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PC Cloning Solution?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the "me-me-me-me-me-...-me-too" dept.

Data Storage 115

pbaumgar asks: "Like many here on Slashdot, I'm a Systems Administrator. I have become responsible for maintaining about 300 laptops that I need to rebuild on a regular basis. I am looking for a solution to image them. I've been looking at Symantec's Ghost Solution Suite and am not too gung-ho on spending all that money for licensing. Can anyone recommend an better solution that would be cheaper?"

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Simple DD (1, Interesting)

schnits0r (633893) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048020)

I've always been partial to DD []

Re:Simple DD (1)

BrianRaker (633638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048106)

dd for the win.

Re:Simple DD (3, Informative)

Webmoth (75878) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049213)

While dd WILL make a perfect clone of a system, it is not the ideal solution for cloning systems (especially Windows) BECAUSE it makes perfect clones.

The problem lies in that for every user, machine, account, group, domain, ENTITY in a Windows environment, there is a globally unique identifier known as a SID. When you clone a machine, you also clone the SID. When you've got two or more machines with the same SID on a network, you WILL have problems. Renaming the machine does not change the machine SID, and Windows knows things more by the SID than by the name. (Think about having two users in your Linux /etc/passwd file with the same UID.)

Secondly, dd is not ideal because it does a bitwise copy. If you are cloning a badly fragmented disk, your clone will be badly fragmented. You'll also get all the cruft left behind from deleted files. Ghost can do a dd-like bitwise copy, but in its primary mode it only copies the extant files. If you've got a 120GB disk with only 5GB used, dd will copy 120GB of bits whereas Ghost will copy 5GB of files. Think of the time involved. If your new drive/partition is not the same as the old one, you can't reliably use dd.

That being said, there are utilities available for changing the machine SID.

Re:Simple DD (1)

crazyphilman (609923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049274)

Well, I like the DD idea from the OP.

As to your objections, why couldn't a person set up a single, perfect install, then make sure a copy of the SID-altering utility is available on the computer, THEN image the thing using DD?

Then it wouldn't be fragmented, and everything would be smooth and beautiful.

Run Sysprep to change the SID. (3, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049327)

I suggest you use only Sysprep [] to change the SID. I've tried other tools, such as the one from, and they have introduced errors.

There is a download site, but Microsoft's search facility has never worked very well, and I can't find the URL now. Wait, I found it: Sysprep.exe for Windows XP Service Pack 2 [] .

Use only the version of Sysprep.exe and meant for your operating system and service pack.

When you run Sysprep, you automatically change the SID.

Re:Simple DD (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049260)

I've tried doing a DD image, with "dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hdb bs=515" as well as using hda1 and hdb2. Both HDs were the same size, etc. But it was taking like 10 hours to do an image, this was a slowish 550 MHz machine, but each HD was on a different IDE interface, they weren't sharing the same. What was I doing wrong? I was booted off of some Linux Live CD, duping Win98.

Re:Simple DD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049341)

bs=515 is your problem. Try using a multiple of an actual sector size, like, oh, 4096 or something.

Re:Simple DD (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049855)

What was I doing wrong?


dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hdb bs=515

Use a bigger block size (a few megabytes at least - bs=4m) and performance will increase dramatically.

Re:Simple DD (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14055051)

Yeah, retarded. Twas a typo. Never did 515, but I did try things between 512 and 1m. Didn't try anything really high like 4m... but thanks!

Re:Simple DD (2, Insightful)

rpresser (610529) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049902)

Whyinhell would you use a block size of 515? Not only is it too small, it is neither a divisor nor a multiplier the sector size -- guaranteeing inefficient reblocking.

Maybe IHBT.

Zenworks Imaging (1)

huber (723453) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048045)

Im not sure if the imaging server comes with zenworks for windows, but we use it with our novell servers and it works very well. It uses a tftp server to netboot a linux kernel. Very scriptable and flexable. Not sure about price though.

Re:Zenworks Imaging (1)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048352)

List price for Zenworks for desktops is $69/device, which is $.99 less then Ghost (at least, according to what their respective websites show). And, Zen can do a hell of a lot more then relativly simple/stupid bare metal imaging.

Re:Zenworks Imaging (1)

drakaan (688386) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049193)

...which would be a fair comparison if Ghost (assuming corporate edition, which is 39.20 per seat for 10-1000 licenses on Symantec's site, btw) could only do bare-metal imaging.

The DeployCenter lets you get pretty sophisticated with picking and choosing application sets to install, etc.

That said, I'd do a search on for "disk imaging" if cheap is the ultimate watchword, vs. capable.

the solution (0, Troll)

Device666 (901563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048074)

Use only linux and artimage. Windows systems are very expensive to administrate, and buying a tool for every missed feature wil make you only poorer.

Re:the solution (2, Informative)

halfnerd (553515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048146)

If the parent meant partimage, I'll second that. Used that for my school to install fresh windows images once a month. We used a Linux Live-CD called System rescue cd and had the image shared on a server with gigabit connection. The windows image had to be created with a fat32-filesystem, but that was 'convert'ed to ntfs on first boot thanks to some scripts I wrote. Check out help convert in cmd if you need to use windows.

