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Managing and Imaging HP Thin Clients Running XPe

Created: 25 Jan 2008 • Updated: 29 Jan 2008 | 2 comments
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scotthansenpaysoneast@gmail.com's picture
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A prerequisite to imaging thin clients is that PXE server needs to be installed and configured. Also the client's BIOS needs to be set as Network Boot as First in the Boot Order in order to be managed by a PXE Server.

Managing HP Thin Clients Running Windows XP Embedded

Running the Microsoft Windows XP Embedded operating system includes the following topics:

  • Understanding and using Windows XP Enhanced Write Filter
  • How to configure and reinstall the Deployment Agent for Windows

Understanding the Enhanced Write Filter

The major factor that makes managing XPe different from a standard Windows computer is the unique Enhanced Write Filter used to protect the contents of the files and operating system installed on a thin client. The Enhanced Write Filter allows the operating system to boot from a disk volume residing on any read-only media such as flash media, CD-ROM, or a write-protected hard drive while maintaining the appearance of read/ write access to the operating system. Enhanced Write Filter protects the contents of a volume on the target media by redirecting all writes to another storage location, called an overlay.

Used in this context, an overlay is similar to a transparency overlay on an overhead projector. Any change made to the overlay affects the picture as seen in the aggregate, but if the overlay is removed, the underlying picture remains unchanged.

Enhanced Write Filter can protect one or more bootable and non-bootable disk volumes, including such things as thin clients flash ROM. For each protected volume, you can choose whether you want to retain the overlay information in a disk overlay, on a pre-designated disk partition called the Enhanced Write Filter volume, or in RAM overlay, which uses system memory.

With a RAM overlay, all overlay information is lost when you shut down or reboot the target system. With disk overlay, the information is retained after rebooting.

By default the thin clients are configured to save most if its changes to the RAM overlay and therefore it is lost when the client is rebooted. Therefore, simple Tasks such as installing the Deployment Agent for Windows or reconfiguring a thin client after it has been deployed (such as changing the computer's name and IP address) cannot be done while the Enhanced Write Filter is enabled.

To have change become permanent, they need to be committed to the media. To illustrate that process I will describe how to install the Deployment Agent onto the Thin Client.

Installing the Deployment Agent for Windows

Installing the Deployment Agent for Windows to an XPe system requires two steps:

  1. Installing the agent
  2. Committing the changes

Installing the Deployment Agent for Windows is rarely needed because the agent is pre-installed by HP. The Deployment Agent for Windows can be installed to all of your XPe thin clients remotely from the Deployment Console. This is accomplished using the Remote Agent Installer feature.

To install the agent, use the Remote Agent Installer.

  1. From the Deployment Server console's menu bar, select Tools > Remote Agent Installer.
  2. Select the Use this username and password for all clients option.
  3. Enter the username and password of the account that exists on the remote computers.
  4. Click Next.
  5. If you need to change any of the agent settings, click Change Settings from the Gathering Default Installation Information screen now displayed. Make those changes and click OK.
  6. After you have returned to the Gathering Default Installation Information screen, click Next. The Selecting Clients window will now be displayed.
  7. Click Add. This will open the Browse computers window.
  8. Using this screen, locate and select your client computer and click OK.
  9. Click Finish to start the installation of the agent on the computers you have added. When it has been installed successfully, you will see the agent icon on the thin client computer's Windows taskbar and the ball on the icon will be blue if the computer can locate the Deployment Server.
  10. Click Exit Install. Do not reboot the thin client at this point. The Deployment Agent for Windows is now installed, but if you reboot the agent installation will be removed.

Committing the Changes

The final step is to commit the installation of the Deployment Agent for Windows to the thin clients. This step can also be accomplished remotely from the Deployment Console using a Deployment Job. To commit the change of adding the Deployment Agent for Windows to the thin clients, complete the following steps:

  1. From the Deployment Console, right-click in the Jobs window and select New Job.
  2. Give the new job a descriptive name that can be easily remembered, such as "Committing Changes for XPe".
  3. Click Add > Run Script.
  4. Select Run this script and enter the Write Filter command ewfmgr c: -commit and disable. This command will tell the thin client that you want to save the changes made to the computer and will also disable the Write Filter so those changes can be made the next time the computer is booted.
  5. From the "In which OS would you like to run this script" area, select Windows.
  6. Click Finish.
  7. The next Task needed is one to tell the computer to reboot. Click Add > Power Control.
  8. Select Restart and click Finish.
  9. Using the same basic steps as you just used, create a new Run Script Task that will enable the Write Filter using the following command: ewfmgr c: -enable
  10. You now need to add a final Task to reboot the computer again. Click Add > Power Control, select Restart, and click Finish.
  11. Using the drag-and-drop method, assign this Job to the same computers you installed the Deployment Agent for Windows on and schedule it to run at an applicable time. When the Deployment Job is run, the Write Filter will be disabled and the agent files and settings will be saved. The Write Filter will then be enabled.

Creating and Deploying Images to XPe Thin Clients

The basics of creating or deploying an image for thin clients running XPe is the same as creating or deploying an image of a standard Windows operating system such as Windows 2000 or XP. The one exception, however, is that the Enhanced Write Filter must be turned off before a Deployment Job can configure a thin client after it has received an Altiris image.

