I am system administration newbie. I am responsible for installing and configuring Windows XP on 14 computers that need to be 100% identical.

What I want to do is install XP and configure it based on what I need (usernames and passwords, no firewall, no windows search, set the desktop background, set the screen saver, etc) on one computer and then some how install this customized XP on the other 13.

I know about Ghost and Acronis but I was wondering if there was a cheaper way to do this task. Maybe something built into Windows itself? I know alot of people have to do this day in and day out but don't have the money or budget for those tools.

Any help will definetly be appreciated.

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There is a better way. Download nlite and install it on a system with xp and a copy of the XP install disk in a directory. It will then lead you through creating a custom ISO with the parameters you want including your VLK and user/domain settings. You can also add in Service Packs and hotfixes along with OEM drivers and not have to update each one when done.

Server 2003 has RIS, XP does not. 14 computers. Are they identical? You could create the installation you want, precisely, and then clone it onto the other systems. But that requires plugging in a hdd to each machine sequentially... the software is free. But you MUST change the security identifier of each system before you hook them up to the network. And validate each, of course. You could lose half a day doing it to all of them. Acronis will do it over your network IF your machines are all PXE bootable [cost is USD20?]
Read this: http://help.lockergnome.com/general/Computer-Security-Identifier-Disk-Cloning--ftopict38998.html

I agree with gerbil that cloning is NOT the way to go. That is why I recommended nlite. It creates an installation ISO you can burn to multiple disks and allows you to install even if the systems are not the same manufacturer. It's free, easy to use, menu driven and you can deploy it now. Then later when you have time set up a PXEBoot server and use the image for the XP installs.

PXE boot is the fastest easiest but it takes a little while to get one properly set up and XP is a real pain to get right. I use the nLite image on my PXE boot servers for Windows XP and Server 2003 because I can include the service packs and update raid and other drivers in the build. It also allows me to include the VLK, remove packages that are not needed, and much much more.

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