Cyber Pal Procedure, 2012 September
as described by Theodore Zuckerman, Cyber Pal refurbishing technician, CompTIA certified IT Technician, updated 2013 Feb 12
CompTIA A+ Certified
Disability Partners' CyberPal program refurbishes computers and supplies them at low cost to eligible consumers. $65.00. Alternatively, the consumer can contribute 10 hours of approved community service. Disability Partners is a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR). As a MAR, CyberPals wipes out the original operating system, and installs a new Windows XP operating system.
CyberPals is providing people with dialup internet service. Thus, a dialup modem needs to be in the computer. An issue with Windows 7 and 8 that makes them a difficult choice for installing on older computer hardware, is the difficulty in finding drivers that will run in Windows 7 or 8, for some of the older hardware in found in older computers, especially for older dialup modems. If you want some of these older modems to work, you may have to use it with an older operating system such as Windows XP.
CyberPals provides these computers to the consumer with an Windows XP operating system pre-installed. Most of the computers have at least 512 MB of RAM, some have 768 or even 1 gigabyte, and generally have a Pentium 4 or better processor, with a processor speed of at least 1 GHz. They have a hard drive of at least 40 gigabytes, generally at least 80 GB. They all come with ethernet connectivity to allow for connection to cable internet or DSL internet. All the mobile laptops come with wireless networking adapters, as do some of the desktops. They all come with a keyboard, a mouse, and a display monitor. Usually the monitor is a CRT but some LCD's are available.
CyberPals is providing classes in basic computer literacy, but unfortunately, consumers are not taught how to back up their computers. If they get a virus, they are subject to repair expenses. While CyberPals is charging consumers less for repairs than most private companies, this could easily have been avoided if they had trained consumers to do backups.
Below is a description of the refurbishing process for computers which will have the Windows XP OS installed. These are my classroom notes, slightly tidied up for public consumption, and edited to reflect my on-the-job experience. They may still contain some errors. For a general description of how to deploy a Windows OS, XP or Vista, from an image, as opposed to from a setup CD or DVD, see this.
- Three technicians (at least) are involved with each computer, a system planning tech (Don Christensen) who configures an operating system on a reference computer, and makes images of the operating system, a licensing tech (Mechelle Holt) who acquires Windows operating system licenses from Microsoft, and a refurbishing tech, who installs operating systems on each computer, from an image made by the planning tech, and who also enters a license numbers on each computer, using the license numbers acquired by the licensing tech.
- The system planning technician installs an XP operating system, or soon, a Windows 7 operating system, on a reference computer, from a Windows operating system DVD, and the computer is configured. He also installs various applications programs. More detailed information about OS deployment is available at this link.This initial computer that an image or images will be made from, will henceforth be called the reference computer.
- Deploy.cab, which is found on the windows XP setup CD or within the latest service pack is extracted onto this computer. Vista and newer OS's use WAIK. Extraction of deploy.cab puts setupmgr.exe and sysprep.exe on the computer. Setupmgr is for making an answer file. The answer file enables an OS to be installed on destination computers, whether from a setup disk or an image, with many of the configuration choices already made, and without the technician being prompted for as many configuration choices, at the time of installation. Sysprep is used to prepare an image from a reference computer.
- Configuration choices for installation of the OS on the destination computers may be selected using setupmgr.exe.
Setupmgr.exe makes an answer file in the form of a text file. With setupmgr the default name is unattend.txt, but if you are doing sysprep installation (installation from an image) the answer file must be called sysprep.inf, it is also a text file. In Win XP, setupmgr will prompt to make an appropriately named answer file, once you choose either windows unattended installation, sysprep install, or remote installation services. (Since we are doing sysprep installations the answer file made by XP will be named sysprep.inf file. However in windows 7 the default name for the answer file is unattend.xml).
- The planning tech installs various applications programs on the reference computer.
- Sysprep.exe is run on the reference computer. This removes Security Identifier (SID) information from the reference computer. Windows 7 uses a different program to
- A backup of this computer is made (with HD Clone).
