The most common scenario for ImageX is capturing and applying an image from a network location for rapid deployment. This scenario requires booting your technician computer into Windows PE, capturing the image with ImageX, putting the image on a network share, and then applying the image to the destination computers.
Modifying an Image File
Another common scenario for ImageX is customizing an existing image, including updating files and folders. This scenario involves adding, removing, editing, and copying files from your image by using the Windows Imaging File System Filter (WIMMount Filter) driver and a file management tool, such as Windows Explorer.
Limitations of ImageX
The ImageX tool has the following limitations:
- You can use ImageX only to capture and to
apply a full version of the operating system and software
applications. You cannot use ImageX to capture and to apply
upgrades to the operating system or applications.
- You can use only formatted Windows image
(.wim) files to interact with ImageX. Previous images, created with
third-party imaging tools, cannot be used with ImageX.
- You can use only a single compression type
for a .wim file. Appended image files must use the same compression
type as the initial capture.
- You can mount an image only from
Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2), Windows
Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP1), or Windows Vista
with SP1, and Windows® 7.
Although ImageX cannot mount an image from a computer running any other operating system, it can capture and apply images for any version of Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 Professional.
- You can mount a .wim file with read/write
permissions only on an NTFS file system. This avoids the
2 gigabyte (GB) barrier that is imposed by FAT file systems
and prevents data loss that is possible with FAT or other non-NTFS
You can mount your image as read-only from NTFS, FAT, ISO, and UDF file systems. You cannot save changes to the image file while it is mounted as read-only. You cannot mount an image from a FAT32 system.
- You can mount up to 20 .wim files on a
- ImageX does not support mounting to a
directory symbolic link. Symbolic links are transparent to users;
the links appear as normal files or directories, and can be acted
upon by the user or application in exactly the same manner.
- You must use other Microsoft tools, such as
Diskpart and Format, to prepare your disks for volume images. If
you deploy the Sysprep image by using ImageX, you must deploy the
image to the same volume.
- You must disable system restore when running
Windows image filter. Windows imaging filter might behave
unexpectedly when copying files into the mount point.
- The install DVD cannot be ejected while the
image is mounted. The mount from DVD fails if the install DVD is
- ImageX does not support capturing encrypted
files from a Windows 2003 based Windows PE
- Do not run xcopy during the mount. Mountin
from the DVD fails if xcopy is run during mount. On Windows 7,
Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, running xcopy against
a Windows image mounted from a DVD or a CD may cause the system to
- ImageX currently does not support the
following NTFS features:
- Extended attributes.
- Object IDs.
- Reparse points that are neither symbolic
links nor junctions. ImageX will fail to apply them.
- Sparse files. (They can be captured and
applied, but they are no longer sparse after they are applied.)
- Extended attributes.
Dependencies of ImageX
ImageX has the following dependencies:
- By using Windows System Image Manager
(Windows SIM), you can create an installation image that you
capture later by using ImageX.
- By using the Sysprep tool, you may prepare an
image to be captured by ImageX. Running Sysprep on your master
computer removes all user-specific and computer-specific settings
and data, resets the product activation clock to 30 days, and
enables the creation of a new security identifier (SID) upon
restart. Once you have run Sysprep, you can boot your master
computer into the Windows Preinstallation Environment
(Windows PE) to capture the image. If you deploy the Sysprep
image by using ImageX, you must deploy the image to the same
- You must boot your technician computer into
the Windows PE environment. From Windows PE, you can run
ImageX to capture your image. After you create the image, start
your technician computer, install the WIMMount Filter driver, edit
your image, and then apply the image from a network location.
Technologies Related to ImageX
ImageX is related to the following technologies.
Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS)
If you do not use ImageX for deployment, you may use Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS). Windows DS enables companies to remotely administer and deploy the latest operating system and other .wim files, by using Windows PE and Windows DS Server. This deployment scenario can be fully unattended, and is customizable and scalable.
Windows DS replaces the existing Remote Operating System Installation (RIS) deployment technology.
Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE)
Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) is a minimal Win32® operating system with limited services. Windows PE provides an environment from which ImageX can capture and apply images. Windows PE and ImageX are the primary tools used for Windows deployment.
Systems Management Server (SMS) Operating System Deployment Feature Pack
If you do not use ImageX for deployment, you can use the Systems Management Server (SMS) Operating System Deployment Feature Pack. The SMS Operating System Deployment Feature Pack enables companies to deploy the latest operating systems and applications in a customizable, centralized, and scalable way.