Windows Imaging Format
||This article may contain original research. (October 2012)|
|Type of format||Disk image|
The Windows Imaging Format (WIM) is a file-based disk image format. It was developed by Microsoft to help deploy Windows Vista and subsequent versions of Windows operating system family, as well as Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs.
Like other disk image formats, a WIM file contains a set of files and associated filesystem metadata. However, unlike sector-based formats (such as ISO or VHD), WIM is file-based, which means that the smallest unit of information is a file. The primary advantages of being file-based is hardware independence and single-instance storage of a file referenced multiple times in the filesystem tree.
Since the files are stored inside a single WIM file, the overhead of opening and closing many individual files is reduced. The cost of reading or writing many thousands of individual files on the local disk is negated by hardware and software-based disk caching as well as sequential reading and writing of the data.
WIM files can contain multiple disk images, which are referenced either by their numerical index or by their unique name. Due to the use of single-instance storage, the more each successive disk image has in common with previous images added to the WIM file, the less new data will be added. A WIM can also be split (spanned) into multiple parts, which have the .swm extension.
ImageX is the command-line tool used to create, edit and deploy Windows disk images in the Windows Imaging Format. It is distributed as part of the free Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). Starting with Windows Vista, Windows Setup uses the WAIK API to install Windows.
The first developed prototype of ImageX was build 6.0.4007.0 (main.030212-2037). It allowed Microsoft OEM partners to experiment with the imaging technology and was developed in parallel with Longhorn alpha prototypes. It was first introduced in Milestone 4 into the Longhorn project, and used in later builds of Longhorn. Build 6.0.5384.4 added significant advantages over previous versions, like read-only and read/write folder mounting capabilities, splitting to multiple image files (SWM), a WIM filter driver and the latest LZX compression algorithms. It has been used since pre-RC (release candidates) of Windows Vista.
As of Windows 8, ImageX is replaced by DISM.
Deployment Image Service and Management Tool (DISM) is used to retrieve or modify information within an image.
Example of usage:
- Mounting an image
dism /mount-image /imagefile:c:\win7\sources\boot.wim /index:1 /mountdir:c:\temp2
- Querying installed device drivers in an offline image
dism /image:c:\temp2 /get-drivers
- Adding a device driver to an offline image
dism /image:c:\temp2 /add-driver /driver:C:\dell\drivers\r191214\nvdm.inf
- Unmounting an image
dism /unmount-wim /mountdir:c:\temp2 /commit dism /unmount-wim /mountdir:c:\temp2 /discard
Image customization 
With the help of ImageX (in Windows Vista and later) or DISM (in Windows 8 and later), a WIM image can be mounted as a new volume with a drive letter associated, so that its contents can be read or modified.
A set of public APIs for manipulating WIMs allows developers to write their own tools for WIM. A number of third party applications[which?] have therefore included the capability to read or write WIM files.
WIM images can be made bootable. Windows Setup DVD in Windows Vista and later use such WIM files. In this case, BOOT.WIM contains a bootable version of Windows PE from which the installation is performed. Other setup files are held in the INSTALL.WIM.
See also 
- "Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) Technical Reference". Microsoft. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 6 Oct 2012.
- "What Is Deployment Image Servicing and Management?". Microsoft TechNet. Microsoft. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 14 Dec 2012.
- Windows Imaging Format Whitepaper that describes the internal file structure of WIM files
- ImageX and WIM Image Format at Microsoft TechNet