Tool for automatically restore multiboot laptops to clean operating system(s)

Hello all

I would like to ask you for a help for a tricky problem to resolve.

Test lab in our organisation contains large number of unique laptops.(this is important as I am aware there are no two identical laptops)

Each test laptop is multiboot machine (it has more than one operating system, which can be changed during boot state).

The problem we are facing:
Laptops are used by developers/testers contains large number of files and system interactions or modification which are no longer needed after work is finished. Next person who would like to use the same laptop.

We are looking for a solution which can help us automatically install all operating systems or restore operating systems from an image to clean state while laptops are in idle (not in use, on shelf) ideally over night.
Such approach can set as in position that any laptop which is not in use (or idle) is clean and ready to be picked up at any time.

Thank you for all your replies and ideas.

The least popular answer is…
I am going to take this a step backwards.

  1. are you testing a laptop-form-factor specific application?
  2. are you testing something like a wifi or a driver or something that is power sensitive. If not, chuck the laptops into the skip. Unless sales people want them for demos.

Unless portability is a requirement, go virtualized on vmware or even on Xen. There are imaging tools out there, but that’s an IT department kind of problem really. It takes budget to store machine images on a NAS and do all the updating/refreshing work that goes with that. Even if it’s only a few laptops - a job I had not recently, where we did have this problem, but we got the IT team to manage the imaging as part of their ops work.

1 Like

Thanks Conrad for your reply.

An answer to your questions: the subject of the testing is a driver. Any kind of virtualisation is not an option here - laptops’ “hardware” is an mandatory requirement :wink: .
As those laptops are test laptop we are responsible for their content.

Ideal situation for us would be to clean up everything overnight what has change during the dev/test work after putting it on the shelf (for example), to be in a clean state for next developer or tester.

Have you tried something like Symantec Ghost to copy and restore the hard drive?

It would give you the ability to make copies of the disk and then restore to points in time.

Hi blackcaps!

Such mechanisms we already have implemented (we are using clonezilla btw). However this requires interaction with an user.

In my head i have a picture like this to resolve this problem:

  1. Put laptop on the shelf
  2. Attach Ethernet cable to it, allow PXE boot (here all interaction of tester/developer with laptop should end)
  3. Turn up laptop, it is communicating with “server”, and announcing it is ready to be restored to clean state. Probably announcing it’s MAC address as it is unique and can be detailed identified.
  4. Automatic restore phase which is connecting MAC address with resources on “server”
  5. Shut down and ready to be picked up in clean state

I am looking for any kind of help with identifying of tools for step 4 (maybe another definiton of step 3).
This is only my thoughs how to attack this prpblem, and it might not be perfect.

Perhaps there might not be ready solution for such problems.
Maybe there is a commercial solution which I didn’t find yet.
Perhaps we need to do some scripting to clonezilla, which resolve only step 4, but step 3 will required a wild logic to be universal or big Look up table…

Yep clonezilla is not something I have used myself, but I assumed that was your deployment, because Ghost is terribly expensive at scale. I can only suggest something like a service running somehow within the XenClient ecosystem which might just be terribly expensive too, but does target laptop users and all with a remote management interface (console, but I assume they have an API too)

Disclaimer - I worked @ Citrix once, which is the only reason I know this exists, but never used this product.

Thanks Conrad! I don’t know this technology - need to take a closer look

I don’t know how well Xenclient is supported these days, its primary use case was dual-booting of laptops . I have put out a message to find out if it’s still being sold/supported anyway.

Dead end Adam - sorry XenClient got discontinued, because it is a Type1 hypervisor project, each laptop chipset requires specific support, which became too costly to provide.

uhhh… well… at least I didn’t start to dig into it yet… thanks anyway!