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Solution for Remote Software Deployment on Windows? 84

DownTownMT asks: "I work as a Windows administrator in a small company with roughly 180 WinXP/2000 and 30 Win98 machines. Our current method for installing Windows patches is WSUS which works great for the non-98 PC's. However, when installing software, such as Adobe, QuickTime and various other tools, our only method is to manually install it on each machine. What are you sysadmins using to deploy software across all of your machines?"
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Solution for Remote Software Deployment on Windows?

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  • If you're a hardcore, all-MS shop that uses Microsoft support alot, go with SMS -- otherwise they will blame every issue that you have on the 3rd party distribution tool.

    What you're looking for is a pretty mature product by now, and most of the major players have pretty decent products -- you really need to eval them in your environment to get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses. You could probably roll your own solution pretty easily too.
    • A couple of cautions.

      Any remote distribution product has a fairly high learning curve, and SMS is no exception. This is as much about the infrastructure as it is about the product being distributed. You will often find it necessary to hack apart MSIs, do some intriguing scripting, etc, because vendors are terrible at providing standardized ways of distributing their software in an automated scriptable manner. Adobe (as you mention them specifically), from what I've heard, is especially bad at this. That sai
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by icedivr ( 168266 )
      What you're really looking for is Systems Center Essentials. It is a combination of WSUS, SMS and MOM rolled up into one. It's targeted towards companies that have "a computer guy" or two, but not the resources to implement full-blown versions of SMS & MOM. It's currently offered as a release candidate, so its official release is coming soon. []
    • I usually just roll my own install managers using AutoIt3. It's a nice little scripting utility, free and simple to use. When you get a working script you can compile it to an EXE. So take something like quicktime, put it and the controlling script into it's own directory. You launch the installer, wait for the windows to appear then send the keypresses to the installer. Remember to set focus before sending keys or clicks in case the user tries to alt-tab away. It's pretty quick and easy if you've got
  • Dammit! (Score:5, Funny)

    by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @11:36PM (#18915767)
    You sound like the same idiot who stole my job for $20k/y less then what I was getting paid.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Maybe that idiot knew the difference between "then" and "than"...
  • by willith ( 218835 ) * on Saturday April 28, 2007 @11:36PM (#18915769) Homepage
    Spent several years using the Altiris [] Deployment Server product to install software packages in a ~4,000 user site. It worked quite well; you install the Altiris Client on each computer you want managed (there's an automated remote install, or it can be done manually, or via logon script, or whatever works for you), and then you can perform a ton of actions on the client computers from the Deployment Server console--installing packages, removing packages, power on (via Wake-on-LAN) and power off events, hardware & software inventory & reporting, all kinds of stuff. The packages you install will generally be MSIs, created yourself with something like Wise Package Studio [] or from regular off-the-shelf software with a transform of your own making applied post-install.

    Microsoft's SMS [] is also a fine option and competes with Altiris; while Altiris comes with a lot more pre-configured features out of the box, SMS is just as extensible and has the same leg-up over Altiris that most MS products have over competitors--seamless integration into the host OS and domain.
    • by 222 ( 551054 )
      I evaluated Altiris and SMS, but in the end I went with EMCO's Remote Administration and Network Inventory. The nice thing about those is that it doesn't involve a client, and provides almost all of the stuff that Altiris would have. Regarding deployment, I went with the open source "Unattended", and it works like a champ.

      The EMCO stuff also cost less than a 10th of what Altiris wanted.
    • by Degrees ( 220395 )
      Another option is Novell ZENworks []. They've been doing this since 1998, so it's not like they are new at it. Novell is working reasonably hard to make ZENworks "directory independent" - in other words, run on either eDirectory or Active Directory. Unfortunately, I don't believe the Windows 98 machines will work with the upcoming ZENworks 7 - but I think they do work with ZENworks 6.5. At BrainShare, one of the cool demos was that they pointed ZENworks discovery manager at a subnet, and it found the machines
  • Novell ZENworks, and more specifically, the Desktop Management piece of it.
  • Copy files, and run Regedit. Maybe run regsvr32 a couple times too.
    If you need to do it remotely, use SSH.
  • Win98? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alshithead ( 981606 ) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @11:47PM (#18915811)
    I think the solution you should be looking for is to get rid of the Win98 machines. I'm guessing you have some proprietary/legacy app or systems control running on them but you'll eventually need to get rid of them anyway. Maybe you should work that aspect first?
  • UDPcast (Score:2, Insightful)

