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I have noticed a company offering to reinstall Windows (XP,Vista,7) remotely over the internet (like remote support package)? How can this be done?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Mehrdad suggested an unattended installation, and even though that greatly reduces the amount of user intervention required during an installation it still requires a user to physically be at the machine at some point.

What you want is Windows Deployment Services (WDS). We use it at my university in conjunction with Symantec Ghost and it works very well. There are of course many prerequisites you must meet before being able to use this solution, and since you want to do it over the internet you would probably need to set up a VPN. Typically WDS is used in organizations with large domains, not just for home users.

If you were using Linux you could try PXE (PXE on Ubuntu). I read good things but I have no experience with it.

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We use WDS here as well (also a university) and it does allow us to do reinstalls almost purely over the network (an operator does need to go to the machine once to boot it in to a Ghost install we embed in the image), but it's definitely not a solution for home users - it requires a Symantec GhostCast server and fairly extensive configuration of the Windows image before distribution. –  jcrawfordor Apr 10 '11 at 21:15
    
you can use PXE to load a Windows installer :) –  wag2639 Apr 11 '11 at 3:38

To do it completely remotely, I think you would need the following:

  • Method to reboot machine to start installation
  • Slipsteamed installer

At my old university, we had most if not all the tools to do this in theory

  • Find a way to reboot machine (toggle power using remote/network power control or trigger restart with MSFT tools)
  • GRUB menu to start PXE or WDS
  • Slipstreamed installer - you can combine this with PXE to reinstall the computer over network or from a ghost image on the hard drive

However, the method I mention will probably reinstall it every time you reboot the computer. To do everything remotely, you'd have to include a way to provide keyboard input over the network (which is possible with things like serial over ethernet)

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I think this only goes for virtual machines or machines hooked up to a network-KVM switch...

A normal kvm switch allows you to use one screen, keyboard and mouse setup for multiple computers, now a network-kvm would allow you to control those computers as if you were on location...

I don't know of any other reliable solutions that allow you to do this (unattended installations allways have a risc of well.. screwing up)

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You can use an unattended installation and hope it goes smoothly.

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