Windows 10 and Windows 11 ISO images created using Media Creation Tools, contain the OS installation image in the compresses install.esd file instead of the usual install.wim file. In this article we will look at how the ESD installation image format differs from WIM and how to convert an install.esd file to install.wim.
What are the ESD and WIM Image Formats?
ESD (Electronic Software Download) is a highly compressed Windows image distribution format. The ESD image files are currently used to deliver the Windows operating system instead of the classical WIM (Windows Imaging Format) image. When you install Windows, all files from the ESD image are extracted to the drive of your computer.
Due to the more efficient LZMS compression algorithm, the size of the install.esd file is up to 30% smaller than the install.wim file. Microsoft uses the install.esd format to distribute the latest Windows 10 and 11 builds. It helps users save network traffic and disk space when upgrading Windows builds or downloading installation images using Media Creation Tool.
The main disadvantage of the install.esd image format is that you can’t mount it to inject drivers, security updates or change some Windows deployment options. If you want to make changes to the Install.ESD file, you will need to convert it to the WIM format.
How to Extract Install.ESD from Windows ISO
First, extract install.esd from the Windows installation image. Open the File Explorer, right-click your Windows ISO image and select Mount.
A new virtual DVD drive will appear in File Explorer (in our case, it is assigned the drive letter E:). Navigate to the E:\Sources\ folder, find the install.esd file and copy it to your local drive to the C:\ESD folder.
Hint. You can view the contents of install.esd image using the archiver tools. For example, open the ESD file with 7zip archiver and you will be able to browse the image.
How to Convert ESD File to WIM on Windows
There are several basic tools, both built-in and third party, for converting of ESD files to the WIM image format.
- Native DISM command line tool (Deployment Image Servicing and Management);
- Export-WindowsImage PowerShell cmdlet;
- DISM++ graphical tool;
DISM Commands to Convert Install.ESD to Install.WIM
You can use the built-in DISM.exe command line tool to convert an ESD file to the WIM format. Open the command prompt as Administrator and go to the folder containing the ESD file:
The install.esd file can contain several editions of Windows. Each Windows edition in the image file has an assigned index number (1,2,3,4,…). List the available Windows editions in your install.esd image file using the DISM:
DISM /Get-WimInfo /WimFile:install.esd
In this case, the install.esd file contains seven different Windows 11editions, indexed from 1 to 7. In this example, we will extract the Windows 11 Pro edition with index 6.
Extract the Windows edition you need from the ESD and convert it to a WIM file:
dism /export-image /SourceImageFile:install.esd /SourceIndex:1 /DestinationImageFile:install.wim /Compress:max /CheckIntegrity
The following DISM options are used:
- /SourceImage:6 — source Windows image edition index in ESD file;
- /compress:max — compress the WIM image file using LZX compression;
- /CheckIntegrity — abort the conversion if the source ESD file is damaged or contains errors.
Image format conversion is a quite resource-intensive task. Depending on your computer hardware, it takes about 10-30 minutes to complete.
Wait until the message appears:
Exporting image. The operation completed successfully.
You can extract more than one edition of Windows from the ESD file. For example, to create a WIM image file with the Home (index:1) and Pro (index:6) Windows 11 edition:
dism /Export-Image /SourceImageFile:install.esd /SourceIndex:6 /DestinationImageFile:install.wim /DestinationName:"W11 PRO 22H2" /Compress:max /CheckIntegrity Dism /Export-Image /SourceImageFile:install.esd /SourceIndex:1 /DestinationImageFile:install.wim /DestinationName:"Win11 Home 22H2"
The resulting install.wim file can be mounted using the DISM tool. You can slipstream Windows security updates into a .wim file, inject drivers, change Windows features, and make some other changes to the image.
If the WIM file is larger than 4GB, you can’t write it to a FAT32 formatted USB flash drive to install Windows on a UEFI-based computer. The maximum file size on the FAT32 file system should not exceed 4Gb.
In this case you need to split the original WIM into several smaller SWM (split WIM) files. The following DISM command will split install.wim into several 3GB SWM files:
Dism /Split-Image /ImageFile:C:\esd\install.wim /SWMFile:C:\esd\install.swm /FileSize:3000
All you need to do now is to copy the SWM files into the Sources folder on your installation USB stick. The Windows Installer automatically collects the SMW files during the installation of the operating system.
Export-WindowsImage: Convert ESD to WIM with PowerShell
Also, you can use the PowerShell to convert your ESD file to the WIM image format.
Open the elevated PowerShell console and list Windows editions in the install.esd file:
Get-WindowsImage -ImagePath "f:\sources\install.esd"
Now you can use the Export-WindowsImage cmdlet to convert Install.ESD to Install.WIM:
Export-WindowsImage -SourceImagePath F:\sources\install.esd -SourceIndex 10 -DestinationImagePath C:\esd\install.wim –CheckIntegrity
If you have a large WIM file that you need to split into a number of smaller SWM files, run the command:
Split-WindowsImage -ImagePath F:\esd\install.wim -SplitImagePath "F:\ESD\Temp\install.swm" -FileSize 3800
DISM++ (GUI): Convert ESD to WIM or ISO
If you don’t like using command-line tools, you can use the third-party graphical tool Dism++ to convert your ESD file. This is a simple and free utility for convenient manage Windows image and WIM/ESD files. Download and run the Dism++ tool (www.chuyu.me/en/).
- Select File > WIM > ESD/SWM file;
- Select your source ESD file and target WIM image path;
- Press Finish and wait until the converting process ends.
Hint. With DISM ++ you can also convert an ESD or WIM file into a Windows ISO image that can be deployed to computers.
NTLite: How to Convert Install.esd to Install.wim
NTLite is a popular tool for serving Windows images. One of the NTLite options allows you to convert ESD files to WIM format.
NTLite is free for non-commercial use. You can download it here.
To convert the install.esd from the Windows image to the install.wim format, run NTLite, and follow these steps:
- Select Add > Image file (WIM, ESD, SWM) > select your install.esd file;
- Select the Windows edition in the ESD image that you want to export to a WIM;
- Select Export > WIM in the context menu. Or click on the heading Operating System and select Export all > WIM;
- Wait for NTLite to finish exporting the Windows image from the ESD file to the WIM format.
Then you can copy your WIM image file to your distribution media (USB flash, ISO image) or import it to MDT/WDS/SCCM. You can delete the original install.esd file in the Sources folder and use the install.wim file instead.