Mac deployment/imaging options that don't require rocket scientists
February 16, 2009 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I am a novice mac lab manager. I was using the popular Netrestore to roll out images to our mac lab. I discovered that the software has been discontinued, and furthermore it now breaks when I try to use it.
So I guess I need to know what the easiest alternative to Netrestore/firewire drives is for imagine our two labs.

Previously, I was using five firewire hard drives to image our lab. Bombich suggests using Deploy Studio as an alternative to the retired netrestore but a)it feels like overkill and b)I can't figure it out.

I have 22 more intel-based mac minis to install, and I was wondering if there is a relatively painless way for me to image them, or if I just need to take the blue pill and learn to be a real sysadmin at this point, and learn Deploy Studio.

I'm just an English teacher--this isn't my main gig.
posted by mecran01 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I should have titled this, "Mac Deployment for Dummies." Oh well.
posted by mecran01 at 12:18 PM on February 16, 2009

What broke about NetRestore? We're still using it to deploy 250 OS X 10.5.6/WinXP systems. However, we're doing it over NetBoot and not a firewire drive.
posted by sbutler at 12:33 PM on February 16, 2009

We run netboot as well. However if you want to use the firewire drive i recently used Carbon Copy Cloner to image my personal machine.
posted by moochoo at 1:15 PM on February 16, 2009

Copying a master image with carbon copy cloner then placing it on identical hardware seems to cause all sorts of weird problems. I will dig up my netrestore log and see what is hosed.
posted by mecran01 at 1:27 PM on February 16, 2009

Ok, this is odd. I booted from the external drive on the machine that needs to be imaged and it is working. It may be that I was using an older version of Netrestore that was incompatible with the newer version of CCC. Doh.
posted by mecran01 at 1:38 PM on February 16, 2009

Most of us are switching to Deploy Studio. It is not too difficult to setup and you can still use the same images you were previously restoring with NetRestore.
posted by J-Garr at 2:39 PM on February 16, 2009

NetRestore is "very temperamental" (I use another phrase in private). Usually you get something like "permission error" which is what it throws up for not only permission errors but general image not found errors. So it could be anything from a typo, a rename, to a different volume mount. Any time the imaging process fails, I find it best to restart the machine before trying again.

But I expect NetRestore to continue limping along through the 10.5.x series. Which means we can put off the move to Deploy Studio until we're ready for Snow Leopard.
posted by sbutler at 3:32 PM on February 16, 2009

I guess the answer is that I need to learn Deploy Studio then. I wish there was a big book of mac networking secrets I could buy, but I suspect that book is published by The Internet and scattered over about 10 different sites.

Hopefuly Netrestore will last through this semester. I will have more time to learn something new this summer.
posted by mecran01 at 4:41 PM on February 16, 2009

A few things for you to consider:

Yes, Deploy Studio is the route that most of us are taking as NetRestore ages. Its poor documentation is the biggest hurdle. I'm hoping that as more Mac sysadmins begin to use it, the documentation will improve. This would be similar to the path that RadminD has taken, adopted early and implemented by the highly-technical, but with lackluster documentation. And now that it's matured for a few years, the documentation is much more complete and the tools are point-and-click friendly enough that you don't have to have extensive command-line experience to setup and administer it. You should, however, at least understand RadminD's concepts and how it works before attempting to build it out as a solution.

I am an old-skool Mac admin. I was administering AppleShareIP servers in the dark days of Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9 (anyone remember the AppleShareIP Black Magic webpage with all the whacky tricks to get it working properly?). When Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server came along, it was a quite uncomfortable transition for me, but have since become vastly more familiar with Mac OS X's underpinnings and am familiar and comfortable at the command line. I now regularly manage labs at schools with hundreds or thousands of Macs.

Because your lab is small and appears to be isolated, I think your best imaging tool will likely be Disk Utility, System Image Utility, or DeployStudio. You could investigate JAMF's Caspar suite which is truly excellent (but a bit pricey compared to free); it includes imaging tools and management, inventory, and tracking tools. You might also investigate Faronics DeepFreeze which works well for managing small labs where you don't want to build an entire infrastructure just for imaging (NetBoot) and maintenance (Apple Remote Desktop, RadminD, Caspar, LanDesk).

You should get a Gmail account if you don't already have one and subscribe to the and MacOSX Server mailing lists. And just lurk. Read. I have several years worth of posts archived it my Gmail account and frequently scan the archives for solutions to problem or for recommendations. It is by far the most valuable resources I have. I also read the Apple Discussion boards often looking for solutions. also has a number of rather geeky Mac techs contributing solutions.

You can always MeMail me. I'm happy to help out any fellow Mac sysadmin in any way that I can. Good luck to you.
posted by at 11:42 AM on February 17, 2009

Mr Barrett: thank you for this note and I will contact you via PM!
posted by mecran01 at 11:47 AM on February 18, 2009

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