Making a Windows 2000/XP Hardware Independent Ghost Image

About a year and a half ago I was a apart of a 3 member team whose mission it was to create a standard Windows 2000 image for our desktops. The company was currently running Windows 98 SE as a desktop standard. There was a base image and an image for each department and it was messy, real messy! We sat down and discussed what services to leave enabled or disabled, what to include in the default user profile, etc. on the new image. When we were done the image was a beautiful thing. Even though we wrote documentation on everything we did there are always things that get missed. We had a total of 12 Ghost images: 4 for PCs, 6 for laptops (3 with wireless drivers and 3 without) and 2 specialty Ghost images. In January 2005 we merged with another company. This company had about 8 Ghost images bringing the total number of company Ghost images to 20! Under the new management they wanted the patch levels on each image maintained every month! Before that, we were just using SMS 2003 to maintain the patch level of the workstation. You would image a box and then SMS 2003 would push down the new patches. Try calculating the time it takes to open an image, run the patches on it, verify the patch installation with MBSA, do application testing on the image to make sure the patches didn’t break anything and finally reseal the image. Now take that calculation times 20. You could easily justify a full time position just for this task!

Not wanting to update 12 images each month I decided to make a hardware independent image for Windows 2000. When I was done, I got it down to 4 images: 1 base and 3 specialty images! Since the base image was used 95% of time for new machines I could take time to get the other ones updated. It took me 3 solid weeks hunting all over the Internet and ghosting countless machines to get it all working. The documentation I wrote for doing this is on my web page here. Just last month I started a new job at another company and again saw images for each individual piece of hardware. Time to test my skills once again!

The desktop platform at the new company is Windows XP Professional. Here’s one “problem” I found with my instructions. Under the section Finding the IDE Driver Used To Setup [SysprepMassStorage] I stated to search for 82801DB in the INF files you extract from the Intel Chipset setup. Well, I was working on a Dell Optiplex 280 and the image was giving a STOP 0x7B message at startup. I had included support for the IDE chipset driver, but it still wouldn’t work. I went back to the INF file and look what I found:

PCIVEN_8086&DEV_2651.DeviceDesc=”Intel(R) 82801FB Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 2651″
PCIVEN_8086&DEV_2652.DeviceDesc=”Intel(R) 82801FB Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 2652″
PCIVEN_8086&DEV_2653.DeviceDesc=”Intel(R) 82801FBM Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 2653″
PCIVEN_8086&DEV_266F.DeviceDesc=”Intel(R) 82801FB/FBM Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 266F”

Multiple versions of the 82801FB! Obviously, I had picked the wrong one, but which was the right one? We can solve this little problem by using PCI32. This is a freeware program made by Craig Hart that has 15,000+ PCI devices in its database. I’ll use my home PC as an example:

Vendor 8086h Intel Corporation
Device 24CBh 82801DB/DBL (ICH4/ICH4-L) UltraATA/100 EIDE Controller
Command 0007h (Memory Access, BusMaster, )
Status 0280h (Medium Timing, )
Revision 02h, Header Type 00h, Bus Latency 00h
Self test 00h (Self test not supported)
PCI Class Storage, type IDE
PCI EIDE Controller Features :
BusMaster EIDE is supported
Primary Channel is at I/O Port 01F0h and IRQ 14
Secondary Channel is at I/O Port 0170h and IRQ 15
Subsystem ID 80891043h Unknown
Subsystem Vendor 1043h ASUSTeK Computer Inc
Address 0 is an I/O Port : 00000000h
Address 1 is an I/O Port : 00000000h
Address 2 is an I/O Port : 00000000h
Address 3 is an I/O Port : 00000000h
Address 4 is an I/O Port : 0000F000h
Address 5 is a Memory Address (anywhere in 0-4Gb) : FEBFB400h
System IRQ 9, INT# A

If you can read the second line it says:

Device 24CBh 82801DB/DBL (ICH4/ICH4-L) UltraATA/100 EIDE Controller

That’s what we want. In the case of the Dell Optiplex 280 it was the 266F one: go figure! Incidently, we can use PCI32 for much cooler things like updating a universal network boot disk! Or finding that pesky model number without cracking the case. In the case of the Dell Optiplex 620 I found that it had 2 different versions of the same chipset on the same board! So make sure you include support for what ever is in the computer.

