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Automatic restore at boot

Posted on 2006-05-30
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Last Modified: 2008-01-09
Hi Experts!

I'm currently envolved in a project, where we got 4 client multiuser PC's running Windows XP that we would like to start a ghost-restore at boottime. The idea is to make every startup a fresh and clean experience for any user, regardless of the last users actions.

I have explored several ways to accomplish this, and the best scenario, from my point of view, is to make the client PC's boot via network, and run ghost that would read a ghost-image from a fileserver.

So far I got the following issues:

  - When the ghost-image have been restored, the PC needs to be rebooted again - only this time it has to boot on harddrive, not via network and vise versa. How to do that or similar solution?

  - Each client PC is configured differently hardware-wise, and therefor they need to boot different images that "knows" what ghost-image to restore.


I've found part of the solution at http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Q_20798801.html but I need some guidence with the remaining problems.

At this time we mainly concentrate on making a Windows solution, but if there's a Linux solution, we will gladly consider this too.


Aditionally, we cannot say that this approch is the way to go, so if you got a different solution, its highly appreciated.

Best regards
Jonas
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Question by:easysoft_studios
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13 Comments
 
LVL 4

Expert Comment

by:fuzzysb
ID: 16790353
I personally would think this method of ghosting upon boot would take far too long at boot time. If it is a case of the same fresh build at boot time, i would personally lock down access to drives etc via a group policy and use mandatory profiles. this would essentially allow access to apps etc that you specify, however no matter what user preferences are changed the Profile is reset upon relogon to a default profile. this would allow each user to have a clean image everytime, without the need for re-imaging.

It will restrict the user, but designed with the right group policy and mandastory profile, it wont inhibit the user from working or using the system, it will only prevent administrative access.
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:prashsax
ID: 16790533
Why don't you just make users members of guest account.

Then they won't be able to change the computer settings.

Or if its a single computer, just add domain users in local machine guest account.

This will have same effect.

Reformating system again and again is not a solution.
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Author Comment

by:easysoft_studios
ID: 16790535
Regarding the timeconsume, it don't matter. These PC's will only start up once a day, perhaps maybe 2. From testing, the restore will take about 15 minutes, so it would not be an issue.

We have discused policies, and the fact is that there is only going to be one user on each PC, but many different people (actully kids) will use this "common"-user (it automaticly logs on, no typing username or password)

Furthermore we have experienced problems with modern games. The games we have tested cannot run without administrative privileges. I dont have a list of these games, but I can get a list at a later time.

The bottomline is, we need a solution that completly resets the computer, each time it starts, to the state that we intended, not the ones some creative kids think of.
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LVL 13

Accepted Solution

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2hype earned 1000 total points
ID: 16790811
You could use something like Deep Freeze.  Deep Freeze will restore your computer back to default everytime you reboot.  Much more easier than reghosting and you wont be up your network bandwidth.

http://www.faronics.com/uk/deepfreeze.asp
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Expert Comment

by:2hype
ID: 16790843
If you dont want to spend money microsoft has a tool that is free.  It doesnt have as many features deep freeze but its free and will do what exactly what you want.

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sharedaccess/default.mspx
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Expert Comment

by:foochar
ID: 16790884
Another software product to consider is Norton's GoBack.  
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Expert Comment

by:fuzzysb
ID: 16790982
The reason i suggested group policies are that the user can be a member of the administrators group and still be restricted by the policy to prevent changes. therefore your games would be able to play. you can still enable autologin for one user, and once the pc is rebooted the Mandatory profile would kick in and overwrite any profile changes. if you disable access to local drives then users cannot change files, so each user will have a fresh user experience upon every reboot.

You cannot as AFAIK change bios settings other than manually change  to boot from disk upon reboot. so i forsee your solution as unworkable from an automated point of view.

As an alternative you could look into specilist XP shells which lock down specific access with a kid friendly UI
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Expert Comment

by:victornegri
ID: 16791155
I agree with 2hype. Deepfreeze is the answer you're looking for. Reboot and everything goes back to the way it was.
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Author Comment

by:easysoft_studios
ID: 16817773
We have now done some more extensive testing, and we do now know a bit more:

  - The user account the kids are using, are in fact a "restricted account". They did'nt have access to any administrive routines and programs. However, it has still been possible for them to install various programs, some of them containing spyware, and quite likely virus as well.

Policies will only solve part of these problems.

  - We have tested the computers ability to boot up via network, and this looks very good indeed. Today, I've tested the possibilty to disable the harddisk ability to boot up, with a tool called MBRWizard. This too works as expected: when run, it clears the harddisk's MBR and upon next boot, the BIOS simply skips harddisk boot up, and tries network boot instead. A automated process of restoring a ghost-image is started, and the computer reboots, this time booting from harddisk as supposed to.


Perhaps this is not a professinal solution; hence it isnt. Its a freetime, no-pay, voluntary task, and every time we can avoid using 1 or 2 hours cleaning up spyware, viruses, or random systemcrashes, we will do so - not to mention, using several hours reinstalling Windows and all games.

This solution is, from our point of view, a good way to save us, from a lot of service-time, and the kids for a all-the-time-broken-computer. Simply, everyday they are started, its as fresh and well-running as the last day.

Deepfreeze looks partial like the solution we are already in progress, only it cost money. And still, scale to consider: 4 PC's, started once a day.


Best regards
Jonas
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Expert Comment

by:victornegri
ID: 16821616
If you have Ghost, why don't you schedule a job to reimage the machines at specified intervals during the day/week? Then you won't have to wait for a reboot.
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Expert Comment

by:prashsax
ID: 16822543
You can run this VB Script at startup.

It will schedule a job to restore the Windows XP, when computer is restarting or shutting down.

Just make sure you have only one Restore point.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Dim       oWmi
      Dim       hResult
      Dim        szGetObject
      Dim     dwRpNum
      dwRpNum=1

      ' assignment for get object statement
      if szMachineName = "" then

            szGetObject = "winmgmts:{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!root/default:SystemRestore"
      else

            szGetObject = "winmgmts:{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!//" & szMachineName & "/root/default:SystemRestore"            
      end if

      ' get wmi object
      Set oWmi = GetObject(szGetObject)

      ' call restore
      hResult = oWmi.restore(dwRpNum)

      ' release object
      Set oWmi = Nothing

      ' return      
      WmiRestore = hResult

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Author Comment

by:easysoft_studios
ID: 16823264
Hi victornegri

We did examen the possibility to use the Windows version of ghost, but we were unable to automate the process. Its however, a long time ago (this is the second time we try this), and I can't remeber the details sorry.



Hi prashsax

We are not interested in a Windows System Restore. I've havent had a chance to examen the details concerning Windows System Restore, but i doubt however that it solves our problemes in a long term solution.
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LVL 13

Assisted Solution

by:prashsax
prashsax earned 1000 total points
ID: 16826873
Have you considers MS RIS.

It can build your machine with custom software in 15mins.

All you need to do is to boot the machine with PXE and then choose the OS images you wanted to Load. Rest of the process can be automated using the SIF file.

All you need is a windows server.

Here is the link to it:
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/windows2000serv/howto/remoteos.mspx
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