What would be the best way to restore a laptop

What would be the best way to restore a laptop remotely? My sister is overseas, but she'll be here on vacation soon. She's just bought a laptop and wants me to be able to maintain it from here remotely and to be able to restore it should it completely crash. It runs Vista Premium I believe. I'm pretty sure that I can set up a remote connection for maintaining it, but what would be the best way of restoring it remotely? I was thinking that with my new found Linux openssh experience, I could give her an emergency USB dongle that she could plug into her laptop, that would then boot into a linux system running openssh. I could then use that perhaps to restore a previously backed up image of her Vitsa system. What do you think? Have you got any better ideas?

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 9:11 pm

Yeah make her a video dvd with step by step instructions accompanied with a image file disc.

geek_got2bin2win, Oct 26, 9:20 pm

You have two issues The first is remote management and the second is reimaging. remote management can be accomplished out of the box using remote desktop or remote assistance but due to the security implications of enabling this accross the internet I would explore something from a third party (maybe RAdmin), not only is the security better but it will yeild better performance results accross high latency connections. As for the rebuild if its a factory build machine from a respectable manufacturer it should have recovery CD's to restore to factory defaults, if you want to set the machine up and then create a clone image then maybe ghost. If you want something free and IMO easy to use look at a tool called NLite.

geek_johnboy007, Oct 26, 9:25 pm

Thanks. It's probably the restore that's the biggest issue for me. I think it's an Acer laptop. I think it's full of bloatware. I'd like to remove all that junk, tune up everything, install Skype, free anti-virus and firewall programs etc and then image that. I need to use a freeware image program and DriveimageXML is one I'm very familiar with but can I restore that remotely? Sorry. I should have been clearer for you all in my initial posts. My sister is not PC literate. She knows how to turn it on, surf the net and use Skype. That's all.

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 9:35 pm

NoYou may be able to remote in but once you drop out of the OS you are screwed, and you will need to to reinstall unless you are clever and change the BOOT.INI to launch an ISO stored on another partition. Best bet is usinging your imaging solution automate it on a bootable CD, tell her all she needs to do is put in the CD press F2 (or whatever boot menu is) and select CD and walk away - when dialog comes up to say completed hit enter, eject the CD/DVD and you are done. Obviously that will require you to do all the work, a bit of planning. Still look at NLite (its free), but only if you get stuck - I use it for my home machines because I can add / remove components easily without recreating a whole new image.

geek_johnboy007, Oct 26, 9:41 pm

5. Can I automate a bootable CD image using freeware? The OS problem is why I thought about using a USB dongle. The dongle would have a bootable OS on it and I could SSH into it and restroe an image from there. It would be easier if I could just setp an auto CD/DVD restore though.

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 10:35 pm

I use a site logmein.com for remote management on my pairents PC. Seems to work well and is free.

geek_pyro_sniper2002, Oct 26, 11:11 pm

has it in a nutshell "once you drop out of the OS you are screwed, "

geek_drcspy, Oct 26, 11:15 pm

8. But can't you boot up an OS from a USB device and providing she's connected to the internet (the OS should autodetect the BB ethernet I assume) just log in via an SSH client like putty? Still, I do prefer the idea of an automated ISO image restorer. Is that possible? Something that even a non PC literate person could do?

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 11:30 pm

Huh? but if the pc has no OS then how's it going to use the internet connection?

geek_soodanim, Oct 26, 11:33 pm

10. You boot the OS from the USB dongle. You know, insert dongle, turn on laptop. Laptop checks for Bootable devices, finds USB dongle, boots into OS.

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 11:42 pm

Good luck with that...the laptop supports that? Not many do.

geek_soodanim, Oct 26, 11:43 pm

Both of mine do. I'll have to check hers. But, I am open to suggestions. As I said, it would be best to have a an automated CD/DVD install. Can I do this with Freeware?

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 11:45 pm

And then what were you planning to do...I think I am getting confused..You want to try and restore the laptop while it's running an OS via a USB device.....hmmmm

geek_soodanim, Oct 26, 11:45 pm

Yes you can you can boot into Windows PE on a USB key but what then, you would have to have the necessary applications loaded and without an automated process it still wouldnt help your sister. Does the imaging software you were looking at have a commandline (dos commandline), if so make a bootdisk on a floppy and then burn a bootable DVD with the captured image on the DVD. The downside is that the DOS bootimage from the diskette is drive A and needs to have CD/DVD drivers on it to detect the drive and set it to the desired drive letter, then obviously ensure you bootdisk also have the appropriate batch files or autoexec entries to run the image restore process - see why I think Nlite might be good. Honestly there are lots of options, out of the box you could use MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit) and create a new WIM for the Vista install. I could go on , but I am boring myself :)

geek_johnboy007, Oct 26, 11:50 pm

The plan of course would have been to restore the image previously saved to a partition on the HD. Anyway, this doesn't seem to be the easiest way of restoring a laptop. I liked jonnyboy's suggestion of a bootable automated restore. Any ideas as to how this could best be done?

