Network Tools for Building PC's

We are a small company that builds computers.  I would like to have a tool that would allow me to be able to "ghost" an imagine of windows from my network to a brand new computer.  Maybe from a boot disk of some sort??  It wouldn't really be a true "ghost" but more like a generic "starter" copy that when the user logs in the first time they would just have to put in their name and product key.  I know I have recieved PC's before where this is the only thing I had to do and was on my way.  Is this a do-able thing???
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Luc FrankenEMEA Server EngineerCommented:
Hi gustac,

List credits go to CrazyOne:

     Drive Imaging
Reviews By PC Magazine June 17, 2003
At some point, you may need to preserve your entire hard drive exactly as it is—byte for byte. Drive-imaging software does exactly that: It saves a snapshot of every bit of information on a drive or partition so you can restore the system to an identical state. But beware: The product you choose may not work well with your CD-RW drive. We ran into some compatibility problems during testing. Fortunately, each of the programs in this roundup has a money-back guarantee. So be sure to give the software a test run as soon as you buy it.

Drive Image
PowerQuest has clearly put a lot of effort into making Drive Image 2002 easy to use. When you launch the program, a straightforward wizard walks you through the process of either creating a backup of your hard drive or restoring it, detailing each step of the process.

Norton Ghost
The most impressive aspects of Norton Ghost 2003 are its advanced features and versatile functions in a business setting, where you might need to set up hundreds of systems using the same hard drive image.

*Acronis TrueImage
Acronis TrueImage 6.0 has an interface that makes it an ideal solution for users with basic drive-imaging needs and a desire for simplicity. The wizard for backing up a hard drive is extremely intuitive; it lets you back up partitions of a hard drive to another partition on the same drive or to optical media. Unlike Drive Image and Ghost, TrueImage does not require exclusive access to the file system to make a copy of all files. And whereas other programs require you to reboot into DOS mode to complete most operations, TrueImage needs to leave Windows only to restore a hard drive.

not reviewed by PC Magazine

Casper XP
is the next generation of Drive2Drive, designed exclusively for Windows XP and Windows 2000 systems.

Drive2Drive (Win 95, 98, ME)
makes upgrading to a new hard disk faster and easier than ever.


Luc FrankenEMEA Server EngineerCommented:
You also should take a look at the Sysprep utility
WHat you generally get from a microsoft OEM is an 'administrative install' of the operating system.
Microsoft supplies OEM's with an SDK for customizing the install with specific drivers, logos, etc.
(not difficult - see the installation point can be on "recovery" partition.)

You then have to image the drive (see above). When the machine is booted it starts the unattended installation pausing only for name, business, key, network info, etc.
In most cases this can be used on any hardware supports by XP.

You could use a drive image if you can maintain a copy for each hardware base

sysprep strips the device info from the image and redetects it on boot
SolarWinds® IP Control Bundle (IPCB)

Combines SolarWinds IP Address Manager and User Device Tracker to help detect IP conflicts, quickly identify affected systems, and help your team take near instantaneous action. Help improve visibility and enhance reliability with SolarWinds IP Control Bundle.

Novell ZENworks also has some great system imaging and deployment tools.
The Sysprep utility might be the option you want.  It throws out a "model" image with SAM and HAL already stripped, and lets the P&P and setup routine add the HAL and devices as part of the install.

It won't give you a "system recovery disk" type setup like Dell has, it's only for an initial setup of a blank machine.

Last I heard, Dell uses NetWare to store its setup images, and customizes them for you from there.
here check out sysprep like LucF said:
this program lets you "package" windows installations for new pc distribution. it's really cool, makes it easy to work with too.

what you should also do to make things go faster is make yourself an installation answer file for windows installs. this way all you need to do is use a floppy disk when installing from a cd-rom and watch it do the install for you.
here's some links on that:
you can even go as far as burning a custom windows cd with the answer file included on the cd and any drivers you might need for the pcs you are shipping. also you can install any 3rd party applications like winamp, msn messenger, norton anti-virus, etc. this is all done after windows is done installing and you login. so you'll have to include the administrator password in the answer file and autolog on once or more so that you can install applications. maybe even install service packs or patches if you need to. but i suggest you look at this tutorial also:
this helps you setup a Remote Installation Server. this way you won't need cds to burn for installing windows. instead, any network boot disk will work. and windows 2000 server can even help you make one too. just include the drivers for the network card on the floppy. this might be an overkill but, if you have alot of new pcs being shipped then what you can do is use a network server like this to install windows with, any 3rd party applications, and even security patches. although for security patches, i suggest that if you have the windows install files on the hard drive anyways, you simply slipstream up to date service packs and patches for windows. this way your clients can get the very latest up to date security patches by default.

well, the ris server like i said might be an over kill. but at least sysprep and unattended installs is something easier and less costly to work with.
so good luck :-)

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Yah, RIS is overkill for a small environment, but sysprep might work, depending on what gustac is looking for.  The only way to know is to try it...

gustac - do you know how to use Sysprep?
Sysprep might be more of an enterprise tool, I'm not sure how well it would handle licensing, and I've never seen it deployed as a consumer method. Generally you see a a local administrative installation point on a recovery partition or cd-or a disk image
That is true, as far as being an enterprise tool.

If gustac wants to produce generic PCs that allow customers to complete their OS install in the same way the big-name guys do, that's something else altogether.

I guess I misread that.  

gustac, if you are a Microsoft reseller, you should be able to get a deployment tool from Microsoft that will allow you to do what you're looking for, especially since Microsoft is discouraging the distribution of full install CD's and is pushing the concept of the box-specific image, supposedly in an effort to fight piracy.

You should contact your Microsoft rep, to get what you need.  They might even give it to you for free, because the resulting product that you sell will force the OS to go through their registration process..
gustacAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all your help guys, I think I'm gonna start out trying Chicagoan's administrative install as it seems like it would do what I would like and doesn't seem to extensive.  From there, who knows.  Any other ideas would be appreciated still, of course.  
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