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Cleaning Up Multiple WinXP PC's

by John Hixson / May 16, 2010 4:01 PM PDT

I have the job of wiping clean and reinstalling WinXP Pro on a number of "middle age" computers at my church. These are generally around 2.0 GHz Celerons or Pentium 4's with 1 GB of RAM and 40 GB HDD's; a few are better than these specs (Pentium Duals or Core Duos). It has been suggested that a practical method for doing this job will be to wipe clean and totally setup one computer just like I want it, and then to clone (Acronis True Image or similar) this drive to all the other HDD's by slaving each of them to it one at a time. The cloned HDD's would then be returned to their original PC's and "adjusted" to their actual environment by running the repair feature of the Windows Install Disk. Does this seem like a viable procedure to anyone or just a pipedream? Thanks for any comments or advice. John Hixson

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Cloning . . .
by Coryphaeus / May 16, 2010 11:22 PM PDT

The way you describe, nope. XP takes a snapshot of the hardware on the PC. If you try to put a hard drive from another machine into a PC, it'll fail. And since these machines are all different, it will fail. If you had exactly identical machines, it might work.

Just boot from your legal copy of XP, use the option to delete/create a partition, format the drive, and install XP from scratch.

Trust me here.

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I'm going to agree
by Jimmy Greystone / May 17, 2010 12:16 AM PDT

I'm going to agree. If you attempt to clone these systems, it will fail, and your proposed method of dealing with that will end up taking significantly longer.

There's also a licensing issue that arises with what you propose doing. Unless the church has a site license for XP, you can't just go installing the same copy of XP onto each system. They might have all come with a copy of XP, but that is an OEM version which is valid only with that specific system. It's a pain, and this is the sort of thing system admins deal with day in and day out at large companies. So, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the various nuanced complexities of daily life in the computer world that they shield you from.

To keep everything on the legal up and up, you'll need to track down the restore media for each system. The CD key on the sticker for each system will not work with your average retail XP install disc.

Now aren't you glad you volunteered to take on this project?

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Cleaning Up Multiple WinXP PC's--Reply to Replies
by John Hixson / May 17, 2010 5:01 AM PDT

To Coryphaeus and J. Greystone:

I'm well aware of the objections you both raise regarding the hardware differences between computers. That's why it's necessary to "repair" the installation once a HDD is returned to it's home computer. When I reviewed your objections with the IT guy giving me advice here, He simply said, "Well then, they've never tried it." He claims to have been successful on "many" installations. The straightforward installing on each machine is what I'm trying to avoid since it puts everything in series and can take hours per machine. Have either of you ever tried what I'm suggesting and failed?

With regard to the licensing issue, our church uses MS volume licinsing where every installation uses the same registration number. I belive that takes care of the problem you're suggesting.

Thanks for your responses. John Hixson

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Yes. I've had that fail.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 17, 2010 5:18 AM PDT

But here's the issue. Why not go ahead with your plan? It is a plan with a plan B.

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Yes. I've had that fail.
by John Hixson / May 17, 2010 5:29 AM PDT

Good point. I think I'll just barge ahead and maybe learn something. Thanks. John Hixson

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by Jimmy Greystone / May 17, 2010 5:51 AM PDT

Well, with all due respect to the "IT guy", I'd say he's full of it.

What you propose is basically doing the same job twice. First you create an image, and then you basically reinstall Windows a second time doing the repair install (that's basically what it does... Reinstalls Windows) which will lay down a new registry that probably means you'll have to reinstall a good portion of the apps.

If it were me, since you say there's a volume license involved is to make multiple copies of the XP install CD. That way you can get the process started on several systems at once.

Just do make sure they can provide proof of that license upon demand. Plenty of "IT guys" think they're going to do small outfits like churches a favor by installing pirated software to save them some money. Just because it's for a religious non-profit doesn't make it any less illegal, and you don't want to be associated with that because, "I didn't know," isn't going to do you much good in court. At the very least, you don't want there to be any surprises when WGA kicks in and blocks you from updating the systems.

If they say anything other than, "Sure, let me go get it for you!" after you ask to see the license, I would walk away right then and there. Tell them as soon as they can show you the proof, you'll be happy to help.

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Thats right
by BSharpe37 / May 19, 2010 7:59 AM PDT
In reply to: Well

The "IT Guy" is correct in the notion of runnign a repair will make it work, but Like the person above stated all it is is basically reinstalling Windows XP. It copys over all the original XP files and rewrites the system registry. Meaning any software you installed will most likly need to be "Repaired" also.

To save tiem run to each machine adn pop in the install media and reinstall. If they were close to the same hardware you could use Acronis but since they are not it won't work.

PS: Repairs may take a few min less but you will spend more time repairing the other software such as MS Office since all its registry keys will be gone.

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Cleaning Up Multiple WinXP PC's--Followup
by John Hixson / June 2, 2010 9:22 AM PDT

Having finished my project, it's time to report what I found out. Number one: the procedure worked very well and saved me many hours of reinstalling and updating. Number two: absolutely no applications were affected--all worked perfectly without repair after reinstalling the HDD's. The same procedure was followed for six separate pc's ranging from a Celeron 1.7GHz to a Pentium Dual 2.0GHz. Both PATA and SATA HDD's were involved.

In general the procedure was as follows: a Celeron 2.8GHz SATA pc was wiped clean, formatted, and Win XP Pro installed and updated to all the latest updates (SP3, IE 8, etc.). Then a standard set of apps was installed and updated (MS Office 2007, Reader 9, Firefox, iTunes, Picasa, Advanced System Care, and Trend Micro Client). Lastly the HDD was adjusted for how I wanted it for each new user and then defragged (Auslogics Disk Defrag). Finally I installed Acronis True Image Home 2010 and began cloning the HDD to previously wiped and formatted HDD's from the other pc's. Each cloned HDD was then returned to it's original pc and booted up. Each pc needed it's Intel drivers reinstalled before it worked perfectly, but I had the disks for all of these. In general, video resolutions were OK, but in one or two cases I had to have the Intel drivers to get full control. Same for USB--in several cases I had to use PS/2 keyboards and mice until Intel drivers could be installed. Also the network wasn't always accessible until the Intel drivers were installed. Lastly, I used Revo Uninstaller to remove the Acronis software and then defragged the HDD. In the worst case it probably took me 3/4 hour to get things working perfectly on the "client" pc. I now have six totally cleaned up, set up, and ready to go pc's.

The lesson I learned here was to ask for advice, double check the advice I get, and then proceed based on gut feel. The dire consequences predicted above did not come about. I can only guess that those that said they had trouble with this procedure must not have tried it exactly as I did or had pc's of much wider differences than I was dealing with. I'd say that this technique works well until proven otherwise. Nevertheless I thank you for the advice you took your time to offer.

John Hixson

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Interesting, Since All Computers Have the Same Product Keys
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / June 2, 2010 9:34 AM PDT

...for Windows and Office 2007, and possibly other copyrighted programs, I'll make a guess that all but one of the computers has an illegal installation of such.. Is that the case? And if so, have you told the church there may be issues with updating them in the future?

As future WGA requirements come into place, it will be interesting to see if there are any glitches.

Just curious.


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Interesting, Since All Computers Have the Same Product Keys

Our church uses volume licensing on all licensed software: OS's, MS Office, and Trend Micro. We are very careful to not violate anyone's licensing requirements.

John Hixson

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