I am burn in testing 50 propritary PCs for a customer. I am having some issues figureing out how to burn these machines in using my customers requirements.

  1. I must use Passmark Standard 6.0 or >.
  2. I am required to include these tests: CPU, 2D Graphics, Optical Drive, Disks, RAM, Sound, Network.
  3. The machines are not to have an OS installed when they ship.
  4. I cannot open the case without voiding the warranty (On the back there are USB 2 and 3 ports, SATA ports (no power), and a Firewire port).

Since all the machines are exactly the same down to the model# on the power supply, I would like to install Windows on a USB drive and move the drive from machine to machine running the tests. Unfortunately Microsoft won't let me install Windows 7 or XP on a USB drive.

I've looked at all the options for booting from a CD/DVD with Passmark. Again unfortunately some of the tests that are required by my customer are not available in the BartPE/WinPE or Linux boot CD options.

What's the best way for me to test these boxes while following the requirements without having to install, test, then delete Windows from each of the 50 machines?

  • Look here: [Using BurnInTest on a system with no Operating System][1] [1]: passmark.com/ftp/BIT_WinPE.pdf – Adrien P. Oct 27 '11 at 19:00
  • According to that Passmark whitepaper, two of my customer's test requirements (2D Graphics and sound) are not available in the BartPE/WinPE options. I've also looked at the Linux boot CD option and again some of the required tests are not available. – Albion Oct 27 '11 at 19:19
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    What kind of environment will these machines be deployed in? Would it be easier/cheaper to just replace any machines that exhibit problems after real-world usage? – Nic Oct 27 '11 at 20:26

Windows does not support or allow running from a usb drive or other external source. You might be able to use an external eSata hard drive, but that's hit or miss. Your best bet may be to add a burn-in fee to cover your time installing/imaging and then reformatting.

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    More technically Windows can't boot directly off a USB drive because of the way it resets/initializes the USB Bus. It can however boot from a RAM disk loaded from a USB device. WinPE in particular supports this though it can be extended to any version of Windows that will both fit on the USB drive and in RAM (with enough RAM for Windows to also boot). On a side note, Win8 is supposed to change this behavior and allow booting directly off a USB drive. Windows can also RAM Disk boot from a PXE source. – Chris S Oct 27 '11 at 18:21
  • I'm going to look into the RAM disk option (machines have 16gig of RAM), but it looks as though I'm going to have to install the OS on each machine. sigh Is there any type of "minimal" install for XP or 7? You mention that the eSATA might work. Does that require an external SATA drive or can I get some sort of SATA to standard power plug adapter? – Albion Oct 27 '11 at 19:20
  • Wait for Windows 8 which will boot from USB. – mailq Oct 27 '11 at 20:44
  • @Albion I'm not sure the RAM disk is a good idea, as it will likely hurt your benchmarks (there won't be much ram left for the running system). – Joel Coel Oct 28 '11 at 3:50

The burn-in test should resemble the actual production environment as closely as possible, which means installing the operating system and drivers that will actually be used in production.

Therefore, you should focus on optimizing your operating system deployment and cleanup methods. To quickly install Windows on a large number of identical computers, you might want to look at using Windows Deployment Services to install from a server over the network. This image can also include the PassMark software required by your customer. You should be able to make the process even faster with an unattended install.

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