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 11:54 pm

Ok johnboy. Can nLite be set up to include all the programmes she'll need, Skype for instance? I'll check on whether or not DriveimageXML can be run from a commandline. I'm familiar with BartPE.

geek_badcam, Oct 26, 11:57 pm

System recovery discs just run threw it with her a few million times while she's here...if it's ever needed they are generally easy enough to get started , even for a novice

geek_soodanim, Oct 26, 11:57 pm

18. But Sood. I can't use the discs that cam with the laptop. It's full of bloatware. I want to tidy everything up, stop unnecessary services etc, set up what she needs and then back that up for easy restore.

geek_badcam, Oct 27, 12:01 am

Hmmm ok...I think you are over complicating things for you poor sister....Good luck

geek_soodanim, Oct 27, 12:03 am

Acer has a perfectly good eRecovery program that comes with it.. Set it up how you want, run the software to make a set of restore disks and put them in with the notebook.. Talk about complicating a simple process with scienceKISS is the best policy..

geek_d.snell, Oct 27, 12:04 am

21. I had now idea Acer had the software to do that. This sounds perfect. Now, if it's not an Acer. What would be a good way to do this? I use DriveimageXML and BartPE. But, I've found no way to do the restore automatically. I see Driveimage has command lines, but only for the backup process, I can't see any for the restore. Any ideas?

geek_badcam, Oct 27, 12:08 am

Most recovery discs let you install what you want, just the OS or other programs. I think maybe you should wait til it's here to comfirm whats available

geek_soodanim, Oct 27, 12:11 am

Yep sood best advice for sister is to keep notebook away from him. 1,000's of ppl are quite happy with the Acer out of the box, can't see what the problem is. As for bloatware, no doubt it will be filled up with that many Anti-Malware, Anti-Rootkit, 3rd party firewalls and Antivirus programs that it'll choke anyway.

geek_d.snell, Oct 27, 12:13 am

24. As Confucius say: "You much funny". Over the years, she's already destroyed three laptops, if she can't find anyone to fix them, which where she lives is not likely, she just ditches them and buys a new one. That's just not good sense. I've told her that I will maintain the new one for her. I just want one, to get access remotely, for regular maintenance, and two, to have an easy way for her to restore it AND that it's set up so that I can reconnect without trying to get her to do this with me over the phone.

geek_badcam, Oct 27, 12:22 am

I'll wait until she gets here. Besides, there have been some good suggestions made here. So, I can look into those further. If you do have any good links, or comments, I'd still appreciate them. Thanks.

geek_badcam, Oct 27, 12:27 am

For remote access you can use Windows Messenger or Remote Desktop. I suppose what frustrates me is that their are dozens of good Recovery/Backup programs out there, but you guys always want the FREE versions. Geez, most are less than $100, yet you puddle around for hours trying to get around paying. We use http://www.drive-image.com/ and it cost us less than $80 and it's invaluable.

geek_d.snell, Oct 27, 12:37 am

D.snell. Every cent I have goes back into my business. Now, I don't usually quibble over $100, but if I can get something free that does the same job as something that cost $80, then I'll go for the free. Besides, if it comes to having to decide between $80 for software and then living on and jellymeat and crackers (yes, I exaggerate), or some decent food on my table, I'll go for the free software and a good feed.

geek_badcam, Oct 27, 12:44 am

Look at it as a business tool then. Tax deductible. Unfortunately there is a lot of TAKE or Gimmee Gimmee in this Industry and it appears the "professionals" are the worst offenders. If $80 is the difference between Jellymeat or Steak, then try another career.. Also, why can't your sister pay for it? She seems to have enough to throw away notebooks and travel the world.. Ask her what 20 Quid means to her.. A couple of Coffee's and 2 cakes or even worse, 15 litres of petrol..

geek_d.snell, Oct 27, 12:59 am

If I have to pay for it I will. But, free is free. If I find a free solution (and I mean Open Source or Freeware) between now and then, I'll use it. If the time comes and I don't have a free solution, I'll spend the money, but I'd rather spend it on other things. Why waste money unnecessarily when you can possibly find a perfectly good solution for FREE.

geek_badcam, Oct 27, 4:44 am

Sorry for the delay been out all day, and what a nice day it was. There is an option in Nlite for guirunonce, you can add a commandline in here to kick of a batch file or script to start the installation process. I put all the application installs on the CD and call a batch file which runs the installation of all software and utilities, use appdeploy.com for instructions on unattended installs for most standard applications.

geek_johnboy007, Oct 27, 6:39 am

Badcam create a bootable cd http://www.tacktech.com/display.cfm?ttid=297

geek_swivel, Oct 27, 6:46 am

Top secret I dont like telling people about this website purely because its a great source for such matters, i hope you feel privelaged. http://unattended.msfn.org/unattended.xp/ it will give you many options to explore, some are pretty clever and very useful.

geek_johnboy007, Oct 27, 7:00 am

Teamviewer sorry no linux verson

geek_jancemord, Oct 27, 7:26 am

Guys. You are awesome. Thanks very much. Greatly appreciated.

geek_badcam, Oct 27, 7:50 am