Imaging PCs

itgolfer used Ask the Experts™
We've got about 20 PCs being delivered tomorrow and I was going to try to get 1 of them setup and then take an image to setup the rest. I haven't ever done it before so I'm just wondering if the Windows built-in one (I believe they have it) works or if it needs to be a 3rd party. The PCs will be Windows 7 if that makes a difference.
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use image x to capture the image.

and Dism to deploy.

As there are only 20 PC's you might not need deployment softwares like SCCM, MDT, WDS
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Imaging is great and I highly recommend it for large numbers of PCs...


You can't do it if you don't have a volume license.  Volume Licenses are REQUIRED for imaging.  The good news is that you only need ONE volume license for Windows 10 Pro in order to deploy the volume Windows 7 Pro on ALL the PCs.  The PCs *MUST* come with Windows 7 Pro (or a 10 Pro license).

Microsoft has a robust deployment capability through Windows Server (Windows Deployment Services is a built in role to Windows Server since 2003 R2). The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) offers many capabilities for customizing your deployments and is FREE.  Many of the tools currently available for Windows 10 work with Windows 7 as well.

While you CAN use other tools (Why?) the Microsoft tools are quite capable and free and generally not difficult in my opinion.  One thing you *MUST* do is SYSPREP your image BEFORE capture.

Frankly, if you've never done Windows Deployment before, you should be prepared to spend at least 40 hours learning it.  In the long run, deployment can save MANY hours of work, but learning to do it right can take time.  (but it is a beautiful sight to see 20 machines simultaneously loading Windows and being near fully setup in 30 minutes once you have your image prepared and the deployment systems ready).
FYI most large OEM's offer an imaging service and will preload a corporate image before shipment (minimum purchase required)
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Just so I'm clear, and that I'm explaining it correctly, I would like to setup one of our new PCs, take an image of that and then use that image to the others so that I don't have to reinstall software, Windows Updates, etc. Is that what you're all referring to?
That's the general idea of an image.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Yes. It's Imaging and deployment.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

The OEM solution is not a solution for this shipment since it's already ordered.  It is something to consider, but it's also VERY limiting because you are restricted to the image and updating it can be a time consuming process.  Self-imaging with the proper tools is usually far more effective.
Never said it was ,but when considering imaging why waste your time and effort when everything can be done at the factory to begin with?

I've rolled out thousands of desktops this way.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
A properly setup imaging solution can dynamically adjust to new updates, drivers, and applications.  Factory images need to be repeatedly manually updated.  It can make sense in some cases, but if your facility has the ability to deploy images yourself and you're making it anyway, it's extra effort in my opinion to ship to a factory and then manually update Java, Firefox, Flash, Office, Windows, etc.  I did factory images once... nice idea... but the cost of a single volume license is about $180 ($230 at worst if you don't have an existing volume agreement).
Leading Engineer

I can see what you are thinking but it's not going to be as simple as you think.
First, if you bought a load of Dell machines, they will have a Dell image on. Nothing wrong with that, until you look closer and see they have a load of weird and wonderful Dell specific apps pre-installed, a trial of AV, an update manager that "calls home", etc.

So now you have to sit down and decide what's needed and uninstall the rest.

The alternative is "deployments". This method is very well established, well documented and thorough. You can get a base build complete in 20 minutes, but here's the crucial bit, done right you will have a fully automated system that can run and fold in the latest updates for you. You just have to kick it off.

The technology to do this is MDT, as Lee already mentioned. It is free, has video training on YouTube, Channel 9 and blogs that walk you through the whole thing. There are books too if you prefer. In general *anything* by Johan Arwidmark is worth learning.  Example for Windows 10 is:

The process is very nearly identical.

Ingredients you will need:

WDS (for PXE)
WSUS (for patching)
Hyper-V (for your reference image)

As Lee noted, this will take time to learn, staff to do the build, budget for hardware to install Hyper-V etc. but the end result will pay dividends and save you money.

At the other end of the scale, the tool to automate in bulk in SCCM. It's big, expensive and needs licensing, big servers and expertise. And lots of patience to learn. It's mainly suitable for Enterprise scale companies. Ironically, you ought to still create the reference image using MDT etc, so you won't waste your efforts learning MDT. MDT complements SCCM not replaces it.

I'm guessing you're a small to medium company, so MDT is ideal. You can also use it just to "capture" the shiny new hardware and use that as your image if you really, really must go the imaging route.


All have good information

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