I have a scenario as follows, whereby, I want to install a fresh Windows OS on a PC, install some apps like Firefox, MS Office etc. Then, I would like to create a clone of this physical machine, and either keep this image on a shared folder on a network, or save it on an external HD (usb), and deploy this image to other PCs which need formatting, or on which a new HD has been installed, without any OS present, ex. replaced a bad disk with a new one. For the time being, activation will be done individually on the PCs receiving this image.

  1. What is the best tool (paid or free), which can allow me to perform such a deployment?
  2. Will I encounter any disk partitioning problems with such a method, for example if I have created an initial image of drive C of 100GB going up to 50GB after installation, and I have a drive C on another PC with say 75GB partition space?
  3. Will the apps installed in the image continue to work correctly on a new PC or do I need to reinstall again?


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That's been something of a Holy Grail quest by IT for decades now. The problems are still the same so did you standardize your PC hardware? It matters since that image usually BSODs as you change almost anything on the next PC.

-> Let me share something that really helps. Go find Ninite.com.

And then google about Office Unattended Installs.

When I need to do this for clients, I will boot from a Linux live DVD with an external usb drive attached which Linux will auto-mount. Then I use the dd command piped through gzip to get the entire drive image and store the image to the external drive. Example:

dd if=/dev/sda bs=1M | gzip -c >/media/extdrivename/image1.gz

That will get the entire drive, including the boot loader and partition table, compressing it to save space on the external drive. To restore the image to a new system drive (which needs to be of a similar make/size if possible, you go through the boot process again and run this command:

gunzip -c </media/extdrivename/image1.gz | dd of=/dev/sda bs=1M

I have successfully cloned systems this way. As an aside, you will want to disable protected boot (set bios to legacy mode) if your systems have a new UEFI bios (most systems do today) since if it is enabled the installation of Windows 7 and later will write data on installation to the system bios' flash memory. Also, this may not work if you have full drive encryption enabled, but I haven't tried that so I can't say for sure.

commented: "This looks like a job for ..." +7

rubberman's method looks to work fine and someone outside the forum told me about a tool named clonezilla which i've yet to give a try thou.

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