Building the Perfect Hybrid Windows Image

Week before last I was visiting with an old co-worker of mine at the ‘ol University, and one of his students and I started talking about thin images versus thick images, and he was shocked to hear I didn’t like thin images. I told him I preferred hybrid images.

Thick? Thin? Hybrid?

Back when I was just a young padawan grasshoppa, imaging Dell OptiPlex 110s, I was taught we put drivers and applications in an image. We had one image for every make and model. At the time, that was pretty slick, but that was also when people still thought the first generation x-box was cool and still took Eminem seriously. Never the less, that kind of image was a thick image, we had lots of them and it really sucked in hindsight, there was no flexibility, these images were monolithic and pain to maintain.

Now some people take image design to an extreme in the other direction and keep EVERYTHING out of their images, the true diehards will literally pull the install.wim file from the windows ISO and go with that. Now, yes it’s true a real MDT master could then get MDT to install office, and all the updates, this will take hours, and hours, and hours. I cannot in good faith recommend anybody try this at home.

But as a follower of Johan, I build Hybrid images. Johan teaches us to build hybrid images, and I highly recommend you do the same. You get all the benefits of both thin and thick, and with very few of the headaches of either. Its one of those rare instances in the Industry where you really can have your cake and eat it to.


Thick images lack flexibility, and thin images take too darn long to install. Its a question of what to put in an image and keep out.

So, as IT Manager Samuel L. Jackson asks,
“What’s in your Image?”


Basically, you put in an image only the things you are certain, without a doubt:

  • Everybody will Need
  • Doesn’t get updated Every Week
  • Will Survive Sysprep

So, Office is in, Adobe Reader is Out. Dot Net Framework 4.5.1 is in, Java is out. Windows 7 SP1 Cumulative Update 1 is in, Antivirus is out.

Office takes a good amount of time to install and patch. In some environments, I’ve seen deploy times cut down by half an hour by adding office to an image. Adobe reader comes in an MSI and its very easy to just update in an MDT deployment share, keep it of your image, you don’t want to be rebuilding an image everytime a new version of adobe comes out. Dot Net Framework is a pre-requisite for so much stuff and god only knows for what, WSUS will patch it, so it’s in. Update rollups are always good, but Antivirus should NEVER go in an image. They have unique IDs that get generated at install time, so putting them in an image is a big no-no.

Finally, I want to show you how Mikael Nystrom does it here.


Note, this guy’s one of the best of the best, and this is what he puts in his images, Screenshot courtesy MS Virtual Academy.

For more info: Check out the Microsoft Virtual Academy Sessions