Custominzing/Automating Windows Images for Medium Business Deployment
I am currently looking for a solution for customizing windows images and then automating the deployment/Out-of-box Experience (OOBE) for the business I work for. I have done some research for what is available, but so far I find the Microsoft solutions to be complicated or not quite what I need. I have done a bit of exploration with Microsoft Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), but found that WAIK is a bit too complicated, and I don't believe MDT will suit our needs.
Here is a bit of background information to familiarize you with our environment/needs:
-Currently we are taking the factory Dell image that comes with the laptops and customizing it to our needs by uninstalling bloatware and installing our default applications. We are also customizing the image by configuring power settings, screen saver settings, IE homepage, etc. To do this, we are currently forced to use local group policy, which disables the option to let the user change said settings. Currently, we do not have our domain environment setup with the proper OUs to use domain group policy. Therefore, we are using local group policy as a temporary solution. Once all of these settings are set, we create a backup image of the system before using sysprep, then we sysprep the box and create another image before booting the system again so that we can install the image onto computers and have them boot into OOBE for setup.
-We want to be able to set the desktop background, profile picture, IE homepage, screen saver, and power settings as defaults - i.e. giving the users permission to change them after receiving their system. Using group policy disables the ability to let the user change the settings after receiving the computer. Of course we donít want to use local group policy at all in a domain environment, but without our domain setup with the proper OUs, it appears we currently donít have an alternative.
-Currently we use Symantec Ghost to copy our customized image to each box. The OOBE is not customized at all, so each time we image a box, we have to manually select language settings, time settings, connect to the wireless network, etc.
-What we want is to be able to automate the process by predefining most of these settings. That way, when we startup the computer with the new image, we only have to enter the user account and computer name, while the rest of the settings are automated.
From what I understand, XP deployment was done using an unattend or answer file that you used to answer the prompts in OOBE. As I said before, I have done some research on WAIK and MDT, but they don't seem to be user friendly (specifically WAIK) and will take a whole lot of time to learn and then more testing to see what works and what doesn't. My hope is that someone could show me possible third party tools for customizing the image and/or automating the OOBE/deployment process. I am currently encountering issues with setting a custom desktop background for new users, which should be a very simple task, but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to make it simple. Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated!