The tool of choice for Microsoft operating system deployments is System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). For those who have never worked through a bare metal Windows 8 deployment, it is easy to assume that the bare metal system will use a Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) boot to connect to the SCCM server. Although this is technically possible, there is a process to follow and some pitfalls to avoid.
SCCM is normally used to work with managed computers. This is a fancy way of saying that it needs to know about the computers that it is managing. While it is easy to get SCCM to discover computers that are already running a Windows operating system, bare metal systems are a completely different story.
If you want to use SCCM to deploy Windows to a bare metal system, then you will have to use the Import Computer Information Wizard to make it aware of the new system. When doing so, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account.
Your first consideration should be the number of computers on which you're deploying Windows 8. If you are only planning to deploy Windows 8 to a few systems, or if you are performing a single system installation, then you are probably best off working through the wizard manually. However, if you have a number of systems to configure, your best option is to use Microsoft Excel to build a CSV file containing all of the required data for the new computers.
Regardless of whether you manually provide SCCM with the data that it needs, or you create a CSV file, you must be very careful to enter the required information correctly. Entering a MAC address or a SMB Bios GUID number incorrectly will cause SCCM to disregard the target computer.
Another important consideration is the format in which you enter this information. Regardless of whether you are manually entering the information or creating a CSV file, you must not enter the requested data in raw byte format. If you use raw byte format, then the wizard will fail to import the new computer.
You also need to be aware of the fact that SCCM is very picky about the way that you provision bare metal clients. When you use the Import Computer Information Wizard to provide the details of a bare metal machine, SCCM considers the new system to be an imported computer. Your goal for the deployment process should be to get SCCM to continue to treat the new system as an imported computer.
The way to do that is to PXE boot the new computer and allow SCCM to match the PXE boot information to the data that you provided through the wizard. When you do that, SCCM will treat the resulting deployment as an imported computer.
Sometimes SCCM will stop treating the system as an imported computer, and there are two main causes. The first is importing the computer's information, but then deploying Windows manually. Doing so causes the information for the system in the Configuration Manager database to be overwritten. The computer will consequently be treated as a new client, rather than an imported computer.
The second thing that can cause SCCM to cease to recognize the system as an imported computer is to use a PXE-based deployment and then later use SCCM to re-image the operating system. Doing so causes the computer to be treated as a new client.
There is an entire laundry list of steps that you will have to work through in order to build a Windows 8 image and then get SCCM to deploy that image to a bare metal system. A detailed lab from Microsoft TechEd is available online. This article simply points out some of the more common gotchas you are likely to encounter during the process.