Windows 8.1 Reference Image Planning Checklist

We recently started evaluating Windows 8.1 at work and, quite frankly, I forgot how much effort went into creating a fully customized reference image.  I did the work several years ago when we migrated to Windows 7 and I can build out that infrastructure in my sleep.  But, it seems that there are even more settings that we’ll need to tweak in Windows 8.1 so that our customers don’t revolt when we start rolling it out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Windows 8.1 hater.  But, we try to strike a balance between what our end users are used to using in their current environment and the new features they’ll be getting when they move to the new OS.  A little up front planning can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth roll-out!

The List

Be warned, this is a work in progress.  I’m not making any claims that it is complete… yet.  I’ll be coming back as I progress through the process and adding links and tutorials for how we did things. 

  • Make sure you’re building from the latest ISO
  • Do you need to support both x86 and x64?
  • Pull inventory of machine models so you can start the process of pulling updated drivers.
  • Does the WSUS (or SCCM) server need to be updated to include Windows 8.1 updates?
  • Update Office 2013 files to latest ISO
  • Update .msp for Office 2013 deployment since we’re updating the install source.
    I had to find out the hard way that the .msp file that is generated by the setup.exe for Office 2013 doesn’t seem to work quite right with the setup.exe for Office 2013 SP1.  I ended up completely regenerating our .msp file just to be on the safe side.
  • Do you need/want to customize the Start Screen?
    • If yes, does it need to be in the Reference Image, OS deployment, or forced with Group Policy?
    • Plan out what will be on the customized Start Screen
  • Customize logon screen wallpaper
  • Customize default user wallpaper
    • Do you want the Start Screen wallpaper to be the same as the Desktop?
  • Add additional custom wallpapers for user to select
  • Change default color scheme to match organization logo colors.
  • Remove inbox Metro/Modern apps that we don’t want users to have
    Ben Hunter has a great script on The Deployment Guys blog that you can use to remove inbox apps.
  • Plan for end user of OneDrive and whether it needs to be blocked.
  • Update file extensions to open specified file types in desktop apps instead of Metro apps.
  • Plan for BitLocker if some or all systems are going to be encrypted.
  • Review/Test Group Policy to determine need for updates to support Windows 8.1.

See something missing?  Let me know in the comments!

Kyle Beckman

Kyle Beckman

Kyle is a Systems Administrator with 15+ years of experience. He currently works in Higher Education supporting everything from smartphones to desktop PC's to Hyper-V Failover Clusters. (If it has a IP address, he probably supports it!) He has also worked in Small Business IT consulting supporting a wide variety of businesses and non-profit organizations.

Kyle is also the Vice President of the Atlanta Windows Infrastructure and Virtualization User Group (WINVUG).You can find additional articles he's written on 4sysops.com.
Kyle Beckman

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  1. Awesome site so glad I have found this site. I am just starting the path of learning System Center and MDT so this kind of info is a godsend. Thanks.

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