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Windows 7: Advice for Simplifying Maintenance of Family PCs with Single Image


03 Apr 2013   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 
Advice for Simplifying Maintenance of Family PCs with Single Image

Warning - kind of long, but looking to set context/background before asking questions:

I am seeking advice from the good folks here on my strategy...pros/cons or specific hints or pointers that will assist making a go of it.

As my spouse is far from a sophisticated user, and seems to run into problems too often for my liking. My intent is to "enforce" a standard configuration we share. Any synchronization or backups have to run without needing her involvement.

I've purchased two identical models of laptops with this strategy in mind.

There are no licensing issues. Each laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 7 - each also has a unique unique Win 7 product key inside the battery compartment (discovered this by accident), and a recovery partition. And, outside of the OS, all our software is free, or for the two paid for, have a multi-install license.

My laptop will be the "Master" (no new config or install from my wife's will be propagated). I happen to have a couple devices that I can use to make an image/disk copy overnight, on a once a week cycle.

I have an extra hard drive I can use to "rotate" - not sure if this will make the imaging process "easier", but might be an effective "backup" if there is a problem with the image for some reason.

Advice?

I have a NAS to which I will backup using Acronis True Image, running nightly.

I also subscribe to Dropbox (free version), which we share. However, we don't want cloud to be our primary source for any files, as we are not always connected. Similar for our NAS, we just want to use it for backups, not a live source for active files.

Advice? Assuming the above setup so far makes sense, any flaws so far? The sticky points seem to be:

Windows Users:

I was thinking of configuring separate Standard User accounts for each of us (and possibly a third for our children who are getting old enough - configuring some form of Parental Control on those).

Advice? Not sure if I am over-complicating things doing this vs creating a Standard User account that we "share" (remember we are on separate laptops). But, it might make separation of data clearer.

Thunderbird:

We share some email accounts, but I have several more that I manage. Our main shared account is POP only. Rest are IMAP (so they would get synced automatically).

The biggest problem seems to be how to handle the POP account? While we share all emails that arrive to the inbox, any emails we send do not get propagated to our PCs. It is a long established account and are not about to change it very quickly.

Advice?

Other Apps Where Data/Files Are Created:

There are some files created from programs (e.g. Open Office, photo editors, scans) that we each generate. So while we can easily back them up, the question is how do we incorporate these into a single image process? I was thinking that I can configure each of these programs to use a "data" partition for user data. From there I could run a program that scans new files by date (since last image copy) and store them on on Dropbox or the NAS, then pulled by the Master prior to image copy (if not nightly).

Advice? Is this practical/simple? What tool would best facilitate this? Any other considerations?
Thanks!


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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04 Apr 2013   #2

Windows 8 Core X64
 
 

The main point I see is you need separate E-mail accounts. Once you have that the rest of your setup looks very good.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Apr 2013   #3
Microsoft MVP

 

You can adapt this same strategy for Dropbox which works well to Sync, Backup and Store your Files to the Cloud with Skydrive - Windows 7 Forums.

The scheduled SyncToys backup can be to an external although it works fine for me having it archive all versions back up to Skydrive, which also keeps a hard copy on all PC's sync'd this way.

Your images should be able to be applied to either PC if necessary using Acronis Universal Restore.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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11 Apr 2013   #4

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Thanks for your replies.

I like the link you supplied gregrocker...I will check that strategy out.

One drawback on using one disk as the master, I just thought of:

License Activation

Will it be an issue if I do a disk copy from the "Master" to keep the two laptops in sync?

That is, will I have to establish the other product key as active for the "Slave" copy each time a copy is made? Then have to deactivate it prior to copy, so as to not trigger some licensing issue?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Apr 2013   #5
Microsoft MVP

 

You can either capture the image before activation, or if you reimage onto another machine immediately change the product key in Control Panel>System page Activation status field.

In the rare case the link to change key is not present use slmgr -ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx command as detailed in SLMgr Commands and Options
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Apr 2013   #6

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
You can either capture the image before activation, or if you reimage onto another machine immediately change the product key in Control Panel>System page Activation status field.

In the rare case the link to change key is not present use slmgr -ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx command as detailed in SLMgr Commands and Options
Thanks for your reply.

For synchronizing images over time, the before activation won't work without some additional steps to keep up with new data, programs or configuration.

Looks like the slmgr is the route to go, and looks like something I could run as a BAT file - making the process rather simple.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Apr 2013   #7
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

I would use a much simpler approach. I would get a 1TB external drive for each PC and schedule images - daily, weekly or whatever. That is simple straight forward and need no user intervention once it is set up. All you have to do from time to time is to delete old images. That's a 5 minute job.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Apr 2013   #8

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
I would use a much simpler approach. I would get a 1TB external drive for each PC and schedule images - daily, weekly or whatever. That is simple straight forward and need no user intervention once it is set up. All you have to do from time to time is to delete old images. That's a 5 minute job.
Thanks. Effectively have been doing that. I manage two separate images then, which creates a variety of problems, such as managing the security of and updates to the system for other inexperienced users. That seriously cuts into the simplicity.

I've been at this on and off, but once set up I expect it to be streamlined with some automation, and while maybe not a 5 minute job, it should be a rather light burden, as I'd just need to set up and run the process.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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