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Creating XP Disk Images w/ Company Applications? 95

-ryan asks: "After a decade as a software engineer, I decided to try my hand at being a System Administrator, to help a friends business. Unfortunately every single computer in this office is on different hardware (all custom built), all running different versions of Windows, and new employees come and go regularly. I'd like to create a single disk image with all of the company software pre-installed and configured to save time setting up new boxes and rebuilding old ones. Problem is, you can't just ghost Windows XP onto different hardware (I remember this working years back). Is there some way that I can (without purchasing hugely expensive 'client-management solutions) slipstream a bunch of company software into a Windows XP install disk?"
"I remember trying to set up a system image for XP a while ago, and some machines will boot the ghosted system image with errors about missing drivers (which is easy to fix) but some won't even boot without a BSOD.

If I can pull off a slipstream of my own custom XP install (with applications), I wouldn't mind having to install system specific drivers. The company leadership is very pro Linux and wants to move all of the desktops over, but this year it's not feasible to do such a migration. So until then.... any ideas?"
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Creating XP Disk Images w/ Company Applications?

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:23PM (#15167475)

    With your mix of hardware, slamming an image won't cut it for you. You'll have to created an unattended Windows install.

    Here's a pretty good guide [msfn.org] on the subject.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, 2006 @04:36PM (#15168158)
      No you don't. Copy the i386 folder onto the hdd, along with all of the various drivers. Modify the sysprep file in the \deploy folder to include an empty mass storage drivers section. Run sysprep with the bmsd switch and the pnp switch to force hardware detection on first boot. Ghost it. Voila.
  • Absolutely Possible (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bryan_Casto ( 68979 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:24PM (#15167481)
    Ghost can do this. What you want to do is create a "master" computer with all of your applications on it. Then, use SysPrep (Google is your friend) to create an abbreviated install. Once you've run SysPrep, boot into Ghost and make your image.
    • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:30PM (#15167534)

      Yes, but Sysprep depends on all the target computers having identical ACPI support, which I'm betting isn't the case in the submitter's hodgepodge environment.

      Using Sysprep on systems with disparate ACPIs yields a target system that BSODs, much like if you just tried to slam an image of the source to it. You need to reinstall Windows on the afflicted system, using the undocumented F5 option during setup to select the proper ACPI, to revive it, and then, you're stuck with having to reinstall all service packs and hotfixes. Not much of a solution.
      • Ghost works fine (Score:5, Informative)

        by Curien ( 267780 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @04:24PM (#15168034)
        I use a single image that operates on Dell GX110, 150, 260, 270, HP DC 7100c, HP xw8000, Compaq 1830 laptop, Dell C500, C510, C600, C610 and D610 laptops, Dell P650 and P670, and Dell Precision M70 laptop. I think that's it, but it's kinda hard to keep track of them all.

        The ACPI isn't the biggest problem. The main problem is, astoundingly, the IDE driver.

        Here's what you do.
        1. Install Windows on a system and then load all the drivers.
        2. Set it for Uniprocessor ACPI.
        3. Set the IDE driver to the generic driver.
        4. Move the drive image to another system (swap hard drives, clone the drive with Ghost, whatever).
        5. Boot up, install drivers for new system.
        6. Move image to previous system.
        7. Set for system-specific IDE driver.
        8. Repeat steps 3-7 for each type of system.
        9. Move image to last system and switch to system-specific IDE driver.
        10. Sysprep and save a Ghost image.

        Also, if you're using a lot of different types of systems with GhostCast Server, PXE booting is the only way to fly. Use pxelinux (part of syslinux) with the keeppxe option along with the 3COM universal NDIS driver, and you'll never have to worry about NIC-specific drivers with Ghost again (unless you have a system that can't boot PXE, like my Compaq 1830s -- they're a pain in the ass!) If you absolutely can't boot PXE, use Bart's tools (BFD and BCD) to make a bootable floppy or CD-ROM with all the drivers.
        • 3. Set the IDE driver to the generic driver.
          4. Move the drive image to another system (swap hard drives, clone the drive with Ghost, whatever).
          5. Boot up, install drivers for new system.
          6. Move image to previous system.
          7. Set for system-specific IDE driver.
          8. Repeat steps 3-7 for each type of system.