Re:the solution (1)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049440)

The problem with running CONVERT is that your new NTFS drive will have absolutely zero file permissions -- Everyone Full Control everywhere. (Unless there's a "Repair Permissions" feature in XP that I'm unaware of...) But maybe everyone runs as admin and you don't care.

Re:the solution (1)

log0 (714969) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049494)

Unless there's a "Repair Permissions" feature in XP that I'm unaware of...

I'm not aware of one either, but there is CACLS.EXE which lets you set permissions from the command line (and therefore a .BAT file too).

Re:the solution (1)

facelessnumber (613859) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050077)

Partimage gets my vote. All you need is Knoppix. I even wrote a how-to for n00bs [] on the subject.

Look for an earlier copy of Ghost (5, Interesting)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048080)

That doesn't have the bullshit licensing agreement. Norton has effectively fsked themselves out of the clone market with their totally absurd licensing requirements.

Re:Look for an earlier copy of Ghost (1)

xactuary (746078) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048508)

Anybody have an idea of which versions are indicated to be bs-free? Thanks.

G4U (5, Informative)

Xunker (6905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048081)

G4U [] , a unix based cloning tool.

Re:G4U (4, Informative)

atomic-penguin (100835) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048401)

Ghost 4 Unix Pros:
1) It's free.
2) You don't have to start the cloning process over if one machine fails.
3) Some versions of Norton Ghost do not catch the boot sector. This can be a problem when you want to have a boot loader on the MBR.
4) It does an actual disk dump. No proprietary format here.

Ghost 4 Unix Cons:
1) In some cases, it is not fast. Hey, it's faster than piping this over a SSH connection.
2) It doesn't do multicast, a benefit of Norton Ghost. Which lets you send the image out as a broadcast to all the machines.

My experiences with Norton Ghost: The multicast feature can crash some networking equipment. There is nothing more annoying than getting 97% done and having to start over on one or all of the machines. Norton Ghost can bring a large network to it's knees. You may need to carry the Ghost server around with you. Especially if your network spans more than one building or floor.

My experiences with Ghost for Unix: I setup an FTP server in the lab I was working in. There is no special server software, just a plain old FTP server. Dumped the master image on the FTP server. Started about 20 clients imaging. Go and grab a lunch or two. Come back and start any failed downloads later. It worked even on a dusty old switch known to crash with Norton Ghost. How cool is that?

Re:G4U (4, Informative)

OnyxRaven (9906) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048619)

More Pros:
-Just needs ftp or ssh or whatever you can connect with (ftp by default)

More Cons:
-uses DD for disk dump - this means if you have lots of empty space on a big disk it'll come over too, and likely, it'll be junk (making it hard to compress an image). the G4U site has some ideas on how to get around that.

Recently I'm using FreeBSD, but my disks are slightly different between a few of the machines, so I'm using dump/restore and the livecd portion of disk1 of freebsd 5.4 (and now 6) to create the partition, ifconfig, then ssh/cat > restore on the new drive (then rename, rebuild host keys, etc). works like a charm.

Re:G4U (2, Informative)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049997)

My experiences with Norton Ghost: The multicast feature can crash some networking equipment.

It's not just you, but it's not really Ghost's fault. I deal with multicast quite a bit, not just ghost. Multicast can be a pain. If you have network gear that isn't multicast aware (impliments IGMP), then you'll be a sad panda when you fire up ghost in multicast mode. One of the issues Ghost does have is the entire multicast goes at the speed of the slowest PC. So if you have a dodgy disk in a PC, your whole image might slow down to the point of stopping.
Cisco developed their own multicast standard, called CGMP, some older cisco switches "support" multicast, but only this older standard, which won't work with virtually anything else.
The point to remember is this - enable IGMP (also called IGMP pruning or IGMP sniffing) on every VLAN on every switch you intend to have multicast traffic on. On your router(s), enable PIM or DVMRP.

Re:G4U (2, Informative)

eyeball (17206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048453)

If you're doing windows cloning, you may want to look into this free NewSid Utility [] from sysinternals.

Re:G4U (2, Informative)

nachoboy (107025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049235)

If you're doing windows cloning, you may want to look into this free NewSid Utility from sysinternals.

Except for the fact that doing so puts you squarely in unsupported territory. The only supported way [] to duplicate Windows boxes is by using Sysprep (also free and already included on your Windows CD).

Re:G4U (2, Funny)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049430)

This is /. so we cannot recommend using Microsoft tools, even free ones. Even such logical approaches like using unattended installs (see are acceptable, because they do not involve Linux or arcane unix commands.

Re:G4U (2, Insightful)

jshare (6557) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049936)

But we can freely recommend unattended installs ( see ) that *do* use linux, and arcane unix commands! (Well, ok, perhaps no arcane commands. Linux though.)

Unattended is really nice for varying hardware. I used unattended in our lab at work, where we started out with quite a few different kinds of machines (imaging would have been nearly useless).

It uses dosemu to run the win32 installer under linux (and then there are a few reboots for the windows installer). It is sweet to watch the win32 installer running via the serial console. []

There, I've linked it for you.

