Creating a fully updated Windows 7 image (Part 1)

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Despite Microsoft's marketing hype about the success of Windows 10 deployments, many organizations have chosen to remain on Windows 7 for the present. The number of software updates that have been released for Windows 7 however has unfortunately made deploying new Windows 7 systems a pain. After all, who wants to spend 15 minutes installing Windows 7 and then wait several days as hundreds of software updates are downloaded from Windows Update and installed on the machine which then has to reboot untold times.

Is there a solution to this madness for those companies that want to keep running Windows 7 and need to deploy new Windows 7 PCs from time to time? Fortunately one of the readers of our popular weekly newsletter WServerNews approached me with a detailed step-by-step explanation of how his own organization solved this problem. Ben Shoemaker is the one-man IT Department for the Christopher Kidd and Associates (CKA) architecture firm which specializes in designing medial dialysis and commercial buildings. Ben has 8 years of experience in IT and also 10 years of experience in the broadcast and audio/visual fields. In this article and the next I'll present Ben's innovative solution (with some edits for clarification on my part) to the problem of creating a fully updated Windows 7 ISO for deploying new computers.

Background and toolset

I found this very good article on the Raymon.cc blog a while ago:

Create An Integrated Up To Date Windows 7 Install Disc

The problem is that the above article was written about 2 years ago. The Windows Update Downloader program is no longer being updated and there's a better way of integrating Internet Explorer 11.

For my own version of creating an integrated, up to date Windows 7 installation image, I use the following third-party tools:

NTlite - This tool by Ntlintesoft lets you integrate updates, drivers, automate Windows and application setup, speedup Windows deployment process. There's a basic version that's free and more powerful paid versions for home, professional, or business use.

WHDownloader - This free tool lets you download Windows and Office hotfixes. It's available from My Digital Life (MDL) forums.

SysExporter - This free tool from NirSoft lets you export data from Windows controls. For example, you can use it to grab the data stored in standard list-views, tree-views, list boxes, combo boxes, text-boxes, WebBrowser/HTML controls, and so on almost any application running on your system, and then export it as text, HTML or XML.

Rufus - This free tool lets you easily format and create bootable USB flash drives.

Ninite - This free tool lets you install and update all your programs at once instead of having to watch for updates. There's also a Pro version that lets you manage all your PCs at once and patch applications across your whole domain.

Driver Genius - This tool from Driver Soft helps you find the latest drivers for your computer by automatically check for driver updates to make sure your drivers are always up to date. There's a free version you can download and also a registered (paid) version that includes additional features.

Step 1: Start by using WHDownloader

To start with, you use WHDownloader to update the list for whatever OS that you want to get the updates for. Note that the "back" button downloads the lists--that tripped me up the first time I used this tool.

WHDownloader will download both the updates that you need and also ton that you don't need. I just download everything and pick and choose the updates that I need later.

Since I've already downloaded everything in the past, the screenshot below only shows the updates since the last time that I ran this tool. If you are running it for the first time, under the Extra section, make sure to download ALL of the "Without KB3125574" updates. I'll explain that choice in a bit:

Step 2: Install Windows 7 on a test PC and download updates

While WHDownloader is running, install a stock Windows 7 disc on a test PC. Go through the regular Windows install process. Our goal here is just to get a list of the needed updates, not to actually download them. When you get to the step about updates, tell it to Ask Me Later as shown in the screen capture below. We DON'T want it to start automatically downloading updates!

Go through the rest of the installation process. Once it's done, fire up Windows Update. Click on "Let me choose my settings" then select "Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them". This is the excruciatingly slow process do to the problems with Windows Update. BUT you only need to do this ONCE. So let it run overnight. It should be done in about 16 hours on a newer i5 or i7 PC.

Once it's done checking for updates, you will see the usual "Download and install updates for your computer." Do NOT click on "Install Updates"!!! LOL! Instead, click on "<some number of> important updates are available".

Step 3: Use SysExporter to get a list of Windows 7 updates to a file

Now fire up SysExporter. This handy little utility requires no installation and will let you export the updates list to a file. In SysExporter, scroll through the list until you see "Select updates to install" ListView. Select everything from the name column then right click and select Copy Selected Items.

Paste what you copied to the clipboard into Notepad, name it "Important", and save it on to a thumb drive. Do the same for the Optional updates. Name that file "Optional".

We will continue examining Ben's process in the second part of this two-part article.

If you would like to be notified when Mitch Tulloch releases the next part of this article series please sign up to the WindowsNetworking.com Real time article update newsletter.

Mitch Tulloch

Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of both WServerNews and FitITproNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies. He has written more than a thousand articles and has authored or been series editor for over 50 books for Microsoft Press and other publishers. Mitch has also been a twelve-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in the technical category of Cloud and Datacenter Management. He currently runs an IT content development business in Winnipeg, Canada.

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