clone hard drive

bought 4 new identical pcs.  I set up one pc with software and updates and would like to make identical setup on the other three.  can I image or clone that drive with any free software (driveimage xml?) onto an external drive and just copy that image onto the other pcs without removing their hard drives?  thanks
StewartGilliganAsked:
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I assume each PC has a Windows OS license. Yes, you can use Symantec Ghost (there are others) to create an image on a USB hard drive. Ghost has software to make a bootable USB key. Then boot the next machine with the USB key and load the image from the USB hard drive. Works fine.

You will have to activate licensed software and possibly even Windows (but maybe not if identical).
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ambatihpCommented:
The best software to use would be Acronis True Image. You can set one PC up and then take the image onto an external Drive or USB stick (or what ever)
Then boot the other devices with acronis boot/rescue CD (comes with software itself), and then recover the image to other systems. If this one time deal, you can do a 30 day trial version and use that also.

Other option is clonezilla, works just like Acronis, and is opensource/freeware licensed under GPL. Its the same here, create an image (the only difference between this one and acronis is, Acronis can be used either offline (with rescue CD to create master copy) or online (while the machine is running). Where as clonezilla is only offline (shutdown the Master system and then take an image)

If you can spend a $50, I would recommend getting
http://www.startech.com/HDD/Duplicators/SATA-Hard-Drive-HDD-Duplicator-Dock-eSATA-USB~SATDOCK22RE
All you have to do is put the parent disk in HDD2 slot and clone drives with a flip of a button.

off lately this device is coming so handy because we are swapping old 7200 RPM drives to SSD drives all our end-user systems and all we do is take the disk out clone it with the duplicator and trash the old SATA out.
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LeoCommented:
Yes, you can clone one pc, and deploy the image on rest of the computers, and you dont have to remove the hard drives from other computers, go through these links, it details the procedure.......

http://www.disk-partition.com/resource/clone-os-to-new-hard-drive.html 

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/five-apps/five-free-and-reliable-cloning-tools/
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
If you customized the INCLUDED OS, then you CANNOT.

Reimaging can only be done using Volume License copies - you create a reference image in audit mode, sysprep, capture and deploy.
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Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution GuideCommented:
I've done that using DriveImageXML on to "clone" and reimage a windows 7 box. So that should work, as long as you have the licenses.  DIX will give the same license to each PC when it reimages them, so you will have to go in and reactivate windows with a different license number.  Paragon software does this also, but it is commercial (unless you have at least 50k expert point on ee).
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You can take the drives out of identical machines and interchange them, so yes it should work. Microsoft may not like it, but so long as all machines are licensed, it should work. Microsoft audited a client of mine with no issue. All licenses were in place.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Simple fact if you read the license agreement:  Reimaging rights are granted ONLY for Volume Licenses and require the use of Volume License Media and Keys - meaning all installs should have the same key.  Doing it any other way is stealing the right when you don't have it.

Reference:
http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/briefs/reimaging.aspx
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Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution GuideCommented:
Maybe that is why mine works, we have a vl for windows.
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ambatihpCommented:
Lee
I wish to comment on your Attention# to moderators on the licensing,

Here is the PDF that MS sent out after win7 release,
http://download.microsoft.com/download/3/D/4/3D42BDC2-6725-4B29-B75A-A5B04179958B/Reimaging.pdf

Granting rights to the OEM systems to be cloned to newer drives provided that OEM system that is getting cloned has OEM license for the same version.

While answering questions we expect to some degree that the user takes in to consideration of license agreement before attempting something.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
@ambatihp

I am well aware of document you are referencing - it's the same one *I* linked to. Imaging can only be done using Volume License media and a volume license key - Quoting said document: "Reimaging is the copying of software onto multiple devices from one consistent image. Reimaging rights are granted to all Microsoft Volume Licensing customers. Under these rights, customers can reimage original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or full-package product (FPP) licensed devices using media provided under their Volume Licensing agreement"

And further quoting the document:
"You must purchase at least one license of the Microsoft software that you want to reimage under your Open License authorization number or Microsoft Open Value or Microsoft Open Value Subscription Agreement number. This purchase is required to obtain the media and necessary Volume Licensing Keys (VLK[s]). You may use this media to reimage as many devices as you have licenses for, subject to the reimaging eligibility requirements described above."

I never said you had to purchase a copy for every machine, just that the (quoting myself) "Reimaging can only be done using Volume License copies" - to clarify, reimaging can be done ONLY using images built from a volume license.

If you don't have a volume license, then I recommend you consider the volume license cost of a single copy (plus 5 items required to open a volume license) to be the cost of "imaging software" with a bonus copy of Windows 8.1 to upgrade an existing Pro XP or Vista system to 8.1 Pro (or 7 Pro), which you should probably do anyway.

Ultimately, my point is, imaging clearly saves time or you wouldn't want to do it.  Microsoft does not grant this right without at least ONE volume license copy.  It's a relative minimal cost compared to the cost savings of time so don't be a thief (which, if you steal the right is what you basically are - sorry if my bluntness offends) and pay the minimal fee and do it right.  You'll also be doing things in a supported manner - which as a professional, whenever supported and possible, i's the wise and professional thing to do.
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ambatihpCommented:
The document states...
Using OEM Media to Reimage: You may use OEM media (including custom OEM images) to reimage devices but only those that were originally imaged with such media.

During our last call with MS Sales, they said "well you could. but.., technically ..." and left it dotted,  but never clarified what a custom OEM means (because for us DELL pre-builds all systems with our stripped OS and applications, and ours is always custom). So we asked if we upgrade the harddisk will we our vlk copy considered deemed.

Because how your read makes a big difference, For eg: MS says there is no special license required for VPN users, as long as there is a user cal available. Now they also say it differently that "if you got a home premium or home edition", in the client computer that is connecting to vpn, it requires a device cal., well in that case the byod/mobile devices that use pptp need it to. MS says not required.
The OEM thing is also the same, they left it "for your imagination" style statements all over.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Yes, you may use OEM media to reimage - you may NOT CUSTOMIZE OEM media!

I disagree - I think that document makes it pretty clear.

What an MS Sales rep says is heresay.  I've gotten hearsay from MS folks too - I'm not citing it here.
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StewartGilliganAuthor Commented:
thank you all for the input
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