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Looking for networkbased imaging system

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  • Management
  • Software
  • Business Computing
Last response: in Business Computing
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June 28, 2012 10:03:47 AM

Hi there

I work as an IT technician at a school where our students work very project based.

This means that about every half year during the holidays, I have to update windows and software packages on about 60 machines.
All the machines are locally at the school, and on a domain.

This year a lot of problems have been cropping up, so I´d like to reinstall windows and the software from the beginning.
But doing this on so many machines is very time consuming.

On top of that, we are expanding our school to incorporate almost 200 new student in a few years, witch will all have computers provided by us.

I have used some imaging software out here before (Zenn works) but our license ran out and I wasn't really pleased enough with it to keep it running.

The biggest hurdle is that a lot of the machines are different models.
Most of them are from Dell, but there are many different kinds, both dektops and laptops.
This means many different drivers for the different hardware configurations.

There is also a software issue.
Many big packages such as Adobe and Autodesk are on the machines, but only a select few per team. (Not enough licenses).
These take a long time to install, and running between computers to press install and finish is a lot of work.
I have made different images before with and without the software installed, but keeping them up to date with windows updates, antivirus software and such is a hassle.

I have heard some talk about ".MSI pushing" software, that might be very handy, especially with the software part.

Does anyone have any suggestions of imaging software or MSI pushers?
Or maybe some experience you would like to share?

Money is an object, since we are a public institution.
But if I can argue well enough for a purchase, a lot can be acquired.

Thanks for your time
Sincerely
Jon

More about : networkbased imaging system

June 28, 2012 11:27:06 AM

We use Symantec Ghost, it can be a pain to get working over a network but you can deploy images to multiple computers at a time.
June 28, 2012 12:09:44 PM

I work for an auto group, and have run into the same problems. the solution i also use is symantec ghost.

if you're still on xp you will have to prepare an image for each model > then ghost and redeploy this can be done over the network with a boot disc and a pc or server to hold the image. there are good direction and videos online for this solution. http://www.netbootdisk.com/

After some trial and error we have a good working solution for windows 7.

for windows 7 alot of nic drivers are not on the boot disc so we had to switch to the thumb drive version, and a portable hdd that holds the image. for oem installs of windows 7 like dell or lenovo(oem installs fail to boot after sysprep), you have to download a copy of windows 7 from technet and reinstall > then ghost with the "generalize" option which makes it hardware independant. which is great, you will have to update a few drivers depending on the chipset, but this avoids creating a different image for each model. Good luck hope this helps
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June 28, 2012 1:46:18 PM

There are several ways of accomplishing what you are looking to do. A lot of it comes down to cost, personal preferences, and your own specific needs and situations. It's hard to say particularly what you should do, but I will explain what we have used.

Currently in my office, we use Acronis TrueImage (we are also looking into Paragon DiskManager Pro) to make system images of computers onto a network share on a file server. This is very simple and easy because it doesn't require you to set up and configure any kind of server software, you just create a shared folder. In your case you would need to make system images of each base model of computer you are rolling out so that you have all of your necessary drivers and software packages already installed. I would also recommend you looking into SYSPREP if you have to image multiple computers in a single setting.

I have also previously used a version of Norton Ghost when I worked for the Unviersity of Kansas school of engineering. It worked pretty well, we could image about a dozen computers at a time and would take a few hours to complete. However, getting the server-side program set up was quite complex I have seen, and you have to make a boot disk with your specific NIC drivers for each system you have which can be time consuming and confusing to keep track of. In the end, I would recommend Acronis.

If you are doing Windows 7 and want something really cheap, you can just use the included Windows Backup and Restore utility to make a system image of your base computer and restore that image back on multiple computers. This isn't quite as flexible as Acronis, but it's pretty straightforward.
July 2, 2012 6:51:44 PM

The description you’ve given of your situation sounds ideal for the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT). One of the largest benefits of MDT is its ability to use file based imaging to alter the image after it has been captured. For example, MDT can be used to create a base image with basic customizations and minimal installed software, and then can be configured with the applications and drivers for various configurations. You could then deploy one set of applications to one department or group with several different makes or models of computers before deploying to a second department or group with a different set of applications on even more different makes and models of computer. Best of all, it’s free! Although you will need a system running Windows Server with Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to make use of PXE booting, otherwise, you can deploy over the network, but will need an optical disk or USB stick from which to boot.

There is a huge amount of guidance available to walk you through the process of creating your image, configuring a deployment for a complex environment with varied hardware configuration and sets of applications, and much more on the Deploy Page of the Springboard Site on TechNet. You may also want to read through Tulloch’s article from the TechNet Magazine which reviews the idea of having a single image for an entire organization, using MDT and other Microsoft deployment technologies to supply the customizations for each system during the deployment process. There is also a Step by Step Guide for Automated Installation to Upgrade to Windows 7 which really walks through the whole process of setting up MDT very similarly to how it would be set up in your environment.
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