Re:G4U (1)

Tsunayoshi (789351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14051235)

Where I work we have been using NewSid for years, with no issues. It gets loaded on every Windows workstation whether or not we initially intend to clone it.

We also use partimaged and a custom shell script for our cloning. Build a box, grap the boot sector, the partition table, and use partimage (the client) to upload an image of each directory.

Then use a rescue CD on a blankbox, download the custom script and run it. Writes out the partition table, drops in the boot loader, and lays the image onto the new partitions.

No you're not (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048082)

If you were a systems administrator in a corporate environment you wouldn't be trying to save money. You'd use the best available software for the job and that software is Symantec Ghost so pony up tech boy.

Re:No you're not (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048136)

Are you 20 years behind the times? Cost cutting is supreme in corporate environment these days- and techs who don't understand that get fired rather quickly, and replaced with some college student from Bangalore.

Ok I'll bite. (3, Interesting)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048196)

I beg to differ. Given the option of paying, I'd buy Altiris. Image blaster has always been more effective IMHO and the desktop support capabilities integrated into the altiris product line (Remote Desktop/Scripting/Rapid Installs etc.) Are pretty darn robust; ignoring a few frustrations in older versions (mostly cosmetic) that is.

Their support is excellent and their Database integration for centralized inventory tracking and software inventory tracking is very useful. Not to mention having the data in ready to use SQL form.

It's a step up from Ghost for sure, and for the enterprise it does integrate with HP OpenView. But, you're not supposed to talk about real closed source pay for solutions on Slashdot. *waves hand* This isn't the product you're looking for. It's certainly not cheap, and it's certainly not something you'd want to rush into.

And as long as I'm on a rant about good pay for solutions, if all the guy wants to use is ghost functionality why not use RIS? Other than the whole Microsoft Homogeny thing it seems to work nearly as well (if not better) than ghost.

Re:Ok I'll bite. (1)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048211)

Oh right, and Altiris supports linux in both a PXE boot image and as a client to be managed.

Re:Ok I'll bite. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048404)

Potato, patato. Point is, the Ask Slashdotter is pretending he's in a corporate environment and then saying he's trying to cut costs. If you find yourself in a corporation that needs to cut costs on IT you don't Ask Slashdot, you fuckin' run.

Re:Ok I'll bite. (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050120)

Well said. Well said.

Wh ynot Ghost (2, Interesting)

Goyuix (698012) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048103)

Assuming you are imaging the laptops with Windows, I can't imagine you having to image a linux laptop as often for some reason or another...

Anyway, back in the day I got a free copy of Ghost with my motherboard. Now that they are completely owned by the Symantec umbrella, they are probably quite a bit more expensive, but I bet you can still get a single-user burn-to-a-dvd-with-the-image for relatively little. If that is to expensive, then go learn DD or some of the more advanced techniques that I am sure will pop up all over this board. Why buy the total solution when you aren't really going to use it anyway? Also, if you are in a windows environment, perhaps their RIS Server product would do what you need as well? Can the laptops boot from the network?

Google and I agree: Acronis (5, Funny)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048113)

was this so hard? []

Re:Google and I agree: Acronis (1)

returnoftheyeti (678724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048124)

Acronis is the Shit. But I dont know about their licensing terms.

RIS for Windows is also the shit.

Re:Google and I agree: Acronis (2, Informative)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048169)

I would agree. Back when I was a Windows user ..(now a Mac).. I had made several attempts to make a working image with Acronis. This was a late 2004 release I was using and had patched. Having two identical drives (manufacturer and size) I tried to restore the image (to make sure it works). Only after making 3 attempts at an image did it actually work.

DriveImage by PowerQuest is a great program.

Re:Google and I agree: Acronis (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048201)

I would agree.

FYI, " the shit", as used by the grandparent, is the opposite of what you seem to mean, which is " shit."

Curiously, "flammable" and "inflammable" are still synonyms.

Google and I agree: Acronis-Easy move. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14048697)

I used it last week to move W2K from a 60GB PATA to a 200GB SATA. It was a 15 day trial but otherwise fully functional.*

I tried DD, and aside from the fact that it doesn't deal with errors. It screwed up the move. Took awhile to fix that damage.

Partimage really wasn't as simple as running Acronis on the Windows drive, and rebooting.

*I still haven't figured out how to get GRUB to boot W2K though. It just hangs when booting the OS, even though I can manually select it from the F11 menu. Acronis does have one Ghost feature. That of expanding the partitions to fit the new drive.

Re:Google and I agree: Acronis (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049916)

was this so hard?
As I've mentioned in the past, Slashdot is a community. Asking a question isn't as serf-serving as "googling" for the answer.

By asking the question, people that are interested in the topic may find out an answer something and those with no clue may learn something. Otherwise those individuals may never have bothered looking it up.

Hard Drive Manufactures Software (1)

DeadBugs (546475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048133)

Just buy your back up hard drive from a major manufacturer like Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate, etc. Many of these companies have hard drive imaging software on their site for free to transfer the contents of any hard drive to their hard drive.

Not a perfect solution because you would need to buy a spare hard drive for every laptop, but it's free.

