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How to Update a Windows Deployment Image for Free.

I recently needed to help a client update their main Windows 10 deployment image, a set of .WIM files installed via network connection to a server running Windows Deployment Services. This is one of the tasks that can slip the mind over time, with images becoming increasingly out of date and open to security risks when applied to a machine. One of SCCM’s features handles this on an automated schedule, but SCCM wasn’t an option in this case.  So how do we otherwise get from here to there?

Thankfully, some adventuring alongside the IT Professional’s handy sidekick – Google – led me to develop a simple process you can use to update deployment images using tools that are completely free. No muss, no fuss, and no fee either! Let’s take a look:

1. Determine which updates you need.

First, we need to run the free tool Belarc Advisor on a machine recently imaged with your deployment copy of Windows 10. You can do this on a physical machine, but imaging a new physical machine for this process might not always be practical or convenient. It’s not necessary, either; you can instead image a virtual machine running on one of the free virtualization tools I recently described in this article. Simply set the VM to boot via network and let the image process proceed as normal. In my case, I used Virtualbox.

When the machine is ready, run the Belarc Advisor. The Belarc assessment will let you know if the machine is either already up to date:

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…Or in need of updates:

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If the image needs updates, click on the Security Updates section to view the list:

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For this process, we’re only concerned with Microsoft updates. Grab the KB numbers for each needed Microsoft update and move on to our next step…

2. Download the updates.

This part is easy. Head off to the Microsoft Update Catalog and search for the needed KB numbers. Each KB number will likely return a number of results for multiple versions of Windows platforms, both 32 and 64-bit. Make sure to download the KB for your correct version and architecture of Windows.

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3. Install the updates. 

Finally, download the free version of NTlite – a useful tool which can mount and update images without needing to wade through seas of Powershell commands. There are premium versions of NTlite which include a lot of interesting features, but the free version suits us for this process just fine. After installed, use the Add Image Folder wizard to add the image to NTlite, then load (mount) the image.

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When the image is mounted, use the Add Updates function to select the downloaded updates and queue them up for install. When ready, hit the big green button and the update install will kick off. Depending on the number of updates, the install can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

When the install is finished, the image will automatically unmount, and presto! You officially have an updated image. Enjoy!

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