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So, I’ve grown to really like Microsoft’s WIM format.  It’s a compression format designed specifically for NTFS.

Inside a WIM File

Inside a WIM File

Aside from storing all the file data, it also keeps the file metadata and ACLs.  This means it stores reparse points and alternate data streams.  WIM has very good compression and it stores each file only once, to save space on duplicate files and hard links (which appear in Windows images quite a bit.)

In short, you can back up your entire operating system to a WIM file and it stays intact.  It’s great for backups.  And it’s great for deploying images.

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