Imaging Toolkit 12 Preview 2
November 26, 2021
During lockdown we took the time to consider our customers' Windows deployment needs and what we as a business needed in order to support our customers and partners. In October 2021 we uploaded Imaging Toolkit 12 Preview 1. Not many people knew about it. It was a soft launch targeting a few trusted customers and partners.
We've had our fair share of sleepless coding nights and major challenges, but all in all Imaging Toolkit 12 is our most feature rich update ever! We are beyond excited to show you what we've been working on and to get your feedback.
Wot no blogs?
At some point during lockdown we decided to completely rewrite our web site from scratch. Don't ask me when, it's all been a blur, but hey we're coders and we don't like being restrained by over fussy CMS products. Although not for the faint hearted, having complete control of the web site is refreshing and has allowed us to ensure it's mobile friendly and we're able to engineer some really cool services - more about that later! Sadly we had to make a decision to leave the old blogs behind. So this is officially blog #1!
Project filename extension
Let's start with a review of the features in Preview 1. For Imaging Toolkit 12, we dropped the somewhat geeky Build Console project xml extension for a shiny new itprj. The installer registers the extension so you can launch Build Console by double-clicking a project in File Explorer. Build Console will automatically rename any known projects to the new file extension.
Windows 11 support
It may not be on your radar, but we've added deployment support for Windows 11. You can also run Build Console on Windows 11. There are a number of known issues with Windows 11, but our concerns start with imaging and in particular the Windows ADK/WinPE for Windows 11 which is buggy at best!
One particular issue is that WinPE for Windows 11 does not automatically map local drive letters to partitions which causes the capturing and applying of WIM based images to fail. Fortunately we've provided a workaround in our Imaging Toolkit 12 Preview TID. It's worth bookmarking the TID as it will be updated over time.
Windows media import
This brings us nicely to some improvements we've made to Windows media detection. Due to some unforgiveable reason, since Windows 10 version 20H2, Microsoft have produced the ISO media with incorrect WIM metadata. With Imaging Toolkit 11, this caused some confusion hence this TID.
With Imaging Toolkit 12, we've used a different technique after some lateral thinking to sneak out the correct "friendly" version and build number from the media. Now when you import Windows media, Build Console will correctly display the friendly version and build number. We've also updated how Windows media appears in the File Library and property view.
Base image preparation
One of the top customer reported issues with Imaging Toolkit 11 was a failure during base image creation where the unattended process would fail if the reference machine was BIOS but Deployment Wizard was configured with UEFI. With Imaging Toolkit 12, we've changed the Deployment Wizard and base image preparation process to detect whether the reference machine is BIOS (legacy) or UEFI and to configure the unattended install to use MBR or GPT accordingly.
We recommend using a VM as the reference machine so there's no need additional mass-storage or network drivers for WinPE or to install the OS, the WinPE ISO created by Deployment Wizard can be easily attached to the VM, and if you run into issues with base image creation or deployment we can remote in and take a look.
Autopilot / Intune support
Customers asked us how they could use Imaging Toolkit's imaging/re-imaging ability with Autopilot, so we've updated Build Console and the deployment process to automatically handle Autopilot device registration. Autopilot is primarily designed for new machines, but our approach with Imaging Toolkit allows the best of both worlds. From a Build Console project, simply enter the Tenant ID, Client ID, Client Secret and Group Tag.
ENGL Image Service™
Some years ago after being asked by numerous customers if we could create base images for them, we put an automated process together and called it ENGL Reference Image Creation Service. For Imaging Toolkit 12, we've renamed the offering to ENGL Image Service which includes a refined process and updated Build Console with built-in support.
In Preview 2 we've included the ability to "Search for images" by right-clicking your Windows media. A search will be performed and will return a list of ENGL pre-built base images matching the Windows media version, edition and language in the File Library. Selecting a base image will download a compatible image format based on Build Console integration settings, e.g. WinPE/WIM. All pre-built images will be available in Linux/ZMG, WinPE/WIM and WinPE/ZMG formats.
Customers will be given a download allowance based on their subscription level. In the future we're planning to allow custom base image creation that will tailor the contents to include a choice of built-in packages and Windows updates.
ENGL Monitor Service™
A lot of Imaging Toolkit customers chose to purchase Deployment Monitor which is an on-prem solution that requires MSSQL and IIS. Imaging Toolkit can be configured to send status updates and log files to the Deployment Monitor server during imaging and OS deployment. It's a very useful bolt-on product to track the progress of deployments, highlight any failures and aid troubleshooting by collecting Zim and Ztoolkit log files.
With ENGL Monitor Service, our dream has been finally realised by providing a monitoring service with support starting with Imaging Toolkit 12. Build Console now includes ENGL Monitor Service by default. The deploying machines need HTTPS internet access to send status updates.
From the ENGL site customers can view their machines in their organisation building (Account > Monitor) provided they have an Imaging Toolkit 12 license. The monitor view includes deployment progress, detailed status, log file viewer and reports.
For a machine that has failed to build, customers can now create a support ticket directly from the monitor view. This is a huge time saver for customers as ENGL tech support will have access to the machine's log files and can help troubleshoot issues more efficiently.
All Imaging Toolkit 12 customers can use ENGL Monitor Service, but functionality and usage will be based on subscription level.
After analysing Imaging Toolkit usage including driver searches, we found only a small number of customer machines had been deployed using a Windows 32-bit OS within the last year. With this in mind, Imaging Toolkit 12 supports Windows 10 and 11 64-bit only.
As part of this we've updated Integration Wizard to ensure WinPE 64-bit is used for both BIOS and UEFI machines. WinPE 32-bit has always been problematic for customers using WIM imaging so this is a very positive change. Customers who wish to deploy a 32-bit OS can continue use a supported version of Imaging Toolkit 11.
To request an Imaging Toolkit 12 Preview license and access to downloads, please visit the Imaging Toolkit 12 Preview TID.
Enjoy and we look forward to your feedback!