Cloning new PCs (Ghost?)

I purchase and load 20 new PCs at a time at the company I work for.  All the machines are preloaded with Windows XP.  Before I can deploy them, I have to load onto each one MS Office and about five other 3rd party software packages.

I have heard that Norton Ghost will greatly simplify this process.  Apparantly, I can load the first PC with everything and then create an image and then restore that image on the other machines.  The downsides I have heard are that the image contains the OS and by the time you wait for the image to create and then have to restore onto the additional machines, you don't save much time.  Also, I have heard that once the image is applied, it is not easy to go back into each machine and re-register them to the correct user.

Can someone shed some light on this for me?  If Ghost is what I am looking for, what is the most efficient way to do what I describe?  If it is not, is there other software that you would recommend?
Who is Participating?
In our company we use ghost for a long time now. Not the personal edition but the corporate edition, with the corporate edition you are not limited to one to one cloning, but you can clone to many different computers at once.

The following steps we take:
1. Install the machine, with software and settings
2. Sysprep the machine (sysprep is a tool from microsoft,
3. Ghost the machine
4. Ghost the other machines with the newly created ghost image

Now we have an image we can distribute over other machines. We can do it with cd / dvd / network / etc.

Normally we put the image on our image server so we can put the image over other machines on the network. The advantage of ghost is that everythime you will need to go back to your orignal settings (because of a crash), you can put trough ghost your orignal setting.

Also when you have differtent ghost images you can get fast a different machine, think about from windows xp to windows 2000 with all your software and settings in a couple of minutes for your 20 machines. No manually install is faster.

You can get much information by symantec:

for an introduction to cloning a Windows computer take a look at:

How to clone a Windows NT/2000/XP workstation

Of course there are other tools like ris, sms, landesk or altiris. But you have to make a choice which solution is the best for you. All the tools simplify the process and are especially created for company's. It is a big differents when you have to install 20 computers or 2000.

Jim HornMicrosoft SQL Server Developer, Architect, and AuthorCommented:
Hi shannon_adams,

As you say, you can load the first PC with everything, and then 'burn' the pc's image via Ghost onto a CD.  Then, when new PC's come in, you can take that CD and ghost the image on it into the pc, making it an exact copy.  You save a TON of time.

After the ghosting of the image, you'll have a few extra steps where you set up the UserID/Password of the individual onto that pc, and give them whatever security rights you require.   This can't be avoided, but it's not much extra work.

A couple of companies I was at had a bunch of ghost CD's with images of every flavor of pc, by product line of the field user, and lived by Ghost.  It's a very good product.

Hope this helps.
I don't know what your bugdet is, but the best product I've ever used for doing what you describe is made by a company called Altiris (  The product is called Deployment Server.

Instead of making an image of the whole hard drive, it let you take one of your 20 new machines, make a snapshot, install all the applications you want on it, make another snapshot and then create an installable package based on the differences between the two snapshots that you can push out to the other 19 machine all at the same time over a network.  It will also do images like Ghost, but unlike Ghost, you can push all those images out via a network at the same time.  No swapping out CDs or anything.  Once you have the image or package ready, you'll be finished deploying it to all machines in about 10 minutes.
Free Tool: SSL Checker

Scans your site and returns information about your SSL implementation and certificate. Helpful for debugging and validating your SSL configuration.

One of a set of tools we are providing to everyone as a way of saying thank you for being a part of the community.

I use RIS on W2K server.  I just set an image up with WinXP, and then use the GUI runonce to run a script that installs everything else.  You can set it up as an OEM install, and then each computer prompts for user info on first run.  In addition, if you want to update the image, the OS can be directly integrated with service packs.

For more info, here are a bunch of resources:
A couple of things come to mind.
Get a VLA licenses for XP and Office.You can get one with as little as 5 user licenses.
You don't have to register everytime you reinstall.
Build your base image with all apps and patches pre-installed.
Ghost .
Send the image to your hardware vendor and have them preinstall the image.(Dell and HP will do this for free on bigger orders)
Roll them out.
You finished.

Hi shannon_adams :-),
Since we haven't heard from you for a couple of days could you please give us an update on the status of this question?
See: Thank you, turn123's friendly update request script.
Offtopic comments about this script to please :-).
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.