Mar 12, 2008

Creating Images with Drive Image XML

I mentioned in a previous post that if you can use the Ultimate Boot CD for windows to create custom, deployable computer images similar to Symantec’s Ghost

except it is 100% free. So what do I mean by images? Let’s talk about it for a minute.

Let’s say you are in a room, and you have a Polaroid camera. You spin around the room taking pictures of every wall, every corner, every ceiling etc. Now, you take all those photos and save them in a shoe box for later. A week later your boss says that they need you to build another room just like the one you took pictures of. (Now keep in mind this is just an analogy), you have two options. You can run down to the hardware store buy a ton of building supplies, drywall, paint etc, and you can spend a few weeks or months building the requested room, or you can take all of those photos and glue them all together to make an exact replica of the room, and have it done in a few hours. Sure, that wouldn’t work in real life, but that is the idea behind images.

Symantec GhostYou can take a Windows install CD, and manually install the operating system, configure it for your network, install all the programs, patches and service packs. That may take a few hours. Now multiply it by how many computers you have to setup for your network. Or you can install Windows, the programs, etc, then create a “snap shot” of the hard drive and copy that “snap shot” to other computers in a matter of minutes. That is the reality of creating deployable images.

So, here is what you do; you install Windows and all programs and get it set the way you like it. Then you take your Windows 2000 or Windows XP CD and browse to the tools folder and find (Or download it from and extract the contents of to c:\sysprep. Create a sysprep.inf file using setupmgr.exe. Once you have the sysprep.inf file, run sysprep.exe and check the box to use mini setup, and then click OK. Your computer will then shutdown or reboot depending on the option you select. I recommend before clicking OK, that you insert the Ultimate Boot CD in your disk drive. I know Drive Image XML will work on Vista, but the sysprep procedures have changed. You will have to Google how to use sysprep with Vista.

Now that Windows has been packaged, and you have booted up to your Ultimate Boot CD, enable network support. After networking is finished, open My Computer, and map a drive to a network share where you want to save the image (you can skip this if you are going to save your image to a local hard drive). You need to map this so that the Ultimate Boot CD caches your login credentials for later.

Once that is finished, open up Drive Image XML, and select the options to backing up a drive. Select your C: drive and when prompted for where to save the image file, use the UNC path to the file share you mapped earlier NOT THE DRIVE LETTER! (If you are using a local hard drive, then just select the drive letter). Now back up your drive.

Once the drive image is finished, you can boot other computers (They have to be the same make and model) using the Ultimate Boot CD. Map the network share as before, then open Drive Image XML. This time select the restore option and follow the prompts. Before restoring, there is a link to open Windows Disk management. Open it up, and delete any partitions you have on the drive you are going to image, then reformat and mark the drive as active (You will get some errors about having to reboot, these can be ignored). Close out of disk management and continue with the options for restoring the image. Once again, you will need the UNC path to the network share, and not the drive letter to restore. Depending on the bandwidth of the network, and the speed of the computer, imaging can take 10 minutes to an hour give or take. Once complete, take out the disk and reboot. The computer will go through a little mini setup, and if you configured the sysprep.inf correctly, it should all be automated. After it is all said and done, you now have two or more fully installed operating systems complete with an applications and customizations. Well done!

Keep in mind, this isn’t step by step, in fact I am writing this strictly from memory. Some things may not be so intuitive at first, but play around and figure it out. That is what I did, and that is the best way to learn.

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