The joke that is the Windows Image File (WIM)

First, let me start with the obligatory, and oh-so-appropriate, ROTFLMAO!!! Oh, man, Microsoft has /really/ outdone themselves with this one. A few months ago I attended a Windows Vista training session where an overzealous trainer eagerly relayed the many benefits of using Windows Vista to a skeptical audience.

I felt bad for the guy. From what I could tell, the audience wasn’t buying it. His presentation started with a 30 minute long AERO sales pitch, as though that was the best reason to upgrade…transparent effects on windows. Geez.

It didn’t get much better when he tried to delete a file he accidently created while right-clicking on the desktop. He had to confirm the delete and /then/ provide his password. Wow.

But the icing on the cake that day was the introduction of the Windows Image File (WIM) format. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but let me just start by saying that WIM is a flaming pile of dog crap. I can’t believe that Microsoft is including this in Windows Vista. Contrary to its description, it is actually a glorified “tar” program.

Ok. So as many advanced computer users know, image files come in many different formats: ISO, DMG, IMG, BIN, etc. And when one of these image files is mounted by the operating system (OS), it becomes a virtual file system. As I understand it, once mounted, the OS treats it like any other file system. Depending on the permissions, you can read, write, etc, straight to the image file. Any changes you make are immediately reflected in the image file itself.

You get the idea. You mount an image file, make a change to its contents, then unmount it. Done.

Well, I should have known that something was very wrong with WIM when “mounting” it prompts the user for the directory where the user wants it “mounted.” This is so wrong on so many levels. I don’t know where to start. Yes, that’s right…Windows Vista doesn’t treat WIM files as virtual file systems.

What it does when you “mount” a WIM file is actually /extract/ the contents of the WIM into a directory of your specification. You aren’t mounting ANYTHING. For Microsoft to misuse terminology in this way seems irresponsible.

I bit my tongue when the trainer “mounted” a 2GB WIM. It took about 1-2 minutes to “mount” it, as it really just extracted the contents to a directory on the C: drive. He then made a change to some configuration file that was “in” the WIM. But I /lost it/ when he said “…and then with that change made you simply unmount the WIM….but we will skip that step because it would take about 30-40 minutes to do that with a 2GB WIM.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA ROTFLMFAO!!!!!!! HAHAHAHANO NO NO NO SERIOUSLY??? HA… heh. heh. For real, though. You’re not serious, right? Wrong. He was dead serious. Dear God.

Obviously, “unmounting” the WIM was simply repacking the contents (at a snails pace). I find it hard to believe that competent Windows admins will be fooled by this. From every interaction with these WIM files, it should be obvious that this feature is in no way, shape, or form an “image” tool. One could question why Microsoft is labeling it as a disk “image” technology at all. And why not just allow Vista to mount WIM files as virtual file systems? Surely their OS could do /that/. Couldn’t it? What a joke.

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