Network Cloning software that works for 85 PC's?

I'm not sure if this is the correct area to post so move the topic as needed.

Ok, here is the situation.

I work in the tech department for the College of Education at a well known University. I've been instructed by my boss to find a way to do multiple Hard Drive cloning over a network in order to setup our computer labs. We have right about 85 PC's or so that would need to be cloned.

I've looked at Symantec Ghost Solution but I'm not sure if I need everything it offers and at $40 a license things can get fairly expensive. I'm not really looking at "managing" the PC's after the clone I just need to be able to do the clone and leave them alone. That make sense? If not, I can try to clarify a but more.

Is there any freeware that can do this? And keep in mind that, although I work in the tech department, I'm still somewhat fresh to networking so simplicity would greatly be appreciated.

Some other things to consider:

These PC's will have Windows XP. Windows Vista would be nice, but XP is a must. The current solution we have right now is doing an actual Mirror Image/Clone with the EchoPlus cloner we bought (for $1,000 -.-). The problem with that is cloning each PC takes about 2 hours and there's 85 of them... not counting the time it takes to remove the HDD's from the system.

It would also be great if the software was able to store multiple images on the server. This way I can setup a specific image for each type of PC. The computer lab PC's are all the same model so 1 image will suffice. But I also work on several different office PC's in my day-to-day work where I generally have to do a full re installation of windows (about 5 hours of work). I would love to be able to store an image for each type. Like:

image for a Dell GX270
image for Dell 8400
image for Dell Latitude laptops
image for Sony Vaio

And then be able to access each image when needed to do a clone.

So, in short:

Priority 1: Clone multiple PC's together over the network from a single image
Priority 2: Clone different PC's from different images over the network (does not need to be at the same time).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

8 answers Last reply
More about network cloning software works
  1. Look at Acronis Snap Deploy. I would use Acronis over anything Symantec(I have tried Ghost and it was junk).
  2. If you are looking for true freeware, you should give partimage (part of the systemrescuecd) and clonezilla a look.

    I have had a bit of experience with partimage, not much with clonezilla but they both work pretty similarly.

    They are both free, based off linux and they both support PXE booting in order to image hard drives across a network. For partimage, you can also set up autorun scripts in so that each specific model can pick up the correct image from the server.

    However, partimage can be pretty difficult to use. You'll have to make sure that it's compatible with your network card before you can use it to distribute images across a network, but if you're mostly using generic Dell desktops, you should be fine. All the documentation for partimage is here:
  3. This might be assuming much but I'd like to believe that a University would at least have computers that have PXE support. If thats true, then its just a simple matter of using RIS which is included as part of Windows Server 2003 (which I'm sure a University has access to - once again. I might be assuming too much).

    Remote Installation Service is a neat little feature that Microsoft created to solve both of your problems with relative ease.

    Just the Tech Net article for RIS, explains what it is, how to use it and all those nice little things.
  4. I just downloaded and used Acronis to clone my new hard drive, went super smooth, copied multiple partitions with one click. It's free for 15 days.
  5. Thanks for the advice guys.

    A couple of questions:

    Is RIS available on the Standard Version of Windows Server 2003? Any user guides out there?

    Are there any user guides for Partimage and Clonezilla as well? I'm a very fresh Linux user so I have not the slightest clue on making a script or how I could use either program. I think I'm going to download the Linux version which includes both tools and snoop around for some hands on but are there any quick steps I should note to help guide my way? Do I just store the image on a shared drive and task to it somehow?

    HundredIslandsBoy: How did you clone your Hard Drive? Can you verify how long it took to do it?

    I'm specifically interested in knowing how many steps it would take to use these tools. Like, will I be needing 85 Linux CD's to boot to in order to do the image? etc.

    Thanks again guys
  6. The easiest and quickest way would be Acronis Snap Deploy. You might even be able to download it and try it for free. Its only $25 and it will be easier than the free versions. $25 isn't much of an expense if it saves you time.
  7. specialk90 said:
    The easiest and quickest way would be Acronis Snap Deploy. You might even be able to download it and try it for free. Its only $25 and it will be easier than the free versions. $25 isn't much of an expense if it saves you time.

    Is it $25 total?

    Or will I have to buy a site license and pay $25 for each image I need, etc.

    I suppose if you don't know I can scower the website.

    Anyone else have any suggestions? I would really like to be familiar with the system before I offer it to my boss.

  8. The best hard drive cloning software via Network I'v ever used is PC Network Clone. They supports unlimited clients, you can deploy as many as you wish.
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