Apps run in the same scripted environment as the OS, which not only allows for greater control over the managing installations, but also provides a centralized process to ensure that a device is provisioned from beginning to end for the end user.
Prior to jumping into the tutorial below, ensure that these requirements are met:
- Server running Windows Server 2008 or later
- Windows Deployment Services installed and configured on the server
- Microsoft Deployment Toolkit installed and configured on the server
- Applications to be deployed
- Switched network (LAN)
- Broadband internet access (optional for LAN; required for WAN)
- Windows client PC (test PC for deployment)
- Administrative credentials
With the requirements out of the way, let's look at the process of adding a commonly used business application to MDT.
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First, log on to the MDT server and launch the MDT workbench app. Next, scroll down to the Applications node and right-click it. Select New Application from the context menu to launch the New Application Wizard (Figure A).
In the first page, select the type of Application you'll be configuring. Selecting the radio button next to Application With Source Files is the most common Application Type that will be used. This selection will import the application files directory into a directory located in the Deployment Share. Selecting the radio button for Application Without Source Files Or Elsewhere On The Network, will add file links to a UNC path or DFS share and is best suited for applications that may be stored on application servers or distributed from centralized repositories. Lastly, selecting Application Bundle will add application dependencies instead of fully installed applications. This selection is typically associated with internal applications or web/cloud-based software. Click the Next button to proceed (Figure B).
On the Details page, you'll be asked to enter pertinent information regarding the application being added. While only the Application Name is required, the other fields hold important information that may be beneficial when troubleshooting app installation errors down the road. Enter the requisite info and click Next to continue (Figure C and Figure D).
Now browse to the location to provide the Source folder for the MDT server to import the application from. Click Next to proceed to the Destination page, where you'll be required to enter a name for the directory that will be created in the Deployment Share to store your imported application (Figure E and Figure F).
The following wizard page will display the Working Directory, which will be used by MDT to call the application at the time of installation. This entry is typically set for the user unless you wish to modify it. The Command Line box, however, will not be populated and will need to be manually entered for the application to execute silently (and correctly). Enter the name of the executable installation file and any/all switches require to achieve a silent installation, then click Next to proceed (Figure G).
The penultimate page of the wizard will be the Summary, which will highlight exactly what will be imported to MDT. This is followed by Progress, which executes the command to actually import the app(s), and finally, the Confirmation page, which will display whether the app import was completed successfully or with errors (Figure H and Figure I).
Note: Install files can be any variety of file that Windows natively accepts, such as .EXE or .MSI. The switches or arguments for silent installations will vary from app to app. It is highly advised that you test and retest silent installs in a test environment before placing the commands in MDT for production environments.
Once an application has been added to MDT, the expanded Applications node will display the application in chronological order (Figure J).
Double-clicking on the app name will bring up the properties tabs: General includes app-specific information such as the GUID, Name and Source Directory. Details includes the Quiet Install Command and Working Directory, as well as a checkbox to force the app to Reboot after installation or filter which clients can run the application installer. Last, there's Dependencies which includes a list of any dependencies that are to be included with the application installer or should you wish to add any after the fact, that can also be done (Figure K, Figure L, and Figure M).
By visiting the deployment share and navigating to the Applications folder, find the name of the application you import and traverse the folder. To verify the imported completed as needed, the contents of the directory should mirror that of the source originally chosen in the fifth step above (Figure N).
If everything checks out, then simply PXE boot a Windows client PC and during the MDT wizard passes—when the Application page displays—select the checkbox next to the app you wish to deploy. This will signal to the MDT scripts that after the OS has been installed and the drivers are injected, the application(s) selected will be queued for installation post-initial-logon in the automated deployment process.
Tips and tricks?
Are you a veteran sysadmin with experience in WDS and/or MDT deployments? We want you to submit your best tips or tricks, edits, and hacks to help users get the most out of their deployments. Share your info below in the comments section.
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Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.