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Windows Thread, Imaging lots of machines in Technical; Hi I wonder if I could get some feedback from members imaging XP machines. We have a load of laptops ...
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    Imaging lots of machines

    Hi I wonder if I could get some feedback from members imaging XP machines. We have a load of laptops that we install XP on, on a daily basis. A full installation including installing apps could take upto an hour per machine. I have looked around at different ways of getting XP onto a laptop including RIS, ghost, acronis, true image and others. What are peoples views on the quickest, most hassle free way of imaging their machines?

    Does anyone know of any good guides out there? For each laptop we use the serial on the sticker on the laptop. How can we incorporate that into the image for example if we have 20 laptops to install XP on and thus 20 different serials? And when would we run sysprep? Any comments would be welcome. Cheers.

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    Michael's Avatar
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    I can recommend Image for Windows which I use quite often. Normally the procedure I follow is by installing Windows slipstreamed with the latest service pack, plus any additional fixes and as many applications as possible. Once complete and tested, then I run Sysprep which includes an answer file for everything (apart from the serial, unless the site have a corporate license) and the computer name.

    By placing the Sysprep folder in the root of C:\ with an answer file, this information is deleted automatically once Mini Setup is completed which is useful!

    Although Sysprep allows you to specify a list of computer names to use, the problem with this method is that there's no way of specifying which machine has which name, so I specify names manually which then automatically joins the domain (if applicable).

    The whole point of running Sysprep before imaging, means that Windows automatically starts up its Mini Setup, and skips most prompts as these are dealt with the answer file, meaning I just specify the serial (if applicable) and the computer name and that's it, job done. The machine is then automatically added to the domain (if applicable).

    Image for Windows allows you to create/restore images burned on a bootable CD/DVD or an image stored on an external hard drive. You can also place images on network shares.

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    So if I have you right,

    You install XP on a machine, add all the apps and service packs you need.
    Then you run sysprep and enter details apart from serial and computer name
    What files are contained within the sysprep folder other than answer file?
    How do you initiate the imaging? Is it a bootable cd?
    With the method you talk about is it guaranteed that every machine you image will have a different sid?

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    Michael's Avatar
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    If you insert an XP CD-ROM and navigate to \Support\Tools, open and extract the Deploy.cab file to C:\Sysprep. Then you use the Setup Manager tool to create your answer file which you also save within C:\Sysprep

    Once you've ran Sysprep and shutdown the machine, it's now ready for imaging. You can image in several ways.
    Boot up using a Bart PE disc (which you can create with Image for Windows) which loads the basic functions of Windows into memory (RAM). You can then create an image to an external hard drive (for example).
    To restore an image, you would again boot off the Bart PE disc and restore the image file you created on the external hard drive. This works really well (and fast) especially over USB 2.0.

    Alternatively, extract the hard drive and place into another machine as a slave drive. Using Image for Windows, you can create an image of the whole drive onto multiple DVDs which are bootable. The images can also be compressed to save on the number of disks you need. If your images are huge, creating an image to an external hard drive or network share is recommended.

    Using either method (because you ran Sysprep first) will automatically start Windows Mini Setup when it first boots up and will use the answer file wherever it can. You then just specify the serial and computer name then that's it.

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    and is it possible to do this over the network? for example, create an image of a test machine, store on the server, then connect the target machine to the network, navigate to the image location and start imaging that way?

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    Michael's Avatar
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    Speaking of USB 2.0, months ago I re-imaged some old Toshiba laptops which only had USB 1.1 ports and restoring from a DVD was no quicker either.

    If you're in a similar position, the quickest method I found was to use an external hard drive enclosure for 2.5" notebook drives connected to a USB 2.0 port. Restoring images took about 12 minutes. I then install the hard drive back into the laptop, start it up and Mini Setup begins. Restoring on USB 1.1 or DVD (because the laptops were so slow) took about 1 hr 30 minutes, which is time I just didn't have.

    A lot of forward thinking can save you hours of work!

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    Michael's Avatar
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    and is it possible to do this over the network? for example, create an image of a test machine, store on the server, then connect the target machine to the network, navigate to the image location and start imaging that way?
    Yes you can create an image to a file, which can be used from an external hard drive or a network share. You will need to do this over Ethernet and not Wireless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ayaz View Post
    How do you initiate the imaging? Is it a bootable cd?
    With the method you talk about is it guaranteed that every machine you image will have a different sid?
    Can be bootable CD, can be PXE boot off network - you choose whichever works for you (if you have lots to do network booting and using a ghost multicast session is best - that way you get all of them done simultaneously in about the same time as it would take to do 1)

    Yes to the SID - part of mini-setup gives the machine a new SID

    You can also do things like partition the laptop hard disc and put the image on a second partition which is normally hidden. You could then boot off a CD (or network, USB stick etc), unhide partition 2, copy the image back to partition 1, rehide partition 2. Ghost includes a program called gdisk which takes a variety of paramters to allow you to hide/unhide partitions all in a batch file.

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    >different sid?

    Did not think that was a problem since NT4, I have never had to recreate the SID but I did join the domain after the restore. I use Acronis a lot these days,
    could do with a nice network solution though. Tend to take an external USB hard disk to the machine and restore (ok for single computer fixes).

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    I'd say go with Ghost solution suite. Just create your install, put the client on the machine and then create a new image create task from the console - you set up the sysprep details within that task and away you go.

    Then to reimage, you can either install the clients on all the machines you wish to install onto and then just run a restore task against them, or you can do it the old fashioned way, setting up either a boot disc or using PXE to boot the machines and then select the image from a ghostcast server session you have set up.

    Very quick and simple.

  12. Thanks to localzuk from:

    sidewinder (23rd May 2008)

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    >Just create your install, put the client on the machine

    Trouble is the you either got to purchase a ghost license for each box or uninstall it every time you do a machine. Unless you got a site lic. or something?

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    conehead's Avatar
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    I like Clonezilla, fast as anything.


    Clonezilla

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    blacksheep (23rd May 2008)

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    Its been a while since ive looks up a foss based solution, looks like this has all the good stuff combined. About time I setup NFS on my Linux box

    Will have a look..

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    wesleyw's Avatar
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    We use Ghost here but I would like to have Net-Runna better management of images and a heck of a lot quicker than ghost. Images are smaller because of the way it compares them to an existing default images and only saves the differences between them.

    Wes

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