    by YGingras ( 605709 )
    Cloning machines has several advantages. With a set of a few images you can ensure that each month you start with clean boxen. People will learn really fast that important stuff should be on the network drive. Usually, the people who really need to customize their system themselves can be trusted with the updates so you just skip the cloning for those. OK, I admit that doesn't do so well in a Windows network. A major annoyance is that it won't update the machine id after the cloning. On GNU/Linux you
    • On a Windows system, just make a first clone of your working master (to become your clone master), then run the "sysprep" tool (after configuration, use google) on this clone master. It will shut down the machine. At that point, clone the disk however you want - it will reset the security id (SID) and computer name on each new machine, and do some hardware detection too (not all of it, though, so test first)
  • by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <> on Saturday April 28, 2007 @11:48PM (#18915827) Homepage Journal
    I believe BackOrifice was originally designed for this kind of thing, on Win95/98 machines, no less.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @11:49PM (#18915833) Homepage

    Just put a signed self-installing Active-X control on the company web site on some page that sounds interesting, and let it do drive-by installs.

  • There are many suggestions here to use SMS or Altris when he has stated that he only has 180 users and still 30 running Windows '98. This is not a company that is will to part with cash for enterprise solutions if they still have Windows '98 lying around. It is also not a company that is overly concerned with security.
    I worked in a similar environment in the past and I found that with a properly setup Active Directory and some painfully written batch scripts I was able to get software to install perfectly
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      We have a couple Windows 98 machines for reading mainframe tapes we still get from our clients. The tape software runs in DOS, and simply can not be run in any newer Windows. There is updated tape software, but it's all GUI, less useful, and takes about 10 times longer to do the same thing.

      I've spent enough hours trying to get around this.. so now we have these single-purpose systems with severely locked down accounts.

      Point is, there may be a good reason they've still got Windows 98 systems in use..

      • by GWBasic ( 900357 )

        We have a couple Windows 98 machines for reading mainframe tapes we still get from our clients. The tape software runs in DOS, and simply can not be run in any newer Windows. There is updated tape software, but it's all GUI, less useful, and takes about 10 times longer to do the same thing.

        A previous post suggested using a VM. Have you tried running FreeDOS on a VM or an older machine tucked in a corner?

        Does your client have any plans or desires to move away from tape? Without knowing much about their m

        • I haven't tried VMWare-- never occurred to me since it was a driver/hardware issue. We use the old tape software in Windows XP for reading files, but couldn't get it to access the SCSI tape readers, no matter what I tried. Do you think it would be able to access the hardware in VMWare when the host OS can't (in that way)?

          We're close enough now to getting rid of the tapes onto CD/DVD/FTP anyway, I'm not going to mess with it. But thanks for the idea.
          • by GWBasic ( 900357 )

            I haven't tried VMWare-- never occurred to me since it was a driver/hardware issue. We use the old tape software in Windows XP for reading files, but couldn't get it to access the SCSI tape readers, no matter what I tried. Do you think it would be able to access the hardware in VMWare when the host OS can't (in that way)?

            It's theoretically possible, but I'm not the expert. Paralels on Mac allows the user to specifically direct USB devices to the VM, it wouldn't surprise me if there's some VM that can allo

  • MSI & GPOs (Score:3, Informative)

    by enharmonix ( 988983 ) <> on Sunday April 29, 2007 @12:41AM (#18916025)
    You can configure and deploy Windows Installer packages in MSI format using Active Directory Group Policy Objects. We use them to enforce up-to-date SAV installations on all desktops in our domain, and plan to start rolling out more installs that way. Supposedly you can even use tools to bundle EXE serup programs in MSI files to deploy them through AD. Beats the heck out of administrative installs or VNC. Hope that helps. Cheers.
    • ding ding ding (Score:3, Interesting)

      by toadlife ( 301863 )
      That's what we've been doing for six years now since moving to a win2k domain. As of now we have around 40 software packages in our "softdeploy" share. Since we have multiple sites, we host the software shares on a DFS root, so we can use on policy for machines in all sites and they get their package from the local site automatically.

