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Way back in the mists of time - well, the mid nineties – a little known company called Binary Research created a product that revolutionised large scale computing. It was called Ghost and, like so many computing products, its premise was really quite basic - it was there to save you time. Rather than having to go through the monotonous task of installing your operating system, office productivity suite, and all your other software on each computer throughout an office, you could now simply copy the whole lot verbatim from one PC to the next. The process is generically known as disc cloning and it is now ubiquitous in business computing.
In the intervening ten years since Ghost first arrived, Binary Research has sold the rights of Ghost to Symantec and several other companies have developed competing software. However, the basic functionality of disc cloning software has moved on very little and one fundamental problem still stands in the way of the perfect deployment solution. Ghost, and all its rivals, relies on the hardware on the original PC being identical to that of all the other computers the image is to be deployed to.
However, in a typical company, you will have workstations for intensive tasks, basic computers for administration staff and a variety of laptops for everyone and each different computer type may use different software configurations for optimal performance. So you need to have several disc images, for all the different configurations, and they all need to be kept up to date.
It was this problem that Binary Research identified as a gap in the market and it set about creating a solution to the problem. The result is called the Universal Imaging Utility (UIU).
What this software does is enables you to create a single Windows installation which contains no drivers but does have all the software you require and is configured just as you like. The UIU then adds its own database of drivers (which is about 300MB) to the image and, using Windows System Preparation Utility, creates an image that can be deployed to any machine. When the image is deployed the drivers are automatically installed using the inbuilt hardware detection of Windows. The key aspect is that the driver database is very regularly kept up to date and it uses only the most basic files required to make the device operational, thus keeping the image size down. So, when updating your images you simply download the latest version of the driver database and create the new image.
The Universal Imaging Utility is not a replacement for cloning software, however, and is only used to prepare the original image. Once prepared you clone the computer as usual with your preferred imaging tool. It is also only compatible with Windows 2000 or XP but I’m sure you aren’t surprised to learn that.
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