Imaging Deployment Methods

Hi All!

I need to know what people are using in their environments to image their desktop and laptops! I'm specifically looking for reasons for why you use that tool as well (Please don't post no Google links as i'm looking purely for answers from people/techies who use an imaging tool currently)

We don't mind paying for licenses if needed.

Bear in mind we don't do too much imaging either. (5 to 10 clients a week at most)

We currently have Ghost V11 installed on a Windows Server 2003 (32bit) server which we need to phase out asap (Also looking to attempt an in place upgrade of the server to window server 2008 so that may solve this question but this is my contingency)
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David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
Depends upon what your aim is.. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (<1000 machines) AND/OR System Center (>1000 machines) for standardized deployment of images and applications.  Can't beat the price of free. (System Center is included with SA which is not free)

for individual machines, windows pe and imagex / dism
REITAuthor Commented:
Hi Dave,

Thanks for the response, is MDT something you use to capture/deploy your images? Could they also be stored centrally on a server? Maybe we boot into Windows PE and then get the image from a server?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
MDT is a tool that supplements WDS - WDS - Windows Deployment Server/Services has been available as a role in Windows Server since Service Pack 2 of Server 2003.  WDS can capture, store (with deduplication capabilities) and deploy images via PXE.  MDT can customize and use WMI and scripts to deploy software and drivers to the deployed machines.  They complement each other.  Google them - TONS of information and really no need for third party products - MS has created a very robust deployment solution.
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REITAuthor Commented:
Hi Lee,

How difficult is it to implement WDS? Also can it be implemented in a way that supports Unicast deployment over the network? Does this also support cross imaging methods? So you would use MDT to create the image and then WDS to capture and store it?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Define "cross imaging methods"

The deployment of WDS hasn't changed much, but I have a document (with LOTS of pictures) for configuring the service:

It's done unicast since 2003... multicast since 2008.

As I said, google - there's tons of information:

I'm sure in your research you won't just select something based on a few recommendations on a forum - you'll check out the solutions suggested - I think you'll find WDS is a strong candidate for you.
REITAuthor Commented:
Hi Lee,

Reading up on it further WDS is a very very strong candidate! Could you explain further on concepts for both though?
I have one major concern. We have 3 remote support analysts which work remotely at little branch offices so they need to be imaging their machines locally somehow and not over the WAN as this would take a very long time.

Everybody seems to think Microsoft Deployment is good.
Well, it is quite complex. And the learning curve is not trivial.
You may want to try clonezilla instead:
Pretty "simple", especially if you are used to gost.

Personally, I also use some WinPE based deployment system, in a "semi manual mode":
I boot my home made WinPE environment (from a USB key, from the network using wimboot: ) and then I connect to the server that has the image I want to deploy and I deploy it, using either imageX/Dism either Ghost or even some other deployment tools since I must deal with images created with various tools, ghost, dd, Macrium Reflect etc... and if I do not have to deploy to a lot of host
in a row, I do it "semi manually". Launching the cloning operation is not that long when you are used to it. What is long is the actual writing to the disk... When I can, I do differential cloning, copying only the bits that need to be copied...
Adam LeinssServer SpecialistCommented:
MDT is not takes some understanding to set it up properly, but once you go through a MDT guide such as, it's not that bad.  The problem with Clonezilla is it's not very friendly to image maintenance.  Sure, it's easy to use and understand, but what happens if you get a new model in?  5 new models?  With MDT, this is a snap...just make a new folder and drop in the drivers and update the WinPE boot media.  Clonezilla: you have to boot up the image, add the drivers with DISM, re-seal the image, etc.
REITAuthor Commented:
I will let you know guys, a trial if mdt/wds is starting in the next week or so.
Adam: In case the drivers for the WinPE image are not up-to-date for your new nodes, updating WinPE boot Media means:
Finding the drivers, add the drivers with DISM etc...

Now Roshan, there are other techniques, such as "Disk Streaming": The node can be operated in "diskless" mode, booting over the network from a system disk image, that can be shared simultaneously among several computers at the same time. This disk image is NOT a WinPE environment but a full flavored WIndows. ANd you can easily (then) clone it onto a physical disk drive. No need to re-seal, change computer names, re-activate each node (at least with HP Image Manager it was the case), since you do clone a working environment that was dynamically adjusted for each node.