The other problem I ran into again was the HAL issue. I commented out the following line in my sysprep.inf:

UpdateUPHAL=ACPIPIC_UP,C:WINNTInfHal.inf

Upon trying the image on a Dell Latitude D620 I was greeted with a message from Windows stating there was a hardware problem and did I want to start Windows. If I answered yes it would BSOD and then reboot before I could even read the message! If you hit F5 right after you pick “Start Windows XP” it will give you an option to “Disable Automatic Restarting on System Failure”. Way to go Microsoft! I saw it was a stop 0x7B message. I checked the IDE setup in [SysprepMassStorage] section and saw that was setup correctly. Having gone through this once before I guessed it was a HAL issue and I was right. By uncommenting the above line and changing WINNT to WINDOWS the image came right up. This line forces the HAL from a Uniprocessor HAL to APCI HAL. What is the difference between these two HALs? I have no idea, but functionally they appear to be the same! I have yet to find good explanation: does anyone have one?

Making a hardware independent image is big business. The original makers of Ghost made a program called the Universal Imaging Utility. They want $19 per workstation for what we did here. Granted, it’s a drop and go solution, but with enough patience you can get a very simliar result with my instructions. In fact, if you want your image to support gobs of hardware you can head over to the Device Drivers subforum over at MSFN and pick up their Driver Packs, which include support for virtually everything in existence. Note that the Driver Packs are for Windows XP only.

Incidentally, Microsoft claims to solve all this in Windows Vista by using a program called Ximage. Among the cool features it lists:

  • This WIM image format is hardware-agnostic, meaning that you need only one image to address many different hardware configurations.
  • The WIM image format allows you to service an image offline. You can add or delete certain operating system components, patches, and drivers without creating a new image.
  • The WIM image format allows for non-destructive deployment. This means that you can leave data on the volume to which you apply the image because the application of the image does not erase the disk’s existing contents.

Time will tell if Ximage makes it to the final build of Vista! Let’s make sure that it does.

– Soli Deo Gloria

8 thoughts on “Making a Windows 2000/XP Hardware Independent Ghost Image”

  1. I don’t remember which is which but the difference between the HAL’s is one can be switched to MultiProcessor easily and the other can’t. This is important in the case of HyperThreading. If you put the wrong HAL on it is really difficult to switch it. However the reverse is fine, meaning running the non-multi aware HAL on single Proc. In your case you would want to use the Multi aware on since I imagine you have a mixture of HT and non-HT machines.

  2. Thanks for the update Craig. Listed on the bottom of the page Microsoft states “Features discussed on this site are subject to change. Some may not be included in the final product due to marketing, technical, or other reasons.” However, if the setup is using XImage technology I guess it will make it. 🙂

  3. Adam,
    This is an invaluable resource. I am having a bit of difficulty walking through your guide for Win2K and combining your finding with WinXP. The best I am able to do for WinXP is my target system freezes in mini-setup. If you are still available to discuss this matter or are totally sick of the subject please let me know either way. I would greatly appreciate any assistance that could be provided.
    THANKS!

  4. Hay Adam, im just running though your guide, awesome stuff mate, it has been a big help.

    Have you tried using the new Windows Deployment Services yet? If so have you found a way to get around the WDS Client picking the hal, then only matching that to a compatible image?

  5. I did play around with WDS a bit, but for our Vista deployment, I discovered WDS is really not needed. I just use Windows PE to connect to the BDD share and pull down the image that way. I have taken my universal XP image and successfully placed it into SMS 2003 WIM format, so I do know that at least works.

    The closest thing you can probably get is using the BDD 2007 LTI, capture your universal XP image into WIM and use Windows PE to deploy it baremetal.

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