When Deployment Solutions is installed, several sample Deployment Jobs are included. Among these sample Jobs are several XPe Jobs that can be copied and then edited saving you the time of creating these Jobs from scratch. The sample Jobs can be found in the Deployment Console's Job pane under the Samples > XP Embedded folder or HP Thin Clients.

For example, to create a new Deployment Job that will create an image of an XPe thin client, complete the following steps. These steps assume that you have configured and are using PXE to help in the creation of the images. If needed see the First section of this article. If you are not using PXE, then it is assumed that Embedded BootWorks has been installed on the thin clients.

  1. From the Deployment Console locate and select (highlight) the Samples > HP Thin Clients > XP Embedded > Create Disk Image Task.
  2. Right-click on this image Task and select Copy.
  3. Right-click on the folder where you want to copy the Job to and click Paste.
  4. Select this Job. The Tasks it contains will be displayed in the details of the console (upper right-hand corner).
    • This Job can be used as it is (without modification) as long as you are satisfied with the location and name of the image that will be created.
    • By default, the image will be named using the computers NETBIOS name (because of the COMPNAME token used) as it is stored in the Deployment Database and the image will be saved in a subfolder of the Deployment System Access Point named Images.
  5. If you need to change the name or path, double click on the Create Disk Image Task and enter the new information.
  6. You can now use the drag-and-drop technique to assign and schedule the Job to the desired thin client.
    • In this Job, you will notice that there are two Run Script Tasks used, one to disable the Enhanced Write Filter and one to enable it.
    • You will not need to change these, but they can be viewed or changed by double-clicking on the Task.
      • By default, these Tasks are configured as follows: Disable the Enhanced Write Filter.

Deploying XPe Images

With an XPe image created, you can now deploy this image to other thin clients. The Enhanced Write Filter included with the thin client image is built into a very small RAW formatted flash partition on the client.

Additionally, any new updated images released by HP will need to be restored using the Hewlett Packard Imaging Utility (IBR).

To deploy an Altiris image of an XPe device, use the sample Jobs as described below:

  1. From the Deployment Console locate and select (highlight) the Samples > XP Embedded > Distribute Disk Image Task.
  2. Right-click on this image Task and select Copy.
  3. Right-click on the folder where you want to copy the Job to and click Paste.
  4. Select this Job. The Tasks it contains will be displayed in the details area of the console (upper right-hand corner).
  5. This Job can be used as it is (without modification) as long as the Deploy Image Task's path and file name matches the name and path where the XPe image resides.
    • If you used the default settings from the Create Disk Image Job then these are the same.
    • If you need to change the path or name, double-click on the Deploy Image Task and make the needed changes.
  6. You can now use the drag-and-drop technique to assign and schedule the Job to the desired thin client.
  7. As you look closely at this Job to deploy the image, that there is no Task to disable the Enhanced Write Filter. This is not needed because the image was created after the Enhanced Write Filter was disabled.

Installing New Thin Client Images From HP

From time to time HP may release a newer image of the XPe operating system to upgrade your thin clients to a newer version. These images are not Altiris images and therefore cannot be deployed using Altiris' RapiDeploy imaging software. However, a Deployment Solution Job can be created that can deploy the HP image.

This Job will utilize Hewlett Packard's imaging utility (commonly referred to as the IBR utility) to install the image. To customize and deploy a new thin client image from HP, the following general steps need to be completed:

  1. Download the appropriate image from HP. These are usually stored in the form of a SoftPaq.
  2. Unpack the new thin client image and tools for deployment as delivered from HP.

To unpack the image and tools for deployment, complete the following steps:

  1. Double-click on the Softpaq you downloaded containing the new HP image and deployment tools.
  2. When prompted, click Deployment.
  3. When prompted, select the destination directory for the imaging tools and image.
    • This should be stored on your Client Access Point server.
    • For example, C:\Program f\Files\Altiris\eXpress\Deployment Server\tcimages.
    • The components are now unpacked to the specified directory.
    • When this process is complete, there will be three new files in the specified folder:
      • IBR.exe: HP's image restoration utility
      • FLASH.img: The OS image
      • RECOVERY.pdf: Documentation

Ensure that IBR.exe and FLASH.img are stored in the same directory on the server.

Create a Deployment Job to Deploy the HP Image.

  1. From the Deployment Console, click File > New > Job.
  2. Enter a unique name for the Job that you will use to deploy the original thin client image. For example, Install HP Image.
  3. Click Add > Run Script.
  4. Configure the Run Script as follows: F:\tcimages\ibr.exe flash.img HD0 -y(set the OS type to DOS). The -y switch allows the image to be deployed without requiring user input.
  5. Click Finish. Your Job is now complete.
  6. You can now use the drag-and-drop method to assign and schedule this new Job to the desired thin clients. Change the path and name to meet your environment.
  7. Deploy the IBR job to units to be updated. This updates the thin clients with the new version of the image from HP.

Comments 2 CommentsJump to latest comment

Yugandhar. M's picture

it is very very useful.
but here we are facing the problem PXE server and automation partition

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burndtjammer's picture

Are these tasks still available in SMP 7.1 SP2?

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