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Rebuilding made easier

Whether the task of rebuilding a company workstation or laptop is simple or complicated, here are some time-saving tips to help you move through the process.

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It can be one of the most time-consuming events in an NT administrator's daily life: a workstation and/or laptop overhaul. Once you actually find the time to begin, rebuilding a workstation or laptop may be as simple as adding a ghost CD and performing final customizations or adding additional applications and utilities. On the other hand, it may be a more time-consuming chore -- such as needing to find your Windows XP CD-ROM and building the workstation from scratch after you have copied all personal files to a network share or burned it to a CD.

In either case, there are some simple shortcuts you can use to make the process quicker. For applications that are on the network or in CD-ROM media format, I keep the CD-ROMs in a centralized location at my desk or in a nearby filing cabinet. For network-based applications, I create shortcuts to the networked media that I want to install, which I keep in a folder on my home share.

Most people have a Windows XP CD-ROM that has Service Pack 2 slipstreamed with a customized, unattended install text file (Unattend.txt or Winnt.sif) with the network operating system (NOS)-based install applications and settings tailored. This works great for the base install application, but you will find that the standard CD-ROM media is quickly filled to near capacity after you include security patches, hotfixes and other small application install source files. To prevent that from happening, you'll have to remove certain directory structures from the CD-ROM.

For an SMS administrator -- or anyone who has access to a network share that's filled with gigs and gigs of SMS installer packages -- the build will go even faster after your final reboot from the Windows install media. For those of you with this type of access, it is simply a matter of finding the installer package you need. (Or you can always go to your trusty home share and find your "shortcuts" directory and just click on the icon.)

You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars for an application that creates a customized NOS install. Microsoft provides one for no cost -- except for the licensing and purchase of the Windows media. Best of all, it is actually included in the same media you are installing in the support\tools folder. All you have to do is extract the file. Then open the application called setupmgr.exe and it will guide you through the process of a Windows unattended installation, a System Preparation Tool install, a Remote Installation Server or a Remote Installation Services (RIS) install.

There is also a complied help manual included called Ref.Chm. It shows you exactly what you need to get started and explains all of the lines that setupmgr.exe has added to your unattended text file and provides further customizations that you can add, such as desktop layouts and even network settings.


Don Hite is an NT administrator responsible for the North American SMS and SQL server technologies for Quintiles Transnational Corp., based in Kansas City, Mo. He can be reached at Don.Hite@Quintiles.Com.

This was last published in March 2005

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