Which type are you? Do you install every single possible device before firing up a disk duplication utility? Or, do you configure the bare minimum number of components before making a system image?

Both methods have advantages. Both strategies also have a few drawbacks.

The maximum
If you install every possible device, from the CD-ROM and hard drive to a sound card, NIC, and modem, chances are you’re saving valuable time by eliminating the need to install those components every time you deploy a client machine. Most support technicians subscribing to this strategy argue that the purpose of cloning is to eliminate as many redundant, routine installation procedures as possible. Thus, it only makes sense to eliminate as many steps as possible by preloading as many applications and components as possible.

The minimum
Some IT professionals, though, argue that it’s best to only load the bare minimum devices needed to get a system up and running. We’re talking a hard drive, a CD-ROM, a video card, and that might be it.

Why do they go to the trouble of installing peripherals such as modems, sounds cards, and other devices every time they roll out a client machine? They have several reasons.

One, drivers become outdated quickly. Two, Windows Plugs-and-Plays. Three, not all machines possess the same devices. While you might order 15 “identical” PC models from a manufacturer, chances are you’ll receive 13 with one sound card brand and two machines with a different model sound card. Or, 12 might have one modem or NIC brand, while the other three have different modems or NICs.

Me, I prefer…
My personal preference? I vote for the minimum install. I’ve seen too many installations head into the ether like a missile gone bad when the OS can’t reconcile a device.

Just the other day, a TechRepublic editor’s laptop (running Windows NT 4.0 Workstation) imploded when a proprietary application was loaded. The program works fine on 150 other machines, but it caused this one to bite the dust.

By reducing the number of devices and programs being installed, it’s much easier to diagnose the culprit when things go wrong. That’s yet another reason to let Windows do the walking and Plug-and-Play additional peripherals, rather than try to create a clone that accommodates every single device.
Which method do you use in your organization? Have you found one strategy works better than another? Share your comments below or send us an e-mail.