          My experience has always been that moving an image to a new motherboard without sysprepping often causes BSODs. I'm assuming step 3 is the trick. Can you elaborate on this? (Is it just "Update Driver" and then c
        • I am currently setting up something very similar to what you describe. In the past we used 2000 Server and Intels PXE software, but now I am trying to get the DHCP&PXE onto linux. I tried using making a floppy image with winimage(same floppy I used with the Windows box) but it didn't work. How did you make your floppy for the linux PXE server?
          • Well, I have a Windows server doing DHCP and TFTP, but it shouldn't really matter as far as the image is concerned.

            I also use WinImage to make the images because I generally need a 2.88MB floppy image. I have had several issues with WinImage being flaky -- sometimes, I'll start with an image that works fine and end up with one that doesn't. I hadn't thought of this before so I haven't tried it, but you might have more success with the image file mounted as a loop device on Linux.

            What I've ended up doing is
            • Haha. I've been working on it today and figured out how to get my old images working on linux AND how to edit them via mounting with a loop device. No need for winimage!!! Thanks alot for the help!! BTW. The problem I was having was with the images WinImage created. memdisk was saying it wasn't a bootable disk. But as stated above I don't need it( which is great because I am a big GNU supporter. )
      • It is possible to replace the Hal.dll with the correct one for your system, negating the need for multiple images. What I do is have one single image, without any drivers installed. The image is sysprep'd then ghosted. I use Windows PE to restore my ghost images, and change the hal.dll to the correct one for the machine. Then I install drivers (note, if you specify the search path in your sysprep.ini you can have the drivers install automatically.)

        It all works pretty well. You'll find you will likely o
    • The only thing is that if all the machines are on different hardware, he'll still have to install some drivers here and there. But probably not many. After you run a sysprep, use the mini-installation option, and Windows will go through its normal 'find-every-device-and-try-to-install-drivers' thing just like a normal install.
      • I would add to that to make a directory in your image that has all the possible drivers it might want. It sure beats trying to find the right disk.

        It's probably even possible to make windows look there upon re-discovery.
  • Unattended is good (Score:5, Informative)

    by deque_alpha ( 257777 ) <qhartman@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:26PM (#15167497) Journal
    I have used unattended with great success deploying several hundred XP installations. http://unattended.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]. It won't let you slipstream an install disc, but it will let you do complete, brainless unattended installs over network, hence the creative name. It has the added benefit of easy long-term maintenance and updates, which is a win over the install-disc or ghosting method.
    • I second Unattended. It takes some time to setup, but it's worth it.

      I also like your origional idea to include installers on the WinXP CD. We have a WinXP cd that installs antivirus and some other apps after windows installs. We also made a DVD that installs Office and a whole sweet of applications when it's done. Look at the documentation on the Unattended website to learn how to generate answer files for almost any installer shield. Repackaging is the devil.

      Otherwise, I've found that Norton Ghost and othe
    • by jmobley ( 463432 )
      Unattended is definitely the best system I've used so far.

      And actually, you can do that now with the service packs from Microsoft. At least that's what I'm doing with our windows 2000 and 2003 server installations. I have the service packs, as well as all post-SP patches and updates, integrated into the specific versions I386 folder. After that I just commented everything in the updates.bat file and all of my installs end up fully patched out of the box. Coupled with the Perl and VB scripts you can writ
      • The key feature for me with Unattended is the ability to integrate drivers into the I386 folder so they are available during install. This is what enables such a wide variety of chipsets to be supported from a single installation point.

        Then check out: http://driverpacks.net/Projects/DriverPacks/ [driverpacks.net] (if you are using winxp).

        It integrates (read the manual for howto) into a winxp cd install and a sysprep install. (needs DVD CD because all drivers together are more then one gigabytes).

        However using a network

    • Also, unattended can be burned on a DVD so you don't need a server to supply the data.

