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Windows 7: Trying to Setup 7 PCs the Exact Same Way

18 Aug 2011   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Trying to Setup 7 PCs the Exact Same Way

I have 7 identical PCs (all with a separate key for Windows 7 Pro x64). What I want to do is setup one PC with all the necessary software and updates (domain connection and users, if possible) then find a way to copy that configuration to the other 6 PCs.

After some researching, I've seen Clonezilla (which would just copy the partition including the activation and product key, just causing more problems) and the official Windows Automated Installation Kit, but every walkthrough with the WAIK I've seen looked like it needed a volume license, which I don't have.

I've seen tutorials on youtube on creating a .wim file from a preconfigured PC (which, to my understanding, is a windows 7 disc image slipstreamed with all the software and updates) with Sysprep & ImageX, but none of them said how to burn the .wim to a disc or inject it into a Windows 7 .iso to install it on another PC. Even if I get that far, will that image I'm using allow me to input a different product key?

Any tips, suggestions, step-by-step instructions are greatly appreciated.

NOTE: To anyone wondering, this is a project for work (not home...yet), but I figure knowing how to do this could help for future projects.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Aug 2011   #2


There really is not straight forward "how to" document, every deployment will be different.

Best Practices for Image Deployment
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Aug 2011   #3
Bare Foot Kid
Microsoft MVP

W 7 64-bit Ultimate

Hello eaturbrainz, welcome to Seven Forums!

Have a look through the information in this tutorial at the link below for some additional ideas, using Method Two / Three and be sure to post back with any further questions you may have and to keep us informed.

Windows 7 Installation - Transfer to a New Computer

My System SpecsSystem Spec

18 Aug 2011   #4

Windows 7 Home Premium x64

Thanks for all that good information. Only have one more question.

If I were to use ImageX to create a .wim file, can I just put that in a shared folder on the network (or just an external USB hard drive), boot a computer into Windows Setup, using a Windows 7 Pro disc, then somehow direct Windows Setup to that .wim file, instead of the one on the DVD?

Is there a free, 3rd party application you might suggest that would be easier to use than Windows Setup/ImageX?

(Sorry, two questions, I lied.)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Aug 2011   #5

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

The way that I do it, is to install the first machine and setup what I want on the machine. Then I run sysprep on it and shut it down. From there, I image with any third party imaging tool (Macrium, Acronis, EaseUs). Then I lay the image down on the new computer and the first time I boot it, it runs me through a mini setup and allows me to enter in a username, password, a key for activation, a computer name, join the machine to the domain, etc. So, you will go through the mini setup 6 or 7 times on all of the machines, but you will be up and running with a standard image.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Aug 2011   #6

Windows 7 Home Premium x64

I haven't actually done it yet, but after plenty of research (and alot of guidance from you guys) I found the best course of action.
  1. Use a Win7 Pro x64 retail disc to install an unactivated Windows on the PC
  2. Use the 30 day trail to install and setup all the programs and users I need
  3. Run Sysprep & Shutdown
  4. Boot via Clonezilla Live CD & save image on external HDD
  5. Copy image to PC on the LAN running SSH server
  6. Boot 6 other machines with Clonezilla and load the image off network
  7. Go through Windows 7 setup using unique key on each PC.
  8. DONE!
I chose the SSH server because it seemed like the easiest to setup in a Windows environment. Thanks for all the help, and if someone sees a problem in my plan, please say something.

(The only reason I can't actually do it yet is because Windows Update is acting up and I can't find out why, but I didn't think that issue belonged in this topic.)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Aug 2011   #7

Windows 7 64-bit enterprise

I use clonezilla images all the time and there are a few caveats to add.

When you use clonezilla with an external drive, an usb drive is the easiest option. There is a point in clonezilla where you will need "mount" (linux term) the location where the image will be stored, or retrieved from. This needs to be a folder at the highest level of the drive. First you choose to mount local dev, (local device) and clonezilla will scan for all available partitions. At that point, there will be a prompt to plug in a usb drive or flash stick. You don't want to have the drive plugged into a usb slot before that point or clonezilla will not find it.

Windows works better if you install it into a small partition at the beginning of the drive. 50GB is usually more than big enough. You will put all of your application files in this partition as well, although I don't put my web and email apps there (personal preference). When you set up your first computer, I would do the following,

1. install windows
2. install any motherboard drivers, video card drivers, etc
3. do windows update (if this is allowed on the trial license)
4. install and update security software
5. install any other software that will go on all of the computers
6. uninstall/disable any unwanted software or windows features
7. run CCleaner
8. use EaseUS Partition Manager to re-size the install partition if necessary
you want the install partition to be ~2x the size of everything installed so far. You also need to allow for space for other applications, so I find 50GB to be about right most of the time.
9. run Auslogics Disk Defrag w/optimize

This will give you a nice clean and small image to install on your other rigs. You will need to place a partition of the same size on all of the other computers before you write the image, or you will have to boot in after you write the image and re-size the partition with EaseUS. Having windows in it's own partition makes it very easy to restore/re-install. You just overwrite that partition with your clonezilla image and you are back to your clean install. It takes about 5 minutes. Your data is not touched because it is in it's own partition. If there are allot of app installed after your image is taken, all of them would have to be re-installed. So you can either make additional images, or keep the installers in a folder on your data drive so it is easy to re-install them.

After you have the windows keys entered, you should take an image of each computer to provide a backup for the OS. I put these the backup drive in every computer I setup.

Post back if there are questions. Clonezilla works very well, but it comes from linux land, so the terminology can be a bit odd if you're not used to it.

This is a pretty good tutorial on Clonezilla, which is worth a few minutes,
Back Up/Restore Hard Drives And Partitions With CloneZilla Live | HowtoForge - Linux Howtos and Tutorials

Note: The method above is not going to manage the 100MB windows hidden partition that gets installed with win7. If you think you need that. There is probably no reason why you can't image that as well. If you go that route, I would boot with the windows disk and manually set up the 50GB windows partition on all of the computers. Windows will automatically set up the hidden partition. Just quit out of the installer after the partitions have been setup and formated. When you take your image, just do it twice, once for the win partition and once for the hidden. Write both images to the new computers. Once the hidden partition is there, you shouldn't have to deal with it again.

My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Trying to Setup 7 PCs the Exact Same Way

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