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OS image management on a test bench

What's the best system for managing OS installations for frequently swapping hardware? I'm sick of doing a clean Windows install every time I setup a test bench. But if I don't do a clean install, then I wind up with drivers from multiple hardware configs. But clean installs take a long time, and there's some software that I do want to carry over, like 3D Mark, Heaven, Cinebench/Prime95, Solidworks, ect. because I use it on all of my test setups.

 

I thought of buying an NVMe drive that can be dropped in, and I put an image of the OS + programs on a USB stick and copy the image onto the NVMe drive with Unraid running off the USB stick. But not all the boards I am playing with have NVMe (lot of LGA 2011-3 boards don't have it) so I'd need a PCIe card to hold them, and that basically doubles the cost of that project.

 

I've also considered doing everything off USB. Maybe one USB stick for the clean image to copy off of, the other one to be the in-use image. Boot it up in Unraid off the first USB, copy the image over to the second USB, then boot off the second USB and install the chipset/graphics drivers.

 

I really don't want to do anything over SATA. The extra cables just make the work area a real rat nest. Also, I'd have to make a mount for the drive(s), or I'd have to leave them dangling all over the desk.

 

Another option I'd thought of is trying to make an external USB drive work. Use a 500GB drive, partition it into two parts, one with an Unraid install and the clean system image, the other to be the in-use partition. This is nice because it's one piece of hardware that I will be much less likely to lose. It's less nice because I still have to figure out where to put it on the bench, it still has one cable running to the motherboard instead of being directly on it, and I have no idea how well Windows 10 plays with multiple boot records on the same drive. I know on 95/98/XP era hardware, you'd get through POST and it would tell you there's multiple OS's and you'd select which one you want to boot from. Idk if that's how it's handled now because I have had no reason to have two boot environments on the same hard drive since NT/XP days.

 

I thought of doing a network side solution and have an image on a server, then just pull or push the image from there, or even boot from there and mirror that image onto the computer's drive (probably USB for compatibility simplicity) but I have no idea how to do that, or if it's even possible. I have two servers that could host the image, and a full gig network, so if that's the right answer I'd like to know what I need to google to learn it.

 

Does anyone else have experience with this who can tell me about hurdles that I don't see in any of these methods? Is there a better OS than Unraid to do my image cloning with?

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Do the old drivers cause a issue? Id just keep the same drive. The old drivers normally aren't loaded so it won't cause a issue.

 

 

Unraid doesn't seem like a good option to do imaging, there are much better options. 

 

If you want to do imaging right, id just setup a wdt server with mdt, so it auto installs all the programs you want and drivers you need.

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I've had really weird stuff happen with both Nvidia and AMD GPU drivers being installed. Specifically, I was benchmarking a couple 1060 variants against eachother and an RX 580, and I was getting really glitchy performance during bootup and loading. Especially with 3D Mark. Problems went away completely with just uninstalling all the drivers, rebooting, then installing the proper drivers and running the benchmarks.

 

I'll look into setting up a wdt server. No idea what that means right now, but I'll go do some learning. Thanks for the additional information.

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have a drive with NV drivers installed and another with AMD drivers, that way you just need to install mobo chipset drivers = problem solved!  :)

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I think I'd still rather just have a single starting image that I clone onto a blank drive that I can install onto. Though it's worth an experiment.

 

Maybe I'll laser engrave the AMD and Nvidia logo onto two thumb drives.

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