Hard Drive Manufactures Software-RAID 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14048852)

I tried that and for some reason my SATA drive didn't show up, even though Windows saw it.* (yes my PATA controller was on at that time :)

There's one trick for those who have RAID bioses. Using RAID 1 (mirroring) to copy it.

*Here's another peculiarity. MSI-K8T-FSR with W2K on Master 0, and Linux on Master 1. Grub wouldn't install no matter what. Had to turn back on the PATA controller.

Re:Hard Drive Manufactures Software (2, Informative)

xiong.chiamiov (871823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049743)

Seagate's DiscWizard [] . Worked for me.

Re:Hard Drive Manufactures Software (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14055066)

Not a perfect solution because you would need to buy a spare hard drive for every laptop, but it's free.

rofl, that's not even a good solution.

Look at this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14048148)

Acronis Trueimage

Ghost (1)

StealthEMD (916613) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048173)

I have an interestin job layout but when i am working on backup I use Ghost 5.1c it is an old version but it will back up any partition except for NTFS based (works on Fat16, FAT32, ext2, ext3, Linus Swap, HPFS, etc.) For NTFS I recommend either Ghost 2003 or 9.0.
If the laptops are identical you can install it on a control system and use a bootable CD/DVD to run the basic (think graphical DOS styling only polished up a little) client and it shouldnt warn you about liscensing issues(not a problem on 5.1). If it does you can symply ignore the message (2003) and it wont ask twice. This is of course for a manual partition restore. If you want an automated solution you will have to pay for licensing (for safety's sake) but it is a nice package to use. I recommend keeping a backup disk with your images (stored in .gho format) so that you can use them when necessary for manual restores. Also the newer versions of Ghost alow you to update parts of a .gho file.

Why Imaging? (4, Informative)

fdragon (138768) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048187)

System imaging solutions such as Symantec Ghost are good solutions for most people, but are not always the right solution.

What may be a good solution that is adaptive to your needs is this solution : []

Combine this with a good method for getting a PXE boot setup (and devices that support the feature) and you will be able to create a menu that will allow you to automate system installs of Windows, Linux, and possible other systems, plus installing their related applicaton software later.

With this setup you can do system installs for any type of hardware that comes your way. Laptop vendor change the network card chipset without bothering to change the spec sheet? No problem, just add the driver to the above build instructions and life goes on.

Re:Why Imaging? (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049704)

Another idea along the same lines. Use NLite to get a good basic install of WinXP with SP2 and post-SP2 patches slipstreamed. This can be fully unattended. Personally, I leave the computer name field blank. During the install, the only thing I have to do is partition the hard drive and then fill in the computer name. []

Once you have the laptops up and running, log into your domain and allow the Active Directory system to push additional software to the laptops. You can configure AD to push and install MSI packages as soon as they login to the domain. I think all the packages have to be in the MSI format. But I'm not too sure about that.

Re:Why Imaging? (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049783)

I'll second that. I use nlite to slim down the OS and slipstream the patches for VMWare images. The lighter the footprint, the more RAM I have free for other things. For making a base win32 install without the faf, works great.

Re:Why Imaging? (1)

sgarg (197658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050593)

Look at clonezilla ( [] ). Meant for this only.

Agree 100% (2, Insightful)

Shawn is an Asshole (845769) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050882)

If you're even considering imaging, please don't. Try unattended [] . It may take a week or two and a few dozen trial installs but once you get the hang of it you will never want to go back to imaging.

Look at it this way. With unattended, you can assign different profiles to different computers, and they can inherit from each other. Say one group needs x apps, another group needs y apps, and another groops needs x y and z. With unattented that can all be maintained with three very small batch scripts. With imaging you would need to create three large images, and maintain each of them. With unattended, you maintain the master packages and all of your configurations make use of it.

Hardware detection is also easy. When I dealed with cloning I ended up having to keep multiple copies of the same image but configured for each different hardware. With unattended, you extract all the drivers into the $oem$/$1 directory and each computer's hardware is automatically detected and configured during the install. I can easly add any new hardware I want with no additional maintence.

If you need to apply different policies (without AD) learn how to use secedit. It's easy to write secedit and regedit scripts for unattended that will apply all configuration and policies automatically. Microsoft's Windows XP Security Guide [] covers this well.

Try unattended. You will not regret it.

Also, just as a comment to the above post, it's not neccessary that the NICs support PXE. Etherboot [] solves that. Etherboot gives a small (15k) image that can be put on a floppy, cdrom, lilo/grub, etc and will boot to PXE. It's not neccessary for the NIC to support it.

g4u will do it (1)

derinax (93566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048216) []

I have successfully imaged ext3 volume sets, NTFS disks, and NetBSD disks with this tool. In spite of what you might think, it actually is quite fast and the drive images are relatively compact.

The key is to have a gigabit network at hand, if you can, and to have relatively modern hardware across the board.

dd AND gzip (1)

localhost00 (742440) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048219)

I like to use "gzip hda2.gz" to back up a partition, but before I do that, I mount it, "dd if=/dev/zero of=mountpath/zero", sync, "rm mountpath/zero", and unmounting it before that to attain the smallest image file possible. Of course, this needs to be done from either a Live distro or from a secondary install. I have my Linux on 8GB, and my image is about 1.5 GB.

help me do my job (0, Flamebait)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048241)

(Disclaimer: laid off after 21 years of knowing how to do my job. Now, apparently too expensive.)

