Slipstream Windows updates to Server 2012R2 install medium

Everyone knows the problem: after installing Windows Server 2012 R2 (or every other version but this article is mainly focused on Server 2012 R2) you need to connect the system to the internet and start the Windows Update nightmare. For Server 2012 R2 there are at least 100 updates available (perhaps even more if you use the RTM version of Server 2012 R2). Even with a fast internet connection you need more than 2h to fully patch a new server system with all critical and security patches.

This may be okay for a single installation once ina while or if you want to let your customer pay by time but normally you won't have the time and efficient work has nothing to do with that.

Fortunately there is a way to update your installation media to already include patches so they are installed on the system the time you do the initial installation. There are several articles on the internet dealing with this "slipstreaming" kind of thing but most are written for Windows 7/8 or use some crappy kind of dism command line voodoo targeted for all SCCM users. For all of you who don't have time and fun for playing with the command line there is also a GUI way to do the same thing.

First you need the following tools:

 

  • Ntlite: https://www.ntlite.com/, available in a free and a commercial version. The free version is targeted to "use in its basic version for personal and trial purposes"(taken from the homepage of NTLite). There is no special not eon using the tool in companies but as you can only use it for trial I don't see any problems here.
  • WSUS offline: http://www.wsusoffline.net/, free to use in any way.
  • An ISO image tool if you want to create bootable DVDs. I prefer to use WinISO but this is a commercial tool. Probably there are some free tools around that do the same but as I mainly use USB sticks for installation, the ISO tools isn't that important for me
  • The Windows Server 2012 R2 installation DVD or an ISO

 

Let's start by downloading and installing Ntlite. The tool is available in 32bit and 64bit versions. Choose the one that fits your PCs architecture, probably 64bit ist the most common nowadays. The installation is pretty straight forward and after the setup finished you will see this GUI:

Slip01

 

First step is to import the install.wim file. This file is located on your installation DVD in the sources directory. It is quite big with ~3.5GB in size. Copy the file to a working directory on your harddisk. Then click on the tiny little Arrow below the "Add" button and choose "Image file (WIM, ESD, SWM)". Select the install.wim and wait for Ntlite to import the file. Ignore the warning about ISO, just click on the OK button.

Next step is to mount the version you want tp patch. As nearly all Server ISOs include more than one version (Standard, DataCenter, Core, Non-Core) you have to choose which one you want to patch.

Slip02

 

Right-click on the version and select "Load". This will trigger the DISM tool to mount the WIM file to be edited. This will take some time.

In the meantime we can download the WSUS offline tool. This tool will download all critical und security bugfixes according to the latest Windows update cab. One note here: WSUS offline will only download critical and security bugfixes. Normal patches won't be included here. There is a forum thread where the author of this program will explain what you can and what you can't expect from the tool: http://forums.wsusoffline.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=172

The good thing with WSUS offline is, it won't require any installation. Simply extract the file to a disk where you have enough space to download the updates and start the tool by starting "UpdateGenerator.exe". The GUI is quite simple. For Windows Server 2012R2 simply check the appropriate box for Server 2012 R2. You can download the .NET framework installer but Ntlite is not capable of including them into the WIM so save the time and bandwidth. If you are behind a proxy server click on the proxy button and enter the needed information.

 

Slip03

 

After starting the program, WSUS offline will spawn a new CMD window and let you see what it does. It will connect to WU server and download all available patches. This can take some time. On a fast internet connection probably around 10min. When the download has finished, simply close the GUI. We have all we need....

 

Back to Ntlite... the WIM should now have been loaded and your GUI lokks like this:

 

Slip04

 

Next is to switch to the "Updates" tab and import the downloaded patches.

 

Slip05

 

Click on the black arrow below "Add" and select "Folder and subfolders found packages". In the explorer window navigate to the WSUS offline extraction directory and select the "client" subfolder

slip06

 

Let Ntlite load the patch information. It will probably show some errors when accessing .exe files as the tool doesn't support patches in executable format. Simply ignore these updates.

