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System Deployment Image

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Title: System Deployment Image  
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Subject: SDI, List of file formats, Windows Imaging Format
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System Deployment Image

A System Deployment Image (aka SDI) is a file format used primarily with Microsoft products to contain an arbitrary disk image, including boot sector information.


The SDI file format is often used to allow the use of a virtual disk via mounting Some versions of Microsoft Windows allow for "RAM booting", which is essentially the ability to load an SDI file into memory and then boot from it. The SDI file format also lends itself to network booting using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE). Another usage is hard disk imaging. The SDI file itself is partitioned into the following sections:

Boot BLOB 
This contains the actual boot program, STARTROM.COM. This is analogous to the boot sector of a hard disk.
Load BLOB 
This typically contains NTLDR and is launched by the boot BLOB.
Part BLOB 
This contains the actual boot runtime (i.e. the contents of the disk image including any OS files) and also includes the boot.ini (used by NTLDR) and files which should be located within the root directory of the runtime. The size of the runtime cannot exceed 500 Mb. In addition to this requirement the runtime must also be capable of dealing with the fact that it is booting from a ramdisk. This implies that the runtime must include the "Windows RAM Disk Driver" component (specified within the boot.ini).
Disk BLOB 
This is flat HDD image starting with a MBR. It is used for hard drive imaging instead of booting. Also only Disk BLOBs can be mounted with Microsoft's utilities.

SDI usually contains either Disk BLOB (HD cloning or temporary SDI) or three other of them (bootable SDI).

Windows Vista or Windows PE 2.0 boot sequence includes boot.sdi file, which contains Part BLOB for empty NTFS volume and Table-of-Contents slot for WIM image, which is stored actually not inside the SDI, but in separate on-disk file.

SDI features

SDI driver

SDI files can be mounted as virtual disk drives and assigned a drive letter if an SDI driver is available to allow this. A SDI driver is a type of storage driver and is commonly used with Windows XP Embedded.

SDI management

Microsoft provides a tool called the "SDI File Manager" (sdimgr.exe) which can be used for the purpose of manipulating SDI files. Some of the tasks which this tool facilitates are:

  • The creation of an SDI image file.
  • The creation of an SDI image file from an existing hard disk partition.
  • The verification of an existing SDI image.

SDI loader

The mechanism which allows for the creation, addition and removal of virtual disk drives. SDI Loader and Driver work with Disk BLOB.

See also


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