All Your Machines are Belong to Us

Warning: This post is heavily comprised of tech speak and acronyms, if you do not agree with the use of these sorts of language do not read on.

So, you have a new gaggle of computers in place, all hooked up with only one very big step left to take… Installing the operating system and all the software. The truly obsessive System Administrator would individually install each and every bit of data, to ensure full compliance with their guidelines. You really should have guidelines and work 120 hours a week on this sort of thing.

No thanks. I have better things to do. I started researching an automated method of installation. TRK (Trinity Resource Kit) has a great liveCD download that you can boot and do peer-to-peer copies of an entire file system. It’s free, it works great, but the current version (3.2) doesn’t play nice with SATA3 and doesn’t have support for multicasting. So, I moved on to a trialware version of Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.1. This is also a great product, though it’s not free, it has all the features I want… just not for free. So the hunt continues.

I found out that RIS (Remote Installation Services, which happens to be included with Windows Server 2003) might help speed things up by allowing a more automated install of Windows based operating systems. I configured RIS, and meanwhile found that my installation of WS2003 needs to be updated to SP2. Fine… update, reboot. What’s this? No RIS.

It’s WDS (Windows Deployment Services) now. Fine, configure WDS. Wait… delete RIS share, then configure WDS. Open WDS console and now what? I need a Boot Image (*.WIM), but it wants me to search on the local drive. A quick local search yields zero results, so I hit the series of tubes that is the internet and hope I don’t hit any further clogs.

“Google, where do I get a boot image to use with WDS?”


“Windows Automated Installation Kit, sure, got any other info about all this?”

…”Yeah, BDD something, something.”


…”Business Desktop Deployment 2007″

“Ok, I guess that’s the new RIS… or WDS… whatever”

…”Yeah, and you’ve got about 2 gigabytes worth of downloading to do in order to get all the installations you’ll need.”

As it turns out, there are a few pre-requisites for BDD and some other services that might help you out. You’ll need MWI 3.1, .NET Framework 2.0, MSXML Services 6.0, Windows AIK and MMC 3.0. You’ll also find that installing the Application Compatibility Toolkit and configuring System Management Server may come in handy. Once you get all that stuff and you’ve downloaded BDD, there’s a pretty decent quick start guide for BDD 2007 that you can download. I haven’t quite gotten everything together yet, but hopefully I’m on the right path now.

UPDATE: I give up, too much documentation to wade through to get WDS/BDD/WAIK working right now. I’ll take 50 copies of Ghost please…

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ghost worked great, and you should be made aware of a tool called SYSPREP that allows you to clean up things like the machines SID, name and domain membership before dumping the drive image so that when you boot up a freshly imaged machine you get a mini-setup wizard that allows a few customizations.