We as a company order in 30 computers a month and this involves a gruelling process of turning them all on, downloading and installing updates, then install the same programs over and over again Is there a way to turn on a computer with Windows XP pro installed and then put in a CD and leave it to install all updates and programs etc

Looked into tools like nlite and sysprep but they involve re-installing the operating system

Also i would prefer the tool to be free or open source

  • You might want to ask this on serverfault.com Commented Sep 4, 2009 at 0:21

7 Answers 7


I work for a very large University, we use a combination of use Norton Ghost, and a number of other tools to manage our SOE (Standard Operating Environment). We also use SysPrep before we image the machines before we make an image.

Make sure that you install all of the drivers for each of the different PC types on the image you are rolling out. To do this Audit all of the computers to see what hardware they have got and group them into similar hardware type (usually by motherboard chipset type). Make an image with Ghost of the biggest group, then install that image onto one of the PCs from the next group of PCs, and update the drivers. Do this until you have copied the image to each different hardware type and the final image will contain the drivers for every different hardware type. When some new computers (with new hardware) come in, we install our image onto that PC and update the drivers.

For the longer term it's best to convince procurement of the advantages of buying exactly the same type/brand/model of computer hardware for this to work smoothly.

It would be easiest for you to make a Ghost image on a bootable Dual Layer DVD (We use the BartPE environment, but there are many simple bootable CD/DVD solutions

With a bit of planning an a little bit of hard work you can make it very easy to manage a very large number of computers with a very small number of people (we have 3000+ PCs and Laptops, 400+ Blackberries, 500+ iPhones, 750+ Printers and there are 8 techs; we still have time for drinks on Friday afternoon!)

  • +1 for driver hint when using sysprep. But; Re: »make a Ghost image on a bootable Dual Layer DVD«: It's time to forget these kind of legacy media and use a modern computer network or a USB flash drive/hard disk drive, I'd say… Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 21:38
  • We have heaps of USB drives, and USB keys (100's if not 1000's of them) but DVDs are by far the cheapest to duplicate! Our image is 9Gb so, 3000 x DL-DVDs = $270AUD, 3000 x 16Gb USBkeys = $60,000AUD, 3000 x 20Gb USB ext HDDs = $100,000AUD Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 21:45

If you use sysprep with the reseal option then shut the PC down and image the disk to an external drive, you can then image it back onto any identical PC. It will then go through the bit asking you for the PC name admin password etc. but will already have your software installed.


Give FOG a look and see if this will work for you. It's completely free :D


I've used DriveImage XML and Norton Ghost to perform the actual drive imaging. You can use them with sysprep as @Col has explained.


Have a think about OS deployment using Microsoft SCCM, for example.


FOG, its a free and open source cloning tool we used at my school, can clone a machine in less than 20 minutes usually. you just need a linux box running ubuntu or fedora, and a HD big enough to store the images



Pushing out images over the network, or having an imaging machine that has many sata ports to locally image drives when they com in might be the way to go.

Single OS Network Install Methods

There are different methods depending on the operating system you are attempting to install

Multi-Boot Gold Image Method

I am responsible for a group that amongst it's responsibilities maintains a couple hundred similar machines that have the following requirements:

  1. They are updated at the same time
  2. They are updated quarterly
  3. Downtime should be minimized
  4. They dual boot between a current Windows and Linux distro
  5. They have about 500GB of software installed

The method that we use is a Gold Image method, with a IGMP multicast/IP session management layer. A simplified version of our gold image setup and deployment is as follows

  1. Install Windows, Enter Audit Mode at user setup.
  2. Perform updates, and install software, Ninite, Secunia PSI (at home), or CSI at work, and Redmond App Manager can be helpful.
  3. Use sysprep to enter generalized OOBE, and reboot to linux install
  4. Install Linux (we use Ubuntu at the moment)
  5. Install GPXE (so we can remotely force machines to PXE boot)
  6. We PXE boot all couple hundred machines to UDPCast and send from the gold image machine

Image pushing options

The following are some solutions other than UDPCast that could work

Configuration Management

Were it not for our constraints, multiboot, and imaging 500GB to 200 machines all at once, in a short period of time, we would deploy a minimal OS configured with a configuration management solution. Some options you might look at are

For windows only environments the ability to push software packages via GPO is worth investigating as well.

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