Not sure if this is the right forum to post or whether this should go to the automated testing forum. Starting here.

I was wondering if anyone has worked on automating the processing of cloning/imaging systems over the network using free/MS solutions (no Symantec Ghost, etc.) with ideally no user interaction to complete the process, and no need of a spare secondary hard disk or CD drive, etc. attached to the client machine, to store the clone image for automated ghosting.

I came up with this idea and wanted to know if it is feasible. I haven't tried it and don't have much experience with such a solution:

Set up network boot lab setup with a MS RIS (or the new WDS was it?) server to provide or serve a PXE boot image. Have a file server to store the actual clone images for "ghosting". Clone images could be on RIS/WDS server or separate file server. All clients to be cloned set up to boot to PXE network boot as first option then try HDD boot if PXE fails.

PXE boot image from RIS/WDS server will have autorun of some automation scripts that will initiate a "ghosting" session to grab clone image from file server to clone to local C:\ partition. After cloning complete, automation script will invoke command to "disable" RIS/WDS server then issue a reboot on the client machine. On reboot, PXE fails to find RIS/WDS server to obtain boot image so will boot to HD, the newly cloned base image.

And when I want to start a ghosting session: on a running client to be reimaged to clean base image, call automation script that will "enable" RIS/WDS server if not already enabled, then reboot specified client machine. Client will boot to PXE and get PXE boot image from the just enabled RIS/WDS server, and follow process described above for cloning.

The custom PXE boot image with ghosting functionality will use some free ghosting tools with custom scripts stored in the image. The image is either BartPE or WinPE. Ghosting is either via ImageX or "ghost for linux/unix", etc. where image is stored on file/FTP server, etc. which could be mapped to PXE image as a network drive. And we enable/disable RIS/WDS service etc. via WMI + VBScripting, etc.