Imaging PCs from just from a USB Stick

So, how fast can you image a PC from a USB stick?  This was a good question, as we aren’t using multicast and the server only has one NIC.  A normal image in WIM format applied using GImageX at around 5.8Gb in size over 100Mb Ethernet cabling takes around 16 minutes.  The first experiment was tried with a Komputerbay SDXC (Class 10) card and reader.  Windows only supports 1 partition on removable media, so you need to make the file system NTFS to accept files > 2.1Gb.  I simply copied the contents of my WinPE 3.0 ISO unto the SDXC card and booted from it.  This resulted in 10 minutes imaging time for a 38% increase in speed.

I then tried a Kingston DT160 USB flash stick.  For this, simply copying the files to the USB flash drive wouldn’t make the device bootable for some reason.  I used the Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper program to create a bootable WinPE USB stick, then overwrote everything with the contents of my ISO file.  This time: I clocked in at 6 minutes or a 63% increase in speed.  These experiments were all carried out on a Dell Latitude e6420.

Later on, the speed of the DT160 dropped from 6 minutes back to 10 minutes.  I cannot explain this decrease in speed, since I am only pulling bits over the USB channel and not the network.  Still, this is boon for imaging:

You can deploy this USB stick to remote sites that have no deployment points.

You could give this USB stick to an OEM to have them image all your new computers before they leave the factory.

You could bundle this with every road warrior (a 16Gb flash drive can be had for $25 and the price just keeps dropping).  Boot into WinPE with a file manager to allow saving of data or better yet, have some type of TeamViewer environment so you can look at their dead laptop remotely!

– Soli Deo Gloria