Fully Automated XP Restore?
September 10, 2007 1:58 PM   Subscribe

How do I fully automate restoring my Windows XP test machines to a clean state on a daily basis?

My requirements are:
1. Partition images cannot be larger than the used space of the partiton
2. Reimaging can't take more than 4 hours for partitions with about 8 gigs used with a 20 gig capacity, preferably a lot faster
3. Software used must be Acronis True Image 9.1, included with Windows, and/or free
4. The process must be fully automated or pretty close and run unattended, i.e. no booting from a LiveCD or clicking lots of buttons

Currently, I use Acronis True Image 9.1 to create the images, but it only seems to support automated backups and not restores. Acronis supports scripts, but I can't find any documentation on it. I've looked into using dd, but it takes forever and the image sizes are too big. I've looked into other free software, but anything interesting only works on Linux. I've looked into other non-free software, but I barely have the budget for Acronis.

Ideally, I'd like to have scheduled tasks on a remote machine kick off the reimaging process on each of my test machines, then (optionally) have each machine download/install updates and backup again.

posted by TheSlate to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Why not just use Microsoft's free Windows SteadyState? The idea there is that you can set up user accounts which can be automatically reverted to pristine state, so you never have to re-image/re-install.
posted by paulsc at 2:17 PM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Virtual PC?
posted by mrbugsentry at 2:18 PM on September 10, 2007

paulsc has it. The product retains a "master state" and can revert to that state upon reboot, regardless of the extent of the changes that occurred. (Well, I'm sure a particularly malicious user with admin privs could break it, but it doesn't appear that's a concern for you.)
posted by pmbuko at 2:22 PM on September 10, 2007

Thanks, that looks like just what I need.
posted by TheSlate at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2007

Windows SteadyState looks very promising.. Unfortunately, though I didn't examine the page closely, Microsoft doesn't seem to be eager to explain the inner workings of the thing.

You might also want to look into Unattended, if you want more bare bones control over what is going on. Unattended Windows at MSFN is very helpful as well.
posted by Chuckles at 4:48 PM on September 10, 2007

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