A disturbing trend (or maybe it's always been and I haven't noticed) on slashdot seems to be people who ostensibly have jobs for which they're competent coming to the anointed techies of slashdot for answers. I suppose it would be considered "tapping all resources", but as an employer, I'd kind of expect my employees to know their job.

That aside, it would appear to be the luck of the draw who gets advice. My experience has been it is of little relation to whether one is deserving, and more related to how "wired in" one is to slashdot's anointed editors, or a little luck.

So, can everyone expect to "hire" slashdot for their problems at work?

Re:help me do my job (1)

CokeJunky (51666) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048346)

A little harsh, no? While I grant you that the vast majority of similar Ask Slashdot's on this line of questioning do leave me wondering why those people are doing those jobs, expecting someone to know everything before they have 10-30 years experience is unreasonable!

People like sysadmins and IT support staff frequently finding new and exciting problems needing solutions that someone else has already solved. Besides, I think it's normal and good practice to ask colleagues for suggestions in stead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Within reason that is. And slashdot is probably a good place to ask about cheap solutions when expensive commercial ones exist -- though I hope the asker is not asking /. without trying a bit of googling first.

As for responses, you are completly right about the mixed bag -- I figure about 1-10% of comments on this kind of Ask /. are at least a little bit useful, 10-15% are Me too's, 20-30 % are bashing the questioner for being a moron, and the rest are a combination of nasty links, irrelevant meta-comments (like this one) and otherwise a huge waste of time to dig through. Go /. tech support!

Re:help me do my job (1)

EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048432)

There's nothing wrong with asking a question. In fact, asking a seemingly simple question in front of a bunch of technology snobs is a brave feat.

However, it IS wrong to assume that you don't need to ask questions because you've been in the field a long time and think you know everything. Once in a while, you need to think outside the box, and occasionally investigate the other side of the fence. If you don't, you'll just get stuck in a rut, using the same tools, without much clue about the alternatives that exist out there.

I've known plenty of techies who were employeed for 10+ years who couldn't understand or talk about many modern concepts in computing-- they got stuck.

"Cluster, what's that?" said the Windows/Netware Admin of 15 years. "MySQL? Isn't that 'freeware'? Move the app over to SQLServer instead" said the System Analyst consultant of 20 years, after discussing his tenure with a dozen Fortune 50 companies.

On this era, we techies wear many hats-- and it's extra good to ask questions. I call myself a Unix admin of 7 years, but I still do Windows & network administration, QA, Development, product management, and a host of other duties outside my job description-- because there ain't nobody else to do it!

Personally, I looked at this submission because I want to know what alternatives there are to Norton Ghost.

Re:help me do my job here's the flamebait (-1, Flamebait)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048744)

for the stupid cocksuckers modding my parent post flamebait, what a bunch of stupid fucks!

for those who feel the need to mod something flamebait... go ahead. This is your post!

slipstreaming and unattended (1)

gizmo_mathboy (43426) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048243)

Between a creating a slipstream windows xp cd and something like unattended [] you should be good to go.

My network (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048247)

I'm a system administrator for a network that includes a large number of windows boxes using samba as a domain controller. We use ghost (the old free version, I believe). Every few months we put out a new template for each hardware type we have and then ghost each machine, room by room. This takes an insane amount of time, and upgrading machines is a pain. Anybody got a better solution?

Re:My network (1)

spiralscratch (634649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048420)


Get Patchlink or some similar network application that can perform remote installs/upgrades from a central server.

The only time you should have to reimage a system is when installing new hardware or to recover a system that is too far gone to fix. Reimaging shouldn't be used for incremental upgrades. As you've noticed, it takes way too much time and effort.

Re:My network (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049293)

Where can you get this old free version of Ghost?

Knoppix + partimage (2, Informative)

Florian (2471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048302)

I have excellent experiences with partimage. It creates image files of both Windows (FAT & NTFS), Linux and *BSD partitions, compressing them with gzip/bzip, optionally breaking them down to fixed size segments (for CD-R/DVD-R backups). It also can save and restore file system image via the net through partimaged, an optional file server.

Since partimage is contained on every Knoppix CD, the easiest and cheapest solution is to boot your computer with Knoppix, save the file system image either to a local disk or over the network to another computer running partimaged.

Re:Knoppix + partimage (1)

yamcha666 (519244) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050021)

I'll second the recommendation for partimage, its great for Linux systems.

But if you're using any Windows systems with NTFS, you should know that NTFS support for partimage is still in the experimental stage. This is according to the Partimage website [] . To quote them:

The NTFS (Windows NT File System) is currently not fully supported: this means you will be able to save an NTFS partition if system files are not very fragmented, and if system files are not compressed. In this case, you will be able to save the partition into an image file, and you will be able to restore it after. If there is a problem when saving, an error message will be shown and you won't be able to continue. If you have successfully saved an NTFS NTFS partition, you shouldn't have problems as you restore it (except in the case of bugs). Then the best way is to try to save a partition to know if it is possible. If not, try to defragment it with diskeeper or another tool, and try to saving the partition again.

