It’s never been easier to install pre-release versions of Windows and Windows Server, then with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Downloadable ISO files were abundant and could be used for virtual machines on all major virtualization platforms, ISO files could be burned with a built-in tool in the previous version of Windows (Windows 7) and the same ISO files could be transformed into bootable USB media through both an automatic tool and a manual process.
However, these installation media also present a challenge. When a suitable marker pen wasn’t available, a non-suitable marker pen was used to write the contents on the disc or USB install media was not or improperly marked, you can lose track of your installation media pretty fast.
This blogpost shows you how to find the product, architecture, language and build of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 installation media.
Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012
To detect whether the installation media is Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012, you can use (one of) the following tricks:
If \sources\background_cli.bmp exists, it’s installation media to install Windows 8. If \sources\background_svr.bmp exists, it’s installation media to install Windows Server 2012 or one of it’s Windows Server "8" pre-release versions.
If the \sources\adprep folder is missing, it’s Windows 8.
Alternatively, in the [BuildInfo] and [sku] sections of \sources\product.ini you can see the edition(s) of Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 available through the installation media.
On the Release to Manufacturers (RTM) and later installation media, product.ini may not be available.
Windows installation media can be 32bit (x86) and 64bit (x86-64 or x64 for short).
The file \sources\idwbinfo.txt contains the architecture of the installation media in the [BUILDINFO] section, following BuildArch=. If it reads BuildArch=amd64, it’s 64bit installation media. If it reads BuildArchx86, it’s 32bit installation media.
Alternatively, to determine the architecture of the installation media check autorun.inf in the root of the installation media. If, on the first line, it reads [AutoRun.Amd64] it’s 64bit installation media. If the first line reads [Autorun] and consists of only three lines, it’s the 32bit version of Windows 8.
There is no 32bit version of Windows Server 2012.
To determine the language(s) of the installation media, check \sources\lang.ini, as this file contains a list of the available languages for the User Interface (UI). A fallback language is also specified.
The file \sources\idwbinfo.txt contains the name of the build branch the installation media belongs to in the [BUILDINFO] section, following BuildBranch=.
The BuildBranch value designates the development branch the installation media belongs to. Build Branches span multiple build numbers, so the BuildBranch value does not specify the version very specifically.
Alternatively, to determine the exact pre-release build of the installation media, locate setup.exe in the root of the installation media or \sources\setup.exe. Right-click it, then on the Details tab check either File version of Product version.
With the table listed in the blogpost titled Determining your Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 version, you can now find the major pre-release version of your installation media.
It’s fairly easy to determine the Windows version on a disc or on USB installation media, when you know where to look for clues.
Determining your Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 version
Expiration dates on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 Pre-release versions
Creating your own Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 USB install device