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Here's the scenario: I'm re-installing 4 computers, and I don't want to do the following things manually 4 times:

  • install Windows XP
  • install all service packs
  • install Windows updates
  • install Firefox 3
  • configure some Windows settings
  • etc

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You need Linux. Definitely ;) – kolypto Nov 7 '09 at 2:00

If you have a Windows Server installation, you can use Remote Installation Services (RIS) to install pre-built Windows XP setups. It's basically a SysPrep-ed image that's been uploaded to a special share on the RIS server.

So, you use it by setting up one computer with all the software and settings required, then you run riprep (which is hosted on the admin share on the RIS server). Once riprep is finished, other computers can use PXE (hit F12 at system boot, once you configure your BIOS settings to allow network booting) to talk to the RIS server (which has to be on the same subnet/VLAN as your other computers[1]).

Vista and above use a different technology called Windows Deployment Services (WDS).

[1] If you have a router that supports DHCP relay, you can instead set up DHCP requests for your client computers' subnet to be relayed to the RIS server's DHCP server.

+1 for RIS. Love it. – patjbs May 7 '09 at 21:17

Check out CloneZilla, looks like the right (and free) tool for what you are asking.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I'll have to check it out. – Nathan Bedford May 1 '09 at 17:02

Just install once, image the drive (various tools available) and then use newsid to reset the SID of the final computer. We use this method for deploying virtual machines.

If you want to go the official Microsoft way, then install once, and use Sysprep before imaging the drive. Sysprep is the method companies such as Dell, HP, etc use for imaging new PCs.

Note that both methods above only are suggested for XP if the hardware is near-identical. You may have some success with hardware variations and XP, but generally it's recommended to keep a separate sysprep'd image for each variation. Vista is a lot more forgiving :)

+1 for hardware mention – Christopher Galpin May 1 '09 at 5:18

Will you be doing this regularly? If so, Ghost is your friend. Build an image, ghost it, apply to numerous PCs. I can Ghost a loaded workstation is 10 minutes. So total downtime for a user is roughly 15 minutes to a reimaged machine.

Don't forget to run SysPrep on the master system before you create its image with Ghost! I think enterprise versions can do the SysPrep for you automatically, but the consumer version definitely doesn't. – Chris Jester-Young May 1 '09 at 3:42

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