How can I customize a corporate laptop running Windows Server 2009?
January 12, 2010 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to customize in any way a corporate laptop -- where everything gets erased and reset when you shut it down?

The laptop is running Windows Server 2008. Can I put some settings on a USB drive and then reload them each time? Which settings? Or am I doomed to corporate blandness?

I'm thinking things like screensaver, wallpaper (maybe even rotating), Firefox with add-ons: nothing serious. Will tiny apps do this sort of thing?

posted by feelinggood to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry - Server 2008.
posted by feelinggood at 8:05 PM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: Well, there's Portable Firefox, which runs from a USB stick. There actually seem to be a whole bunch of Portable Apps, if any of those would interest you.

As for your Windows settings... I kind of doubt that there's any native way to restore them from USB on each reboot. There may be a program that does it. But, I'm not finding one.
posted by Netzapper at 8:13 PM on January 12, 2010

Your company may also have disabled the USB ports.
posted by dfriedman at 8:17 PM on January 12, 2010

Your company may also have disabled the USB ports.
Or not. You won't know until you try.

Along with Firefox mentioned by Netzapper, check out Portable Apps for other USB-run programs.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:38 PM on January 12, 2010

Can you boot from the CD/DVD Drive?
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:41 PM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: Just wanted to add that if you go the portable apps route, get their suite and then uninstall/install programs as you wish. The suite includes this awesome menu thing, great for managing apps that easily pops up like your start menu so you don't have to go through my computer to launch everything. If memory serves, it sits in teh taskbar or whatever that thing in the lower right of your screen is. There may be another way to get the menu thing without downloading the suite, but I'm not entirely sure what it is. It is listed in the apps list but just links back to the suite.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:02 PM on January 12, 2010

If everything gets erased when you shut down, where do your initial user settings come from when you start up? Can you get to that place and change them?

There's a possibly similar situation with OS X guest accounts: these accounts get wiped whenever you log out of them. However, with root access and a little bit of typing in the terminal, you can modify the template that is used to generate the initial guest account. It makes it much more reasonable to use. For example, you can tell MS Word once and for all that no, you do not wish to register with Microsoft. You don't get asked again every time you log into the guest account.
posted by alms at 9:11 PM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: Just to check... this laptop isn't a thinclient is it?, it just strikes me as odd to install Windows Server 2008 on a laptop for a single user. Is the laptop always connected to the network whilst in use? Or does it still boot fine if you remove network connections (unplug network, disable wireless/take it off site).

One of the clients I support at work is a 50+ user site running terminalservices/thinclients, I think most people tend to get around the blandness by just surfing more. Using something like netvibes, and using delicious for bookmarks, basically move all that OS stuff into browser based applications. Also people are often packaging flash games into Excel spreadsheets and distributing them around the office.

If it's on a TS, then you wont be able to install any screensavers or similar. Perhaps if it's a workstation running XP with the thinclient on top, then maybe you can get access to the host and install there.
posted by chrisbucks at 10:01 PM on January 12, 2010

You'll have to create something that will re-customize it when it boots up. It's going to be a pain if the machine wipes itself every time.

If you don't mind the hassle, I would personally get a USB drive and boot off my own version of Windows. Or even better, take an image of the current setup to a backup and just wipe and reinstall whatever you want on it.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:32 PM on January 12, 2010

I made a few kiosks using Windows "Steady State"


Worth a look.
posted by kapu at 2:07 AM on January 13, 2010

Some of those computers have a mode that deactivates the 'control' mode, lets you change the settings, then save the new settings... Usually it involves hitting a button before Windows boots up and entering a password - no idea if it's worth the time or effort, but if you know the admin, they might 'accidentally' slip up...
posted by chrisinseoul at 7:40 AM on January 13, 2010

SteadyState is pretty good-- and free. I've used it for teen computer centers to help prevent malware. Starts from a clean slate each time.

It has some odd problems from time to time but I think it's still worth looking into.
posted by Erroneous at 7:27 AM on August 4, 2010

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