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PC World got the conversation going on installation times in Windows Vista.  While they quote Jim Allchin that Windows Vista can take as little as 15 minutes to install, my installs have been more like 20 minutes (still rocking fast), so I thought I would talk with David D’Souza who manages our Deployment and Installation team to get some more information about the different deployment scenarios and their installation time.  In his own words …

Hi, my name is David D’Souza and I am the Director of Development in the Windows Core OS Division. I run the development team responsible for the deployment technologies in Windows Vista.

Windows Vista Setup has dramatically improved since Windows XP. This has been one of the deepest and most comprehensive investments Microsoft has made in deployment. Our goal was to dramatically enhance the reliability and performance of OS deployment across end users, OEM, and Corporate scenarios. Windows Vista deployment had to be fast and reliable across a wide variety of scenarios and it had to easily integrate into the deployment processes our customers already used. Generally, our internal goal that rolled this all together was “15 minute OS installation using imaging”. Technically, we focused on three things:

1) End to end tool set for local and remote image based deployment of Windows Vista.

2) Reduction in number of images due to easy addition/removal of language packs and drivers.

3) Modularization to facilitate agility in engineering, deploying, and servicing all the new Windows Vista flavors.

In this note, I will cover the first item.

Why Imaging

Ideally, installation of an operating system is two fairly simple steps. First, copy all the OS files to the hard disk. Second, configure the machine dependent files & registry settings such as security identifiers, machine name, and specific hardware drivers required for the system. Install time should scale with the size & number of files in the operating system.

However, the software development process is structured around smaller, isolated, components – kernel, file system, shell - that combine to produce the full OS. Thus, our developers create an installation script that is a long list of individual components, each with their own state, configuration, and instructions for installation. Each component copies its files, builds its databases, and individually adds its registry keys. This makes it easy for Windows developers to change one component without disturbing other components. Unfortunately, this means install time scales with the number of components, files, and registry keys. This is the process we used to install Windows XP.

Imaging allows us to execute the “slow” installation process internally at Microsoft and capture the resultant files and a list of machine dependent state. Subsequent installs simply copy all the files – the OS image - and reconfigure the machine dependent state. The imaging process allows us to have the best of both worlds – an agile internal software development process that is component centric and a final installation process that optimizes towards installing the full operating system. Additionally, imaging is highly reliable because significantly fewer & simpler operations are performed to install an image. Imaging is the default installation process we use in Windows Vista.

Read the rest of this great article at Windows Vista Team Blog : Windows Vista Imaging and Installation Performance


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