      (Quick breakdown how this whole unattended thinger works with the whole server backend)

      Firstly you setup unattended on a server that supports windows files haring (e.g. linux running samba)

      Following the manual you put your original files on it (2k or XP), then you configure the unattend.txt file which tells windows setup how to install the system (e.g. reg keys and the like). It then installs updates (via scripts you can t
  • If you pick up the most recent official microsoft acedemic press Windows XP administration textbook, it details how to take advantage of the automated install features.

    At least, the NT4 and win2k texts did. I haven't picked up anything newer.
  • For the machines that will boot off the same install but need different peripheral drivers I think you could still get a common image. Just make an image, install to new h/w, add necessary drivers, make a new image. Continue until you have an image covering a significant subset of the installed base.

    Don't forget to use ghostwalk to blow out the SID.
    • I agree!

      Also, in my experience, just changing the Hard Disk Controller to a 'Standard Hard Disk Controller' in Windows Device manager is enough to allow the computer to boot with different hardware.

      A good way to see if this is true is if you only receive the 'Inaccessible Hard Disk' BSOD then thats probably the only difference that's required to allow Windows to boot and so that Hardware can be redetected.

      You can also do a full hardware detect with SysPrep :o)

      Dug
  • by XCorvis ( 517027 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:29PM (#15167520)
    UIU [binaryresearch.net] was a pleasant suprise for us. We use it all the time and it actually works pretty well. The short version is that it rips out all your hardware information and uses sysprep and preinstalled drivers to automatically detect and install the new system's hardware on the next boot. So basically, you build one computer, run UIU, image it (with Ghost or something) and then dump it on to all the other computers, regardless of their hardware setup (well, not including SCSI or RAID). There usually isn't even any post-install configuration necessary.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I work in IT at a University with several thousand staff and faculty machines to support. We have been using the UIU for about a year now, and the time it has saved us literally makes some of us worry about keeping our jobs. On top of that, it has let us order all new PCs with XP home, since we have sold our souls to the devil and gotten a campus-wide deal from microsoft for upgrade licenses for windows. So, incoming machines are imaged to XP Pro, we save about $50 per PC, which more than covers the cost of
  • Did you try this (Score:4, Informative)

    by varmittang ( 849469 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:30PM (#15167527)
    http://blog.hishamrana.com/2006/02/22/how-to-image -windows-xp-with-ghost-and-sysprep/ [hishamrana.com] I'm not sure if you use these directions when making your disk image before. Plus, I think it takes some time to get it right.
  • You may want to take a look at nLite (http://www.nliteos.com./ [www.nliteos.com] It is essencially a graphical front-end to Unattended, and allows you to create a fully working installer image with imbedded applications in less than 5 minutes (after you figure your way around). Very useful tool.
  • don't have the link to any docs off the top of my head, but this is what we use at our office here, its what you describe except pulled down from a network server when needed via PXE LAN booting. works pretty good.
  • Just copy the i386 folder from the intall CD into the ghost image and then you can ghost the whole shebang without worry.

    When you fire up the restored Windows XP on a computer with different hardware then last used, it will go through its hardware detection and driver installation phase, just point it to the i386 folder you have included in the image, and all should work.

    In fact, I think if you specify somewhere in the registry before ghosting the installation, Windows XP will automatically search for the l
    • When you fire up the restored Windows XP on a computer with different hardware then last used, it will go through its hardware detection and driver installation phase, just point it to the i386 folder you have included in the image, and all should work.

      You had some misspellings in that last section. The correct spelling is "...quite likely BSOD, go into a reboot loop, or lock up instead of loading Windows, and you'll have to do a reinstall on top of the existing install once or twice and then reload all

  • by theCSapprentice ( 921974 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:35PM (#15167571)
    You can learn how to everything from here:
    http://www.msfn.org/board/ [msfn.org]

    Here:
    http://unattended.msfn.org/unattended.xp/view/web/ 1/ [msfn.org]

    And here:
    http://www.driverpacks.net/Projects/DriverPacks/ [driverpacks.net]

    Applications, Drivers, Updates - all slipstreamed.
  • Sorry to say, but unless your business apps are 100k you're going to run out of space on the disk.

