What is it? If you are coming from the Windows world to MacOS, and have managed a large quantity of PCs, you most likely have used a program called Ghost to clone your PCs. Ghost allows you to roll out images of one machine to a bunch of machines very quickly, thus allowing you to setup a new group of computers (or an entire computer lab) very quickly.
If you work with both Macs and PCs, you most likely have wished a "Ghost for MacOS" exists.
That's where Apple Software Restore comes in. You've most likely used it already - it's the program that's on the restore CDs that all new Macs come with. (When you buy a new Mac it comes with two CDs - the system CD, and the restore CD. Using the system CD you can rebuild your Mac as you see fit, or you can use the restore CD to setup the Mac exactly as it was when you took it out of the box.) The goal of this article is to teach you how to create your own images that will work with Apple Software Restore (ASR), so you can take advantage of this tool to rebuild Macs quickly. This is the process we used to rebuild over 700 Macs in less than two weeks.
While this seems obvious, it should be pointed out: When you use ASR on a Mac, you will format its hard drive! This includes all documents and applications that may be on the Mac. You are literally erasing the hard drive and recreating it.
Apple's System Installer takes precautions to ensure that the Mac you are working with can handle the version of MacOS you are installing onto it. For example, in order to install MacOS 8.5 on one of the original iMacs the iMac's firmware must be flashed to a newer version than what the Mac came with. The "normal" installer will check the firmware level of the iMac and not allow you to install the system until the firmware has been updated. When you use ASR, this system is completely bypassed.
This issue primarily affects the New World Macs, (the iMac, Blue and White G3, and G4) since they have a different style of ROM than the traditional Mac ROM. What we do is to burn the newest version of the firmware (ROM) updater onto the rebuild CD along with the image, and if we have any doubts at all, update the firmware on the Mac before rebuilding it. I suppose this could be a good reason to maintain a log of what firmware is on each type of Mac - ie, put a label on the side of the Mac and make a note of when the firmware is updated.)
The basic process is this: Creating a "perfect" machine, creating an image of it, running an AppleScript on the image, creating a bootable CD, and setting up ASR. This process will take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to complete, depending on how you make your image, how much tuning you do, and the speed of your hardware. We tend to spend a long time cleaning and tuning the "perfect" machine, since that machine will be rolled out to hundreds of Macs at a time.
Some of these steps are optional. Feel free to skip anything marked "Optional" - those steps are handy, and will produce a cleaner running image, but are not needed.
Boot of the System CD, and format the Mac's hard drive in extended format. We have discovered that rebuild process goes MUCH faster if the hard drive is in extended format, instead of standard format. (The ASR CCK manual tells you why.) When you use Drive Setup to initialize a hard drive, it will use standard format... to format it in extended format highlight the hard drive, and select "Erase Disk" from the Special menu. In the menu that pops up select "MacOS Extended Format".
Build a "perfect Mac". There any many different ways to do this, and it will vary from machine to machine and install to install. The procedure we use is this:
Again, this is the procedure that we use to create new clean Macs, and is not a "recommended" method. It is simply one that we find works well for us. The key to remember is that this build will be the one that is copied out to all of your other Macs! Take your time to ensure it is done properly.
Boot the Mac off a utilities CD of some sort, such as Norton Utilities. Run a full disk scan, and allow it to fix any problems found. Apple also recommends that you defragment the hard drive (Speed Disk), putting all the data together on the disk, and wipe the free space. (Speed Disk does not do this by default, set it to "CD-ROM Mastering" mode, and allow it to wipe the free space when finished. By default it separate the applications from the system at opposite sides of the disk.)
This step can be a little tricky. What you need to do is to boot the Mac off of something other than the internal hard drive (since you cannot make an image of the disk the Mac booted off of), and have a place to save the image to.
You will need to place a copy of Disk Copy 6.3.3 in a place where you will be able to get it once the Mac has booted. It cannot be on the same drive as the drive that you are about to make an image of. If you are not booting off a System CD you will also need to place a copy of Disk Tools somewhere where you can get to it.
