Install same disk image on ~50 unique machines.
December 10, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

How would I install a disk image on ~50 machines all of unique hardware configuration?

I have roughly 50 intel based machines that all have unique hardware configurations. I would like each of these machines to run the exact same software and configuration. How would I go about creating a disk image (VM Ware?), and getting that image to run on each of the 50 machines?

Is this possible? Would I have to get a list of all the drivers required for each machine and install those into the master disk image?

I have scoured askmefi already and read answers like the one here, but am looking for more help.
posted by blueplasticfish to Technology (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've tried to do this, and there's a tool you can use to create a custom Vista image with a program called "VLite" ... but it will be more trouble than it is worth. Vista does a fairly good job of fetching the drivers after the install. Don't try automating this, you'll waste time.
posted by geoff. at 1:03 PM on December 10, 2008

Images are tailored for a specific hardware build. They work because the individual machines are functionally the same. Images aren't intended for what you seem to want.

Get something like Deep Freeze. You can install Windows individually, let it optimize itself for each build, then freeze that in place with Deep Freeze so that you can revert whenever you like. This sounds like much less of a hassle than trying to build a single image for different machines, and you get most of the benefits of an image anyways, other than install time.
posted by valkyryn at 1:14 PM on December 10, 2008

Do you want to run a particular piece of software on all of these machines (i.e., Apache and a server-side app) or do you want them to be normal desktops?
posted by zippy at 1:18 PM on December 10, 2008

Response by poster: @zippy: they will all be desktop workstations with specialized medical software.
posted by blueplasticfish at 1:29 PM on December 10, 2008

I found this to be helpful.
posted by chrisroberts at 1:50 PM on December 10, 2008

You could make a slipstreamed Windows installer disk (I'm assuming Windows workstations here) with all the things you want, but that's different than an image. It might give you most of what you want, though.
posted by zippy at 2:22 PM on December 10, 2008

You can look into Big Bangs's Universal Imaging Utility. We use it in the computer lab I work for to image laptops and desktops. UIU stores all the drivers and with the help of Sysprep, we push that one image to multiple machines.
posted by inviolable at 2:22 PM on December 10, 2008

VMWare is a virtualization technology, not a remote imaging app. You would use VMWare to run multiple machines on one physical piece of hardware.

How you make an image and how you deploy it are two different things. You can use sysprep to help you make an image that will work on different hardware. You can deploy it in a few different ways. Im familiar with using Ghost and Acronis.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:27 PM on December 10, 2008

Acronis Universal Restore is exactly what the doctor ordered! Works like a charm.
posted by masher at 2:30 PM on December 10, 2008

Response by poster: @masher what is the difference between Universal Restore and Snap Deploy?
posted by blueplasticfish at 2:54 PM on December 10, 2008

This is brand-specific but at my job we use Dell's ImageDirect tool which supports Latitude laptops and Precision and Optiplex Desktops of various configurations. On the off-chance these fall in that category you should definitely try to get hooked up with that.

Universal Restore looks like it's geared towards individual consumers since you need a license for each install, but from the description it does do exactly what you're wanting. Still I think the easiest and cheapest route for you is going to be a slipstreamed disk with the previously mentioned Vlite. Biggest issue you'll have is trying to build a silent install cab for your various non-standard medical programs but the forums are quite helpful and the tool is excellent.
posted by genial at 3:07 PM on December 10, 2008

Vista It seems to me you would want to build one of the machines out with OS (Windows, I'm assuming), run SysPrep on it, and then capture that image via imaging software. You can then deploy the image in any number of ways. Sysprepping the system prior to imaging will remove all the system-specific settings and make the image deployable across many PC-based platforms (IOW, it's hardware independent).

Here's some good directions from Microsoft for deploying Windows Vista across multiple machines.

Here's some good directions from Microsoft for deploying Windows XP across multiple machines.

Good luck!
posted by karizma at 9:07 PM on December 10, 2008

Snap Deploy with the Universal Deploy add-on is used only for deployment and is slightly the better option from an initial cost standpoint. Universal Deploy would allow you to multicast to all 50 machines at once (or preferably in batches of say 10 at a time).

Universal Restore with TrueImage has much more functionality beyond simply deploying the image, as such it goes beyond what you originally asked for. The licensing only applies to each machine you install the application on (which you would only have to do once as you will do most of the work via boot disks or USB drives), not to each machine deployed. I assure you that TI has much more functionality than to be considered geared towards only individual users, but those features may or may not be of use to you.

For me, the ability to modify the image file and lack of need to preserve one machine indefinitely as the "gold standard" is reason enough to justify using TI over Snap Deploy; all the other features are gravy and may be useful in the future. YMMV.

Let us know what you choose and how things turn out.
posted by masher at 7:17 AM on December 11, 2008

There is also the world of unattended installs (and, unattended vista, which I know nothing about :P).

Some people push unattended installs out over network boot.
posted by Chuckles at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

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