    I recently did a slipstreamed XP disc w/ SP2 and all the critical updates already integrated, and I found myself having to remove the unessential stuff (demos, extras) from the CD image if I wanted to fit it onto one disc.
    • I recently did a slipstreamed XP disc w/ SP2 and all the critical updates already integrated, and I found myself having to remove the unessential stuff (demos, extras) from the CD image if I wanted to fit it onto one disc.

      They make these things now... Like CDs, but called "DVDs". They hold 7x as much, and virtually all new PCs come with one built in. ;-)

      Sorry. Yeah, where I work, we also have FAR too many PCs still in use from before the days of ubiquitous DVD drives. But my solution has tended towa
  • by engagebot ( 941678 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @03:39PM (#15167611)
    If you use the 'mini-setup' of Sysprep, the first time you boot the machine after that, it'll go through the regular deal of finding all your devices and installing them, so having different hardware may not be a huge problem.

    The problem is with Windows XP reg keys. If you build a ghost image using a 'corporate license' disc or whatever, then all of your machines will have to use that multi-license key. You may not care, but when you work for a state hospital (like me) they do. You won't be able to use the reg key on the case badge, cause its probably a key for an OEM install.

    The OEM windows keys on the case badges are sometimes vendor-specific. Meaning the key off a Dell's case won't work on a Gateway 'restore' disc, nor will it work on a store-bought copy of XP from the shelf. We have a contract with Dell, so its not a big deal for us, but it may/may not suck in your situation.
  • First of all, you need to build a standard base that contains the drivers for all of your known equipment variations such that all that equipment can be detected and installed on firt boot by plug and play. Basically your going to and of of these drivers to the known driver set that comes with XP. Microsoft has Qarticles/white papers on doing this.

    Next install all the apps.

    Next your going to need a utility from Microsoft called sys-prep. Once you have this standard image, you will use sysprep. This will
  • Big corporations usually standardize on hardware deployments. The bigger you are, the more you need to support only a few platforms versus many. The same principle can even help out smaller installations. I love white box, but if I have to support them, then I would begin to transition over to a HP/Dell/? platform with your favorite flavor of OS. Keep Ghost images of what you have currently; Ghost partitions are helpful for quickly getting a PC re-setup for a new user.
  • Well this is the one thing that XP can't do in my experince... but I have been where you are before.

    What I did was take an inventory find out how many of each model I had, then I found out which models would take the image I had (even if not compleatly) and cleaned those up to create a new image for that model. on system that where too diffrent I upgraded to XP (to maintain as many settings and apps as I could) and used that with some cleaning as a base for an image for those model.

    At first my boss wanted m
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 )
    How are you going to create a disk image that is applicable to very different systems? The point of a disk image is point, click, restore to the original state. It's... well... a little difficult to do that when the state that the image must restore to is different for each machine.

    You might want to try installing a really light-weight Linux distribution and running VMWare Player with a lot of hard drive space and memory for the Windows virtual machine. You could try something like Damn Small Linux or Gento
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If your hardware is that varied, just setup an image disk for each set of hardware. If any two are identical then just use the same image for both. Then just label each image disk with the computer number it is for. I know this has the hassle of several images, but then you have drivers and everything in one step on reinstall. Depends on how many computers you are talking about to determine if this is a feasible solution for you.

    Also I have never had the problem you describe with Ghosted copies of XP.
  • If you use IBM servers you get IBM director for free (you can also buy it, I dont know the price). This is a network management tool with a lot of surveilance and other nice features.
    For a few bucks (I got an offer for approx 100) you can get a remote deployment option for IBM Director that lets you install packages, images and whatnot.
    Unlike most other options IBM's RDM also supports linux installs.

    Of course for a quick fix http://unattended.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] is a very clean and appropriate solution.
  • Sysprep (Score:3, Informative)

    by willith ( 218835 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @04:01PM (#15167823) Homepage
    Use Microsoft's Sysprep [microsoft.com] tool to make your images hardware-agnostic. If you know all the disparate hardware in your environment, you can pre-cache the drivers on your image template computer, sysprep it, then shut it down and create your image with ghost/trueimage/altiris rdeploy/whatever you've got. You can then deploy the image to any computer.
  • The easiest way is by using Acronis True Image and Microsoft's Sys-Prep utility.

