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When a freshly imaged machine on my network connects to my chef-server for the first time, it uses validation.pem to connect. Through this process a new Node and Client are created on the server, both with the same name as the hostname of the new machine. That Client is recorded with a public key that matches a private key in /etc/chef/client.pem on the new machine.

Is there a way to have new Nodes continue to register themselves, but not create new Clients and instead use a pre-existing client.pem and Client definition on the server?

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Chef won't work the way you want. Nodes are intended to represent unique host instances, not profiles of disparate machines. If you can provide some more details about why you don't want to create node entries for each of your systems, we can probably come up with some workarounds for you. –  jgoldschrafe Aug 22 '13 at 14:32
@jgoldschrafe I do want to create node entries for each of my systems. I don't want to create client entries. The two are distinct on the server, they just seem to be linked in the validation/registration process by default. I want to unlink them. –  Sparr Aug 22 '13 at 15:36
No. Take a look at the question Can a chef client use a different node_name and client_name. Technically you can make it via calling chef ruby API since the client name is just used for authenticating a node. the key problem is it always use node_name as client_name, which you can't change via using chef-client –  shawnzhu Oct 16 '13 at 14:23

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