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I am looking at using a software installation and configuration management framework/tool to automate building virtual images (based on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003/2008) for developers. Can anyone recommend a good tool/framework to use for this, or any other method that they have found useful (i.e. using an MSI, etc)?

Thanks, MagicAndi

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4 Answers 4

How far do you want to go with this? You can get up and running reasonably well using the Windows AIK and something like Wininstall LE (Google for both) without spending anything, but you'll have to do some of the work yourself. On the other hand, a full automated suite can very quickly and easily get you into silly money territory.

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mh, Obviously, something open source would be best (see the options that I list in my answer)/ I will look into the options you suggested in your answer. Thanks. +1 –  MagicAndi Jul 2 '09 at 9:53

Assuming you have Active Directory in production, group policy software installation policy and MSI files (either off-the-shelf or custom-built) are a cheap way to do automated installs of applications onto computers. Group policy is also a great way to configure the computer and user environment with consistent settings (using security options, administrative templates, startup scripts, mainly).

There are a boatload of tools to build MSI files out there (since some software manufacturers still don't understand that using the OS built-in installer is a good thing... >sigh<). I'm partial to the Windows Installer XML toolset (WiX-- see http://wix.sourceforge.net/) because it's very easy to version the WiX source-code files in a version control repository, create and manipulate them with scripts, etc.

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Using Google, I have found the following software installation and configuration management frameworks that may be of use:

I have no experience using any of the above, so if anyone has prior experience of using these frameworks, please add an answer detailing how you rate it (or not!).

Additionally, I came across this article, which describes how to use AutoIT to script the automatic install of multiple applications.

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Chef runs on Windows, and is gaining support for managing more aspects of the OS. It is still in the early phases of support and development.

(Doug has done a tremendous amount of great work in making Chef run better on Windows)

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