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How to "pre-config" windows XP in I386 folder ?

Posted on 2009-07-07
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Last Modified: 2012-05-07
Hi all.

I'm a web developer, but recently I have to install windows in hundreds of computers. Each computer needs configurations , software installing ... etc.  It must be a very big job for me, to install windows in 1,5hr and 3hrs for the configuration & software installing.

I was expecting a CD or DVD that can install a completely windows with all software & configuration in ONE.  I know I must create it myself, but the only clue I've got is the folder named I386.

About the configurations, it's something like this :
- change windows icon's size to small
- disable all visual style to speed up windows
- change theme to a new theme (vista theme)
- change all windows icon & mouse to a news sets (vista icon & cursor)
- disable automatic update, firewall, remote desktop, device autoplay ....
- remove some component like "Game, MSN, Outlook,..."
- Install IIS with some configurations
.......................

And the software : MS Office, Cute FTP, Yahoo, Adobe Reader, .....

I know it's very hard to satisfy all my needs, but I'm very happy if I can do it automatically some of them.

Maybe changing the file in I386 could help ? Could you tell me the way to document, or the way to do ?

PS : a little question :  could I "save" a program running in my computer by copying the folder in "Program Files" & the registry to another device? Could the program run as nothing changed after I copy them back to the appropriate location after (format C:\ and)  re-installing windows ?
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Question by:ancomchancanh
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by:QEMS
ID: 24793004
Are these computers all the same hardware spec?

If so, I would setup one of them install and configure everything that is needed and then take an image (remember to sysprep the system before taking an image) and roll that out to all the other PCs. We use Ghost for this, but there are other options available.

You can run into difficulties if the hardware specs are different on the PCs, but it is probably worth making a few images (one for each different hardware spec) then you should only have to go through the setup a few times and roll out the image to large numbers of PCs at the same time.

You can do a multicast with ghost to speed up the process of putting the same image on a large number of PCs simultaneously.

I know thats not quite the answer to your question, but I would imagine that would solve your problem.
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by:Iain MacMillan
ID: 24794655
yes i agree with QEMS, Ghost or Acronis Trueimage would be a major time saver for you if the systems were all the same hardware spec.  You would do the build on one system the way you want it, use the MS util SysPrep and then use the one master drive to image every drive you need done, assemble the drives back to their systems and your done.

Very commonly used in large companies, but not so much in smaller ones, as you tend not to bulk buy systems, so everytime you buy new ones, they are all different.

http://www.acronis.co.uk/
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by:ancomchancanh
ID: 24794796

Thanks QEMS and LainNIX, but my computers are different in hardware. They're produced by many companies, so I don't think 1 or 2 Ghost disks can solve.

I think Ghost is useless in my situation. Other hand, a fresh windows copy will make the computer works better.

I'm eager to explore I386, this way make me feel more exciting !    :)
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by:QEMS
ID: 24795353
How many different types of hardware do you have? And how many computers are you talking about here?
In my opinion its worth making an image if you have more than around 5-10 computers of the same spec. Although if you end up having to make 10 or 20 different images it would be worth looking at alternative methods.

Sorry to give another answer that isn't quite what you're looking for, but this might be possible too...
Can you create packages for the software you need and then roll all the packages out via group policy?

If you need any help with any of my suggestions ask away, if you need to carry on with the I386 route I'll have to bow out and let someone else take over - I'll be watching for the answer with interest though!

Good luck with whatever option you decide is best for you =)
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Author Comment

by:ancomchancanh
ID: 24795677

Hmm, my computers lay in a wide range of hardware difference. Some with Mainboard 845, some 945 & some 965. The HDDs  and  RAMs are very different too. They're all old computer.  I'm not an expert in hardware, so my choice is to deal with an all-in-one disk.

Since very few IT Engineers modified I386 folder, I think Ghost or trueImage will be my only choice. (To say again that I don't like this way, cause I need hardly test each computer after each installation to be sure)

Now, let's talk about Ghost.
Is there any way to make a Ghost Image that can be appropriate with all computer hardware spec?
Some of my computers don't have DVD drive, could it possible to split my ISO Image to 3 or 4 CD but still works well as 1 DVD ?
(something like when I install a Multi-CD game, It appears a message box tell me to insert the next CD then press enter) ?

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by:QEMS
ID: 24801608
As far as I know, yes it's possible to put an image on to multiple discs (some of our ghost images wouldn't fit on a single DVD even if we tried!), but I would have thought it would be faster to put the image on a network drive and use the ghostcast server to multicast the image to multiple PCs at the same time - if that is possible for you. I use multicasting here so couldn't give you much information on the disc creation without looking into it.

The bonus with multicast is that the server transmits the image to all connected workstations at the same time rather than having to send the full image to each machine.

How many different hardware specs are there? And how many computers in total?

If there are only RAM and HDD changes then you shouldn't need a different image. We have successfully rolled out an image on to a computers that have had either RAM or HDD changes due to hardware failures and not had problems. Once you move to different mainboards or other components your mileage may vary! You could always make an image for the most common spec you have, roll that image out to all the relevant PCs and then test it on the other hardware before making a new image specifically for the new hardware spec.

Also it is important to use sysprep - are you comfortable with this step?
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by:QEMS
ID: 24801652
I've had a very quick look around for information about using the i386 folder and found the following links.
http://ask-leo.com/can_i_burn_the_i386_folder_to_a_cd_and_use_that_as_an_install_cd.html
http://www.tech-archive.net/Archive/WinXP/microsoft.public.windowsxp.setup_deployment/2006-01/msg00483.html

I'm not sure whether its possible to do what you need to achieve or not that way. I'd be interested to hear if anyone can add some information or advice to this.
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by:ancomchancanh
ID: 24804378

Thanks QEMS, but i know nothing about multicast. ( Maybe I'll learn this summer )
For the big job I must solve in front of my eyes, I decided to hire a 3rd company to do this for me. I'll see how they do & learn ! Not the best way but the wise way, do u think so ?  ^ ^,

The totally PC number is around 160 ones.  So I don't think I'll do it all myself. I'll spend this weekend on the net to learn more about ghost & multicast.

Once more, I want to say thanks to QEMS. You've really made me feel the warm air at experts-exchange.

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QEMS earned 125 total points
ID: 24811584
If the funding is there to hire in help, your skillset lies elsewhere and you have other things you could be doing, then it makes sense to hire someone in to do the job for you - it can be far more efficient that way, especially if you learn how they do things during the process.

Basically multicasting is a feature in the ghost console (Ghostcast server in Ghost 2003 it may have changed name since then but thats the latest version I have) where the same image is broadcast to a number of PCs at once. This is done instead of individual transfers and is more efficient than unicast or transferring an image to each PC individually.

To do this, the PCs need to be booted up into ghost. We do this with pxe boot, but you could boot from startup disc, pen drive or whatever you are comfortable doing.
The ghostcast server needs to be started (give it a name, specify the image and tell it to accept clients).
The PCs needing that image can then be set to connect to a multicast session via the ghost interface.
Then click send on the ghostcast server and it will transfer away happily.

One thing to watch out for is that none of your switches are set to block multicast traffic or the transfer will fail.

That's pretty much it, as long as you know the functionality is there it is pretty intuitive when you know the over-all process.

One last point if you hire in help - document everything they do so you have a really accurate record for future reference, if you do it yourself it can help to keep notes as you go. A well documented process is easy to delegate if you have anyone working for you!

A quick google got me this guide that looks useful http://www.sussex.ac.uk/its/ws/ghost/ghost.pdf

Good luck with everything whether you do it yourself or get someone in.
Just ask if you have any other questions.
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