How much time is spent on an install compared to an early image? (e.g. one you did the day after the last install.) Very little, if you are doing other things at the same time. Maybe an hour. And the earlier the image, the cleaner you are and the more you can rethink what you want to install and how to lighten the system.
IMHO early images are pretty much the only images worth doing. To do a full XP reinstall I've adopted a hybrid approach:Images-
I run two early images for each machine I set up.
The first image file contains nothing but the OS, MS Service Packs, and KB updates, along with the most recent "known good" hardware drivers. This is essentially the same thing as creating a slipstreamed OEM restoration disk. You could use various utilities (nLite, etc.) to do the same thing. But unless you know what you're doing, you run the risk of screwing something up. And sometimes these very same utilities can screw something up entirely on their own if Microsoft made a change they're not aware of.
Sticking to plain-vanilla Microsoft update tools and software avoids potential problems. It's not as elegant as flexing your technical craftsmanship with nLite or RVM Integrator - but it always works, no matter which version of Windows you're running. It's also the officially sanctioned way of doing things, which is something to keep in mind should you ever need to call Microsoft. Especially now that they charge for XP phone support.Caveat: If you you need to contact Microsoft for support, DO NOT let them know you used nLite or any similar 3rd party utility to create your install image. If you do, they will tell you that:
1) use of 3rd party modified images is not a supported installation method
2) you need to reinstall Windows using the original product CD in order to
fix your problem (or to get additional technical assistance from Microsoft) ---and---
3) your credit card will be charged for the support call you just made to find that out!
Once created, I this minimal first image is referred to as my Microsoft Only
image. This is primarily created as a fallback image. If I screw up after that creating my working image
(which comes next) then at least I know the basic OS installation and updates are already taken care of - and can be easily returned to.
The working image
is the same as the first, except it also contains an office suite, a web browser, and a half dozen or so extra utilities I consider essential. I'll also take care of basic interface changes, customizations, and optimizations before this image gets created. (This is the image I'll actually use should I need to do a reinstall. So to save future effort, I'll try to take care of as many details as I can before I commit to a final image.)Drivers-
Drivers get archived using a freeware driver backup utility. These get burned onto their own CDRW each time any one of them changes.Security Software-
Neither disk image includes ANY security software. I prefer to create a separate Security Apps CD since most of them get updated too frequently to belong on a drive image.
About once a week, I'll run Lunarsoft's AntiMalware Toolkit ( www.lunarsoft.net
) to download copies of that type of software which I'll later burn to disk. That way, if I need to reinstall from an image (or buy a new machine), I don't need to get too involved with downloading security apps. I'll just install fresh copies from the CD, secure in the knowledge that they're never more than one week out from their current release. Doing it this way also eliminates the Catch-22
exposure risk of using the web to download an antivirus app before you actually have one installed. Small risk, but worth avoiding just the same.User Data-
All personal data, such as bookmarks, e-mail, and documents are handled by normal backup/restore procedures.
Periodically, I'll run out a list of apps that are installed on my system. Since I keep a database of all the apps I use, I always have a copy of my purchase information, product keys, and registration for each item should I ever need to reinstall. It's also a good idea to maintain (and backup) a folder that contains the installers for every app you use that didn't come on disk. These should get burned to their own app archive DVD.Reimaging & reinstallation:
Now, when I need to do an XP reinstall, I follow these steps:
- Gather up the Working Image, Driver, Security, and App Archive CD/DVDs - along with my personal data backups which reside on external hard drives.
- Gather up any lists of information I'm going to need for the reinstallaition
- Grab some coffee and throw the dogs out
- Unplug the network cable
- Partition and format the hard drive
- Reinstall the OS, Drivers, main apps and essential extras off the Working Image DVD
- Reinstall any updated hardware drivers backed up on the archived drivers CD
- Reinstall antimalware apps from the Security Apps CD
- Plug the network cable back in
- Run web updates for all security apps
- Go to the Windows and MS Office update pages and grab whatever updates I'm still missing (also see note below)
- If you're using Firefox and/or Thunderbird, launch them. They should automatically discover and offer to install their own updates as soon as they connect to the web.
- Restore all user data and other backups (bookmarks, email, Mozilla extensions, docs, etc.).
- Look at my list of apps and decide which ones I want to put back on my machine. (Application 'creep' is a real problem for me since I do a app lot testing on my main work machine. Most of the time I reinstall less than half of what was on it prior to reimaging. Install and update (or optionally redownload) whatever else needs to be installed.
- Let the dogs back in and grab another cup of coffee.
- Promise myself I'm not going to do that again anytime soon.
It may seem like a lot to do. But after you've done it a few times it almost becomes second nature.
* Note: I also keep full offline Windows/Office update repositories on DVD using a terrific utility called Offline Update 6.0
). This app lets you collect all of Microsoft's updates on disk, thereby minimizing security exposure while saving time. And it can also be used when setting up multiple machines. I usually install Windows and Office updates from the disks this app generates. I'll do this right after I finish loading the hardware drivers. Saves a huge amount of time and bandwidth. Especially if a full service pack is needed.Offline Update is an excellent tech tool that deserves to be much better known than it is. If I can get some free time, I'll do a write-up on it for Donation Coder.