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Windows Imaging Format (WIF) is a file-based disk image format introduced by Microsoft to facilitate the deployment of Windows Vista and later versions of the Windows OS. These operating systems make use of WIF as part of the standard installation process. Similar to many other disk image formats, a WIF file includes a group of files and related file-system metadata. However, in contrast to sector-based formats like .CUE/.BIN and .ISO (used by DVD and CD images), WIM is file-based, meaning that the most basic unit of data is a file.
Windows Imaging Format may also go by the acronym WIM.
The WIF image format is hardware independent - a key advantage that allows it to work on 32-bit or 64-bit systems. WIF also supports disk image installation on any partition, regardless of size. In contrast, sector-based image formats may only be installed in partitions of equal size or less.
A WIF file is capable of storing multiple images referenced by the file's corresponding index or unique name. This capability is enhanced by Microsoft’s single-instance storage (SIS) technology, which is used to store one file copy after determining whether there are multiple file copies. SIS and WIF’s compression feature may be combined to reduce WIF file size.
In order to create, edit and set up Windows disk images in the Windows Imaging Format, a command-line tool called ImageX is used. Users can avail it as part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). Beginning from Windows Vista, Windows Setup makes use of the WAIK API to set up new and cloned Windows installations.