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Sysprep and Symantec Ghost

Posted on 2004-09-17
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In the past several years I have used ghost extensively on our network. I have a variety of PC's with different hardware specs. Some are Gateway, some Compaq etc.

I have never used Sysprep in tandem with my ghosting procedure and have come out largely unhurt so far. I.E. I've never had a situation occur where the culprit was an image that worked great on some PC's and not others because of a failure to utilize sysprep. Can anyone relate how I may be getting so lucky or is sysprep overrated.
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Question by:Brian_Blair
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by:Maliy
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Brian sysprep or sysprep like tool is a must when you plan to use the same image on different machines.  Before i tell you why, i just want to tell you that you can use a ghost tool called ghostwalker to get the same thing accomplished.  Windows NT/2k/xp have something that is called a SID number it is a unique computer identification number basically.  If you don't use the tool such as sysprep to reset that SID number on your image, you are running into a risk of your computers conflicting on a network.  Using sysprep will not effect on how your computers perform pysically the image is still the same.  Sysprep influence on how your computer performs on a network with the computer that has the same image.  Read up here http://www.sysinternals.com/ntw2k/source/newsid.shtml
http://service1.symantec.com/SUPPORT/ghost.nsf/docid/1999050308324125?Open&src=&docid=1999070716282425&nsf=ghost.nsf&view=docid&dtype=&prod=&ver=&osv=&osv_lvl=
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by:frieked
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IMHO you've gotten lucky.  Sysprep is important for all the reasons listed by Maliy and more.  Also, unless you are using a volume license you are supposed to run sysprep so you can enter a new product key and properly license the new machine.

In my experiences I've had mixed luck taking a ghost image from one machine and trying it on totally different hardware.  I've found that the older the OS you're ghosting, the better your chances of it working.  99% of the time win98 images will work on different hardware... win2k and xp I've found work much less often when changing the hardware.
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dis1931 earned 150 total points
ID: 12089069
Either or....I don't like Sysprep personally....but I understand the merits of it.  Even sysprep if you read about it is not meant for different hardware.  Possibly a different drive, NIC, video card but not things like motherboards, processors, etc...this would be too drastic a change as per Microsoft.  However sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  I would say if you have had no problems good, don't worry about SysPrep, there will not be conflicts on the network.  I've done this to hundreds of PCs at numerous sites and have never had problems.  Though SysPrep is a good tool if you configure and set it up correctly especially being able to include drivers for many models....However, with XP/2000 picking up a good portion of drivers automatically especially for common products....it's not such a concern.

Dis
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by:hehewithbrackets
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dis1931, that is not true.  One of Sysprep's most valuable attributes is the ability to allow you to use the same image with different hardware configurations.

Brian Blair, if you have not been using Ghostwalker, NEWSID, Sysprep or some other tool to create unique SID's on your images, and have not had any problems, then you have probably been lucky.  Whenever you deploy multiple machines with identical SID's on your network, you are running the risk of strange problems happening.

With the latest version of Sysprep, it is possible to create a single image to deploy to all models of desktops and laptops as long as they are ACPI-compliant.  If they are not ACPI compliant, you would need to create a 2nd image for those systems.  Note that this doesn't work right out of the box.  It took me a lot of trial and error before being able to consolidate about 20 different images into a single working image.  

If properly configured using Sysprep, you can use the same image for different motherboards, single or dual processor systems, Compaq's or Dells, desktops or laptops, etc. all with a single image.

Some older Microsoft documentation state that 'master and target computers must have identical HALs, Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) support, and mass storage controller devices'.  Since Sysprep 1.1, you no longer have to have identical mass storage controllers.  In regards to identical HALs, the 20+ computer models I worked with all used the same default HAL that comes with Windows.
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by:dis1931
ID: 12089560
hehewithbrackets,

Yes, I agree MS has allowed for more scenarios where it is possible to use SysPrep but as you said yourself it "doesn't work right out of the box".  SysPrep can be quite functional and useful with lots of copnfiguration and trying to figure out numerous hardware problems depending on the variety of hardware you have and then as new inventory comes in, hoping that it will work on those as well.  You will have to add drivers and play with sysprep config files here are a few issues with processors...I'm sure you could find many of these in relation to other hardware or deployment scenarios...

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;272378
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/Windows/XP/all/reskit/en-us/Default.asp?url=/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/reskit/en-us/prbc_cai_ussz.asp

ACPI is a problem on certain PCs.  Normally using a P4 image on a P3 will not work.  You may find images will blue screen on boot up.  SysPrep started out as being a tool for deployment on very similar hardware...but people have tried to make it into a utility to deploy to all PCs.  MS has added numerous features to allow this kind of tinkering.  

