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I have suggested that my work use Mac Mini's as a desktop platform for our 40 person call center. They are smaller, more energy efficient and built better than anything else we can get for the price (this is the current 2011 Mac Mini). However, our call center is Windows 7 only. I'd prefer to not have to deal with having the Mac OS installed only to kickstart a Boot Camp install of Windows 7. I'd rather (at least right now, I do have an ultimate goal of slowly introducing the idea of Mac OS) just install Windows 7 only.

I purchased one as a test and during the Boot Camp install, deleted all existing partitions (including the existing Mac OS) and successfully installed Windows 7 as the only bootable OS on the Mac Mini. Everything is working fine and the system runs all apps fantastically (we've increased the RAM to 8GB).

Now how do I clone this? This isn't going to work if I have to tell my helpdesk guy that instead of using PXE and Windows Deployment Service images, he's going to have to install Windows 7 manually to all 40 systems.

Any ideas?

BTW, I'd settle for an option that allowed me to clone a Mac OS/Boot Camp/Windows 7 install if that's the only option. I've read that these new Mac Mini's can't PXE boot and that getting them to boot from USB requires black magic and possibly burnt offerings.

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Wow, they can't PXE boot AND booting from USB is hard to do? How about just not use MACs then? They seem pretty bad for corporate use. IMO you will not be able to introduce Mac OS in a lot of time. Even switching a MS Office version from 2003 to 2007 introduces LARGE trouble in most companies. I also don't really think there is no less costly alternative to those devices that is just as robust. I am obviously biased against Macs though :P. –  sinni800 Feb 6 '12 at 7:29
    
Honestly, I just through in the "ultimate goal" in an effort to keep this from being a "must use Windows" or "must use Mac" debate. Our business is 90% Windows and that's not changing anytime soon. As far as less costly alternative, you can get a base Mac Mini 2011 for $568. I challenge you to find a reliable Core i based system that's as well built for enough less to matter (i.e. more than $100). –  brettbaggott Feb 6 '12 at 13:27
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2 Answers 2

I have just read the last bit of your question again and realised they cant PXE boot, I shall leave the below as reference in case you get them to PXE boot:

Download Clonezilla and use this to create an image of the hard drive, store this image on the server, then use the Debian CD to boot from a PC on the network. You can then use PXE boot to boot the machines you want to image. This will then push out the image to all the Macs you have set to PXE boot.


Now for an alternate suggestion:

Do the above with creating the image, then use an external USB CD ROM drive to boot the Clonezilla CD on each machine.

Another option would be to remove the hard drives and hook several drives up to a PC, then images them all at once – as I presume they have SATA connections on the hard drives?

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Removing a hard drive from a Mac Mini is a daunting task. We may have to go the external CD route because I'm not seeing many other options. –  brettbaggott Feb 6 '12 at 13:24
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up vote 0 down vote accepted

I attached a SuperDrive to the Mac Mini and we were able to boot into Acronis (and we presume several other imaging solutions, even Bart's PE to do WDS stuff) but ultimately, the easiest solution is the one I accepted as the answer. We don't need PXE like we would if we had 800 clients and different physical locations. We have less than 100 systems which are all within easy walking distance of less than 400ft.

The "Windows 7 only" part of this equation was kinda important. We didn't want to have a Mac OS and Bootcamp be part of the final install just as a means to get Windows installed on the system. We took a Mac Mini with Mac OS X installed, went through the Bootcamp process but during the Windows install, removed all partitions including the original Mac OS X. That system became our base image.

The SuperDrive eliminated the "no PXE" issue for us but, as I stated, the easiest method now that we have an image we want to use is to just attach a new, out-of-the-box Mac Mini to our deployment machine via Firewire, hold down the T key on the keyboard during boot of that new Mac Mini to enter "Target Disk Mode", then restore that Windows 7 only image to the new Mac Mini using our favorite (and most likely Windows based) image software such as Acronis. I have since learned that the Target Disk Mode works with the Thunderbolt port as well which means I can install the image as fast as I would be able if the system was attached via SATA to my deployment machine.

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Just an update for anyone trying this, this is going fantastically well. We have deployed 10 replacements so far without a hitch. My helpdesk guy boots to Acronis on a USB key that has our image on it most of the time but he says he's going to start doing the Target Disk Mode way more. It has gone so well that we are about to buy 40 more. –  brettbaggott Mar 23 '12 at 15:15
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