Windows 7 Automatic Installation Kit Limitations
Related to building custom images
The Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK or WAIK) is among the free tools of choice when it comes down to building custom Windows 7 images and deploying them in a specific environment. But as much as the Windows Automated Installation Kit is capable of streamlining the installation process of custom-built Windows 7 images, it does come with a few limitations that IT administrators should be aware of. For example, they could find that it is impossible to put together an unattend.xml file from within the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 for a custom Windows 7 x32 image.
The reason is related to the limitations of WAIK. Specifically, “if you run Windows 7 x32 and WAIK x32 you can create unattends for both x64 and x32 custom images. If you run Windows 7 x64 and WAIK x64 you can not create unattends for x32 custom images. Running x32 WAIK on Windows 7 x64 is not supported,” revealed Richard Trusson
, a senior consultant with Microsoft Services, UK.
Essentially, admins that are running 64-bit computers will only be able to build catalogs for x64 WIM's. This limitation dates back to the Windows Vista period. Microsoft explained that WAIK in Vista leveraged the servicing stack binaries in the image in order to create the catalog. In this context, Microsoft did not see it necessary to include the binaries in WAIK. But the decision ended up impacting WAIK.
“This was a better overall design strategy since it now allowed WSIM to work ok, independent of any changes made to the servicing stack binaries of the image you're trying to generate a catalog for,” Trusson explained. “However, one side consequence is that the architecture and flavour of the WSIM tool has to match the architecture of the servicing stack ( that was extracted from the WIM ). Since a 32 bit WIM carries only a 32 bit servicing stack in it, 64 bit WSIM cannot generate a catalog due to architecture mismatch. (Hence one can use only 32 bit OPK for this.) However a 64 bit WIM carries both a 32 bit and a 64 bit servicing stack in it. Thus one can use either a 64 bit or a 32 bit WSIM to generate a catalog for such a WIM.”
Of course that the simplest solution for this problem is for admins to run a 32-bit machine when they’re building unattends for x64 and x86 custom images.