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I want to set up a Windows XP environment that can be copied directly with the following properties:

  1. Same programs/settings installed on all of the instances
  2. Only things differing are necessary things (like network settings; IP and MAC addresses)

I'd like to run multiple instances of the same set-up on VMware with minimal effort in re-building the "master" image and starting a new instance.

What's the best way to do this?

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You'd get better answers if you stated which VMWare product you're using. There's probably a way of doing it by copying the harddisk files, re-importing configs and having VMWare realize what you've done and offer to change the MAC address for you. – justinsteven Nov 20 '09 at 0:50
I'm using VMware Server. – user26711 Nov 20 '09 at 1:05

What Mikael said but I would sysprep the image so you get a unique SID if you are involved with a domain.

Then it will be real easy to just copy the image, deal with the networking ids, then run though just a few steps depending on how you sysprep the image.

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+1 mentioning sysprep – Oskar Duveborn Nov 20 '09 at 9:48
+1 for recommending Sysprep. I always use Sysprep for any type of imaging where I'm creating a master image. – joeqwerty Nov 20 '09 at 12:46

You should be able to create a fresh Windows XP virtual machine, then copy the machine directory (containing the files ending in .vmx, .vmdk, and so on). They are stored in ~/.vmware by default in Linux, unfortunately I have no idea where they are in Windows.

After that you may change the MAC address(es) by editing the .vmx file according to this reference. The IP address however is of course defined in the operating system, but you could solve this by using DHCP.

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I do almost exactly this.

I have a "reference" XP image that has current patches, basic apps, etc. When I need a new image, I just copy the entire directory to a new name. Then when I open the copy in VMware Workstation, it asks me if I copied it or moved it; when I tell it the image was copied, VMware automatically fixes the MAC address.

The only problem is that one tends to go VM-happy when it is this easy to make copies -- I have something like nine or ten VMs on one laptop, and keeping them all patched is major work in itself sometimes.

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