Personally, I can't wait until NTFS support becomes stable.

Re:Knoppix + partimage (1)

Tsunayoshi (789351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14051282)

We have been cloning NTFS partitions for over a year using Partimage and have had ZERO problems with them. It may be experimental, but it friggin' rocks when you can't afford/don't need Ghost.

Having said that, having a custom schell script to help automate the partitioning and such using partimage really helps a lot. "./ " gets us a complete client image for our workstations (dual boot RHEL3/Win2K) in about 10 minutes on a 100mb LAN after booting from a Linux rescue CD.

What about RIS? (5, Informative)

jarod670 (667823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048307)

If you have a Windows Server 2000 or Server 2003 environment, what about RIS? Once you get it set up, I think it is much faster than ghost for pulling images down, plus you don't have to worry about SIDs. Plus the big bonus it's FREE.

FREE! (1)

Vorondil28 (864578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048570)

<fineprint> in beer.</fineprint>

Being serious now, RIS is slick if you can get it set up properly.

Re:What about RIS? (4, Insightful)

obeythefist (719316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048803)

I've worked in large scale corporate environments (400+ workstations) configured for RIS and there's no equivalent. You can dynamically add/change/update images. You can roll in patches for the heck of it in a matter of moments. You never need to worry about where your install media is, you just press F12 and you have a new SOE image on the workstation. You never have to burn off new copies of your install media because it's all live. The admin who set up RIS also set up a diagnostic boot using the RIS network boot that loaded disk recovery tools and so on from the RIS server. The cost of RIS is included with the Windows server license (so yes, beer free) and the ongoing costs will be lower as your updates will cost you less in terms of build media and so on.

Re:What about RIS? (1)

tres (151637) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050706)

See unattended for an open source project with all these features as well as some good community support & the ability to integrate with a build/update system that actually does more than Windows.

dd, crude but efficient (1)

max born (739948) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048309)

I've cloned a lot of Linux boxes with plain ol' dd. I had a script that mounted the HD, ran dd, then did a sed search and replace on things like, username, hostname, DNS servers, etc..

You're probably cloning windows whose config files are not as simple as those in unix but there are still a lot of tools out there that can help (e.g. openldap commands for manipulating Active Directory, adding new users, etc.).

Partimage (4, Informative)

sybarite (566454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048312)

Try partimage ( [] . It doesn't have all the management tools like remote imaging, certificate security, etc, but I routinely use partimage from a Knoppix CD to clone Windows machines. Once cloned you can change the sid using newsid.exe from Sysinternals ( mage.html [] ).

If you want to get really creative, maybe you could put a small linux partition on the systems that you can boot to for this purpose. Or maybe you could make a bootable system restore CD. Here is a faq to get started: age.html [] .

For Windows (3, Informative)

N1ghtFalcon (884555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048315)

If the whole thing is windows-based look into RIS. It's a pain to configure properly, but it is more flexible and once you get a hang of it it's quite convenient.

G4U (1, Redundant)

el_jake (22335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048326) [] helped me when ghost failed on my laptop.
A supertool without doubt.

Why reimage? (2, Interesting)

nathanmace (839928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048341)

We use Ghost 8 where I work for rolling out new machines. It's a lifesaver when we replace a lab (I work in Higher Ed). However once the machines are in the lab, we "freeze" them with Deep Freeze. Unless the hard drive fails we never have to reimage them again. I don't know how the pricing for Deep Freeze will compare to the pricing for Ghost, but if you don't have to reimage them, don't. The URL for Deep Freeze is []

Re:Why reimage? (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048851)

Amen, I am also at a college, and this has saved my tired little soul... Too many college textbooks contain CD's that have old versions of Authorware, and require Admin rights.. (newsflash to publishers!!! not many schools use Windows 95 and 98 anymore!). So, I setup everyone with admin rights, and freeze them.. Well worth the price any way you look at it. I have gone from spending huge amounts of time and bandwith reghosting machines that had crap installed to only ghosting once a term to make sure they have the newest software.. Total lifesaver.. I actually got a huge SHHH in the library the first time I tested deepfreeze, installed Kazaa, AIM, any other spyware I could think of, and rebooted.. I laughed with glee so loud I disturbed 40 students!

Re:Why reimage? (1)

Scuff (59882) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049737)

Two things. First, do you notice a problem with systems hanging frequently using deepfreeze? (I've only seen this happen with the network managed version, the standalone installs seem to work fine for some reason)

and, it looks like you've already found your own solution, but you know that you can usually install the software and then remove the admin rights, right?

Re:Why reimage? (1)

nathanmace (839928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049766)

It depends on the software. Some of the stuff we use in the labs require admin rights to run properly. Deep Freeze also makes IM, spyware, popup windows, etc a non-issue. We have the enterprise version. The machines reboot every night at 3 AM or so, which means students using them the next day always have a clean machine. I'd had Windows images go wonky from lots of things, but I don't think I've ever had it start AFTER being frozen when it wasn't already doing before we froze them.

