i dont know how much this will help, but following is the situation at the company that i work at...
Important thing for you to know before this... Windows 7 has a cmd file that runs right after it is done with OOBE and before presenting CTRL+ALT+DEL. I make use of modifying that file via Windows 7 OSD script and updating it with all the commands to install the necessary softwares requested.
1. We have a base Windows 7 image
2. We use a batch script that asks a few basic questions and implements the answers in the answer file for streamlining the required applications in the OS after imaging is complete
3. Come up with CTRL+ALT+DEL screen with all requested applications after about an hour.
Things to know about our Windows 7 base image (both 32 and 64 bit systems)
1. We use UIU as our provider for HII (hardware independant imaging)
2. Base image has no applications installed.. only the OS and the latest updates
3. We use imagex32.exe for creating a package after sysprep
How we do it...
1. Install Windows 7 OS on a system and update it with all the updates (do not install any hardware specific software)
a. use a system that has SATA (this helps with systems with SATA AHCI drive controllers and also works with NON SATA drives)
2. Optional, but definitely a very good resource, for us at least, install UIU on the system that loads up about a gig of driver files
3. Run sysprep and shut the system down
4. Power it up in PXE provided by LANDesk.
5. use imagex to capture the image on a network share
a. net use <drive:> \\<server>\<share> /u:domain\NT ID -> connect both network drives, one where the image will be stored, the other where imagex32.exe is located. imagex32 can be obtained via waik)
b. imagex32 /capture C: <networkshare>\Win7.wim "SystemDrive"
c. imagex32 /append D: <networkshare>\Wim7.wim "DataDrive"
Now, you have a sysprep'd wim file that you can now manipulate any way you want. Following is what i do to install drivers in systems that most likely wont work from the base image
1. Write a batch file that inquires what kind of system it is... HP, IBM and then the model.
a. our company has standards and usually orders specific HP laptops and desktops companywide so it is easy to keep a repository of working systems
2. Once the questions are complete, create another batch file using the answers provided to copy only the necessary files down to the sytem being imaged.
a. if you are working on, say, HP 6450b laptop, user will select laptop | 6450 | and then some software requirement
b. Using the above said options, I create another batch file that runs after the image comes down. After answering the question is when the drives are formatted and the system is imaged. If i copy down the drivers when the answers are being given, the files will be overwritten.
c. once the image is completed, run the second batch file to copy the files down to the system and set up the system so that it runs the installation of all the files that you just copied.
3. Verify if everything got installed correctly.
It took me about 2-3 months to get everything set up correctly so i will attach a few things that might be helpful.
1. Windows 7 OSD script (with minor omissions to keep some things secret
2. Sample Batch file that creates another batch file.
I hope that it helps you set up the base image. There is some work up front, but i find that once you have this set up, with a network share with all drivers that would be needed, it is easy to deploy at multiple locations by just replicating the repository. Also, this will definitely be helpful if you have understanding of batch file. Batch file has basic if else statements and thats about it.
I use provisioning to do a scripted install of Windows 7. I know most everyone is doing imaging with Windows 7, but I prefer a cleaner more default environment.
I do do something similar to Jawad where I have a menu come up and ask the user a few questions. Currently that is just the computer name and the timezone, but eventually I hope to do more. That prompt writes an ini file that I later read with a vbscript to insert the tasks it tells me to do. Plans for the future involve being able to fill out that menu from a technicians computer, and to be able to assign a computer into LD groups so that policies will automate the software installs based on group membership.