The last step is to switch to the "Apply" tab.

 

slip07

 

Ntlite will show you all the patches that will be included in the new WIM file. Don't care about by quite low number of 9 packages. This is because I already patched my WIM. On an unpatched WIM there should be more than 100 packages to be included. Take care to have the option "save changes and unmount" selected in the ribbon. In the full version you can also create an ISO right away but the free version only supports writing to the WIM or ESD. But that's okay for us, start the job by clicking on the green start button in the upper left. Once again you have some time to get a coffee or two or three as this step can take more than 1h.

When the last step finishes you have a much bigger WIM file as before. In my special case the size grew from 3.5GB to 5.4GB making it impossible to fit on a single layer DVD.

The last step is to bring the patched WIM back to the installation medium. This step depends on whether you want to have a DVD or (the way I prefer) have an USB stick. For the DVD version open your favorite ISO image tool, open the Windows Server 2012 R2 installation ISO, delete the original WIM, insert the new WIM and create the new ISO. Burn it onto a Double Layer DVD and you're done.

If you want to have a USB stick to install Windows Server from then you need at least a 8GB version. Insert the stick and format it with FAT32. Next step is to mount the original install DVD or the ISO, open an elevated command prompt, goto the DVD and enter the boot directory. Start the command: "bootsect /nt60 usb_drive_letter:". After the command completed successfully, goto Windows explorer and copy all files from the original Windows Server 2012R2 install DVD to the USB stick except the old install.wim file. Now copy the new WIM file to the sources directory and you're done.

 

Boot your VM or server with the USB stick and simply install as usual. After the first logon, goto Windows Update screen and click on "Installed updates". On a unpatched system there will be <10 patches listed. On my patched system there are 127 patches. This will save you a lot of time.


One last thing: as mentioned before WSUS offline won't download all available patches for a given OS type. There is a really big chance that you still miss some patches on your newly installed system. That's why you should always let Windows Update run against the system once more to see if there are more patches to be installed. Nevertheless, the first 120 patches are already on your system and the time to fully-patches state should be much less.

 

 

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  • Guest - BW

    Great article! I have this weird issue with update KB2919355. I update my WIM (and ISO) with all the latest updates for Windows Server 2012 R2 and when I install this patched Windows it says I only need to install 6 updates (which includes KB2919355). After installing these 6 updates, rebooting and running Windows Updates agian it says I need to install 150+ updates again! I have tried exclusing update KB2919355 when using NTlite but this hasn't helped.

    Any ideas?

  • Guest - Oliver Krehan

    Hi,

    it seems that the mentioned KB is primarily focused on Desktop Windows 8.1 installatiosn and not for server OS. I don't know if there is any special considerations but I found something that might explain the problem. KB 2919355 is known to be problematic when it comes to the right order in which the KBs are installed. Perhaps NTLite isn't aware of that problem. Make sure you install the following KBs in the exact order:

    1. KB2919442
    2. KB2919355
    3. KB2932046
    4. KB2937592
    5. KB2938439
    6. KB2949621

    Hope that helps.
    Oliver

  • Guest - spuder

    Just tried this, the free version of NTLite was able to create the ISO no problem.

  • Guest - HyperV-Bato

    This works!
    Is there a way to do something like this to a vhd or vhdx file using ntlite and wsusoffline?

  • Guest - Chris

    I am having trouble with the final part of this guide, can you explain how you got the 5.4GB wim file onto a FAT32 USB drive? I am trying to create a UEFI bootable USB and since the maximum size for a file in FAT32 format is 4GB I can't copy over the newly created wim file. Any advise would be appreciated.

  • Guest - Oliver Krehan

    Hi Chris,

    simply format the USB drive with NTFS. The boot loader can handle NTFS partitions and the problem wih file sizes above 4GB is gone.

    Regards,
    Oliver

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