      I convert non-msi installers into msi format with the freeware program wininstallle 2003 (which is no longer free, but I kept my copy). wininstall tends to create slightly brok
    • Update: According to this post [], I guess technically using GPOs uses administrative installs, too. I'm not the one handling the installs, so I stand corrected, but for a small (read, less-than-enterprise) environment, I still have to recommend the GPO route. Thanks to kcurtis for pointing that out further down.
    • Thank you! While everyone is going on about Altiris (gag) and SMS, there's a completely free solution, and its already present in your domain!

      Just use Group Policy and Veritas WinINSTALL LE (free and included with your windows server CD).

      Everything you need to know is here: ws2000serv/howto/winstall.mspx []

      Free and easy, no muss no fuss.
      • Have you ever used Altiris?

        It just works, imaging, software deployment, remote control, its all there.

        Their RIP packager leaves a bit to be desired, but it does work.

        I think their imaging ability works much better than any other of the image and automatic configuration programs I have seen
        It can rename machines, rejoin to AD, and run post setup jobs. Plus, the amount of information Altiris collects about a computer is amazing, need to know:
        serial numbers
        mac address
        installed programs
        installed hardware
        bios v
        • by Allador ( 537449 )
          I have used Altiris, though it was a few years back. It worked great, but was not cheap/free (except for very expensive values of cheap/free).

          Using GPOs for distribution (in non-huge and non-hugely-complex environments) is free and works quite well. Note its not actually free. In both cases you have to snapshot the changes from an install, so net zero diff there. Using GPO requires a little bit more work to script your reboots and validation. Thats a non-zero cost, but also has benefits, such as better
    • by icedivr ( 168266 )
      There are two shortcomings to using GPOs for software deployment. The biggest thing is, you don't know if the installation succeeded or not -- no reporting. Secondly, you have little control over when the user reboots. It could be a day or a week.

      The other thing I ran into was that people didn't appreciate it when their computer took 10 minutes to install software x and finish booting. Usually they're standing there, looking at the screen, waiting to get their day started.
      • by Allador ( 537449 )

        The biggest thing is, you don't know if the installation succeeded or not -- no reporting.

        This is true to an extent. It's no big deal to write a little script to walk all the machines, and look for the right kind of error log on the Installer type within a time-frame. In my experience, thats the kind of thing most groups end up doing. It builds your scripting skills, and its a one-time-ever cost, and once its written, you can use it forever.

        Secondly, you have little control over when the user reboots. It could be a day or a week.

        You can trivially force a reboot to all workstations in the domain, in an OU, etc in a few seconds.

        So you set the policy, give it a few minutes to repli

  • Given the size of your enviroment and the language you used, i'm willing to bet that your employer would not be willing to shell out $$$ for something like SMS. Plus since you are asking this question, you would also lack the expertise. SMS has a fairly steep learning curve. There are open source solutions available, but I have not used any of them, so YMMV.
    Why not just use login scripts? Its crude by today's standards, but it gets the job done, and it will cost you nothing.
  • You can create administrative installs for virtually all installations and use GPO's to install the software to the XP machines - works for Win2k and newer.

    No cost, and not too tough to learn.

    This link is to a Win2k install but is pretty much the same. []
  • OCS Inventory? (Score:3, Informative)

    by BobPaul ( 710574 ) * on Sunday April 29, 2007 @01:50AM (#18916377) Journal
    OCS Inventory [] is an OSS tool we had deployed once upon a time. I see the most recent version support application deployment.

    Otherwise, if your Vista/XP/2000 machines are on a domain, you can deploy software though domain policies, though I didn't find a really clean way of doing that in the short time I did IT.
  • Landesk (Score:3, Informative)

    by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric.ijack@net> on Sunday April 29, 2007 @02:06AM (#18916481) Homepage
    We were in the same boat a few years ago and went with Landesk []. It has fully configurable patching of both Microsoft vulnerabilities, as well as dozens of other packages such as Firefox and Adobe. They take care of the core of our software patches and updates, and the rest are easily done with some custom packages. It runs about $60 per machine per year. You can't pay a minimum wage intern to manually patch machines for that little money. It also does full inventories including serial numbers for Windows, Linux, and Apple machines.

    I've used SMS from Microsoft, and it works great for Microsoft stuff, OK for other deployments, but didn't deal with Apple or Linux at all.

