I was recently called up by a past customer who was using XP Windows embedded on an HP Neoware Thin Client who had lost their hard drive image and needed the machine restored. These types of machines are becoming more and more common, used as terminals for ATM’s, self checkout terminals, etc. They are moderately low cost, light, flexible platforms that don’t have any moving components like fans or spinning hard disks, and can therefore be left without the need for much maintenance or cleaning in the field.
Our machine was no longer finding the embedded drive at all, so any sort of Windows Restore or traditional backup was not an option. Seeing as these machines also have no peripheral drives, to keep them light weight and more suitable for industrial applications, this wasn’t as easy as running out, popping the Windows disks in, and spending a few hours reconfiguring all of their settings either. Also, since this was 1 of a handful of machines that would all need to be imaged in the field, I thought it was best to learn how to image these machines in 1 step using Symantec’s Norton Ghost.
Norton Ghost is a pay-product, but is well worth the investment. I have worked with it extensively in my former position creating nurses’ station touch panels for a leading, Fortune 500 healthcare technology company, and we use it at DMC in a variety of different industries. Ghost basically allows you to copy every portion of a hard drive exactly, meaning that to the end user, a Ghost-ed copy of a drive is indistinguishable from the original.
For me, Ghost was the tool I needed to make a copy of an existing machine and duplicate it to the crashed machine in 1 fell swoop. However, without any peripheral drives, and not wanting to use an external drive, I looked into running the entire process from a USB key, and wanted to document and share the steps I followed in case it might help anyone else in the future. I found that it wasn’t as simple as running Ghost from a USB bootable disk, as I repeatedly got Internal Error 36000 with this approach (I also got this error when trying to use an external USB CD-ROM drive.)
- Follow the steps on this site to make a bootable USB flash drive. This flash drive doesn’t have to be extensively large, since it just serves as the boot disk to run the DOS files and copy them to the hard drive. A couple hundred MB’s should be plenty. Copy the executable version of Ghost onto this drive.
- Grab the system files Format.com and FDisk.com from the DOS 6.22 image on this Boot Disk site. You will need these to prepare the drive for Ghosting.
- Boot the machine from the USB key that you have made bootable from step 1. Note that you may need to enter the Bios to setup the boot order of devices for your machine in order to get it to boot from a USB key.
- Use FDisk to delete all partitions on your drive and create a small DOS boot partition big enough to hold the Ghost executable.
- Copy the Ghost executable onto the DOS partition. We will be booting with this partition to run Ghost. This was the only way I found to avoid getting Internal Error 36000, referenced above, which occurred every time I tried to run Ghost directly from the USB key.
- Shut down the machine. Remove the bootable USB key and replace it with a USB key that has the Ghost image file that you are restoring on it. Reboot from the DOS partition (again you may need to tweak your device boot order in the Bios.)
- Run the Ghost executable from the DOS prompt.
- You should be able to navigate to the USB drive with the image file on it and choose to restore it to the main hard drive.
- Ghost will run and restore your image to a partition on the main drive, which will function exactly as your original drive.
That’s it! This procedure is the only way I was able to successfully run Ghost on these embedded machines with no internal peripheral drives. It is admittedly less straight forward than I had hoped originally, but it is a reliable way to exactly duplicate drives on embedded thin clients in the field.