Building an HDD cloning workstation

Nojay

Estimable
Jun 28, 2014
2
0
4,510
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I volunteer for a charity that refurbishes old PCs for education. We get a lot of machines with the HDD missing from corporate clearouts and we need to be able to image a lot of bare drives to slot into these machines and get them configured quickly.

Most cloning software such as Clonezilla etc. works on a single drive or takes a bit of configuration every time it's used. I'm looking for a solution for a workstation that can image one or preferably more than one drive at a time quickly. We get hundreds of the same model of computer sometimes and we want to be able to churn out ready-to-go drives quickly for these machines.

Does anyone know of a software solution that would be plug-and-play to run on a PC with a bunch of hot-swap SATA caddies? The drives we'd be getting would be a mixture of sizes, usually 80GB or bigger. The aim would be to install a licenced OS plus utilities on a primary partition and allocate the rest of the disk to be a D: drive for data. A minimum amount of user interaction is preferred i.e. slot in the drives, click on a button, wait until partition and imaging complete or errors reported, empty the caddies, slot in new drives, click on the button again and so on.

It's got to be free, we prefer to spend or limited financial resources to ship the computers to where they're needed rather than pay for software and hardware.
 

Ralston18

Dignified
Moderator
As a charitable organization you may, with the appropriate documentation, be able to get a duplicator donated to you. Approach the manufacturer's directly. They may be able to provide and older functional machince with little or no charge. Or maybe arrange for one of their customers to donate an older machine to you. Everyone can benefit.

Likewise start a campaign/fundraiser to raise funding for a duplicator or two. Some "Kickstarter" like approach. Set the $ goals, be transparent about the need, the benefits, and the costs. Keep it honest and objective.

Check with any technical schools or colleges in your area. There are always IT students in need of a project or degree related goal - especially graduate level work. Maybe even a team could work an open source/freeware solution for you. Little or no costs involved and a good program will be supervised with you being involved as well. A good student project, especially graduate level, is a real world experience that can make a resume stand out. So the students are very well motivated. (Note: do not let "student" distract you. Many students, especially graduate level, are experienced professionals, working on advanced degrees or career changes. Or former military with excellent training and skills.)

There is no harm in asking and once your "situation/requirements" are out there who knows what may happen. Even if what you receive is not the latest and greatest anything will help you and subsequently the beneficiaries of your charity. And it does not necessarily have to be a "one shot" grandiose plan - might be accomplished in stages as you learn, adapt, and evolve.

 

Ralston18

Dignified
Moderator
Agree with Corwin65 - lots of combinations possible.

You might consider setting up some number of workstations that reflect the most common disk drive situations you encounter just use those workstations as "masters" and clone the master image to another appropriate drive bay (you could have two or three bays per master workstation - just pick the drive bay to use) that would host/hold the target drive. That would also allow you to evolve the master workstations as drive usage shifts; e.g., HDD/IDE to SDD/SATA.

Then there is this product:

http://trinityhome.org/Home/index.php?wpid=128

Might be advantageous in that you would install the hard drives in the final destination PC, connect to a network, boot, and then image. Do not believe that that will be as simple as it seems to be presented but may be worth a look. Contact them and explain the situation. They may be willing to work with you.
 

Nojay

Estimable
Jun 28, 2014
2
0
4,510
0


Actually we often get several hundred identical machines from an office refurbishment -- we have a large number of Optiplex GX620s, for example which all need replacement hard drives with the same OS and utilities. One of our suppliers provides us with wiped SATA HDDs, usually 80GB in size. We have an OS partition image for the GX620 and use Paragon Partition Manager at the moment but that works one at a time over a network, quite slowly with each machine needing a lot of manual setup for the network connection etc. so it's quite slow and labour intensive.

If we can simply duplicate a working drive for, say, the GX620 a few hundred times and slot them into the other GX620s then we only have to do a little bit of tweaking on each machine afterwards (MS licence number update, activation etc.)

A purpose-built HDD duplicator would do this job for us but they tend to cost a lot of money. They are one-button operation though which is a big win. If someone else has built something like this as an open-source or freeware project it would save me the effort.
 

Ralston18

Dignified
Moderator
As a charitable organization you may, with the appropriate documentation, be able to get a duplicator donated to you. Approach the manufacturer's directly. They may be able to provide and older functional machince with little or no charge. Or maybe arrange for one of their customers to donate an older machine to you. Everyone can benefit.

Likewise start a campaign/fundraiser to raise funding for a duplicator or two. Some "Kickstarter" like approach. Set the $ goals, be transparent about the need, the benefits, and the costs. Keep it honest and objective.

Check with any technical schools or colleges in your area. There are always IT students in need of a project or degree related goal - especially graduate level work. Maybe even a team could work an open source/freeware solution for you. Little or no costs involved and a good program will be supervised with you being involved as well. A good student project, especially graduate level, is a real world experience that can make a resume stand out. So the students are very well motivated. (Note: do not let "student" distract you. Many students, especially graduate level, are experienced professionals, working on advanced degrees or career changes. Or former military with excellent training and skills.)

There is no harm in asking and once your "situation/requirements" are out there who knows what may happen. Even if what you receive is not the latest and greatest anything will help you and subsequently the beneficiaries of your charity. And it does not necessarily have to be a "one shot" grandiose plan - might be accomplished in stages as you learn, adapt, and evolve.

 
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