Is there a way to automate the formatting of multiple PCs without creating a boot disc

Posted on 2009-02-10
Last Modified: 2013-11-10
I'm looking for a way to automate the process of formatting multple PCs without having to go into the BIOS and change boot order or have any user interaction at all.  

The idea is for someone non technical to simple click on something within Windows which will schedule a format on the next boot and then restart the computer.  

If anyone has any ideas as to how this might be achieved I'd appreciate your response.  
Question by:ishamsi
    LVL 76

    Expert Comment

    If the current boot order includes a network boot (PXE) WDS , corrupting the MBR on the Harddrive will effectively do a reformat and reinstall when the system tries to boot.

    Alternatively if PXE boot is tried first, you can periodically enable/disable OS install based on the MAC address.  A user goes to your site and clicks on a link saying install OS and your script makes the requisite adjustments enabling deployment to the users system.

    Author Comment

    Thanks for the comment.  

    We can't assume that the boot order includes PXE (some may but not all, we do not have control of these machine's directly) We do not use WDS at the sites.  

    I am wondering whether there are any command line utility which will allow this kind of control for example Diskpart.exe.  Does anyone know whether diskpart can be used to format the system disk? Perhaps a script can be run within windows which will delete the partiion/volume on reboot.  

    Just aiming for minimal user interaction, so no changing boot order etc.  
    LVL 76

    Expert Comment

    How do you plan on deploying the OS/software?
    I think while you the system is up with windows, as soon as you alter the hardrive as you outline, the system will crash.  The user running the command will also have to have elevated rights or they'll be denied access by the OS.

    How about you restate your question to make clear what you need the process to accomplish.  Perhaps other solutions will be available.


    Author Comment

    To give you some backgroud info - Some offices are closing down, and laptops/desktops need to be wiped before they are given away to the employees or to charity.  However there is no local IT resource at these offices.  

    We don't need to worry about how the OS is installed afterwards, that will not be done by us.  

    So we just need a way of automating the formating of the disk.  But as there is no technical resource at these sites we are relying on someone non technical to do the work.  So ideally we will not be asking this person to do anything that invloves BIOS settings ie. changing the boot order so that a boot disc can be used.  

    LVL 76

    Accepted Solution

    So basically you are looking for something that a user can run that will corrupt the MBR/Table to beyond restoration file recovery.
    I.e. deltree c:\
    You could look into the various wipe clean tools through which you can delete everything from the drive with the exclusion of windows until the drive wipe is complete and then wipe the windows folder crashing the system.
    Unfortunately, do not have a specific tool/option to recommend.

    Self booting:

    Going through the BIOS to alter boot order might not be necessary, there often is a key hit, escape, etc. that brings up a boot menu where the person could select to boot from an alternate device.
    Alternatively, corrupting the filesystem should force the system on next boot to boot from either cdrom/floppy/usbdrive/pxe at which the system wipe can be completed.  

    Author Closing Comment

    Thanks DBAN looks like a good alternative if we choose to down the option of having the boot order changed on each machine.  

    I'll have a look for these tools you mentioned.  


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