Old computer for a new employee?
May 25, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Help me set up my old computer for a new employee, and make this easier the next time.


This is probably more obvious than I think it is, but I can't find anything.

I just bought 6 new computers for the office, and one is going to me (hooray!). My old computer will go to an intern. I could wipe everything, reinstall windows, reinstall Microsoft Office, but I'm worried Windows will think that's a new user and we'll lose the license for Microsoft Office. Is there something I could do with Users, or is my best bet just deleting all the personal info I have on Firefox and Chrome?

Bonus question! With these new computers, would creating a Recovery Point save me this trouble in the future, including keeping Microsoft Office with the current license?

Oh, running Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows 7. Some computers are Home, some Professional, and some Ultimate. I'm trying to do this legitimately.

Thanks everyone. My google-fu is failing me.
posted by OrangeDrink to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of shops I know have a "default" disk image with whatever you'd install for everybody (Windows, Office, etc.) and just wipe the drive and put that on there whenever they get someone new. It also comes in handy if files get corrupted, they get a virus, etc.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:01 AM on May 25, 2012

Since you have a mix of computers in this office, including some Windows 7 Home machines, I assume you're not running an Active Directory domain or anything similar (also since you apparently don't have an IT department or "guy" to do this for you :-). I'd think you'd be fine to just set up a new user on this machine through the Users control panel, possibly backing up the data from your current user account and then deleting it from the machine (though even that might not be necessary unless the data on the machine was particularly sensitive, the new user will have their own home directory and browser settings, etc).
posted by Reverend John at 8:52 AM on May 25, 2012

- this isn't necessarily the best way to do it, but if you did create a new user account the licenses would be effective for that new user.
- if you had to wipe the system, and you had licenses numbers for Office, for example, you should be able to re-install Office and re-activate with that license. There is a limit on how often the license can be re-used for that purpose per year to keep people from going around putting it on every computer in site, but the licensing structure does allow for re-installation.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:54 AM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: Ha, nope. I'm the IT guy (who is actually just an office manager), which works most of the time, but we have no remote servers or anything of that nature, and no licensing subscriptions to MS Office or W7.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:02 AM on May 25, 2012

As long as you haven't gone out of your way to throw your personal stuff all over the drive, it will all have ended up inside your user profile folder (usually at C:\Documents and Settings\somebody for XP and earlier, C:\Users\somebody for Vista and later).

Simplest thing is just to use the User Accounts control panel item to create a new user account for the intern; you can optionally delete your own user account and all its associated files from the same place.

If you want your intern using the same user account as you did (maybe because you never set up any user accounts and have no intention of doing things that way) then the simplest way to get you off and them on is to boot up in Safe Mode, log on with the inbuilt Administrator account (which may or may not have a password, depending how slack whoever set Windows up was) and simply delete or rename the user profile folder for your user account. Reboot in unsafe normal mode, log on, and Windows will build a fresh profile for your intern.

Licences for MS Office and whatnot are typically per-machine, not per-user, and since fooling about with user profiles does not constitute reinstalling Office it will have no effect at all on your licence. Don't be fooled by the fact that something that looks like Office Setup runs when you first launch Office in a new user account; all this is doing is building initial user-specific settings, not actually reinstalling the software.
posted by flabdablet at 10:13 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a new machine comes in the door;
  • Label the machine with a unique identifier. You could use serial numbers for this. Boot it up. Perform the bare minimum setup using the username LocalAdmin. Perform system updates and installations of free software.
  • Install Acronis True Image and perform an image based backup to an external USB drive. Call the backup unique_identifier-date-clean.
  • Finish setting the machine up for the new user, which would include creating a new user account.
  • Setup backups for the user. It could be CrashPlan (which lets you do local or cloud backups). It could be True Image (which would let you backup to a NAS or local disk). You could even perform regular image based backups (just make sure you never delete the clean ones).
Whenever an employee leaves the company;
  • Copy all the important data to another machine.
  • Perform a new image based backup using True Image to the external drive. Name it unique_identifier-date-employee_departure. My policies say that we delete those images 6 months after the employee leaves unless specifically requested by the mananager, in which case it would be kept for 12 months.
  • Restore the original backup to the machine.
  • Update the system and free software. Perform an image based backup to the external drive, calling it unique_identifier-date-clean.
  • Finish setting the machine up for the new user, which would include creating a new user account.
For your old machine;
  • Record all the serial numbers from software installed. Find all the installation media.
  • Perform an image based backup using True Image.
  • Wipe and re-install the system.
Misc issues;
  • Have on the external drive all the installation files for software your company uses. I personally put my serial numbers in the folder with the installation material in a file called serials.txt. In that file I have a log of what serial number is in use on what machine. That log is never deleted, only added to with entries like; "Installed serialnumber1 on machine X, date." or "Uninstalled serialnumber1 from machine X, date."
  • Assuming normal OEM licenses, and assuming all the same type of machine, you can not technically perform restores of an image from one machine to another. To get that right according to Microsoft's licensing requires some volume licensing agreement directly with Microsoft. In practice, you can get away with only have one clean image per type of machine.
  • I personally suggest the use of NAS (QNAP and synology are my preferred brands) instead of external drive, but a big external drive is simpler.
  • I believe that everyone employee should get their own user account and that a machine can only be deemed safe it if is wiped clean between users.
  • There are other image based backup products. I have been happily using True Image for awhile and have never had a reason to look elsewhere. Windows 7 includes an image based backup system. It's ok, but not as flexible or robust.

