I work at an educational company and I noticed that installing a computer always took a lot of time.
I will explain how it was done until now and then how I tried to optimize it.
Installing Windows XP (without any SP) was slow and annoying because you had to configure the same settings over and over again. (key code, timezone etc) When you had a drive larger than 137GB or you had a SATA drive then you had a problem. These things are only supported by default since SP1.
Creating a sata driver floppy consumes time and not all computers have floppy drives these days.
SP3 includes wpa2 and UAA (Universal Audio Architecture)
Watch out: SP3 does not include AHCI support!
Slipstreaming SP3 onto the Windows XP install CD solved these problems.
To avoid configuring the same settings over and over again I created a unattended config file and put it on the CD. The only setup thing that isn't automated is the partitioning. Since we always create a D: drive for offline usage.
Make sure the C: drive is minimum round 10-20GB otherwise you will have problems in the future. Caches of roaming profiles and backups from updated files slowly eat your computers C: drive space.
I had to download the latest drivers for hardware MS Windows XP did not include. Slipstreaming SP3 into the Windows XP install CD increased
the number of available default drivers.
Installing office 2003 always took a lot of time because you had to install it (always fill in same serial) and then install the SP. So I created an administrative share and used that. When installing the latest hotfixes, some PC's started to complain about missing install files. This was because an administrative share doesn't create a local cache of the install files. (Msocache)
So always install Office 2003 with the CD. Don't make the same mistake I did. This means you have to fill in the serial but it is a small price to pay to save you a lot of trouble afterwarts.
Then I went to the windows update site to download the latest hotfixes for windows XP and Office 2003. These days I use a WSUS server for this. All updates that I want are installed automatically.
Couldn't find a way to fasten this.
Replace Default User
The Default User in c:\document and settings\ is replaced by a custom made on. So all new local users have the right settings.
Install extra software
First we did all of this manually. Then I started searching for MSI files of the packages.
So now a part is deployed through gpo (msi file + custom mst) and the rest is manually installed.
SMS was to expensive. Our network is too small to spent a lot of time repacking exe files in msi.
Since exe files through gpo install are per user and not per machine this also wasn't an option.
We have a lot of people sharing the same machines.
Configure some settings
Disable auto reboot on crash for example (I like to see the blue screen so I know what is wrong)
Create user account
We create one user account for offline usage
As you can see, even after doing a lot of optimalisations still a lot of things are done by hand.
The time I had to put in setting up a machine was unacceptable and monkey work (always the same thing).
That's why I started searching for a imaging tool and preferable on that is free.
I looked at Norton ghost, PING and clonezilla.
For Norton Ghost you need a license/computer. Kind of expensive even with an educational license.
I tested PING but found it to be too slow.
Clonezilla was fast, free and worked great so I'm using this program now.
At the moment I only have tested it with putting images on a SMB share and booting the program from the live CD.
So I don't know anything about booting from LAN. Maybe in the future I will try out this functionality.
Clonezilla doesn't have a SID regenerator onboard so you will need sysprep for this.
First install everything on the PC and do all the needed setting changes. Then you need to execute sysprep, reboot and start the clonezilla live CD.
If your using the clone partition and not clone disk option then watch out with MS Office 2003. When installing MS office 2003 make sure you only have a C: drive so the installation cache files are placed on the C: drive.
Since drivers can vary depending on the hardware you must have a decent computer purchasing policy and try to have as much as possible the same computer models. Since you make an image/model.
contact me at kristof dot vansant at pandora dot be