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One of my job responsibilities is now maintaining laptops for sales people (they demo software). It would take me up to 2 days to perform a full installation manually, so I would like to delegate much of this work to some sort of tool. In addition, the non-technical sales people can screw up various parts of the system, so I need to redo it for them.

Imaging computers is discouraged by some people online. Being able to create different computer names would be nice, so that I could actually let all those computers on the network all at the same time.

I was a coder before all this work was dumped on me. I hope to once again regain control of my career. I would really welcome a heavily customizable / scriptable tool. I do not mind spending a bunch of time on writing a solid script, and then running it 20 times and reaping the benefits and having time to do some coding.

I also need a reliable tool, something that is well-maintained, can support various versions of Windows 7, something that is not abandoned, something that can be scripted with a powerful language.

Am I dreaming or can you suggest something that I can use?

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4 Answers 4

Well, windows actually has a native unattended install system in WAIK.You can also automate software install, though much of it is installer specific.

However anyone who says imaging computers is a bad idea is an idiot - i'd suggest setting up each system right once, making an image of it (and labelling it and putting it in a safe place), and restoring a system from its own known good backup would save you a lot of time and aggrevation - windows 7 has a great backup system and using it would probably save a lot of time that could be spent coding.

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thanks. On imaging though - if I allow two different computers with the same name on the company's domain (say they want to read email without a web interface, or use windows communicator without jumping through hoops), then very bad things will happen (according to our IT). Now, if I clone the computer and then rename it, I will need to change a whole bunch of stuff. Finally, we do not have uniform hardware. We try to have the same type of laptop, but even then some have touch-screen and some do not. –  Fantomas Aug 22 '11 at 2:42
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@Fantomas - heres how it works: Build one (or multiple) images of a PC. Install all the software and whatnots to get it to a decent base image. Then run Sysprep, a MS tool found on the Win7 install CD. Then image the PC. Write that image to 1 or a bazillion PCs. Upon boot, the machine will ask for a computer name, user, etc. while retaining the original image. Many imaging tools let you multicast, meaning you can image a bazillion machines in the time it takes to image one. All you have to do is enter some some info when its done. –  Keltari Aug 22 '11 at 2:59
    
well, i wouldn't mass image for everything. I'd image per system. –  Journeyman Geek Aug 22 '11 at 3:03
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@fantomas you should really read up on MS SysPrep and WAIK tools. They can do exactly what you want, either with an image or from a new installation. You can even customize the installer to let you choose different components to install based on what kind of computer you're targeting it to, so you only need one master image. –  nhinkle Aug 22 '11 at 3:52

RT Se7en Lite will do what you need. It allows you to:

  • Remove Windows components
  • Tweak the windows install
  • Unattended installation
  • Customization
  • Create Bootable ISO or DVD or USB keys
  • Add any software into the windows install
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Similar to the other answers, vLite will do most of what you want for free.

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1  
vLite doesn't work on Windows 7, unless I'm remembering wrong. –  nhinkle Aug 22 '11 at 3:51
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vLite is Vista only and won't even do service packs for Vista, it is abandonware. –  Moab Aug 22 '11 at 5:34
    
Doh, my bad. rt7lite.com as Greg mentions is the best option I know of for Win7. –  Paul Aug 23 '11 at 2:04

This only deals with half of your problem but it might be worth having a look at this document which describes an alternative approach to the now defunct "Windows SteadyState" way of using Windows.

By using this approach it may be possible to limit the damage it is possible to do to machines when they are built.

Creating a Steady State by Using Microsoft Technologies

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