Some software require each computer to have an unique name in the network.

After cloning from an identical ghost image for each computer, each of the 100+ computers will have the same name. As a result, I have to (for each of the computers):

  1. Change the computer name
  2. Install the software manually
  3. Install some other software and configured manually

This takes an enormous amount of time.
Do you know if there are any ways to clone computer with unique names / make this process faster?

Platform: Windows XP
Preferred cloning software: Ghost

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    Are you saying that you've got 100+ computers with the same name? If so, how did you accomplish that? – joeqwerty May 26 '11 at 2:08
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    @joeqwerty: I used to install ghost image to 100+ computers. Without any configuration, the computer will have the same computer name. – Seubei May 26 '11 at 4:16

I strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with WDS - Windows Deployment Services.

You can do something as simple as deploy a fresh, blank Windows image to every computer on your network, or you can build your own custom image (this is what you want).

In a nutshell:

  1. Build an image the way you want it to be
  2. Perform a "sysprep" function on it
  3. Load the image into WDS
  4. Boot each computer off the LAN (that's what that little-used PXE boot under the Boot Options is for) and install your custom image
  5. Profit!

WDS allows you to specify a naming scheme for every image it installs, and you can set up all of the different images you want, and even let people choose their own (we do this here for testing PCs, the developers/testers just boot off the network and choose a different image to install when they want to make a major change to their testing machine).

The best part - if you have Windows Server licenses, this is all included.

If you have more than 10 PCs in your network, I strongly suggest learning about it, as it's a huge time saver.

  • Great response, Mark. I couldn't imagine trying to setup that many computers without following the steps you listed. Lets hope Seubei takes your advice! – Chadddada May 26 '11 at 3:10
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    +1 "it's a huge time saver" -> Understatement of the Day™ Award – Chris S May 26 '11 at 3:45
  • @Mark Henderson: I am happy to hear your suggestion! I have understand that Sysprep would ease my effort. Unluckily I do not have Windows Server 2008 R2. Can I still run sysprep in Windows XP and use ghost to clone the image? – Seubei May 26 '11 at 4:27
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    @Seubei - WDS is present on Server 2008 and Server 2003 as well (although the 2003 version is different). Yes, you can do the sysprep step right before you clone the machine. From memory you want to do /generalize and then make the ghost image before it boots up again, but I could be wrong. Although, if you've already ghosted the 100 machines, may I suggest you just run the sysprep on the 100 machines, rather than re-imaging them, as it has the same effect. – Mark Henderson May 26 '11 at 4:39
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    Yes, you can use sysprep to seal the system and use ghost to do the imaging. I believe the "answers" file created in sysprep can be used to input much of the configuration when windows setup unseals the installation. Don't forget to add in drivers for any machine/hardware you intend to support. – SpacemanSpiff May 26 '11 at 4:41

I am sure you are in a pinch to get this work done so following Mark's advice is probably your best/quickest route to go. After things calm down, assuming that they do from time to time, you may want to start looking into VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). VMware View is a great desktop virtualization product that will let you create many custom images, give them unique names, and make changes that can effect your whole environment quickly. Setup Thinapp with that and you can set users up with applications, that are independent of the images, quickly.

  • Man I love Thinapp – Mark Henderson May 26 '11 at 3:25
  • Wow you are very advanced, Chadddada. I just want to clean up the piles in my to-do list. – Seubei May 26 '11 at 6:14

This is a standard feature of all the corporate editions of Ghost and has been since Ghost Enterprise 6.0 in 1999. The corporate edition of Ghost was renamed from Ghost Enterprise to Ghost Solution Suite in around 2004 and the current version is named Ghost Solution Suite 2.5.

This particular task can be handled using Ghost several ways, the simplest being through using the Ghost Solution Suite management console (which has been a standard part of Ghost since version 6.0 in 1999).

As well as completely automating the entirety of the imaging operation - shutting down the clients to Windows PE, starting the GhostCast server - an imaging task in the management console can set a variety of custom options in the newly-imaged machines, including reapplying the name/IP address/etc that a computer had previously before applying the new image, or generating a new unique name from a template (although the templating options aren't powerful - it just uses a number from an internal database ID so that the generated name is stable across task runs) as well as arrange for Sysprep to be run during image capture or allowing various other custom steps to be processed such as transferring files to (and running scripts on) the target machine after imaging. This can also include arranging for the newly-imaged machine to be joined to a domain, if you use Active Directory domains.

The less convenient way for those averse to using the built-in automation is to either deploy an image which has been generalised with Sysprep, in which case the mini-setup wizard can generate a name for the machine, or to have the Ghost Walker tool included in Ghost generate a random name for the machine.

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