Drive imaging (hard drive imaging) is the process of copying a drive containing an operating system and applications in order to apply that copy to many target systems for rapid system deployment. While some choose to keep the image as small as possible, including only the latest version of the operating system and any patches or service packs, many also include standard applications that are applicable to all such as office. The smaller the image, the faster it can be deployed, but the trade off is the post-imaging tasks to install needed applications and things excluded.
The image(s) you create as baseline deployments are often referred to as a “gold image”. Such images can require regular updates to ensure minimal post-installation tasks are necessary to update what is included in the image such as security patches and application updates. Therefore it is important to be able to easily reproduce an image. Documentation is important but combined with automation you will be far less likely to risk human error. To address this need, I always recommend a solution that helps facilitate a scripted installation as well as imaging. In this way, you can leverage the ability to set up a system with an unattended installation and follow that with a sysprep and image capture.
For the Windows itself, Microsoft moved to a native imaging format (WIM or Windows Imaging format) is the standard since Windows 7. Tools such as SysPrep must be used to prepare the image for copying to ensure that it is applied as a unique installation which has all unique system identification (SID) numbers.
Benefits may include…
- Multiple Operating System Support (Deploy to Windows desktops servers and tablets, Mac OS, Linux, etc.)
- High-Speed delivery (via unicast or multicast)
- Some systems may deploy to live machines in that they do not require a network or CD boot to initiate delivery)
- Dissimilar Hardware Support (handling the system HAL and drivers as needed)
This is one of many systems deployment features covered here at AppDetails. Be sure to see the AppDetails coverage of other systems deployment features.
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