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What is the best way, or should I say most logical way, to create multiple factory images of different PCs on one external hard drive? The company I work for, we order multiple computers each month to replace the ancient computers that are dying out.

We don't receive OS install CDs with the computers, but we do get the driver CDs. Since these computers (most of the time) are built with the same specs, same model, etc... is it better to do just one factory image backup, or keep different ones for each computer?

Another question that arises is, with a factory image, does it also include the service tag/serial number in the backup? I wouldn't want to restore a PC with another PCs service tag. When we do start replacing these computers after a couple years, we sell them to our employees without a hard drive. If they supply the hard drive then we can reload the factory image on it for them.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Since you mentioned the term service tag I am going to assume part of the old computers are from Dell. In that case the asset tag is stored in the BIOS of the computer, but not on the DVDs. It is safe to keep one set of reinstallation/driver DVDs. (Or a few if you are worried about loosing a disc, scratching it etc).

If you do not have a reinstallation procedure yet an are using XP:

  • Reinstall one of the new computers once. Keep track of all changed settings and write them down (this will be used later when reinstalling new [models of] PCs annd will help you keep an uniform setup,
  • Run all windows updates, install drivers. Clean up temp folders etc.
  • Make a backup (if all goes well you will not need this backup.)
  • Runs sysprep with the appropriate settings (seal, mini setup etc). This will reset the computer settings to a mostly blank PC without network name, not in a domain etc
  • Make a second (ghost/acronis/...) backup. This is the one you will need.
  • Boot the PC, fill in computer name etc. Welcome to a fresh PC.

The next time you install a similar model PC reimage using the second backup. This will save you a lot of work, a lot of time and usually results in a consequent setup.

If you need to do this for a lot of XP based systems: download driver packs and take a look at scripting.

If you are using windows7 or vista then things are different. There is no more sysprep. There is a PE boot and wim images. I barely used those and do not feel up to the task of writing a short guide for those, but I am sure there are plenty of explanations somewhere on the net.

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Well, most big manufacturers image off a standardised image - if you have no software specific to your needs, you can simply image the system at that point, and a restore would be identical to the factory situation.

The service tag wouldn't be stored on the system, and all of them would have the same, SLP install key. Distinct stored tags would mean that the manufacturer would need to set up each system one by one. Service tags are just meant for easy warranty and driver identification.

I'd suggest a factory image per specific model of system - taking into account sub models.

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