In today’s integrated world, there are a lot of people living abroad who use two or more languages. Using myself as an example, I come from a bilingual Finland (Finnish and Swedish), from a bilingual family, met my German ex-wife (fourth one, already happily divorced!) when working in Italy, and now live in my adopted home country Germany.
I am not alone. Quite a number of users will occasionally need Windows in different languages. To have a multilingual install media which allows user to select in which language to install Windows is for us multilingual users quite practical.
In Windows deployment, a reference machine is a computer or virtual machine used to customize and capture installation image, which will then be deployed to target machines. I always use a Hyper-V virtual machine as a reference machine. Thus, these instructions are based on using a Hyper-V VM as your reference machine, because the simple method to create a multilingual Windows image does not allow generalizing that image. Generalizing with Sysprep would remove all hardware devices and drivers from the image, but as adding language packs makes that fail, I have to accept the fact that some Hyper-V drivers must be included in a multilingual image.
However, of all virtualization platforms, Hyper-V adds the least amount of drivers to a custom image. In addition, those drivers will be ignored when using the image to deploy Windows to another machines, Windows 10 is surprisingly good at adapting to new hardware. Personally, I have never had any issues using this method.
Install language packs
To start with, install Windows 10 normally on the reference machine. In my case, I created a Generation 1 (BIOS / MBR) VM in Hyper-V. When Windows Setup restarts to OOBE and shows the region selection screen, press SHIFT + F10 to open Command Prompt. Type the following command and press Enter to open Windows Settings:
Install all additional language packs you will need for your install media. In my case, the base image being UK English, I added Finnish (Suomi), Swedish (Svenska) and German (Deutsch) language packs:
Close the Settings app, type the following in Command Prompt to start Sysprep:
Usually when preparing a custom image, I would now select the Generalize option to remove all reference machine hardware drivers. However, as I explained earlier, it will not work now because of the app provisioning caused by installing language packs. If Generalize is selected, Sysprep fails:
To be sure everything works properly, select OOBE as the Cleanup action, and Shutdown as the Shutdown option. Do NOT select Generalize:
Capture Windows install image
When Sysprep has done its magic and shut down the reference machine, boot it from the Windows 10 install media (not from the hard disk / VHD!). When you get to the region selection screen, press SHIFT + F10 to open Command Prompt:
I will capture the image on a shared network drive Backup on my Hyper-V host, saving it in folder Images. To be able to do that, I must first initialize Windows PE networking with the following command (#1 in next screenshot):
Next, I will tell Windows to use the network share Backup on computer AGM-W10PRO03 as drive W: (#2):
net use W: \\AGM-W10PRO03\Backup
Drive letters are not the normal default ones when booted to WinPE, so I run DISKPART (#3), and check drive letters with LIST VOL command (#4). I note that my Windows partition, the one I want to capture, is at the moment drive D: (#5). I enter DISKPART command EXIT to quit DISKPART, and capture Windows image from drive D: to file install.wim in W:\Images (#6) folder, actually a shared network folder on my host, with following command:
dism /capture-image /imagefile:W:\Images\install.wim /capturedir:D:\ /name:"Win10" /description:"Win10 Pro Multilingual" /compress:maximum /checkintegrity /verify
Imagefile path is where the captured image will be saved (blue highlight in above command sample). Capturedir identifies which drive to capture, in my case now the D: drive. Both Name and Description must exist, but they can be whatever you’d like.
That’s it. You will now have a multilingual Windows image in a WIM file. Just replace the original install.wim file in Sources folder on your USB install media with this custom one, and you can install Windows 10 in any of your added languages:
The language selection is shown before OOBE starts. Windows 10 will be installed in your selected language.
By the way, Microsoft, although in Finnish and Swedish we write languages with lower case first letter when in middle of sentence, in lists and when first word in a sentence, we use upper case. Small but annoying detail that you use lower case in this screen…
That’s it! You have now a multilingual Windows 10 install media.
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.