I received a call from a client a few days ago regarding imaging a lab with the Autodesk software. Many people utilize imaging software to push out large deployments of software in a quick, efficient manner. Autodesk is no exception. Imaging is the method I most often recommend when dealing with larger labs that need a substantial amount of software installed. Strangely enough, Autodesk does not recommend imaging but rather using their Network Deployment tool, which is understandable. The reason Autodesk does not recommend imaging your lab is because of some common issues that arise if you don’t image properly. This post is going to explain the potential issues with imaging and how to overcome them.
First of all, when creating your master image, always make sure you are installing all of your software on the local administrator account (or an account with equivalent permissions), you have your anti-virus disabled, your firewall disabled, and User Account Control (Vista and 7) disabled. Before installing any software, make sure that you have already created any user accounts that need to be created on the master computer. This is necessary so that the software will initialize to all of the current user profiles.
When dealing with an imaging situation, just proceed about your installations as you normally would. If you run into issues installing anything, call your reseller for product support.
The most common issue with imaging Autodesk software is initialization. Initialization occurs the first time you run the products on a user profile. Initialization writes program data into the registry of Windows as well as the AppData folders of the current user profile. That being said; the most important part of imaging is to make sure you initialize every piece of Autodesk software before pushing the image out to the other computers. You need to make sure you run everything once on the local administrator. By doing this, you are ensuring that the proper data has been loaded into the system registry and the all user’s profile of the computer. You are also ensuring that the software boots up and works properly. If you are using a roaming profile environment, then things can be a bit more complicated due to the fact that initialization will occur everytime a user logs into the machine. This can cause issues if the roaming profile does not have access to the registry and application data folders. If this is the case, I recommend giving the roaming profiles Power User privileges or giving them read/write access to their AppData folder and the HKEY_CURRENT_USER Registry folder. Local administrator is required for a clean initialization of the software, which is why I recommend that you initialize on the master image before pushing it out.
The next major issue that people have is with standalone licensing. If you are using a standalone license environment but you want to image your lab, keep in mind that standalone licenses are locked to a MAC address. When you are creating an image for a standalone software, do NOT register the product on the master image. If you do this, it will cause a discrepancy in the licensing once the image is pushed to the other machines. This is because of the MAC address identification. You need to initialize the software but NOT activate it when dealing with standalone licenses. If you activate it, then when you push it out to the other machines, they will all be looking for the same MAC address as the master computer, which none of them will be able to find. This will then cause licensing issues all across the lab. The proper procedure is to initialize the program and then close the program without registering it. After you have pushed the image out, go to each computer and boot up the software and activate it. This will be a bit time consuming but not as time consuming as remaking and redeploying an image. The positive side about the new Autodesk licensing is that the Autodesk Suite’s all license together. This means that if you have the Revit Architecture Suite and you activate Revit Architecture, then your AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture are also activated. Likewise, if you have an Autodesk Education Suite, if you activate just one of the software from the Suite, then all of the other software that’s installed from the suite will be activated because they all use the same Feature Codes and Product Keys.
I hope this information is helpful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments field. Thanks!