- Then HD Clone is used to make an image of the reference computer. The HD Clone CD is put in the CD drive, the HD Clone program is run, and an image of the reference computer is placed onto a hard drive or large capacity usb flash drive. A 16 gb flash drive or larger is required to hold the image.
- The planning tech also makes backup copies of this sysprep image.
- The refurbishing tech's activities are as follows: The refurb tech gets a donated computer from the shelf and attaches a checklist to it. As steps in the refurbishing process are completed, they are checked off on the list. She also attaches a computer specification label to the computer and fills it out and initials it. This is simply a sheet of paper with info about the processor, amount of RAM, size of hard drive, etcetera. Also, the computer serial number is placed on this sheet.
- The tech may want to go into the BIOS setup to check the amount of RAM, the size of hard drive, and identify the processor and processor speed, and tweak some settings. She makes sure the computer has a reasonably up-to-date system board (Pentium 4 or better), with pci extension slots, and enough memory, at least 512 mb, preferably a gigabyte. The CD ROM drive should be able to write to CDs, and preferably also be able to at leas read DVDs, if not write to them.
- Withing setup, the boot order can be configured, so that the computer will boot first from the floppy drive (if there is one), then from the CD drive, and then from the internal hard drive. The external usb drive can be selected to be bootable, but not ahead of the internal hard drive; if the tech needs to boot anything from an external usb drive, he may want to press the "boot from" key during the
intial bootup, and choose the external usb drive from the list that comes up.
- After tweaking the setup, the refurbishing tech boots the computer from a Killdisk CD, and "wipes" the hard drive with Killdisk. This is sometimes referred to as "nuking" the hard drive. This step has been promised to donaters - they want to be assured that their data won't be able to get into anyone's hands. An experienced refurb tech can show you how to use Killdisk. Once the computer is nuked, indicate this on the spec label (see step 10) .
- If Killdisk is able to satisfactorily wipe the hard drive, the refurbishing tech cleans the dust out of the computer and cleans the outside of the case, making it look as much like a new computer as possible. There is a vacuum cleaner available for sucking up dust, and a brush for loosening it. There is a light duty cleaner for the case, and heavy duty cleaner and Scotchbrite abrasive pads for cleaning of more difficult things, such as adhesive residue from adhesive tape.
- Tech checks out the operation of the computer, diagnoses the cause of any problems that may be found, then makes whatever mechanical repairs are necessary. RAM can be added or removed so as to make 512 or 1gb of RAM available.
- Once the computer is wiped with Killdisk it won't be able to be booted from the hard drive. After being cleaned and repaired, it is time to install the OS from an image. It is booted to HD Clone - usually from an external usb flash drive or from a CD. An external hard drive with an image, or usb flash drive with an image (created by the planning tech) of the OS that is to be placed on the computer, is then plugged in to a usb port. The technician uses HD Clone to automatically unzip the OS image onto the computer. On the appropriate flash drive or external hard drive, look for an image named with something like 2013_01_21_xp_pro. The first part of the filename is a date. Look for an OS with the most recent date.
- As part of the OS installation process, you are prompted to remove the external drives with the OS image, and the HD Clone program, and then the computer restarts, setup.exe (the Windows setup program) runs automatically, and the OS is automatically installed and set up per the instructions found in the sysprep.inf file, that was made by the planning tech using setupmgr.exe. Once the image is completely unzipped to the hard drive, setup.exe will run automatically, without need for any input from the refurb tech, and automatically put unique SID information on the computer, to specifically identify it. Then sysprep.inf and any temporary setup files that were created should automatically get erased.
- Once the OS is installed, the refurb tech then installs any necessary drivers. There is a flash drive that has a collection of drivers. On the outside of this flash drive there is a paper label that says "machine specific." There are folders on this drive for many of the computer models that are commonly refurbished by Cyber Pals. Each folder for each computer has many or all of the drivers that the model needs. Others drivers may be searched for on the internet. If you install the video drivers first, it will be easier to see what you are doing when installing the other drivers. Generally you are asked to reboot after installing the video drivers, but you could possibly install other drivers, such as the chipset information files, before rebooting.
