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Imaging and Workstation Renaming

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench

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Posted: 26 Mar 2003

We recently posted this Q&A and asked for other comments from our readers. Doug Rutherford of Devon Canada Corporation sent us some excellent suggestions. Thanks, Doug! If anyone else would like to chime in, we're all ears.

Question: We have been using the ghost and ghostwalker products to image and rename our NT4 workstation SIDs and computer names for quite some time now and in combination with ZfD we had a powerful method of pushing WS images to PCs and distributing individual applications. We have recently started the move away from NT4 to Win2k that required us to also re-evaluate our then current method of imaging PCs. We decided to use the ZEN for Desktops 3.2 WS imaging to replace what we had been doing with Norton ghost products.

For the most part, ZfD 3.2 is able to accomplish what we need, and when used with PreBoot Services it is truly a powerful tool. I am surprised however, that the only method for renaming workstations and changing SIDs is the 'image safe service'. It seems to be a cumbersome way to change an integral windows attribute, using a Windows application/service to change a windows setting that will require a manual reboot when done.

The beauty of the ghostwalker product that we had used previously was that it ran as a DOS executable and was able to access the NTFS partition and edit the registry to make SID and computer name changes. When the station booted into Windows, it would already be renamed.

The problems with the 'image safe service' method of renaming Workstations are annoying, the station boots up after being imaged - thinks it has a name of 'Workstation', registers itself in NDS as this name and then changes its name to become a different name entirely, if the user chooses to reboot the station. If you are creating Workstation DS objects based on Workstation names this makes it nearly impossible to keep things straight.

The other part of this problem is we are now relying on users to reboot the workstations after imaging; otherwise the WS rename doesn't take affect. In an educational environment where we are lucky to get student to read the two lines of login instructions, we are hard pressed to get the students to perform any additional steps, especially one that requires a reboot.

Answer: Workstation renaming is only a one-time thing. Once the PC is renamed you can image it over and over again and the image safe data will retain its original name.

The benefit to this is it's already imported into NDS and you can reimage all kinds of PCs without ever touching them. With Ghost walker you would have to be physically at the machine, boot off a floppy, run ghostwalker, manually enter the name of the PC and reboot again.

ZEN's solution of image safe data is a much faster process and a one-time process that requires NO boot disks and is far more powerful than ghost ever could be. We think imaging a PC remotely without ever touching it is a far greater advantage than physically touching each PC when you need to re-image it. Anyone else care to comment on this issue? We'd love to hear from you.


Doug Rutherford

The way I see it, this person has a couple of problems.

1) Bad NDS Workstation objects. Assuming that the workstations are not brand new, they should already have their names stored in the Image Safe Data on the hard drive. So long as UNREG32.EXE is run on the master PC before an image is taken, incorrectly named workstation objects in NDS should not be a problem. So the fix here should be to ensure that the correct ImageSafe data is on each target workstation and that UNREG32.EXE was run just prior to creating the master image.

2) The end-user must reboot after the Imaging Agent complete the workstation renaming process. I had this problem as well when I was overhauling my company's training room setup. The answer is to find a way to force the workstation to reboot automatically (with a time delay) for the first time after it is reimaged. My solution was as follows (and is mostly based off of the procedure described in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article #243486):

You will require the following files from the Microsoft Windows 2000 Resource Kit:

  • SC.EXE

Other alternative utilities are possible, but these are the ones I used. You will also need a file called AUTOEXNT.BAT containing these commands (customized for your environment):

set path=c:\winnt;c:\winnt\system32;c:\temp
REM Disable the Service
c:\winnt\system32\sc.exe config AutoExNT start= disabled
REM Initiate Auto-Reboot Process
c:\winnt\system32\shutdown.exe /l /r /t:900 /y 
"Please wait for ZIS to complete before 
manually restarting." /c

Once you have all of these files, follow these steps:

  1. Copy all of the files listed above from the resource kit plus the AUTOEXNT.BAT to the SYSTEM32 folder of the computer you will be imaging.
  2. From the command prompt, type "instexnt install /interactive".
  3. Using the services control panel, set the new 'AutoExNT' service to start automatically.
  4. Create an image of the PC.

What this does is creates an automatically starting service which will:

  • Start a process that will restart the PC without any user intervention 15 minutes after it has been rebooted (using SHUTDOWN.EXE)
  • Set itself to Disabled, preventing itself from starting automatically in the future (using SC.EXE)

The end result should be an image that will wait for 15 minutes the first time it is booted (allowing ZISWIN to complete) and then automatically reset itself. After the first boot cycle is complete, the PC should behave normally.

If you have any questions you may contact Doug at (Note: Replace the hyphen with a period before you try sending a message to Doug, or you'll be caught in his anti-Spam trap.)

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