Jul 11, 2008

Creating Self Bootable 'Ghost' DVDs for FREE

It occurs to me that creating self-booting Ghost images isn't as straight forward as it should be. We use Ghost Cast at my work for deploying images, which works great, but there was an incident that recently happened in our Tampa Florida office involving lightning, and fried motherboards due to a surge through the network and into the computer's NICs, but I digress. Anyway, we had to rapidly deploy 16 new desktop PCs to the Tampa office. My boss wanted us to create a self booting version of our standard desktop image. The problem was that creating the self booting image can kind of be a pain in the arse using Symantec's Ghost. Also, what if you are a home user and don't want to pay for an expensive disk cloning program like Symantec's Ghost?

In this article, I will tell you how to create a self booting disk image for free, and really easy. My method involves using my new found best friend in disk cloning called PING. Without further ado, here is how you do it:

1) Download the PING CD ISO and burn it to CD using Nero, or if you're really cheap, CD Burner XP Pro.

2) Download the PING Files. You will need these to create/restore images. Extract the zip file to your external hard drive, or to your file server with plenty o' disk space and share it out. You don't have to, but I rename the extracted folder to ghost. These instructions will be using the external hard drive.

3) Now create your base Windows image, install your base software and get it looking the way you want it. Put the PING CD in the drive, then run sysprep and reboot your computer.

4) Boot up to the PING CD. At boot up, you will see the standard Linux stuff. When you get to the following screen, press enter.

5) Next you will get a GUI with the standard legal mumbo-jumbo, press enter:

6) After the legal stuff, you will be asked what you want to do after the backup is complete. I always select the "Get a Shell (Root)" option so if there is a problem I can check the log using vi.

7) After that you will be asked where you want to back your image up to. You can select a network share, or a local hard drive (Yes it supports USB). For our purposes, I will be talking about the local hard drive method.

8) Next you need to select the drive or partition you want to back up by arrowing down to it and pressing space bar. Then tab down to OK and press enter.

9) Now you will select the external hard drive where we are going to backup our image. Arrow down to it, select it with space bar, then tab down to OK and press enter.

10) Next you will be asked for the PING files we downloaded earlier. This is where renaming it to ghost comes in handy (less typing and easy to remember). Type in \ghost then press enter.

11) If you did everything right, you should now be presented with a list of options (Notice that the list of options are named the same as the folders in the PING files. Coincidence? I don't think so). You will select the Create_New_Image option.

12) Type a name for the new image and press enter. The imaging process will now begin!

13) After the backup is complete, take your removable drive. Find the directory of your new image. Download my slightly personalized package of the necessary boot files, and extract the contents into the same directory of your newly created image. (The files only, not the folder(s)).

14) Run my MAKE-ISO.cmd script to create your DVD iso. If your image is saved in c:\ghost\Your_image_Directory, then your ISO will be located in the c:\ghost directory (One level up). You can edit the script to suit your needs.

15) Once your iso is complete burn it to DVD using your favorite DVD iso burner. I like ImgBurn because it is free.

Once you have burned you image, you are done. The self booting DVD is similar to the PING CD, except you have less choices and all you have to do is select restore and it takes over from there. If your image is larger than 4.7GB, You can either buy the dual layer DVD disks, or you can split the image up to fit on multiple DVDs using the instructions here. (You will have to edit the MAKE-ISO.cmd script.)

Sounds easy enough right? The best part about it is you don't need to download the drivers for your NIC, you don't need any floppy disks to make the DVD bootable, and you don't need to fork over any extra cash to buy expensive cloning software. Everything is win/win!


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