Why use an imaging software such as Ghost by Symantec to deploy a large number of computers?
You can use
imaging software to create a master copy of a given computer brand make and model
then use the master copy (or custom install) to insure all the other computers have the same
Operating System, options, and programs.
Large companies use a "Best Practice" of insuring all computers conform
to a set standard. To keep from having mistakes and "rouge" installations they use a
imaging type of program either by the local IT department or a service
provided by the manufacture the company it is purchasing the computers from.
Another thing that the companies use as a "Best Practice" is Active
Directory Group Policies. (Windows Servers only!)
The way it works is
like this scenario:
Management realizes that most of the computers in the company are not
functioning as well as they did five years ago.
How did management
figure that out? Did they listen to the IT Department? Ahhh, nope...
The CODB (Cost of Doing Business) had gone up mainly in the IT
Department, too much labor being consumed by repairing the older
Now management must make a decision: Keep paying to repair
those computers or purchase new computers.
The gain comes from three
years that the new computers will be at the leading edge of technology
and under manufactures warranty. (Normally when a company purchases a
large quantity it is cheaper to by an extended warrantee for the
Next after the decision to buy new computers they consult
with the IT Department (most times...) and decide on how to get the most
bang for their buck. If it was up to the IT Department the cost would be
twice as much as the more frugal purchasing department.
After a few
meetings the decision is made, the budget is set, the lawyers go over
the purchase agreements and warrantee agreements.
At the start of the purchase the IT Department will get two or more
"demo" computers from the manufacture (I had one on my desk for almost two
years before they wanted it back...).
This is how we did it at one large company of over 100,000 employees:
The IT Department will load up all of the programs used by the different
departments of the company then pick a user in each department to "test
drive" the computer, a
custom install. (We would pick a user we knew was extremely picky on
how the computer worked, if we could please that user then we knew the
other users would be very happy with the new computer.)
Troubleshoot, repair, maintain, upgrade & secure...
Once the test
phase was over we would wipe the hard drive, go though our notes on what
worked and what didn't, what our picky user liked and didn't like and make
a new custom install.
We would load the Operating System, then the programs, fix any
problems that came up in the test phase, change some options to the
company standards, and lastly do the OS optimization. (If you do the
optimization prior to doing the image or installing the image on multiple
computers it will save you a lot of time and complaints of slow computers
in three or four months, been there - done that!)
Then we make the first
ghost image, sometimes there would be a change and we would have to wipe
the drive and do it all again. (One laptop was so finicky that we had to
make four images before we had our master image.)
Once we were satisfied
with the computer operation and had our first master ghost image the next
step is using a Microsoft tool called SID (System ID) Changer to
remove the original System ID from the computer to insure no duplicate
names or SID's in the Domain.
Next we bring the
computer into the Domain. Once in the domain we test the GPO (Group Policy
Options) against the machine GP to see if there are any conflicts for the
user and the programs. This is very important step, if you have a program
or a option that will not work properly in the domain with a new computer
or Operating System then you will have wasted a lot of peoples time by
re-issuing an new image.
If no problems are encountered we have a good
master image or it is back to fix the problems and testing then a new
Now we that the master image that works and is
ready to deploy.
To deploy the ghost image you have a some options:
- You can make an install CD/DVD for each tech that will be doing the
actual installation of the new computer.
- You can contract to the manufacture to install the image on each
computer as it is assembled (this could present a problem if your
company has proprietary programs or information in the image, something
to think about before you use this option).
- You can make the image into an ISO and put it on a secured network drive, give
access only to the IT Department, let each tech make their own CD/DVD
(this is the cheapest option by the way).
Now your techs have the image in hand, you can send them out to install
each computer with a known good image that will last.
This is where the
handy program called SID Changer comes in, once the image is on
the computer you need to change the name of the computer to the company
standard then run the newsid.exe program to change the System ID to
match the new name, then you can bring the computer into the Domain and
not worry about having duplicate names and SID's, nice. One step instead
of a three page checklist you would have to use with Sysprep by
Note: The program from Microsoft called nwsid.exe will
NOT work on Vista and newer Operating Systems, after a check of
MS tech net there isn't a program to do the work, you will need to
search tech net to find the solution, it is a long and involved
process. If you have the capability or your IT Department has
someone that can write the scripts to do the task that would save
you hours of time per image deployed... Your other choice is to use
Sysperp, which in itself is additional hours of labor... [sigh] (Why
not a link to the tech net info? There are too many different
approaches to the problem!)
Occasionally you will want to update your image, some times
a program is out dated or the updates to a program take longer than
putting an updated image on all the computers.
You can also use the
imaging software to "Broadcast" a custom install image to a set of computers.
Normally this requires a separate network from the company network
because the amount of data that will be transferred from the image server (or
server) to the computers receiving the image.
A company I worked for had two networks in the IT Department, the local
company network and a separate network not connected to the company
The "Ghost Imaging" network had it's own Domain, groups, and server. We would
connect up a number of computers (up to 30) to the imaging network, boot
with a special cd, logon, type in the serial number of the computer then
run a batch file: image. bat
How long does it take?
Depends on a few things:
- Speed of the optical device or network connection.
- Size of the image or number of images per machine.
- Prep done before starting the process. (Prep is start the
computer, go into the BIOS and check settings - set Time & Date, etc.
Set the primary or boot partition Active and size, additional
Something to consider:
A ghost or other imaging program can save an IT Department years worth
of man hours by setting up a test computer, load the OS, programs, set
company options, and
optimizing the OS for the maximum efficiency then testing with actual
users to insure a great not mediocre product. A great product means you
have very satisfied users vs. a large quantity of complaints and trouble
tickets to fix daily... Actually if you are an IT Pro or Manager your job
depends on this step don't rush it.
Now to make a new
Update 02/14/20 With most companies being forced into Windows 10
you may want to consider your options when doing the image, one option
would be to run the update program on the computer(s) you will be
using to create the deployed images. The last time I loaded Windows 10 on
new computer the update took almost three hours and that was over a 40MB
DSL connection not behind a firewall or proxy server!