- Installing drivers for the NIC early on is also a good idea: you'll have access to the internet to automatically find, or search for, various drivers that perhaps you might not be able to find in the flash drive collection.
- Refurb tech does a modem diagnosis procedure to make sure the modem works. Find the modem in the control panel, and from there you should be able to find the diagnosis tab. Then check that the modem successfully dials out to the dialup ISP (Internet Service Provider).
- Tech sets the Windows OS to do automatic notification of updates. Go to my computer > R-click > Properties > automatic updates tab and select "notify me, but don't automatically download or install." Very soon you should be notified that updates are available; install them. Do not try to update windows XP from Internet Explorer or from an update link. If you try to update Windows XP this way (I'm not sure about Windows 7) you may be asked to validate or activate the OS first, before being allowed to update by this method. If you proceed to validate or activate, and don't have a license number to complete the process, you may not be able to log on to the OS after that.
- The tech tests programs that have been installed, to make sure they work. Note that MS Security Essentials data cannot be updated until after the computer is licensed.
- Check that Cetus Word Pad has a menu choice in the Start Programs Menu. Make sure that there is a Quick Launch bar on the taskbar. Check the desktop for duplicates of Internet Explorer and remove the shortcut duplicate. The image has the desktop icons arranged in a specific order; there is printout available, of the order; make sure that the order has not been changed, and the the icons remain neatly arranged. Check that the clock shows the correct time and that "automatic synchronization" is set up, with a working time server.
- Licensing tech has purchased a number of licenses from Microsoft. Each computer, before it goes to the consumer, will have a license number and an new COA number associated with the new licence number.
- A list is kept, on looseleaf paper in a looseleaf binder, of computers that have been refurbished. On this list, computers are identified with sequential identifying numbers, with one line on the form for each computer. Once a computer has been repaired, has had a new OS installed, has had drivers installed, and is ready to be licensed, the next number in the sequence is assigned to that computer. A new line is added to the list, and labeled with the new number. The refurb tech places a sticky note on the computer with the same number, and then the refurb tech copies the computer's original Certificate of Authenticity number from the original sticker on the computer, onto the form, on the line on the form with the computer's identifying number. Later, the refurb tech will add new COA on this line, from the list of new COA's that have been purchased by the licensing tech, from Microsoft. Every once in a while the refurb tech gives a page from this list to the licensing tech — every time an entire page has been filled out. If a computer doesn't have a COA sticker or a readable COA number, 0099-999-000-777 is used.
- The licensing technician assigns a new COA numbers to each computer, and visits Microsoft's web site and acquires a new license numbers (sometimes called a product key) for each computer. For each computer on the page, she enters the new COA numbers and the new license number.
- Then the licensing technician prints out a product key document for each computer, which will contain the original COA number, the new COA number, and the new product key.
- Along with this product key document, the licensing tech provides the refurbishing tech with 1 COA sticker, and 2 copies of it. The original sticker is for the computer case, and one copy should be affixed to each of the 2 checklists. The licensing tech also provides the refurb tech with a printed form labeled "Instructions for Using your Computer for the First Time," describing the EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) window that the consumer will see when he-she starts up the computer for the first time.
- Then the refurb tech affixes a plastic bag to the computer, and encloses 4 sheets of paper (1) one product key document, (2) one "Instructions for Using your Computer for the First Time" EULA-window info sheet, and (3 and 4) 2 copies of the refurb checklist, each with a copy of the COA sticker on it.That's 4 sheets of paper altogether, in the plastic bag.
- Once the computer is licensed, Microsoft Security Essentials can be updated by the refurb tech. Then the last thing that is done to the refurbished computer is for the tech to install the EULA program that brings up a window with the EULA, and prompts the user to agree to it (Microsoft Windows licensing provisons). The the EULA cleanup command should be run.
- User won't be able to do much with the computer until they agree to the EULA, however should the tech need to temporarily get into the computer to make a change, the EULA prompt can temporarily be disable by presseing ctrl-alt X.
- Computer is placed on the appropriate shelf in the store room, with the computers that are ready to be supplied to consumers.