Using my existing Ghost images with the Dell KACE K2000 wasn’t difficult.  No, you can’t just copy up your GHO files.  But you can reuse an existing GHO image.

  • Turn on the 3COM PXE boot server that Ghost uses.
  • Bring the syspreped image down to a machine using Ghost and turn the machine off before the image is unwrapped.
  • Turn off the 3COM PXE boot server on the Ghost server.
  • Boot the Imaged PC back up from the network – PXE boot.
  • Use the KACE tools to push the image to the K2000.

You’ll notice that I never turned on or off the K2000.  In my environment the 3COM PXE server responds first, every time, to a PXE boot request.  So all I do is turn on and off the 3COM services on my Ghost server and that allows me to toggle between Symantec Ghost and KACE K2000.

I then tried to bring the image down to one of our new Precision T3600 workstations.  The KACE Boot Environment (KBE) doesn’t load the Dell PERC H310 Raid controller driver.  So I can’t bring the image down.  So that is the next task – create a new boot environment that supports the T3600.  I then tried to bring the image down to an existing T3500 and it didn’t work either.

What I found out is that you have to hack the image and re-order the partitions in the image.  Then create a handful of pre-installation tasks to partition and format the drive.  Then it worked on the Dell Precision T3500.  Yea!

Using Windows PE and PXE boot from KACE K2000 Image Appliance

On my Dell computers I press the F12 key on startup and pick the option to boot from network.

You will need to configure your DHCP server to support the KACE PXE boot.  I followed the instructions in the proof of concept doc the KACE sales rep emailed me.  Once the 3COM PXE service is disabled the PXE boot loader will load the Boot Image selection menu.

The default Deployment and Recovery environments work with my Dell Precision T3500′s.  I selected the x64 version as I am deploying the 64 bit Windows 7.

After a few pages of dots showing you that the WinPE image is loading you will get a few screens of command boxes.  It will pause for a while waiting for the network to settle and then give you the GUI.

From the main menu just follow the Imaging menu and capture or deploy an image.  When you capture an image you get to pick the hard drives and the Image format.

GHO vs K-IMAGE vs WIM

Ghost’s GHO format is a highly compressed block level image.  With Ghost Walker you can edit the image and insert or remove files.  Capturing and deploying images is fast.

The KACE K-Image format does have some cool options.  You can edit the image file like you can with Ghost Walker.  You can have the K2000 deploy an image where it takes the image and compares the PC’s hard drive contents to the image and removes from the client PC anything that is not in the image.  A great option for those that re-image all the time, like class room or lab PC’s.  The down side is that the K-Image is slow.  From my testing it is almost twice as slow as Ghost.  It is file based.  It basically copies each file from the K2000 to the client PC.  You have to set up tasks to partition and format the HD.  You also get to re-order the partitions in the Image to get what you want.  I’ll get to that in a bit.

Then there is the WIM format.  Microsoft’s ImageX creates this style of image file and according to KACE is substantially faster than the K-Image format.  The difference with the WIM file is that it drops a compressed file on to the client PC and then extracts it locally.  I have not tested the WIM format in my environment yet.

A major difference between Ghost and KACE is the ability to overwrite an image when you capture a new one.  With Ghost you give an image the same name and it will overwrite the existing one.  With KACE you have to go delete the image first from the Deployments, System Images menu.  That means you also get to set all your pre and post installation tasks back up which makes updating an image a little more time consuming.

Fixing the Image so you can deploy it.

I spent a day trying to figure this out.  Every time I would bring the image down it would copy for a while and then crash.  What I realized is the partition was too small and I was running out of disk space.  I spent some time digging and finally found the KACE KB article “Deploy a Windows 7 Image Containing the 100 MB System Partition“.  As I looked at the instructions it really sunk in that the K-Image format is file based and not block based like Ghost’s GHO is.

The Instructions in the KB article are simple enough.  You are going to go into the Library and create two Preinstallation Tasks and one Postinstallation Task.  the pre-installation tasks wipe the hard drive and create new partitions.  The second task formats the new directories.  Here are the new BAT scripts.

 Diskpart Script: Windows 7 Create Two Partition

select volume 0
remove all noerr
select disk 0
clean
create partition primary size=100
assign letter="D"
active
create partition primary
assign letter="C"
exit

 

Bat Script - Windows 7 - Two Partition Format

format /q /y /fs:ntfs /v:Windows C:

bootsect.exe /NT60 C:

format /q /y /fs:ntfs /v:System D:

bootsect.exe /NT60 D:

 

The Postinstallation task is really a Run Mid-Level task.  This is a task that WinPE will perform after it drops the image down but before Windows 7 is launched.  This task sets the boot manager partition back to D: and sets the OS back to C:.  My KACE Sales engineer told me I didn’t need this anymore, but that didn’t seem to be the case for me.

Window 7 - Two Partition BCD Fix

bcdedit /store D:\boot\bcd /set {bootmgr} device partition=D:

bcdedit /store D:\boot\bcd /set {default} device partition=C:

bcdedit /store D:\boot\bcd /set {default} OSdevice partition=C:

Once the tasks are created you have to flip the drive letters in your image.  This is done in the Deployments, System Images.  Open your Image and click on the Browse Files button.

From the File browser you start with the C: drive and rename it to something like W:.  Then rename the D: drive to C: – this takes a really long time.  Be patient and don’t close the window.  Then rename W: back to D:.

After you rename the drives close the window.  On the System Image Detail screen there will be a commit changes button.  Click on it and wait, wait, wait.

Then scroll down and add the tasks to the Installation Plan.

At the bottom of the System Image Details there is a save button.  Click it and wait again.

Deploy your new image

Back to F12 and the PXE boot.  Go ahead and deploy the image to another machine.

 

You will see command boxes pop up and create and format the partition.  Then the K2000 Client will pop up and receive the file copy.  When it is done another command box will pop up and any post installation tasks will run.

Final Thoughts

The K2000 was able to repurpose my Ghost Image files without too much difficulty.  A couple of tasks still left to do is change my sysprep process to auto name the PC using the asset tag number, join the domain, and install my antivirus software post image – preferably hands off.

The Precision T3500 worked with the steps above.  To get the T3600 to work I had to enable the driver feed in the System Image Detail page.

And then in the Library, Driver Feed I added the x64 Windows 7 drivers for the T3500 and T3600.

I also had to create a new boot environment to support the T3600′s PERC controller.