Cloning Windows 7 computers (they're all the same make/model)

Posted on 2011-05-06
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I have 16 new computers fresh from Dell.  I have installed all of our enterprise applications on one computer, which is the 'master' computer.  I'd like to clone the hard drive of this master computer and 'copy' it to the hard drives of the other computers.  I popped the hard drive out of one of the other computers and hooked it up to the master computer and tried to use Norton Ghost 15 to copy the source hard drive, but I am having some difficulty.  I've read that Norton Ghost can be used, but then I am hearing only if the source hard drive is at least 1/16th smaller than the target hard drive.  I'm also gettng a negative vibe about Norton Ghost on various forums.

So, what is the best way to do this?  All of the machines are the same make/model/specs.  We don't necessarily have to use Norton Ghost 15, but we have purchased the software already.  So if it can be used, then great.  if not, how else can it be done?

Thank you so much!
Question by:TriCannon
  • 3
LVL 97

Accepted Solution

Lee W, MVP earned 2000 total points
ID: 35709076
Unfortunately, you cannot do what you're asking unless you installed windows cleanly from a Volume License based DVD.  OEM images cannot be cloned for deployment within a business.  You can preconfigure one machine, send the hard drive to Dell and have them do it for you, but OEM licenses do not permit end-user customization and re-deployment.

If you have a volume license, install using that volume license and then install all your apps and files as you want them.  Then you can use any imaging tools you want to create and deploy the images (I would stick with Microsoft Tools and not Ghost - Microsoft's tools are all FREE and/or included with Windows Server, including Windows Deployment Services (free; included with Windows Server 2008* and later), the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (FREE Download; MDT; requires WAIK), the Windows Automated Installation Kit (FREE Download; WAIK or Windows AIK), and a host of additional support tools.
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Expert Comment

by:Jackie Man
ID: 35709115

According to RBK00, it says:-
"It turns out that with the new licensing requirements on W7, it is a violation of the license agreement to run sysprep or "clone" a factory image of W7 to other systems. Ugly, but true....even just RUNNING sysprep against a factory image is a violation...unless...

If you have a Software Assurance agreement, and are doing this with W7 Enterprise, this is not an issue, or if an Enterprise Agreement is in place. The preferred method is to use W7 Enterprise, and that gives a lot of flexibility with the proper paperwork in place.

I was surprised to learn that any attempt to reimage a factory system results in a license violation, even if the plan is to go from one factory image with a valid COA to another, exactly identical machine ALSO with a COA. This is different from the XP days.

Microsoft wants the customer to have and SA or EA in place, otherwise you must live with the installed factory image. The only valid way to reimage such a system is with *factory* recovery media, or backup media made from that particular machine that is license compliant."

Source: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en/w7itproinstall/thread/10d9debc-77a5-4ad9-8554-aad8429f8a02

So, legally, you are now allowed to clone OEM Windows 7 machine, but technically, it is possible (but I will never try.). For details, please read the above link in depth.
LVL 97

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35709119
* Clarification - WDS is included in 2003 as well, but 2008 supports Multi-casting of images and since I consider that such a hugely important thing, I don't like to recommend using WDS on 2003.
LVL 97

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35709142
Yes, SA does permit re-imaging, but if you have SA, you should have access to VL media, if I'm not mistaken. And since Dell cannot install Enterprise for you (again, you can create an image and have Dell use that image so there is a way to get Enterprise from the factory, just not an easy INITIAL way), using Enterprise is not possible to start with on a new system.

(You should be able to ADD SA to a Windows 7 Pro OEM license within 90 days of purchase if you contact an authorized reseller).

Author Comment

ID: 35826762
Here is what our team decided to do.  
- Installed all company applications on an out-of-the-box HP Z400 workstation.

- Created a custom master image of it; this workstation has an OEM license from HP.

- Then Ran SYSPREP with the /oobe /generalize /shutdown command and captured the image to a WDS Server 2008.

- Then Used WDS to deploy a this custom image to 16 other Similar HP Z400.  Used Answer Files and Image was successfully deployed to the workstations

- Now it shows that Windows is activated, but inherits the product key of master workstation.

My question: Is there anything wrong with the way that we did this, and did the Windows activation definitely go through successfully?  Or is it going to prompt me in 30 days to activate again?  Right now everything seems fine.


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