Process Upgrade: PC Imaging

Until recently, we’ve been using old-school imaging tools to deploy our desktops and laptops. While it’s largely been working, I couldn’t help but feel that we could improve the process.

So, with zero budget and a spiffy new HP EliteBook 8460p as a test machine, I set out to build a brave new imaging process.

First stop: Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012. I’ve been reading lots of good things about this free tool, and decided to give it a whirl. The install was relatively painless, and I had a working console up and running in about 20 minutes on my test server.

Next stop: HP’s support site. The cornerstone of building an image with MDT is to have a repository of drivers for each specific computer model you plan to deploy. Hidden gem: the HP Business Notebook xx60/xx65 Window 7 x64 Driver Pack. Instead of manually downloading every possible driver for your current-model HP EliteBooks, just grab this bad boy and extract it. You can then import drivers for every xx60/xx65 laptop into MDT in one fell swoop.

Third and final stop: Scriptimus Ex Machina. Every time I searched for, well, anything regarding MDT configuration, this site came up in the top of the Google results. I finally took the cosmic hint and bookmarked the site for future reference. Thank you, Andrew Barnes, for making my MDT installation sing!

Result: We now have a framework for an automated “gold image” building process that needs minimal intervention – just set it and forget it (with apologies to Ron Popeil.) To build a master image from bare metal, we simply boot from a USB stick, pick a task sequence based on which machine we’re building, set the machine name, and off it goes. My EliteBook 8460p task sequence performs the following:

  1. Install Windows 7 Pro x64 with SP1
  2. Inject approriate drivers
  3. Install IE9 prerequisites package, then install IE9
  4. Download and install all relevant Windows Updates
  5. Install HP machine-specific utilities (Fingerprint reader support, Hotkey support, etc.)
  6. Install common applications (Mozilla Firefox, Quicktime, Adobe Reader, etc.)
  7. Second pass at Windows Update (this is recommended when deploying any MS apps like Office)
  8. Create our standard admin user account (we don’t use the built-in Administrator account) and set the password

Next up: I have to do some more testing of the “gold” image on the reference machine, then I’ll add a Capture task at the end to grab a monolithic image for deployment. Not sure if we’ll stick with MDT alone to push images to machines, or integrate with WDS and get all fancy with PXE boot, etc. Stay tuned!

Image credit:Bill S via Compfight

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