    A lot of people talk about Ghost and I used Ghost for years, but once you try Acronis True Image you will dump ghost and never look back!

    http://www.acronis.com/ [acronis.com]
    • Why? What makes TrueImage that much better than Ghost? I've been using Ghost for years, but it would be nice to hear how I could give a little less to Symantec's ample coffers.
    • I'll second the recommendation for Acronis! It's good.

      Back to the original question: if you don't want to use a hugely expensive client/server solution, use one which is cheaper! Go to www.enteo.com [enteo.com] and look up their operating system deployment (OSD) software. Better still - call them and ask them about what's in the next version; I don't know if any details are on their website, but I have it on very good authority that it's extremely good. Their software is generally licensed per client, so if your

  • by zenray ( 9262 )
    When we went to sysrep we first had to document which ACPI each system has and we found that there are only two different types, AACPI and ACPI, so we have two basic images. Another problem we had was the different drivers from our different Dell models. There is a way to 'stuff' all the different drivers into the images (after they are made) properly to be found when needed. The PXE boot will select the correct ACPI type image. The wole project was a big PITA, but after a lot of detail work it does work. S
  • sysprep (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    you can image windows xp to different hardware.

    google for sysprep, Oempnpdriverspath, updateHAL, and so forth.

    one you get that done, get some image cloning software. ghost is nice. but you can roll your own with stuff like driveimagexml, gparted, linux ntfstools (ntfsclone especially), g4u, g4l, udpcast, and many other tools.

    oh, and i make 9 dollars an hour working part time too. so if i can do it, you better believe you can do it.
  • by DA-MAN ( 17442 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @04:13PM (#15167929) Homepage
    The subject says it all. A big comprehensive site that explains how to do exactly what you wish.
  • I had the same problem, and found this software.

    Acronis Universal Restore [acronis.com].

    You install everything on one machine, and then prep [acronis.com] it for a transfer using MS Sysprep tools. Create a disk image with Acronis, and then, when the time comes to restore it to dissimilar hardware, the restoration program will allow you to replace drivers and even the HAL.

  • Just use the copying the i386 folder trick that someone mentioned above.

    Make sure the machine you do it on is the one with the smallest HD.

    dd an image of the entire drive to the external hard drive.

    dd it back on the next machine, then format the extra space as drive D or whatever.

    It's free.
    • dd is slow, since it copies even unused disk space. I have had good luck with Knoppix and ntfsclone over the network, using this method [alma.ch].

      However, all the machines were identical, so I didn't even use sysprep.

      And BTW, I even dropped the pipe through gzip which was suggested in the examples, since it didn't make things any faster. The Gigabit network helped, I guess. Maybe with 100Base-T, gzip is good.
  • You might want to give this document a look: http://center.wwrc.net/ImageCreation.doc. I just started making the images for my company, but my predecessor said this was invaluable. We're only using maybe 10 models of PC/laptop, 1 IBM, 1 Compaq, and the rest from Dell, and we've gotten one image to work for all of them.

    The two major issues seem to be drivers and ACPI. If you've got similiar enough hardware, shouldn't be a big deal for drivers. And for ACPI, they either all need to have it on or off in

  • Windows RIS (Score:4, Informative)

    by major.morgan ( 696734 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @04:32PM (#15168124) Homepage
    If you are running a Windows domain, you may want to look at RIS (Remote Installation Service). Workstations use PXE to boot over the network and a "image" is placed onto the box. The image is a not quite the same as Ghost in that an actual install (with hardware detection) is performed for each machine, applications are then dumped on top of this. Is quite portable across different machines, not to difficult to get running (no more boot floppys!) and is included with Windows Server.

    Good starting point: http://technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsServer/en/Lib rary/c62e5951-5eb9-42f1-95ae-490e5d7a55511033.mspx / [microsoft.com]
    • Re:Windows RIS (Score:4, Informative)

      by John the Kiwi ( 653757 ) <kiwi&johnthekiwi,com> on Thursday April 20, 2006 @06:14PM (#15168968) Homepage
      I haven't seen too many posts here talking about RIS but that's the only solution I have stuck with over the years and it has its merits and is still my preferred method.

