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What's the best practice for imaging HDDs for small business? Moving beyond Ghost to winPE? Sysprep?

Posted on 2010-09-01
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My small biz usually buys PCs in 2s or 3s. Even so, it takes a while to build up a naked system with all our applications & settings. In my years with Windows XP, I've used various versions of Ghost to get the job done. I've skipped Vista entirely but am now deploying Windows 7.  I have read that Ghost 15.0 (the latest version) won't allow a ghosted Windows 7 HDD to be placed in a different piece of hardware (PC), even if they are the same model and vintage (Say, Dell Vostro 220s).  Actually, I'm reading that Win 7 is the problem, not Ghost itself.

We don't do any volume licensing. All my PCs are purchased with XP Pro or Win 7 Pro pre-installed and have product key stickers. I'm new to winPE and Sysprep. Are the Microsoft tools the way to go? Or something else? What is the definitive starting guide for newbies?
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Question by:oakie22
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Mike_Brodeur earned 500 total points
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Definitely go with Windows Deployment Services and Sysprep, it'll save you a lot of time and isn't that hard to set up. Here's a great article I used to get my company up on WDS: http://www.petenetlive.com/KB/Article/0000107.htm

Here are a few other related articles that might help:
Step-by-step for WDS images: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc766320(WS.10).aspx
Sysprepping Windows 7 step by step: http://blog.brianleejackson.com/sysprep-a-windows-7-machine-%E2%80%93-start-to-finish-v2

With regards to your product keys being individual, you can install Windows 7 without a product key and have a grace period, then when you bring your image up after setting up a new system you can type the key manually from that particular PC.

Good luck, hope this helps!
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by:McKnife
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Alternatively, you could give this free trial a chance: http://drivesnapshot.de/en/hardware.htm
Depending on the number of systems (you wrote about 2s or 3s in a row), it's no problem to clone this way and manually change the key and activate.

I'm just showing this alternate method because there are users that find adopting WDS too time consuming for their small environments.
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by:SysExpert
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IN addition, there may be activation issues with OEM versions of Windows, so do a test first after first backing up ( image ) one machine .

I hope this helps !
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by:McKnife
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I haved cloned some OEMs, no problem activating after changing the key.
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by:oakie22
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I'll try this next time.
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