    I have a colleague that has worked with Altiris, and he liked it, but it was a bit more expensive per machine.

    All in all, Landesk works very well for us and has saved us countless man-hours and effort to keep our network running.
  • WPKG (Score:2, Informative)

    by RCSInfo ( 847666 )
    How about []? It covers Win98 through XP, works with all manner of installers (MSI, EXE, etc..), can run off a Windows or Linux server, and is completely open source. I set it up for one client who had a linux server with XP clients and we have had pretty good luck with it.
  • Disclaimer: I work for IBM.

    Tivoli can do this plus a bunch of other things. Cross platform support too. ov-mgr/ []

  • My workplace uses Kaseya Agent, but I don't know how good it is. []
  • For Microsoft, every software developer is competition, because Microsoft sells both operating systems and user software, in clear violation of any sensible standard of anti-trust. Now that Microsoft is developing online applications, the company is in competition with every IT department, too.

    Part of the problem with installing software on Windows is that Microsoft has a monopoly and doesn't want systems to be easily patched. Fixing many issues like that will wait for some new version of Windows Microso
  • WPKG - [] - this is a good way to deploy software under Windows (although it's best under Windows 2000 and Windows XP, I believe, at present). Basically, the software connects to a share (Windows server or Samba) at boot up and runs installer scripts.

    The "list of packages to install" can be configured differently for individual PCs, if required, or for groups of PCs.
  • we use a thing called "marimba" at work - I'm not an IT guy, so I can't really tell you much about it ... actually, I can tell you a little, from what I hear it basically does a file system diff - I think you take a baseline of a hard drive, then run the apps installation program, tweak anything you need to, then take another snapshot of the drive - anything that's different, marimba pushes out to client machines in the right spot ... or something
  • Another MS product is coming out soon that is aimed squarely at the System Center Essentials. I went to a MS demonstration on it, basically it's quite similar to SMS with a few added perks for small to mid size businesses. One of the perks is being able to slip stream in any install via the AU client (basically it's a customizable WSUS).

    Additionally MS isn't going to be as draconian with it's licensing like SMS, rather than needed a CAL per workstation it's is a single license for up to 500 computers. I'm
    • by RodK ( 1094871 )
      Just to chime in....I suspect this will be your best bet for function and value. It should atleast warrant a look to inspect it's features and price point. Look for it being release in the next month or so.

      I've been involved for sometime in the Microsoft Systems Management space, I have to admit; System Center Essentials (SCE) is slick.

      a myITforum'er
      -Rod K
  • Use Dexon (Score:2, Informative)

    by madmilo ( 549404 )
    I work for a company called Dexon Software ( We've got a infrastructure management tool for network administrators. It's sold by modules, so you could buy Dexon Software Delivery along with Dexon Agent licences for each one of your PCs, it works on Win95 and up. I'm just a developer, but I know our prices are really competitive.
  • Years ago, before I had to worry about deployment issues personally, I'd have to watch all kinds of weird stuff happen in the login script.

    Like others have sort of alluded, it's the Windows 98 that makes life hard. Getting rid of those and then using more standard deployment tools would be the best answer. It might even be the cheapest in the long run, but that depends on how many Win 9x boxes are kicking around. If it's a handful out of 180, IMHO, toss 'em.

    Back to the point, the Adobe Flash and PDF Read
  • don't know if '98 is supported or not...but worth a look...
  • don't know if '98 is supported or not...but worth a look...

    here's a quote from their site: []

    This is a list that summarizes what WPKG can do for you:

    * deploy software in any format - MSI, EXE, etc.
    * deploy software to different groups of computers or single workstations
    * easily install, upgrade or remove software
    * a "pull" psexec equivalent
    * run custom scripts to set printers, synchronize time, manipulate permissions, add registry entries, change Windows settings etc.
    * management/administration of end-user workstations
    * WPKG works in a domain, in a workgroup, or even over internet or VPN (no domain controller needed)
    * WPKG works with Linux (Samba), Windows servers, or any other systems supporting Windows Network Neighbourhood
    * WPKG works with Windows 9x, Me*, 2000, XP Pro/Home and 2003 clients
    * extremely small footprint on the client
    * extremely small footprint on the server
    * keep inventory of software installed on your Windows workstations
    * intuitive web interface

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