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Windows 10

Windows 10 Images in SCCM: Size Matters

If you are migrating your company’s computers to Windows 10 using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM, aka ConfigMgr), you make a lot of little decisions that can have massive down-the-line impact.

A key decision to get right in operating system deployment (OSD) is image size. Specifically, whether to create Thick or Thin images. A Thin image consists of the Windows 10 OS and approved updates, and very little else. A Thick image may include the OS plus approved updates, plus software like applications and other customizations needed to make the machine more directly useful for business tasks.

The Trade-off Admins Must Make

So, what’s the trade off? It’s an age-old problem that existed long before computers: time versus functionality.

A Thin image is much faster to deploy in all aspects because there is less to do: less data to transfer, fewer applications to install, fewer patches to apply, less configuring, etc. The system may be deployed faster, and the users may be able to log on a little sooner. But, and this is a big but, most users won’t really be able to do much with a plain Windows 10 installation and no applications. As a result, you’ll have to add post-deployment time to install applications and do the other things needed to make users productive.

If you decide to deploy a Thick image, the time to deploy may be longer. (Note: with Adaptiva OneSite™ delivery is much faster and can be done automatically, but this blog assumes you are using native SCCM.) There’s a larger image to deliver, and more software to install, configure, and update. However, each user will log onto a system that is ready to tackle business tasks.

How do you Decide?

As with most everything else in IT, you have to factor your business drivers into the equation. For example, does your company or IT department have any Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place that dictate how long it should take to provision a machine? Also, is there a core set of applications that need to be delivered to every machine, or most machines?

Thick and Thin aren’t the only options, they’re two ends of a spectrum. You may decide on a hybrid image that falls in between. It might include the OS and a core set of critical or common applications that most users need.

Where you can leverage Windows 10 in-place upgrades, the image size question goes away.

If you don’t have business drivers that dictate whether to go Thick or Thin, then you might take a look at how frequently you will be updating your reference image, and consider the effort involved. The bigger the image, the more time-consuming the update process.

Getting More Information

The right answer depends on your environment and needs. Adaptiva offers a report, Top 10 Best Practices for Windows 10 OSD, which provides in-depth advice to help you choose wisely and succeed with high-volume, zero-touch Windows 10 OSD with SCCM.


Bill Bernat leads the product marketing strategy for Adaptiva, the market leader in smart scaling systems management technology. Prior to Adaptiva, Bill worked in a variety of positions including as a programmer, engineering manager, and technical editor for leading organizations such as NASA, Union Bank of California, Banc of America Securities, Streaming Media Magazine and OpenText.

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Founded in 2004 by the lead architect of Microsoft SMS 2003, Adaptiva has grown into one of the premier providers of IT systems management solutions. Adaptiva solutions leverage existing IT resources to enhance the operation of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) without disrupting service to end-users. Adaptiva has sold over 3,000,000 seats of software deployed in more than 100 countries. A Microsoft Gold Partner, Adaptiva conquers the complexity of IT by streamlining operations, extending the functionality of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and rapidly improving ROI on existing systems. Adaptiva provides easy to use software that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft SCCM to help you better manage your IT while reducing the total cost of ownership.

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