posted by fief at 3:04 PM on May 25, 2012

If you are worrying about being able to re-install Office if you can't find your original key, run Magical Jellybean Keyfinder and it will display the keys used to license the software. I've reinstalled countless copies of Windows and Office from XP onwards without a problem.

If you don't have the installation media, you can download a trial copy, then license it with your key (be sure to check what version you have first), or you can order media from Microsoft directly for a nominal fee.

Sometimes the license will be detected as being previously activated. Simply call the toll-free number shown on screen and you'll be able to activate the software using the auto-attendant, or at worst, with the help of a Microsoft employee. Again, I've never had a problem with this process, including when I had to re-install a few times in a row due to hardware failure - Microsoft will not give you an IRS-style audit before re-activating.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 5:07 PM on May 25, 2012

Assuming normal OEM licenses, and assuming all the same type of machine, you can not technically perform restores of an image from one machine to another. To get that right according to Microsoft's licensing requires some volume licensing agreement directly with Microsoft. In practice, you can get away with only have one clean image per type of machine.

To expand on that a little, have a look here under Scenario 2, Recommended Approach.

What it says is that you can apply a customized Windows image to your OEM-licensed PC by using Windows AIK to modify the image from the OEM-provided recovery media, then apply that to the PC. And it says that you need to do that whole process for each PC.

But in practice you will find that the OEM-provided recovery image for all the PCs of a given model is bit-for-bit identical, so if in fact you do just prepare a single modified OEM recovery image per batch of machines and deploy that, there is no way an auditor can prove that you didn't repeat jumping through the WAIK hoops per PC.

The reason this works is that OEM-built Windows installations are done using not the unique product keys printed on their stickers, but a mass-production "SLP" product key that belongs to the OEM. If you do a by-hand Windows setup off OEM media and use the sticker key, then Windows will install OK but will then want to be activated. If you use the SLP key, Windows will check the BIOS at startup, and if it belongs to an OEM that matches the SLP key, activation is not needed and is never done.

You can find the product key that your present Windows installation was done with using the Magical Jellybean Keyfinder as previously linked.

The Windows AIK, by the way, is a ridiculous fucking waste of time. If you're going to go this way, use the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 PM on May 25, 2012

The unique identifiers thing is a good idea. The scheme I use is YYYY-BB-NN where YYYY is the year we bought the machine, BB is the batch number within that year, and NN is the machine number within the batch in order of unpacking. All machines with the same YYYY and BB values have identical hardware.

Every machine gets its YYYY-BB-NN identifier printed on a big obvious sticker and stuck on the front, so that when users report problems they know what I'm talking about when I ask for the "whole machine number". The fact that the digits are grouped into something with a strong resemblance to a date makes it easy for people to read them without making mistakes.

And they get NETBIOS names generated according to the scheme YYYY-BB-NN-LLLL where LLLL is a location code like RM17 for Room 17 or LIBR for Library and so forth. It's nice being able to tell at a glance where that machine that still hasn't shut itself down tonight is located without needing to go look that up.

I don't move machines from room to room often enough to make reassigning the NETBIOS names a nuisance. But when I do, it's usually actually good that the machine gets a new NETBIOS name: if 2010-04-07-RM14 used to be the Room 14 print server, I don't want people with old connections to it continuing to send it print jobs after I've moved it to Room 3 and renaming it to 2010-04-07-RM03 makes sure that doesn't happen.
posted by flabdablet at 7:17 PM on May 25, 2012

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