Automating setups for testing
I need to set up a "dedicated test machine" for alpha and beta testing of various software.
I see two approaches:
1: Create "disk-images" of fresh OS installations on the test machine that can be restored when necessary.
2: Use setup scripts and access files from a file server.
Which approach would you recommend? Maybe there are other alternatives? Assuming alternative 1 is the best one, what software is best to use for the purpose?
Assuming you have the hard drive space to hold them (a CDR works well also) I would go with image files and something like Norton Ghost. For flat out speed and ease of setup, you can't beat that config with setup scripts and batch.inf files. That is basically what I setup for a lab of 150+ test machines and motherboards. I used one machine with 16 gigs of hard drive space to hold images, with a 36" IDE cable that could hang out the back with a power extension for duplicating drives. With many machines that were all different, I had to include a 'driver pack' of all the various video, sound, SCSI, and NIC drivers I might use, but it worked quite well. Burning a CD of an image, and making the CD bootable with the drive imaging software available is a great way to go too. That way you just pop the CD in the drive and away you go. Having a spare hard drive laying around that boots to a DOS prompt to hold your image files and imaging software works just about as well though.
For software, I think I'd have to go with Ghost. If you are going to do some serious multi-OS (other than NT and windows, something like Beos or Linux) you may want to look at Powerquest Drive Image instead, but Ghost still performs ok. Compared to DI and other programs out there, Ghost's big advantage for me was speed. I could drop a 500meg image file onto a drive in mere minutes compared to Drive Image taking pretty much a half hour or more. Drive Image does do some better error checking, and can copy EVERYTHING (including deleted files, unlinked chains of data, basically the entire hard drive) on a drive where Ghost is geared more towards copying files not raw sectors.
If you are really doing this big time, you could go with a server for image files and then access them over the network. It would take more setup, but it would work great for many machines and where you are always working in a networked environment. It did not really make sense to me, as setting up a NIC card in 150 unique machines would be more of a challenge than just pulling the drive and running an image onto it.
Thanks for all the info. Since I'm testing software and not hardware it is probably overkill to choose a file server approach. All I need is a clean machine to test for "unsuspected dependencies" in the software.
I have a CD-RW and I'll probably use this to create the images on bootable CD's as you suggest. It would be great if I could restore either of these installations:
* FAT Win95 installation
* FAT32 Win98 installation
* NTFS NT installation
Is Norton Ghost capable of automatically reformatting and modifying the file system type for a partition? (so that I could use the same partition to restore either system on demand).
Ghost can create partitions on the fly and rearrange them as needed. If you setup 3 image files, (one for each fat16 win95, FAT32 win98, and NTFS) You just run the program, tell it to dump that image file to disk, and it creates the proper partition type and copies the data to it. Norton has a demo version available for download that would give you an idea of how it works and what it is capable of.
Thanks again for the info. Norton Ghost seems like the product I need, but unfortunately the price was really steep (minimum 10 licenses).
I forgot about that. The cost has gone up to astromical hieghts since Norton aquired Ghost. Drive Image will be just as effective in most cases and costs in the $50-70 range.
Drive image from Powerquest does the same thing for NTFS, HPFS, Fat 16 and 32 I have made clean imagees of all of my machine (8 in all consisting of dos/win311, NT351 , W95, W98,NT4 (server and workstation) and NT5 (W2000 pro server and workstation)putting them onto a bootable CD using a drive image restore floppy as the boot disk with the restore command added to the autoexec.bat. I boot from the cd and it completely restore the machine. And its only about £50
Yes, I've been looking at Drive Image, and that is what I'll get. Did you use multiple CD's to hold any of the disk images? If so is this a lot of hassle or is it easy to do?
In closing: Thanks for the excellent advise here. Somebody should really start a separate thread where the "best contributors" are identified and credited .
I have also used drive image to create clean installs of Win95 and WinNT, and
burned the images onto a single CD-R.
I had several machines with multiple partitions. The image is simply a large file.
You just need to make sure that you have a boot floppy that has DOS and your CD-ROM drivers (some of my CD-ROMs were SCSI some IDE) then use the PQDI (Power Quest Drive Image) floppy and tell it which image to restore into the active partition.
I havent need multiple cd's yet I make the machine back up early on when only the OS and base apps are installed, I back all data up seperately using winzip and zip folders which speeds up restoring the who;e machine from scratch and allows me to browse through windows to find the files I need which are in a zip file on the cd's and selectively restore them . The win98 boot disk is a good one to use as the CD's boot floppy as it works on most scsi and all IDE cd's which makes it more portable.
PS if you are planning to use the cd for multiple pc's either make sure the win95 or nt system directory is included on the image (I386 or Win95 directory). Or just makes a bootable cd with these two directories on it and batch files along with answer files so you get an unnattended clean install from a bootable cd.
Thought I'd just inform you that Norton Ghost now evidently is available as a single user license (just got an email from a retailer). This makes the price much more reasonable.
Just to close of the thread: I've now purchased Norton Ghost 5.1 and created several images of Win95, Win98 & WinNT. It is working really well (except some minor problems when restoring a NTFS partition, then it needs a scandisk).
I want to say thank you to everybody who helped.
New Security Features Planned for Firefox 4
Another Laptop Theft Exposes 21K Patients' Data
Oracle Hits to Road to Pitch Data Center Plans
Microsoft Preps Array of Windows Patches
Microsoft Nears IE9 Beta With Final Preview
Simplified Analytics Improve CRM, BI Tools
Android Passes RIM as Top Mobile OS in 2Q
VMware Updates Hyperic System Management
File Monitoring Key to Enterprise Security
LinkedIn Snaps Up SaaS Player mSpoke