Cross-hardware deployment

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This method (a summary) has been successfully used to get high rates of successful deployment on varying hardware without using 'sysprep'.

1. Start with nLite [1] to optimize the XP media, and the BTS DriverPacks [2] to pre-integrate most common CPU/Mass Storage/Chipset/Video/LAN/WLAN/Audio drivers into the updated XP media. You will need to use nLite to remove unnecessary programs like Pinball, MSN, to make space for the DriverPacks on the 700MB available on a CD disc. You can avoid reduction if you plan to install from ISO only or DVD.

2. Install XP with the customized media into VM (Using your favorite VM software like VMware Server, Xen or VirtualBox) and customize the final image to suit.

3. The CRITICAL STEP: While in the VM XP/2000 go to the 'Device Manager -> IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers' section and update the proprietary busmaster IDE or SATA controller driver - select 'Install from specific location -> Don't Search ...' -> select 'Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller' -> Next to install it. (The same thing applies to extracting the image from a real hardware PC). This is what prevents the 0x0000007b error related at boot up.

4. Put a copy of 'Newsid' from Microsoft/Sysinternals on the VM. You will need this to rename the computer and change the SID easily after booting it up on the target PC. This step is not important for non-networked environments but important for non-domain workgroups. See [3]

5. Then make the image with your preferred tool (FOG, Selfimage, etc) right from the VM.

6. When you restore to the target computer it may take between 3-10 minutes before you get keyboard and mouse control. When it does login as the administrator and if prompted for certain basic drivers just let it look for them automatically. Hint: With the LAN drivers integrated and VNC server installed in the image you can remote the target computer after it gets a DHCP address to finish up the installation remotely.

It takes some work to understand how to use the tools but the effort can be worth it. Occasionally you will run into mis-detected hardware and have to get drivers for it or a BSOD caused by errant audio drivers or new PCs with a BIOS that does not allow the selection of Legacy/Normal/IDE mode for the SATA interfaces and default to AHCI or RAID mode. See SATA Support. If you have older hardware that does not have a fully ACPI compliant BIOS you may need to change the HAL (kernel) in the image to the ACPI PIC type so that it boots properly. See [4]

Of course, like any other set of technology tools, your experience may vary.