Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm deploying about 200 laptops at a school, with a custom Windows 7 image. The supplier can clone the disk of the 'source' machine onto all 200 target machines. This allows for the pre-installation of required software. However, this does not adequately allow for the create of individual user accounts. At this point we are not running AD, and the machines are essentially unmanaged. I would like the following things:

  • When the student first turns on the laptop, they will be presented with a screen asking them to enter their username.
  • A new account will then be created for that user.
  • There are certain settings (e.g. desktop background, taskbar applications) that I would like to pre-configure for the newly created user.

Any pointers to any info about this would be great.

share|improve this question
up vote 0 down vote accepted

This is the exact use case for setting up a domain. I would HIGHLY recommend you do so. You'll be a much happier and saner admin when you do.

I take that back, since the students do own the laptops forcing them on the domain isn't such a good idea.

What I would do in your situation is this:

In the image setup a common admin UN/PW combo so that they all have a common admin account coming from the factory. Then, when you distribute the machines - and this is where it could get sticky as far as manpower - give a class on basic administration. Things like:

  • How to change the admin password
  • How to create your own limited account - and why it is a good reason to use that day to day
  • How to setup file sharing
  • How to access the school's student resources from the laptop
  • Depending on the age of the students - where to get free development tools
    • Visual studio express
    • Eclipse

I would also talk to some of the more tech savvy students to see if they would be willing to volunteer time after school to help other students - basic tech support, re-image as needed, general help. Not only does that take some of the work load off you - but gives the students something to put on their resume / college applications if they choose to go into IT (or preferably go to college THEN into IT)

To address the control comment, just because they are on a domain doesn't mean you can't make the students group power users or local admins. In fact it would let you only set that on certain machines - so you could have a set they couldn't mess up.

For the user creation on login - you'd have to write some sort of hook into MSGINA i think - i've been out of education tech too long to know if that exists.

In any case, I would suggestion you look into something like deep freeze to prevent the machines from getting tooo messed up.

share|improve this answer
Domains and school laptops don't always mix, especially depending on the license that the laptops are provided with at school. When I was at highschool (which was in the very beginning of laptops in schools, when novell dominated instead of AD) the laptops were owned by the students families, and as a student (and now as a parent) I'd be pretty pissed off if our privately owned laptop was stuck on a domain. – Mark Henderson Feb 2 '10 at 1:53
I actually want the students to have a high degree of control and responsibility over their machines. Major issues will be dealt with by re-imaging the machine. And we haven't got servers deployed yet :( But I may well re-visit an AD setup depending on how this experiment goes – askvictor Feb 2 '10 at 1:56
@Farseeker: I'm completely with you on the private laptop part of it, if the student('s family) owns the laptop, then it should not be on the domain - but at the same time i read the question to be the school was buying the laptops. Also when I was working at a school ~10 years ago MS and Novell were giving us licenses on the order of $1/ea (Novell even gave us a utility to generate our own lic. files.) – Zypher Feb 2 '10 at 2:13
Ohhh, $1 licenses? I like the sound of that. I hated the bloody Novell login names though. I still remember mine: - ugh. – Mark Henderson Feb 2 '10 at 2:16
The students own the laptops. – askvictor Feb 2 '10 at 3:25

If setting up a domain isn't something you want to do you could probably achieve this in your Master image. However once it is in the students hands aren't going to have any control over it.

You can achieve your first two requirements using Sysprep before the supplier loads it on to one of the netbooks.

Your third requirement will require updating the default user profile, which will mean all new users will inherit the settings you update.

Hope that helps

share|improve this answer
How does one update the default user profile? In particular, the desktop background and taskbar icons? – askvictor Feb 2 '10 at 1:57
@askvictor, that might deserve a question on its own, but FWIW, check out the following reg key: HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop and set the wallpaper key to the full path to the wallpaper. This will then get applied to any NEW profiles that get created. As for taskbar icons, I believe they're stored in a folder under Users\Default, but I'm not sure – Mark Henderson Feb 2 '10 at 2:18
you might want to check out… to get an idea of how to make supported changes to the default user profile – commandbreak Feb 2 '10 at 2:21

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.