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Computer Lab & registry

Posted on 1997-02-26
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My name is Kevin Adams.   I am a networking Tech at Humber College in Toronto Canada.

I'm having a problem with regards to Windows '95's registry.

I'm being challenged with provideing a consistant environment in our WIN95 networked computer labs, and would like some assistance.

Background:

     I've had a lot of success with using the program RDIST4PC in our DOS/WIN 3.1 labs.   We use it to store an image of the local hard drive for our workstations on our novell 3.12 file servers.   Each time a computer is rebooted, with a boot prom from the network, the local hard
drive is compared to the image, and corrections are made so that each lab computer is identical and presents the students with exactly the same environment.
 
I'm now trying to do the same thing with Windows 95.  I've worked through all the hurdles of starting win95 from a boot
image...  worked through getting RDIST to work, and preserve long name space.

My problem is this:

Every time the local hard drive is refreshed with RDIST, a new copy of the registry is brought down to the local drive, and somehow these machines can tell one machine from the other even though all 30 machines are the same hardware...   When win95 starts, it tells me it's found new hardware..  Since the registry is being refreshed by the image it can
never get updated.

I tried excluding the registry from the RDIST configuration, allowing the registry alone to be unmaintained by RDIST on the local hard drives...

Problem with this is that as students work, and change things in Win95, changes to the registry occur, and I loose my consistant environment...  Not only that, as I add new software to the lab, changes get made to the registry...  If I can't maintain the registry from a master image, I'm
back to installing the software 30 times...

I wondered if I could disable hardware detection at startup.. this would solve all my problems frankly, as the hardware really is all configured the same...  a registry FAQ I've read says no.

I made an initial attempt at including the hardware information about multiple computers in a single registry, and had some limited success..  I got 5 machines up and working on the same registry files, then the wheels fell off my wagon...  went back to one of the first machines I'd
worked with, and win95 wanted to recognise new hardware again....   Are there possibilities here if this is done right??

My goal here is to provide a consistant desktop for every student, each time the computer is restarted, while allowing me to maintain an image of the setup, so that I can make changes to one computer, then update my image...and change the configuration of the entire lab.  I could get into
policies and tighten up the students access to the OS, but heck, its an educational environment..  I want them to be able to learn... :-)

Can anyone offer any assistance?

Kevin Adams

Humber College Networking Services                      
adams@hcol.humberc.on.ca
675-6622 ext 4618 - - Room N224


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jerryd earned 200 total points
ID: 1744365
Kevin,
Having just developed (with a lot of help) deployment of over 2,000 systems, I can understand your perdicament.  Here's a few tips:
1. The hardware must be IDENTICAL to prevent Win95 from rescaning and restarting. And I mean EXACTLY - BIOS, IRQ's, NIC Revs, etc.  Your only way to make it easier is to take a "load" and get it perfect on one machine, then create the "image" for that machine.  Then, load that image on machine #2, and let Win95 do its thing. Then replace the original image with the image of machine #2, and so on.  At least when you bring the final image is done, you'll have "load" of Win95 that has everything it needs.
2. MS's LFNBACK utility is garbage. There's a utility called DOSLFNBK that does the job much better - and doesn't require disabling long file name support before running it.
3. Do NOT load the systems under Win95!  Boot from a DOS floppy, reformat the hard drive (I don't like using quick format, but a full format on a 1Gig drive can take almost an hour!) and load the complete image of the system.  We're using ARJ from a Netware server - you should be able to load all 30 machines in 1 to 1.5 hours.  You may even find that this eliminates the problem addressed in item 1.
Remember, the image is the trick - get it perfect, and you'll save yourself DAYS of work down the line!
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