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Hey guys, I'm currently managing a network of around 15 computers, all using Windows XP. I'm a novice Windows network admin and I'm just wondering how I would push software to all the computers in one go rather than having to type in a command on each computer. Also, are there any risks involved in doing it this way? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Also see: serverfault.com/questions/90215/…. We are really liking wpkg. –  Zoredache Jul 28 '10 at 18:54
    
The question is close enough to #90215 that it's a duplicate and these answers should be merged (because they're pretty good answers) –  Mark Henderson Jul 28 '10 at 21:27
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5 Answers 5

There are plenty of ways to distribute softwares to your client computers:

  • Cloning: you can pre-install your softwares in a template system image and use that to automatically build your clients; this is of course quite useless for deploying something after the system is already installed, but it's very useful for the initial setup.
  • Scripting: you can use startup scripts and/or logon scripts to automatically run actions on system startup or user logon, and these action can involve checking if a software is installed and install it if needed.
  • Group Policies: if you have a simple environment and your softwares are nicely packaged with Windows Installer (.msi) setup files, this can be set up quite easily.
  • System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM): Microsoft's large-scale system management solution; it can do a whole lot of things other than deploying software, and it of course also does that pretty well. But it's costly and complex to implement, and definitely oversized for a 15-computers network.
  • Other vendors, of course, have other system management solutions, which also include software deployment.

Finally, if you're looking specifically for a way do deploy updates, there's Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), which comes freely with any recent Windows Server system and it's not difficult at all to set up (it basically sets up a local mirror of the main Windows Update site and controls the automatical deployment of updates).

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Many people use Microsoft's WSUS or MOM/SCOM to do this work, it's not free but works just fine and is really pretty safe. We've used it extensively for years with little problem, you'll need to learn how to use it though!

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Or GPO Software installation policies as well for smaller scale installs. –  Zypher Jul 28 '10 at 18:28
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WSUS is used only for updates; MOM/SCOM are for monitoring, you probably were referring to SMS/SCCM. –  Massimo Jul 28 '10 at 18:29
    
Yes Massimo, our SCOM boxes happen to do SCCM too so I mentally link the two - you're right. I should have mentioned Radia too - bit crap but lots of people use it. –  Chopper3 Jul 28 '10 at 18:36
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You could deploy an MSI via Group Policy, if you have an Active Directory Domain. This is probably the best solution for what you're asking.

You could use Microsoft Deployment, and make the software part of your image.

You could use Deployment and make the software a package selectable when you reimage, but not part of the base.

You could put the software on a network share and run it on each computer via a script or some such.

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Although great when it works, sometimes the Group Policy software publishing is inconsistent or not possible for some installations (specifically, SETUP.EXE based ones will not work; only Windows Installer .MSIs).

For a domain of such a small size, you might find that using the logon scripts is an easy alternative. What I have done is have the logon script check if the program file or a related Registry value exists and only run the installation if it was missing (so they only see it once). If users do not have full local-administrator privileges to the their PCs, you can use RunAs or similar to execute the installation in an elevated context. And anything you can do from the command line, from running quiet/automatic setups to moving files to changing configurations and more, you can do that from the login script too.

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Some software is different than others. App deploy has some great resources for figuring out how to deploy applications based on each individual software package.

You also might want to look into System Center Essentials. It's pretty good at working with lots of MSI based installs and is designed for a smaller environment. SCCM/SMS is pretty hefty for a small environment.

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