Ramblings From The Litter Tray of Life

Posts Tagged ‘ghost’

How To Build A Network Boot Disc

Posted by graycat on 16 May 2009

If you’re using a network based system for deploying your corporate images such as Symantec’s Ghost Solution or Suite then you will no doubt be familiar with network boot discs. As a concept they simply load a small operating system into RAM from CD or floppy disc during boot with the sole aim of getting the machine on the network. Usually once they’re actually chatting away on the network happily you then map a drive and run an executable like ghost.exe and have fun from there.
Unfortunately there are limitations with the ones built with ghost etc so here’s my guide on making a super-duper all singing and dancing one. Hopefully this will work with all the network cards on your network but every now and then you run into an awkward one. As a fail safe, I thoroughly recommend you have an Intel Pro network card spare and to hand and use that in a pinch.

Software needed:
1. The bootdisk – http://netbootdisk.com/index.htm
2. Menu editor – http://netbootdisk.com/menuedit.htm
3. Floppy disk to image – http://www.winimage.com/download.htm
4. CD Burner – Nero works but I prefer “CD Burner XP Pro v3” as it’s freeware. I recently tried the latest version and struggle. When I’ve worked it out, I’ll repost.  

Overview
1. Make the floppy.
2. Edit the setup to suit.
3. Create bootable CD from that.

Method
1. Making the Floppy
– download the latest version from netbootdisk.com and unzip to somewhere on your machine
– format a floppy disc – make the floppy an XP bootable disk (an option on the format menu)
– run the batch file in the unzipped folder
– check it works by test booting a machine with it
2. Edit the default settings to suit
– download the Menu Editor GUI from netbootdisk.com
– launch the executable and make and changes you wish, ie: default username, password, domain etc
– enabling the CD drive at this point is very useful
– save file over existing to update disk
3. Create CD
– create image of floppy disk using WinImage
– insert floppy disk and run WinImage
– select Disc -> Read Disk (make sure a:\ drive is selected first)
– once read has been done, click save and save as a *.ima file.
– run CD Burner XP Pro v3 and select data disk (top option)
– select Disc -> Boot Options
– tick “Make Disc Bootable”
– select the floppy image you’ve just made and hit ok. It might query you to the file type but just ignore it and leave it alone
– hit “burn disc” and burn the CD
– test the CD in a machine and see what it does.

Optional extras– you can copy extra files of applications to the root of the CD before burning. As long as you enable CD in the original menu edit, you’ll be able to access the CD drive as R:\. If you do, you can add such things as ghost.exe or even a whole image to the CD and run the entire imaging session from there.

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Tips on making standard corporate PC images

Posted by graycat on 22 May 2008

As with many companies nowadays, we use standardised operating builds for our PC’s and laptops. Due to the size and way we’ve grown this has been taken up in some offices more rapidly than others but we’re making headway. After using the same base process for the last few (four or more I think) years, I thought I’d jot down some notes about how we’ve been doing things and maybe a few tricks I’ve found along the way.

Firstly, lets talk a bit of history. Now the previous method would be to build a standard base image on a clean install of the OS using one of your standard desktops or laptops and then use Ghost and sysprep to copy it onto other machines. The only problem with this is that it’s very specific to the hardware you’ve built it on and indeed drivers have to be declared in the sysprep file. If you’re in a company like mine where things have grown “organically” then standardisation, like documentation actually, is a very dirty word. This basically means that in an office of thirty computers you could quite easily have fifteen different PC hardware if not manufacturer then definitely models. Understandably this could prove tricky to do with one base image and making multiple images just adds to the overhead.

So how do you get round this? A very good and valid question. Thanks for paying attention at the back. 😉

After a lot of research I found a “little” application called Universal Imaging Utility (or UIU for short). Funnily enough, this was written by the guys that created Ghost before selling it on to Norton and then Symantec so they know a little about the cloning process at a guess. You can find their website here if you fancy a look.
Basically this software doesn’t do anything too technical but what it does do, and do incredibly well, is shoehorn in about 15 million drivers! This means that you can make one standard image and apply it to different hardware.

Let me run that one past you again slowly incase you missed it. You can build one image and then apply it to all manner of hardware.

Cool, huh?

So basic kit you’ll need for this: 1 x PC for base image, 1 x Ghost, 1 x network and network boot disk, UIU, some storage space and some coffee. Ok, the last one is for me but you can use the rest.

So the basic principles are like this:

  1. Bare metal install the OS from volume licensed CD’s
  2. Customise OS install to your needs but keeping it as light as possible.
  3. Update and patch as far as humanly possible …. ok, as far as you dare then.</li?
  4. Reboot and use your favourite network boot CD to launch Ghost and take an image off. This is your fall back image so keep it and look after it
  5. Boot back into Windows and run UIU. Just like Dorothy, follow the wizard!
  6. Reboot into ghost and take an image off
  7. Deploy and test …. if it works, you can bask in your godlyness. If not, drink more coffee and get back to work!

That’s about as much as there is to it but as with everything in IT – if it works, it’s easy. If it doesn’t then you could be in for a very long night! 🙂 lol

Anyway, here’s a few tips to go along with that:

  1. Use a dedicated machine. This will make creating base images a lot easier. I would suggest you do the initial install and then ghost off before running UIU or sysprep-ing the machine so if something goes wrong you can always go back to before you messed it up
  2. Don’t use the latest machine but one model back if possible. Third party drivers always lag behind what you can get from the manufacturer. If you’re using UIU then you’re pretty much stuck with their driver pack as you can’t add to it. I will say their support guys are great and will do their best to add in anything you request into the next update. Can’t recommend them enough really.
  3. If you’ve got USB only desktops floating about, use a similar base machine. This one took us a while to try and trouble shoot deploying a PS2 image to a USB only one. We managed it but the easiest way is to start with a USB one as it’ll go onto a PS2 machine just fine.
  4. Keep the base image as light as possible. Tune it by removing all the bits you won’t use and add in the bits you will. In our case we take out IM and outlook express sections amongst other things and add in printing services for unix and a few other choice things. The important thing though is to keep it to just Windows and as little in it as possible. This way if you deploy something like Java or Flash, then you don’t be fighting the base installation.
  5. Change the machine type to “standard PC” after you’ve sysprep’ed the machine but before you take an image. This is a tricky one to find by trial and error but by working with the support guys we managed to find out that this will help on different BIOS’s and hardware types. This gets round a few issues with SATA drives and newer BIOS settings that have caused images to fail.

wow, that’s an epic post! So I think I’ll leave it there for the moment. I’ll probably pick up the details I’ve missed out regarding network bootdisks and troubleshooting image installs.

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