There used to be some very interesting tools:
HP Image Manager (does not exist anymore, used to be Neoware Image Manager and Qualystem LanPC before then))
Ardence/Citrix Provisioning Server (part of high-end XenDesktop packages, now focused on virtual nodes)
emBoot/Double Take flex (does not exist anymore since Double Take has been acquired by Vision Solutions
Fortunately, some guys made a new product:
(I am not affiliated with them, I am the original inventor of HP Image Manager...)

Now you can also envisage VMWare Mirage (was Wanova Mirage), Citrix "Virtual Computer" (was "Virtual Computer") and Neocleus (I think they were acquired by Intel)
Googling these names will bring up more details, since these ones are hybrid technologies, with some cloning, some disk streaming (to make it super short)...
REITAuthor Commented:
We use Dell Laptops/Desktop and Lenovo Laptops/Desktops.

We're working with a specialist partner on the deployment of WDS/MDT currently so once that has completed I was post back my results.

@AdamLeinss/Lee W - Can you maybe elaborate further on WDS/MDT for me please?

@vivigatt - I will look further into your solution once we have conducted the trial. What do you currently use to image clients? Also do any of the tools you mentioned need licenses?
Adam LeinssServer SpecialistCommented:
I can only speak to MDT specifically.  We have about 1600 computers here over 7 sites and MDT works fine.  I've been using it since 2011 and it works great.  The only thing you have to be careful about is the drivers.  You want to set them up like OS>Make>Model.  This is explained here:

We have a mixture of Dells and HPs.  The only recent problem I found is that MDT 2013 does not work with the GX520 (these are 8 year old PCs), but MDT 2010 works fine with these computers.

I can export the whole MDT server to one USB stick and carry it around with me.  If I wanted to, I could ship this USB stick out to someone in China and they could image a computer with our standard image without having to connect to any of our internal servers.

Pretty cool stuff.  It's free, it's from Microsoft and it just works.  Can you use something else?  Of course...but MDT has one purpose and that is to image computers and it does that one task very nicely.  You also get the offline servicing features with DISM which you won't get if you use a 3rd party imaging solution.
David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
Use WDS only as the transport layer (multicast and pxe) add the litetoch x64.wim or litetouch x86.wim to the boot for WDS, just remember if you update the deployment share to refresh the boot.wim in wds.

MDT is totally free.. there are tons of support out there..
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I forgot to mention Dell-Wyse WSM (Wyse Streaming Manager) in the list of streaming products.
All commercial products require some licenses...
BUT MDT is not really free, it comes with Windows Server.
Some of the products I mentioned do not require any Windows server or Windows host, making it cheaper to deploy the solution in some cases if you have to envisage to deploy a lot of hosts to provide your deployment solutions (in local branches or stores for instance) .

Most "experts" will tell that MDT/WDS is the greatest tool in the world (and it is a great tool, don't get me wrong), because they know only it and never tried anything else (which means that MDT/WDS was certainly somewhat enough for their need). But your question was about various solutions, and since it is in my field of expertise...

What do I use ?
- HP Image Manager, sometimes with its "ActiveCloner" utility
- wimboot with my own WinPE environments with some cloning tools (including home made scripts to partition/format/deploy images). wimboot is easier/lighter than MDT when you understand all the chain
- USBBooting WinPE images and some cloning tools (Scripts, Ghost, DD, Macrium Reflect, DISM/ImageX...)
- USBBooting Linux environments and some cloning tools
- WDS/MDT too BTW ;)
Adam LeinssServer SpecialistCommented:
MDT is completely free.  You can install and run MDT on your home computer if you wanted to. I used Ghost for years.  Microsoft used to provide the BDD, which was the precursor to MDT:

The tech community complained because BDD was not an "end-to-end" solution.  You always had to use Ghost or some other 3rd party product do push down the OS.  MDT solved that problem.  When I first joined my company, they were using Ghost and we already over our licensing limit. I solved that issue with switching to ImageX/WinPE and then later MDT.

If I was backing up a mission critical PC, I wouldn't use MDT...I would use Norton Ghost 11.5 from WinPE, since Ghost captures hidden sectors and multiple partitions...MDT does not.

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REITAuthor Commented:
I will close this off as we're now looking into MDT/WDS moving forward to replace Ghost. I do have another question open in regards to an image I've created which has failed! Please look and see if you can offer any input.
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