What is the best and quicker way to deploy and customize a number of newly arrived iMacs (say 10 or more) using an already configured iMac, a DHCP/DNS server, a LAN and Remote Desktop installed on the configured machine ?

The main tasks to be performed are accounts creation (1 account per machine of course), system settings customization, security, filevault, firewall and other minor tasks.

If needed I can think about a PXE/bootp netboot, serving an install image via tftp or similar (sorry, i'm new to MAC, but I'm pretty expert on linux/unix and I'm used to configure RHEL5 servers via cobbler+puppet... so please don't hesitate to be geek ;)

Thanks in advance


If you have a Mac Server License, you can use Deploy Studio, a free program that has decent documentation.

To create images, a great tool our Mac specialist uses is Insta DMG. It creates images well, and allows you install packages you create within your image. Good Luck, hope that helps.

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  • Good hits RascalKing, I'll try both and let you know ... As I sayd in the comments to the above answer I don't have and I don't want to have (for now at least) neither a Mac Server or a Mac Os X Server installed on an iMac or similar ... I already have a good network infrastructure, a DNS/DHCP/BOOTP server, a File server and so on .. so my goal is to use my existing servers and one iMac to do the job. Don't forget I also have Apple Remote Desktop Unlimited to accomplish the job. – drAlberT Jul 16 '09 at 10:47
  • Deploy Studio kicks ass! I use it to create my images as well as deploy them. – Doug Chase Sep 2 '09 at 12:08

I think you want NetInstall rather than NetBoot. NetBoot basically boots the OS across the network, kinda like a thin client. NetInstall boots into an automated install image. You can do this with a regular iMac acting as a NetInstall server: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Regular-Mac-a-NetBoot-Server!/ . Those instructions are somewhat old, but the concept stays the same. Also check here: http://www.macgeekery.com/hacks/hardware/make_any_mac_a_netboot_server

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  • thanks chrnd, this probably solves installation issues, but how to have a configuration management system too ? AFAYK is a puppet porting available or possible? Thanks – drAlberT Jul 16 '09 at 11:28
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    Free? I like radmind: rsug.itd.umich.edu/software/radmind Non-Free? I use Apple Remote Desktop. – churnd Jul 16 '09 at 11:36
  • OK, so since I already have bought Apple RD I think this can be a solution ... I have only to study it to understand how to accomplish the task, but yuo can confirm that it is able to programatically handle different machines or groups of machines in a simple and efficent way? Thanks .. an up vote for you! – drAlberT Jul 16 '09 at 12:09

The system you are interested in is call netboot it is described starting from page 88 of the Mac OS X Server v10.5 - Server Administration

I have retagged this question with netboot and collected a couple more questions under that tag

If you do not want to buy any more money then buy an external disc. Get one machine how you would like it. Boot from the macos CD start disk utilities, create an image of the internal disc on the external disc.

Boot the destination machine from CD and restore the disc image using disk utilities once more.

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  • I have no Mac Server on my lan (at the moment at least), is netboot available on a simple iMac too ? My server side of the LAN infrastructure is all linux-based for now... – drAlberT Jul 15 '09 at 19:11
  • It's possible to run a single Mac as a NetBoot server but not ideal. See the comment on the question for the instructions. – Chealion Jul 15 '09 at 20:10
  • The only mac that can't run the server is the mac mini (Although there are hacks to do it ). You would only need to have the 10 client version which is $499 or $999 for unlimited store.apple.com/us/product/MB607Z/A?mco=NDc2OTcxMA It would be possible to build an open netboot service but it would not be trivially easy. – James Jul 15 '09 at 20:23
  • @James: Mac OS X Server can be installed on any desktop Mac (or Xserve). Without hacks it does not allow you to install it on a laptop of any kind. I've got Server running on a Mac mini beside me right now. – Chealion Jul 15 '09 at 20:32
  • I can't find any web pages to support me, but our old mac support person said ( around 2 years ago ) that you couldn't install server on a mini. However times change :) – James Jul 15 '09 at 21:54

We are using the "cheap" version with Carbon Copy Cloner. Since - I think 10.5.5 - Leopard installs all drivers for all Macs (MB, MBP, iMac, ...). So what we did was setting up one Mac with 10.5 with our admin account with all settings (sleep settings, appletalk, printers), installed all updates, installed all "basic apps" (Firefox, Skype, whatever we put on all Macs). Then we created a "read-write"-disc image from the entire HDD with CCC (read-write simply because it let's us drop&replace newer versions of e.g. Firefox within the disc image).

And whenever a new Mac arrives we fire it up in Firewire-mode, start CCC and clone the created disc image to the new Mac/HDD.

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  • This is not exactly an elegant solution, but ha something nice. +1 for the hint – drAlberT Sep 2 '09 at 15:09

What about building one up, doing a backup of it using time machine onto a firewire or USB drive (or two or three drives) and then restore onto the 10 new boxes?

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  • Too tricky, and do not scale! – drAlberT Sep 2 '09 at 15:07

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