      For me Ghosting is not a good solution because of all of the driver issues, the old SID problems from the NT4 days (fool me once...) and the amount of additional work required every time you want to update the image - service packs or applications for example. Also be aware that for Microsoft based products you will want volume licenses so you can reuse the same keys, this requires buying through a reseller and creating an account with Microsoft on the https://eopen.microsoft.com/ [microsoft.com] web site (I hate passport!).

      One solution I am fairly happy with is a bootable CD I created which will install Windows 2000, XP, 98, 2003 Server from an answer file. Obviously only one or two OSes per CD but I can install any of those by typing a name for the machine, pressing enter and waiting an hour for the OS to actually install. Unfortunately this requires a few non Microsoft tools, which is probably why the lack of documentation. I use a Windows 98 bootable disk image (proprietary), the DOS version of sed (to parse the computer name from my DOS script), AEFdisk (to script the formatting of the disk) and CD writing software capable of grabbing a floppy disk image.

      I still need to install drivers and software and configure the network. The cd has to have a hard coded key. But for PC repair it sure beats entering everything manually and pressing enter to bypass the installation screens.

      RIS is similar but made for companies with at least one Microsoft based server. You create your answer files and install the OS from a dedicated partition on your RIS server, this is a pain of a limitation if you don't plan well in advance before you install your server/s.

      There are several other limitations with RIS the show stopper has always been support of the PXE boot protocol, but nowadays most motherboards support PXE boot, you may have to enable it in the BIOS of your machines though. Many newer network chipsets are just not supported by Windows XP or 2003 server and RIS specific drivers can be difficult if not impossible to track down - the Marvel Yukon network drivers spring to mind.

      Microsoft provides a bootable floppy disk to boot off of that provides generic drivers for many older network cards, several of my customers mandate specific network cards for each of their workstations.

      To install a computer you press F12 for the PXE boot, provide the credentials of a user that has permission to install, breeze through a few configuration screens (depending on your RIS setup) and then the workstation is installed for you.

      In my opinion this is where the process of imaging finishes and the beginnings of workstation management begins. I say this despite the software not being installed because you should be installing and managing your software through Active Directory and the use of MSI files.

      Some applications come with MSI files for installation such as Microsoft Office and Norton AntiVirus. These applications can be managed by user or computer or groups thereof in Active Directory. This is far more flexible than imaging.

      Many applications can also be installed silently via script, this can be problematic if your users don't have local administrative access to their workstations but you can bypass this restriction.

      Microsoft has really done a piss poor job of creating automated installation tools for third party products for creating MSI files for use with Active Directory, all of these tools are expensive and don't have demo versions so I've never used one. All of the tools I have seen require that you install your workstation, start some monitoring program, install the software, reboot and then the monitoring program compares the machine before and after and creates an MSI file based on the differences. Microsoft should try employing some of those malware writers
  • You can make a bartpe dvd with all the drivers installed to work on most hardware.
    There is a DVD floating around on BT sites that have an updated winxp with all patches/drivers and some needed applications. But I recommend making one yourself for security reasons. (rootkit/etc)

    Driver packs [msfn.org] and Driverpacks.net [driverpacks.net]
    Ryan's windows xp updates [msfn.org]
    nlite [nliteos.com] to help modify a windows install.
    Bart PE [nu2.nu] - bootable dvd/cd for windows install.
  • My experience with disk imaging is that Acronis [acronis.com] is far better than Symantec Ghost, which is actually the old PowerQuest DeployCenter.

    Symantec did something that amazes me. Symantec bought PowerQuest. Symantec abandoned their own product, called Ghost, and substituted a product from another company. The substituted product, PowerQuest DeployCenter, now called "Ghost", had numerous completely different quirks and issues.

    The new "Ghost" box, which I just bought about month ago, includes the "new version
    • I'm an old Drive Image user from back at v3. Back before drive imaging caught on, the only players were Ghost and PQ Drive Image. Drive Image was smaller, DOS, and very scriptable; Ghost had the name recognition and wizards. I stuck with DI up to v2002. It had XP-NTFS support before Ghost did. It have no regrets. Symantec's buy out ruined the line, and they sucked up PQ's knowledge base never to let it see the light of day again. The next imaging suite I'll even try is Acronis. Ghost has grown too big, trie
      • "This thread is what I keep reading /. for. I really need to hit this thread with Acrobat for safe keeping so I can reference it later."

