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Every so often I am required to reinstall a standardized image on my job computer (basically a ghosting). When the process is complete I have to reinstall all my non-image software manually (development environments, non-MS browsers, assorted tools and utilities etc). Afterwards I have to manually reconfigure all settings and configurations in all programs. In some programs I can export settings for later import, but many times that's not that easy. Either way it's basically a whole days work for me to reconfigure my computer back to my preferred setup.

Is there an easier way to do it? Normally I'd use some kind of imaging, but that option is obviously out of the question. Maybe a utility or a set of programs that can assist me in this work, tracking, backup and restoring of registry settings, configurations files, software folders, user documents etc.

Edit: To clarify, the reason I just can't save an image is because the new standardized image issued by corporate IT is required in order to be able to access company assets, including the company network. So overwriting the issued image with my backup image would not accomplish anything I could not accomplish by just ignoring the new company image. Which I sometimes can, but many times can't.

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I'm not sure I understand why you have to do this. My instinct would be to get a image of it after you've configured it fully, so at worst, if you HAVE to reimage it every couple of months, you can at least have it most of the way set up. Is this just a image provided by work and mandated that all computers be freshly loaded every so often? –  Paperlantern Dec 30 '11 at 1:03
    
I would love to see a solution to "Re-install fixes everything :-)" Why do people saying that, not realise how LONG it takes to re-install and configure the beast over again? :-) . . . I do not understand how imaging is out? when it can cover 95% of that? Is that because they supply you with a new "standard" Image every year? –  Psycogeek Dec 30 '11 at 1:04
    
Is not the point of reinstalling the image to reset the changes you made back to the default? Would not re-doing all your changes defeat the purpose? –  Bobson Dec 30 '11 at 20:50
    
@bobson: It's true that that is one of the uses. Organisational deployment is another, which is what's used in this case. –  Zano Dec 30 '11 at 23:00
    
In that case, you definitely do not want to bother with imaging. A file/regkey-centric solution is better. –  Bobson Dec 30 '11 at 23:36

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you have sufficient time, and enough specific software, creating an unattended install script(guides here and here may be a good idea.

For some software you can shortcut this with ninite which allows you to download and install a subset of a selection of software - for example browsers, some dev tools and so on, and is what i use. You may also want to look at TGSP, or allmyapps amongst others, since they may have a different/more suitable set of software

windiff will allow you to check differences between sets of registry files and you can get a copy here - you can then export the difference between your modified system and the baseline system to the baseline system i believe.

On the other hand, there's an easier way - software virtualisation. I personally favour svs/svw (SU question linked, cause its a pain to find the software in question) to create a layer with all my software. Simply move the layer over to the new system and everything would be as it was. There's other options for software virtualisation, but this is the one i know that works

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+1. Great summary. Allmyapps seems to get closest to my immediate needs, allthough software virtualization is probably the best long-term solution. –  Zano Dec 30 '11 at 15:22

I was recommended the combination PortableApps.com and Dropbox. It seems to be a pretty easy-to-use portable application manager, but is naturally limited to applications made portable.

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It defeats the purpose of imaging, but you could make a registry backup, and then also copy everything in program files, Program Files (x86), appData, and any other locations that you installed software to, and just overwrite those locations on your new machine.

It would be better to make a full backup, but I am not sure that you can (if it falls under images, though it is not necessarily an image).

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+1. I'm leaning towards this solution, but the registry backup is what worries me most. It would have to be a very selective registry overwrite... –  Zano Dec 30 '11 at 1:29
    
Why? Assuming that your previous registry was good, what is wrong with overwriting with it? –  soandos Dec 30 '11 at 1:36
    
Would there be any issues concerning dates and times? –  iglvzx Dec 30 '11 at 5:32
    
The only issue is the data shown for some things (like last used on for example) might be incorrect. A wrong date will not generally crash a program though. –  soandos Dec 30 '11 at 5:37
    
@soandos, all official company software is upgraded through the standard image (corporate licensing requirement). It would be bad if I accidentally were to overwrite the new software version or licenses. –  Zano Dec 30 '11 at 13:18

You're better off making your own image of the system once you have it up and running like it should.

Outside of this, there's not too much that you can do except create ISOs of your CDs/Software and this will cut down delays in CD Read Speeds. Also, you can have a partition where you store your applications so that you do not have to download them each time.

An open source program that you can do without installing anything is CloneZilla.

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As I stated in the question, imaging is unfortunately not an option. As for CDs (who uses those nowadays anyway? :-)) I don't reinstall from CDs/DVDs, most of my software are already in ISOs like you suggested, but it's still a PITA. –  Zano Dec 30 '11 at 1:06
    
Portableise the secondary applications. That is what they are now doing at locked down (reset each day) college computers. Student walks in with Flash disk that is set-up. student spends entire semester creating special ways to route around it :-) –  Psycogeek Dec 30 '11 at 1:33

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