win7 imaging

I manage 50 win xp laptops, all identical hardware.  When one of them is corrupted or busted, I just blast in a new image with Acronis. Occassionally I'll get duplicate name on network errors if 2 or more laptops are on the same wifi router.  Is there a way to get rid of this error permanently.  Also we are migrating to win7.  Can I use the same process with win7...anygotchas that i need to be aware of and correct after cloning.  None of these laptops will be networked, except when accessing wifi via a router.
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Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
If you have a 2012 server OR a domain already present, you don't need to waste money on Acronis - Microsoft offers as a built-in role in Windows Server Windows Deployment Services (WDS).  Works great.  Even if the machines aren't destined to join your domain, you can still deploy them.

You should also look at the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK/Windows AIK) and the Automated Deployment Kit (ADK).  These are designed to help you create an answer file that prevents duplicate names (amongst MANY other things).  It too is free from MS.

WARNING: REQUIREMENT REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU DEPLOY THE IMAGE (WDS, Acronis, clonezilla, etc) - you MUST build the image using a volume license and sysprep it before capturing.  No option in this.  (This doesn't mean you need a volume license for all systems, but the OS included with the system MUST be equal to the Volume License (VL) version - meaning you can't buy Win7 Home or Win8 (non pro) and install Win7 Pro on them unless you buy a VL copy for each.  If they came with Win7 Pro or Win8 Pro, then you just need one VL copy to build the image and you can put that on all matching version systems.
Are these machines on a domain or in a workgroup?

LEECHIPTURNERAuthor Commented:
OK, lots of good info here.  Let me toss in more data, and see what you think.

I already have Acronis 2013 & use it to image the 50 laptops;
All laptops are identical both hardware and software;
None of the laptops are part of a domain or workgroup;
I have 50 individual WinXP licenses and 50 Win7 licenses;
The 50 new laptops will be identical hardware/software, Win7, and not part of domain/workgroup;

Here is my process:
Install software and configure 1 laptop;
Make image of that laptop and store on external USB drive;
Use Acronis to copy image to blank laptop via USB drive;
New laptop is then shipped to user.

Since I have Acronis, I don't think I need to create WIM image.
I have heard of sysprep before, but never used it.  Since none of these laptops will attach to a domain or workgroup (all stand-alone, just using wifi internet), what does sysprep do for me?  What does the answer file do?
Thanks for all the great feedback!
LEECHIPTURNERAuthor Commented:
So, using Acronis, if I create an image of the Windows 7 laptop, I should be able to make 49 duplicate laptops.  Correct?
LEECHIPTURNERAuthor Commented:
I may be making this harder than it looks.  With XP, it was easy:  you clone a disk, stick on identical hardware, and everything works.  I just don't know if Win7/8 works the same way.  As long as I comply with licensing, I just want it to work.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
It's very easy but you should practice a little first.

Install your VL copy on a system.  When the first "Out-of-box Experience" screen comes up (when that setup screen is no longer there) you enter Audit mode with Shift+F3.

Then setup the system as you want it.

When done, run Sysprep appropriately and capture the image.

LEECHIPTURNERAuthor Commented:
Help me with ignorance.  Why do I need sysprep?  If I configure 1 laptop as I want, make an Acronis image, then copy that image to 50 other boxes, I'm done.  I don't understand what sysprep does for me.

I watched this video on sysprep, and it looks like a lot of un-needed work.

Acronis is much simpler and faster.  What am I missing?
LEECHIPTURNERAuthor Commented:
leew, struggling with this.  What is VL?  

These new laptops have UEFI & GPT.  When I tried to copy the drive using Acronis, it would only let me move it????  That totally kills the first computer.  I want to make a copy that I can blast to 49 laptops.  I have successfully converted one HP655 from Win8 to Win7, and it works fine.  I have disabled Secure Boot, and enabled legacy boot.

I just read through the sysprep documentation.  It looks like I want to Build to Plan.  So it looks like sysprep is installed on Win7 already.  Here is what I think should happen, please let me know if this is correct:
sysprep /oobe /generalize
It then says I have to capture the Windows installation with ImageX.

How does that work?  Where do you get ImageX?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
VL = Volume License.

IMMEDIATELY after you generalize and do the oobe (the command you posted) you MUST capture the image.  You can use anything you want to do that, but Microsoft has an extremely powerful deployment solution in Windows Deployment Services (WDS) and ImageX.  ImageX should be in the Windows Automated Installation Kit (It's been a while since I used it, I usually just capture the image with WDS)
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