Re:Why reimage? (1)

acercanto (930670) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048888)

If you go with Deep Freeze, for the love of God, don't do what the sysadmin at my old college did and just "freeze" it immediately after you've made any modifications. Make sure to acknowledge all the baloons (XP), allow all the regular programs (Zone Labs Firewall), view full path in the address bar (Explorer). Basically, use it for a few minutes to make sure you get all the kinks out before you go and image a bunch of public computers. Your users will love you for it.

Re:Why reimage? (1)

nathanmace (839928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049781)

If you are running Active Directory, be sure to login with an account on the domain when you freeze it. Otherwise users have to change the domain field to the actual domain instead of the local machine name everytime they login. That tends to make some people cranky...

No permanent storage? (1)

Daxster (854610) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048354)

Use a LiveCD of Knoppix or similar? Then provide USB keys for document storage, or network drives?

Altiris deployment solution (2, Informative)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048389)

Not cheap. But it lets us create a hardware independant disk image and deploy it remotely to PCs. I believe it has some Linux support, but is mostly a windows product. It gathers hardware inventory on most any coporate level machine (including serial numbers). We can also build remote install packages to deply software and settings after images have been created.
While it keeps track of all the packages and images deployed, it doesn't automatically restore everything.
CA also has a similar product, it doesn't deploy images, only the windows unattended install stuff. However in addition to keeping track of packages, it will automatically redeploy them. Useful for when a HDD dies. You start the base image deployment, CA takes care of everything done since then.
Both packages support PXE boot and Wake On Lan. So you can remotely boot up a bare metal machine and get it operational.
These are pretty large programs, you'll want to talk to a sales person at those places and get a demo. Even if a demo is available, get them to demo it to you, you can't hope to learn the stuff in a couple days on your own.

Re:Altiris deployment solution (1)

megaversal (229407) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048721)

I want to second this. The product isn't perfect, but if you're using primarily Windows machines with a lot of older machines in the mix, it works quite well.

Why older machines? If your machine doesn't support PXE, they have a solution which allows you to WoL boot up your machine and then switch over to a hidden drive image (the software manages switching between your OSes and its hidden drive image OS), which then allows you to image a machine as if you had PXE support. It's nice if you work for a school where the machines can be across campus, but you've still got a grip of Win95/98 machines laying around.

By default, the client that runs on the machines also allows what's said above: asset tracking, etc, plus remote VNC-like control of the box, mass network setting modifications (change 200 machines to a different workgroup? no problem), etc.

Drive Image XML or Acronis True Image Enterprise (1)

^me^ (129402) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048498) [] for a few machines or image/ [] for many.

The products have spoken for themselves for me, I use them exclusively. true image has a bartpe plugin, also.

True Image Server: $699.
True Image Enterprise: more, but worth it.

Easy.. (3, Funny)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048605)

Id use a mounted filesystem and use dd to copy an image to the other networked machine. Just use the following to copy your hard drive...

dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/your_hard_drive bs=512

And then, you can run netcat from the tun device

nc -i tun0 > /remote_computer_mount_point/

Be aware, your mileage may vary.

Re:Easy.. (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049236)

A better idea would be to use partimage [] . It doesn't image bytes that are unused, or not used by files, so your images are much smaller. Using dd, a 40GB disk would result in a 40GB image. Using partimage, it works out to about a 4 gig image. It's very effective, and it's bootable on a cdrom.

Re:Easy.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049559)

You have completely missed the joke, and subsequently fail at life.

If flexibility is desired (1)

tmasky (862064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048666)

Etherboot ( [] ) + ThinStation ( /ThIndex [] )

Then start hacking your Thinstation dist around. Easy to maintain over time (just upload new Thinstation images). Write a quick shell script to ftp down an image off a server and use dd. The user could pick an image or alternatively use some hardware identifier (using lspci, etc.) to automatically pick one for a user.

Another idea would be to use a floppy-disk based Linux dist which does effectively the same thing. Maintenance is harder (new floppies / cdroms each time you want to change the system).

This also keeps your process nice and open for the future =)

Ghost + Scripting = Life Saver (1)

Snake98 (911863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048818)

As a system administrator I volunteer to maintain several labs at a local private school. About once a month I have to updated or install new programs on these lab computers. I just sit down on one, clean it up, update, and ghost an image to a server. Ghosting takes about 15-30 minutes to make a new image. I then boot up the lab with floppy disk and ghost back out to the lab. I take the floppy disk out and leave. I have setup several scripts so the computers will automatically rejoin the domains, change their names based upon Mac address and be ready to use by the students the next morning. Because the Ghost isn't installed on any one computer, I just need the number of licensing I'm ghosting at one time, aka for each floppy disk. It was a pain writing all the scripts, but I can rebuild an entire Windows XP in less than 5 minutes of my time once I have an image.

What do you want? (1)

slashflood (697891) | more than 8 years ago | (#14048908)

Mondo [] is a extremely impressive product. It does what you want. If you don't like Ghost images, use Mondo Rescue. If you wanna do filesystem-based incremental backups, use BackupPC [] . Stupid name, but truly enterprise-ready(tm).

Forget the imaging (1)

lucm (889690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049080)

Go with unattended setups. You can add the drivers for all the hardware available, and you can plugin MSI to install additional software. If you have some software that has no MSI setup, you can build your own from a fresh install (see Microsoft documentation).