        Your insightful comment is the reason I read Slashdot. I had never heard of Unattended. I've only had time to read a little of the web site, but I agree with what I have read.
      • You probably know this:

        Use AutoHotkey [autohotkey.com] to make keyboard shortcuts to run programs and enter text.

        Use AutoIt to simulate keyboard entries and mouse clicks and when you need complicated decision-making. Download AutoIt with the SciTE auto-completion IDE [autoitscript.com]. The SciTE editor makes writing and testing AutoIt programs and compiling the finished results very easy.

        Both these programs are very sophisticated, the best available, and FREE. AutoHotKey comes with source code. Both are programmable.

        For example,
      • Is there any way I can get a copy of DeltaNow? The earliest version of DeployCenter I have is 5011b.

        Does Unattended allow automation of installation parameters like font choices in Open Office? I read some of the web site, and it looked like the answer was no.
  • One simple way to make one image work with differing computers is to restore a standard image and then re-install Windows over the restored image. During the re-install Windows XP re-enumerates the hardware.

    After that, as others have said, you MUST run Sysprep [microsoft.com] to change the SID. These are the commands:
    sysprep.exe -bmsd
    pause
    sysprep.exe -reseal -activated -mini -pnp
    Install Sysprep into a folder sysprep2 and copy to C:\Sysprep. Sysprep deletes its folder after it is finished.

    Sysprep -bmsd rebuilds sysprep.ini, which holds the information that Sysprep uses.

    Any tips about this experienced users have would be appreciated. Microsoft's documentation is VERY sloppy.
  • You might want to give Win PE (Microsoft Windows Preinstallation Environment) a try.

    http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/programs/sa/ben efits/winpe.mspx [microsoft.com]

    If that doesn't work for you, then by all means take a look at BartPE, as the person above recommended.

    http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/ [nu2.nu]

    Good luck!
  • Ok some tools I use to make my life easier (all free):

    • nlite (creates unattended installs, needs dotnet) slipstreams automatically service packs and hotfixes and allows other unattended options (more then MS tools). w2k and higher only. http://www.nliteos.com/ [nliteos.com]
    • autopatcher contains all the hotfixes, tweaks and third party extras like dotnet 1,2, flash, shockwave, java. http://www.autopatcher.com/ [autopatcher.com] **
    • driverpacks contains all the winxp drivers in existence (I think) http://driverpacks.net/Projects/DriverPac [driverpacks.net]
  • You want n+1 ways to peel an Orange... Ask Slashdot!

    Keep it up, Y-all!
  • > Problem is, you can't just ghost Windows XP onto different hardware

    In my view there is no way to effeciently manage Windows on widely varying hardware. The installation is the smallest problem, but then certain applications are incompatible with certain drivers etc.

    So you should just sell your existing hardware and replace it with a defined hardware platform. Both Intel and AMD have programs for exactly that. Intel calls it the "stable image program", and the goal is that you can buy the same hardware
  • Whatever solution you come up with, it is going to be pain in the neck and is only going to be the beginning of your problems. Once you get the OS running everywhere, you get the fun task of making sure all the apps perform adequately everywhere on your various hardware and OS configurations. Then you get to do it all over again when the OS has a patch or you need to tweek an application, which in my experience will be about once a day. The common solution to this is to throw all your computers away and
  • Go here and read up... you can make a totally slipstreamed/added installers with batch files http://unattended.msfn.org/unattended.xp/ [msfn.org]
  • If you use Dell computers, ask your Dell rep about the "Dell Ximage". It starts with you proving them a hard drive of a completely set up machine. Then they remove all of the drivers and put a custom front end on it. They give you a dvd that you can boot that ghosts the image to an HD. When it boots up, the Ximage loader determines what model Dell computer you have and installs all the correct drivers. The install stage takes about an hour. If it doesn't detect your model such as a non-dell computer it

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