Posted by John on 21st September 2009
Good Saturday to all. Some of the Tech bits I’ve posted in the past involved how to deploy the Windows operating system from a corporate network, RIS, etc. Now, we aren’t going to be pushing images via PXE.
Today I’d like to focus on the lower volume users, the home / home office. You know how it is, someone wants you to help them, because “their system doesn’t seem to be working right”. Ahem You know the realistic course rather than trying to debug all that has plagued their system is a reinstall.
Backup the data you care about before I come over, you tell them. (this is the point that you hear “what’s a backup“, so you know you’ll need to verify that you have all of their data backed up before you “floor mat” their system; yes, someone once asked me over the phone to floor mat instead of format)
Then you contemplate manually installing everything; even the Windows install now looks like significant work.
If you do this often enough, it doesn’t have to be. Invest the time up front in a couple of things, and it will go quickly, and without your intervention :
1) Nlite or Vlite : http://www.nliteos.com/ or http://www.vlite.net/ the former for Win XP class, the latter for Vista / Windows 7.
While some of the automation side was technically possible before Nuhi and team created these, it was a lot more arcane. These two are simple and menu driven, you can add or remove major or minor components of the OS, adjust tweaks, automate user creation / login / etc., adjust default time zone settings, slipstream service packs and patches up to today’s date with, and it also boasts integrated .iso creation or burn straight to disc.
One of the nicest things that these programs can do is to integrate specific text-mode drivers for certain system components. This is a godsend under XP, if not generally as much of a factor in Windows 7. That custom motherboard you run for the “gaming machine” can now have the built-in RAID recognized during the install, without the need to try to find a USB floppy drive to install drivers from.
I just enjoy having a potentially slimmed down version of what I want to install, that had security patches up to the day I created my image. Less to download, less security risk. Security is also sometimes increased by removing some unneeded components; if you’re not going to use them, perhaps they shouldn’t be there.
Regardless, one of these two (as appropriate) is really worth checking into.
2) WPIW / Windows Post Install Wizard : http://www.wpiw.net/
Very handy for reinstalling any set of programs within Windows; I’ve used this for both DVD based installs, directly from the DVD (and automatically running after Windows installs) and more commonly from a fast USB memory stick drive, after the install, by double-clicking it (the latter method to take advantage of faster read speeds / large space for a huge menu of programs for friends, family, self, etc.)
Per the WPIW site :
Windows Post-Install Wizard (WPI for short) is a hypertext application designed for giving users choice. While Windows XP offers many ways of customizing the setup process out of the box, its major drawback is the lack of being able to select which applications an end user may install. In the past, end users and administrators needed to either download the files manually, or create overly complex scripts that could only be used once. WPI allows you to create one image, which can then be custom configured, and optionally, automated, so that end users can install any applications.
WPI is a simple to use automation program for the choice and installation of multiple programs, tweaks and scripts. No longer will you need a dozen CD’s or more when doing a fresh Installation. No longer will you need multiple files when you are servicing another PC. With Windows Post-Install Wizard all that you will need is 1 or 2 CD\DVD’s to fully install your PC with all of your apps, scripts, registry files or tweaks. Instead of having to re-download those apps like adobe reader, flash or updates to programs you can have them all on one disk. With WPI you can have all of them all on one disk and then have a nice interface for selecting which apps to install and after configured properly WPI will install all of them without any needed input from you. WPI also and is commonly used added to your windows installation disks. This way you can automate the complete process of Windows and program installations.
With your typical setup of WPI you have your OS and all of the apps, tweaks and such on one disk. After windows installs, WPI kicks in and you are given a selection of everything you have configured WPI with, then you can select the ones you want or simply let the timer run out and your default apps will install.
This can be customized with multiple default menus / layout with a little bit of experimentation, to allow you to handle your Window 7 Ultimate developer needs in 64 bit, and your less technical friends need with Windows 32 bit, and quite a different (and possibly smaller) set of programs.
While WPI does take a bit of time to configure, it is easily recouped with just a few installs. You do still have to maintain an “up to date” set of install programs, such as Firefox, Java, etc. Hint to Adobe : please release a new downloadable version of at least Acrobat Reader, and don’t force folks to go online to go from 9.1.0 (the latest available for download) to update to 9.1.3, which includes security fixes. Ahem
You will learn about the whole new world of silent installs / switchless, if you’ve never done this. I much prefer to configure all things for an install of the operating system, or all of the application programs on one screen, start it, and walk away. You can always work on or enjoy other things while it’s running for however long it needs to install all that you require.
Between these two things, I think you’ll find your world to be better off. Once you’ve gotten that nice new system in place, you might consider using at least Windows backup to the cloud, for one off-site copy of the original / basics. If you’re looking for more features and insurance, I can highly recommend Acronis True Image Home 2010.
Have a wonderful day folks!