Windows Insider: Can The Preview Builds Be Deployed With MDT?

I’ve been playing around with the Windows Insider Preview builds for a few months now and with the news that Microsoft are expanding the program to IT Pros (as well as many other types of users), I decided to look into seeing if the builds could be deployed via Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Build (8443). The short answer is: “yes, kind of”.

The build I’ve been testing is 15042. It successfully deploys, although there are a few issues which prevent it from being a truly automated process. I want to make it clear that as the Preview builds are…in preview(!) and therefore unfinished. I didn’t expect them to work at all, let alone as well as they did. Let’s walk though the deployment process!

I downloaded an .iso of the most recent (build 15042) Insider Preview build – you’ll need to have an Insider account and login to see the page: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windowsinsiderpreviewiso

Next I imported the .iso into MDT as normal: Operating Systems > Import Operating System > Full set of source files

After importing I had two new entries. Notice one is flagged as “Core” and one is “Professional”. This is interesting but not too strange, as when importing a Windows Server .iso you also get multiple versions – Standard, Standard Core, Datacenter, Datacenter Core.

I’ve tested deploying both of the entries and there are some problems with each. The “Core” edition installs but the domain join and other customisation don’t apply, and the “Professional” edition has some breaks in the automation.

I created a standard deployment task sequence and configured MDT to deploy the Professional edition of the Insider build, join my local Active Directory domain, update via the internet and not a local WSUS server, as I wanted to see if it would automatically update to the latest build during deployment.

I created a standard Gen1 Hyper-V VM to deploy the build to and started the deployment process and it processed as normal, until I hit this screen:

I’m not sure exactly what the issue here is as I can’t find anything in the logs at this time. Selecting the Next button proceeds to the screen below:

After this screen the installation proceeded as normal.

You may or may not experience this next issue depending on the options when you created the deploy Task Sequence. During a normal deployment the administrator user is automatically logged on whether or not a password has been defined during the Task Sequence creation, but during my first test deployment I configured a password and it wouldn’t log on automatically. On my next test I created a new TS and left the password blank and it continued to log in like normal, so this seems to be just a bug or maybe a change in the way the next big update handles auto login. Either way, I expect MDT will be updated to keep in step when the Creators Update is released.

After either logging in manually or automatically, the Task Sequence should continue like normal:

The Windows Update actions function just like normal, unfortunately though the latest Insider build was not downloaded and installed, only Windows Defender updates.

When the Task Sequence finished, I logged in and the VM had been joined my domain.

The Insider build update was downloaded and installed sometime after the VM had been booted up, after the Task Sequence had completed. An Insider enabled Microsoft account was not needed for the updates to download and install, although it is needed to configure which ring your on, as with a regular non-MDT install of the Windows Insider Preview.

I attempted to create a new Insider Preview image, by creating a task sequence which installed the Preview build from the downloaded .iso, suspended the task sequence so I could manually update to the latest build and then capture the image for deployment. The Task Sequence worked but when it came to deploy the new image, unfortunately it never successfully installed.

So, it is possible to install Insider Preview builds via MDT, but the process isn’t fully automated. It could still be a good way to roll out a collection of devices quickly in a relatively automated fashion and take advantage of the features that MDT provides, such as driver installation. Along with a PXE enabled MDT server it could also be a good way to install Preview builds without needing to find and create a USB drive. At the very least I think it’s been very interesting to go through the process and see if MDT could deploy the Preview build.

-Mike

Follow Mike on Twitter: @Digressive

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