The end of imaging

Anyone who has ever been involved in provisioning and managing Windows PCs will be familiar with the term ‘imaging’. For those of you not familiar with it, it refers to the process of preparing a computer before giving it to an end user by replacing the version of Windows on the machine.

PCs/laptops have always been sent out of respective factories with a perfectly usable version of Windows pre-installed. You’ll have probably seen this yourselves before. If you go to your local PC retailer and buy a device, you don’t have to ‘image’ it before you can use it. Instead you simply power it on, create an account and set up any apps.

I appreciate in Enterprise it’s not this simple. Enterprise apps can be a lot more complex than consumer ones and Enterprises have a much greater focus on security too. Not to mention the fact that in an enterprise there are vastly differing levels of IT literacy. All of this means that more work is involved and IT consider that this should not be done by the customer. Therefore a PC will leave the factory and upon delivery will typically be placed in storage until such as time as an engineer is ready to work on it.

The work involves several steps in most cases

  1. remove the pc from the box and power it on
  2. Wipe the pre-installed version of Windows with an pre-prepared version by the IT department. This is commonly referred to as ‘imaging’. There are a variety of ways to perform this task but they all have the same end result.
  3. The image may contain security agents, software and possibly other things they have chosen to include.
  4. Most organisations will use some form of PC lifecycle management tool to then manage the device going fowards. This is used to ‘layer’ applications, patches and such like on top of the ‘image’
  5. Once this is done the device can be given or delivered to the end user

Imaging and setup is a time consuming process, with many manual steps and can be prone to human error.

So why do people ‘re-image’ PCs? Well one of the reasons is ‘bloatware’. Bloatware is the term given to vendor specific software pre-installed by the PC vendor. Some of it is not needed and organisations don’t tend to leave it on and the easiest way to remove it is to re-image. However the version of Windows they replace it with is usually identical apart from the bloatware.

I personally was doing this job 25 years ago and although it was clearly repetitive and time consuming, it was considered the ‘norm’ and has been ever since.

Fast forward 25 years and people are still using the exact same process. The version of Windows and applications may have changed but the imaging process and the lifecycle management tools have not.

Well not quite…

The release of Windows 10 saw something that people from the mobile world have known for many years. It’s referred to as ‘out of the box enrollment’.

If you walk into a shop and buy a mobile phone you wouldn’t ever need an IT dept to set it up for you. You’d simple put in your id and password and it would set itself up using some form of guided wizard. You’d then deploy your own apps from the respective app store. In mobile world this has been the norm for a long time.

Finally Windows 10 brings these capabilities to the Windows platform. Now with the support of an out of the box enrollment process. Look how much simpler the process can be now for both IT and the end user.

  1. Device is shipped from the factory direct to the end user, regardless of where they are located
  2. User powers on the device and enters their credentials. The device runs through an enrollment process which fully configures the device ‘over the air’. This can involve removing the dreaded bloatware, installing security patches, installing software and configuring company policies.
  3. The user can be up and running in minutes, not days or weeks like the last 25 years, and IT have a lot more time back to focus on other things.
  4. Further life cycle management is handled by the enrollment system which like the legacy tools can manage software, security patches and policies etc.

Windows 10 out of the box enrollment will become the norm, but it will take time to re-educate a whole generation of people only know the imaging process.

Here is a video showing the process and capabilities of VMware Workspace ONE (powered by Airwatch).

VMware also partner with Dell to optimize this process further by combining technologies:


If you’d like more information on Workspace ONE, check it out here




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