The newest versions of MacOS (8.x and up) include drivers for Apple-branded Ethernet cards on the CD itself. This allows you to boot off of a System CD and save the image to an AppleShare server, or simply another Mac with personal file sharing enabled.
If the Mac does not have an Apple-branded Ethernet card you're still not out of luck - you can save the image to an external hard drive, or some sort of high-capacity removable device. This is becoming more difficult as most new Macs today do not have SCSI, but they all have Apple-branded Ethernet cards.
What do I do? If I'm working on a 5260, 5400, or 5500 I will connect a SCSI hard drive and save the image there. If I am working with an iMac, G3, or G4, I will connect two of them together with a cross-over Ethernet cable, enable File Sharing on the Mac that is not being cloned, and save the file to the other Mac. Since the iMac, G3, and G4 Macs have Apple-branded 100Mb Ethernet cards, I boot off a System CD and can still access the network. I put Disk Copy 6.3.3 on the Mac where I'm saving the image.
Boot the Mac that is to be cloned, and if needed, mount the drive where the image is to be saved.
Run Apple's Disk Tools on the hard drive to be cloned, and ensure there are no errors. If there are, you will still be able make the image, but the "Scan Image for ASR..." step will fail. I cannot stress this point enough. It doesn't matter if your disk utility came up clean, you still should run Disk Tools. Trust me, this cost me over two days once playing the "why won't this work?" game.
Run Disk Copy 6.3.3 and start the disk imaging process. From the Image menu, select "Create New Image from Disk..."
Select the disk to be cloned, and tell it save it on the location you prepared earlier. Save the image as a "Read-Only" image, but not a "Read-Only Compressed" image. Deselect "Mount Image" also.
When "Read-Only Compressed" is selected, Disk Copy will make the image, and turn around and compress it. If you're working with your saving location over a network, compressing the image on a network is slow. We will compress it later, once it's copied to a local drive.
Creating the image varies depending on the amount of data on the hard drive, and the speed of the computer and saving location. Expect it to take half an hour on a reasonably quick iMac, to all day on a 5200.
Once the image is created, copy it to a location where you will be able to work with it. (In my case, I copy it to my Mac's hard drive.)
It is at this point you will want to run Disk Copy again, but select "Convert Image..." instead. Tell Disk Copy to convert the image from a "Read-Only" image to a "Read-Only Compressed" image. The time it will take varies.
Put the "Scripts" folder that is in the Apple Software Restore CCK (see link above) into the same folder as Disk Copy.
This time, when Disk Copy is run, a new menu item called "Scripts" will appear, and there will be an item under it called "Scan Image for ASR".
Select this option, and give it the image which you compressed in step seven. Again, the time this step takes varies wildly from a few minutes to half an hour or more, depending on the Mac's processor speed and the size of the image.
Once this process completes, you will have an image that will work with Apple Software Restore!
Now that you have an image, you will need to do something with it.
Apple Software Restore finds the images it is to restore by looking in a folder called "Configurations" located in the same folder that it is in.
You can also place a readme for the image in this folder, called <ImageName>.readme. For example, if I wanted to make a readme for "Blue.img", I would call the readme "Blue.readme". This text is what appears as the description for the image in Apple Software Restore. This can be very helpful if your images reside on a file server, and you have a bunch of images in one folder.
At this point, you have a decision to make. You can either leave the images and ASR on a file server, put them on a removable drive of some sort, or burn them to a CD. We burn them to a bootable CD, and have our own "Restore CDs" for each of our Macs that restores the Mac to a known-good state in the case of trouble.
If you look at the documentation in the ASR CCK, you will see that it explains how to customize the preferences for ASR. By tweaking the prefs it is possible to make a restore CD that boots, runs ASR, selects the right image, rebuilds the hard drive, and shuts down the Mac without user intervention!
While Ghost for MacOS doesn't exist, it really doesn't need to. Apple Software Restore allows you to roll out images of Macs very quickly, and helps to "fix" problems by simply rebuilding it instead of fixing it. Using ASR to fix problems on our Macs has really cut down on our support costs, and makes rolling out new Macs very easy.
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