Plenty of documentation is available on the Microsoft website and there is no extra licensing.

At an old job (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049085)

At an old job where most computers had removable hard drives we used a commercial hard drive duplicator. Instead of a master image, we'd use a master hard drive.

BootIt(TM) Next Generation (boot-it NG) (1)

kworthington (678559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049135)

BootIt(TM) Next Generation [] is a great free tool. It even re-sizes existing partitions of many types including NTFS, ext2, FAT32 and many more. I switched to this after using Ghost for a few years, and haven't looked back. I can't say enough positive things about it.

Use Phoenix's recover pro (1)

basil montreal (714771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049611)

Phoenix (the BIOS maker) has software that keeps the backups securely on the machines. Here's the link: tions/Phoenix+FirstWare/FirstWare+Recover+Pro/defa ult.htm []

Lenovo (formerly IBM) OEMs this into all it's thinkpads. Theirs is linked to that "blue one touch restore button". I am a bid specialist for PC Mall, and I can get you in touch with one of our reps if you want. For 300 licenses, you should be able to get a volume discount.

Imaging (1)

PCWizardsinc (678228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050073)

I use EMC Dantz Retrospect, Which backs up our notebooks, desktops, and servers, all with snap shot imaging. Check them out [] I haven't been let down yet. We recently lost a SBS 2003 to a hacker, and recovered it without problems, SBS, Exchange, and SQL Server. Retrospect is a life saver.

Acronis True Image (1)

Frodo420024 (557006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050527)

One program frequently found on covermount CD's is Acronis True Image [] (I know, 'cause I put it there :), which is much better than Ghost, even in the covermounted version. It understands Linux partitions, is very fast, and writes directly to CD/DVD's and network shares. The latest and biggest version ($49, IIRC) does incremental backups, quite cool. And it's fast. I've seen a fresh Windows install being backed up in just 17 seconds! (hard drive to hard drive).

I didn't scrutinize their license agreement WRT large numbers of computers, but do suggest you give it a good look.

Phoenix Recover Pro (1)

Phoenix junkie (931844) | more than 8 years ago | (#14053061)

How funny. I read through this site often to keep up on the industry, and its refreshing to see my product Recover Pro being mentioned. Unlike typical network backup strategies where a full system restore could take an hour or more, Recover Pro can restore a machine to a static image in under 12 minutes. Not to knock backup software like Retrospect (My personal favorite as well) They play a part in the overall data security for a company. Recover Pro needs no network to run, No CDs and you will never have to rebuild windows before restoring a machine. Restore points can be incremental or left at a static image. Its all up to the IT admin. One button restores that work every time. Even if the system crashes and windows won't load, as long as you can power your machine Phoenix Recover Pro can restore it. PC Mall is a great place for the product, we have a good partnership with them and they can always reach me if you have any questions. Best regards, Phoenix Junkie

Some options from my Lab: (1)

Redfriar (85415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14053189)

If you can afford it, a commercial solution from IBM, LanDesk, or Acronis is probably going to be easier to administer. But if your like me, your on a tight budget and don't mind using free stuff that takes some massaging.

If your deploying Windows, then I would suggest you use M$'s free (as in beer) solution, Automated Deployment Services: []

I've used this in my lab for cloning Windows 2003 instances. It's a PXE/tftp based solution. It works very similarly to IBM's RDM, LanDesk, etc.. but with a crappy administrative interface. Took all of 3 hours to setup, including my RTFM time. After setting some QOS for my server's switch ports, I had extremely good throughput from MS's 'Reliable TFTP' service, which I cannot say I had with IBM.

This same setup could be done via syslinux + slim kernel + small root fs via NFS, but don't forget the need to use Microsoft Sysprep right before you clone your image. Whichever route you go, you'll want to switch to a Volume Licensing model for your client machines, so you won't have to worry about maintaining a database of 300+ license key allocations.

Is Ghost really that bad? (1)

webscathe (448715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14053230)

Ok, so for 300 licenses you're looking at spending about $5,790 which works out to around $20/license. That's not that bad considering how much time it'll save you and exactly what you get, and you may be able to get it cheaper. I get Ghost licenses for $15ea through CDW-G because I work at a high school. You may want to check with a reseller to see if you can get a break on licensing.

Next to RIS I don't think there's any solution that'll roll out a Windows install with programs, updates, automatically change the SID for you, give the computer a unique name, AND add the computer to the domain... all in about an hour (depending on your network/server/comps being ghosted.) Updating a 40 computer lab between classes is pretty sweet.

So long as you're using Ghost Corporate Ed. (new) you don't have to worry about boot disks, configuring pxe, whatever either. So long as the Ghost Client is installed on the PC just boot it up normally and start a session on the Ghost server.

On the flip side, if you go with Ghost, make sure you purchase all the licenses you'll need the first time. I bought 50 licenses and Ghost Corp v.8. A month later I went to buy 100 more licenses and I couldn't get them for v.8 any more as Symantec had updated Ghost to "Ghost Solution Suite 1.0" so I had to purchase upgrade licenses for the ones I had bought a month earlier.

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