The bottom line is I feel it is not worth the time.  You can configure many of these things in Windows prior to ghosting to prevent problems.  You can do things such as uninstalling the processor from device manager to prevent incompatibility issues with images meant for a certain processor.  You can also change under device manager, then under computer and change the hal/acpi processor settings.  This is simple enough to do and can usually solve problems with imaging on other hardware or devices that are non-ACPI etc...Also depending on the issue I have found numerous workarounds for numerous types of hardware simply by using Windows...and have not found the need to toy with SysPrep...many people think it is convenient cause it prompts to change name, scans for hardware/plugandplay, and can be used to add to domain.....I created a script to add to domain and change the name that runs on bootup of the image...and Windows already scans for new hardware on bootup..so why use SysPrep...I don't know...to each his own...

I guess there is nothing really wrong with it, I just feel it is not worth the time, effort, and I have not needed to do anything on an image that I could do in SysPrep that I couldn't configure onto the image myself...

Sorry for my previous blanket statement...I may have been a bit to general...but no one can disagree that SysPrep needs work to run correctly on multiple hardware configurations  and in reality is was not initially meant to be used to transfer images to radically different PCs though MS has made effort to accomodate those admins that have been wanting to use SysPrep for such purposes and has added enough feature and options to make anything possible under the right configurations...

Dis
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by:dis1931
ID: 12089586
Here is a quote from an article on symantec website:  Article is last updated in April 2004

http://service1.symantec.com/SUPPORT/ghost.nsf/docid/1999070716282425?Open&src=&docid=2000033111503625&nsf=ghost.nsf&view=docid&dtype=&prod=&ver=&osv=&osv_lvl=

Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) differences
Windows NT/2000 use a HAL to communicate with the drivers for various hardware devices on the computer. This saves the operating system from needing to "know" about differences between different models of the same type of hardware device.

Because different computer vendors can write their own HALs (to take advantage of specific hardware features or to install Windows to their computers), an image of a computer that uses a particular Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) HAL may not function on a computer that has different hardware.

To prevent such problems, ensure that you clone Windows NT/2000 computers that have a specific OEM HAL only to computers that the HAL was intended for. Check with your OEM vendor for information.
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by:hehewithbrackets
ID: 12089829
dis1931, the HAL was the main concern when I started this project of consolidating images.  I worked with Dell laptops & desktops, Compaq laptops & desktops and a couple other vendor machines and all of them were using the same default HAL.  In the end, it became a non-issue.
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by:Brian_Blair
ID: 12103242
I appreciate all the comments. I should have added that I do use ghostwalker to change the SID on the PC and avoid conflicts such as "PC name already exists on the network".
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by:Maliy
ID: 12103394
Brian then you are fine, because ghostwalker does the very similar job of sysprep.  Only with sysprep you get an option to also reset hardware drivers and re run minisetup, which in most cases not needed.
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by:hehewithbrackets
ID: 12103949
Brian Blair,

As stated earlier, you are fine if you are using ghostwalker.  Sysprep performs 2 main functions 1) create unique SID, 2) allows you to reduce the number of total images.

Has your question been answered or did you still have additional questions?
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by:hehewithbrackets
ID: 12104139
dis1931,

I somehow missed your earlier post from 09/17/2004 05:36PM PDT.  You made some very valid posts and I agree that it does take a bit of work and effort to make Sysprep work properly.  I think better documentation would have made it a lot easier.  It took a lot of trial and error and frustration before we managed to get the same image working on computers with different mass storage controllers.

In the end it was definitely worth it because it is so much easier working with 1 or 2 images rather than 20+.  The other benefit is that I was able to spend time making numerous manual improvements and additions to users profiles.  It's nearly impossible to do this when working with multiple images.

On the other hand, I don't necessarily recommend it to people because you might spend a lot of time tinkering and never get it working properly.
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by:sleone74
ID: 15018209
real quick.. i understand that sysprep is an important tool when cloning a machine.  What gets me is how is it possible to sysprep and than ghost if when you sysprep, the machine shuts down and when you reboot the image is than unmanagable?  from my understanding the following sequence must take place

1. create the image
2. run sysprep
3. than ghost the image

if you sysprep than reboot the machine the machine will than reassign itself new SID's and if you ghost this than you are defeating the purpose of running sysprep.  Am I missing something?
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by:dis1931
ID: 15018379
You should run sysprep with the option to shutdown not reboot...then turn the PC on manually and insert a ghost disk to ghost hence ghosting the sysprepped PC before it actually creates a new SID....or ghost the PC and then make sure you run sysprep after ghosting the new PC.  I usually setup the PC....then create my ghost image....then restore the image onto a new PC...then sysprep after the new PC has been imaged.  I find it easier to update the image if it doesn't start upto sysprep every time i need to update it.  But both will work.
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by:sleone74
ID: 15021978
thanks... that seems to really make sense to me.. I ghost my images with sysprep already on the system root and just run it after i place the image on the client machine.  I just wanted to make sure I wasn't doing something totally non-standard although I know there is a better way of doing this.
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by:dis1931
ID: 15026555
The other way is not better just different.  The way I see it the way I do it is more useful because it is easier for me to update the image with software updates, microsoft updates, etc....without having to go through sysprep everytime I boot up the PC after having imaged a new client PC.  However if your image is relatively static or you don't want people messing with it that may not know how to use sysprep then maybe it is not bad to have this on the actual imaged PC....all depends what you want to do.
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