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I'm working on creating a NetRestore Golden Image that will be used on about a dozen computers across our organization.

I need EVERY account to boot up with the same baseline preferences (screensaver, desktop, dock applications, etc).

What is the easiest way to replicate account preferences across each account?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

As Robin says, most people would go for OS X Server, because it has tools specifically built to do just this, providing you bind the clients to LDAP.

Aside from that, OS X is designed hierarchically. You could try just adding the desired .plist files in /Library/Preferences instead of ~/Library/Preferences and then deleting said files, if they already exist, from ~/Library/Preferences (since files in ~/Library generally override those in /Library )

There is also the default "User Template" hiding in the System Folder, from which all new users' home folders are created. You could edit this, but the change would only affect accounts created after the imaged machines have their first boot.

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Note that preference settings in /Library/Preferences will be overridden by any in ~/Library/Preferences -- this means that the first time the user touches the prefs for a given app/system component/whatever, their settings replace yours. So, like the User Template, this is only good for setting initial defaults. – Gordon Davisson Jan 24 '12 at 15:49

OS X Server, Open Directory, Workgroup Manager and managed preferences. That is the easiest way because they're made for what you want to do. How to set that up? Beyond the scope of an answer here!

You could probably get by re-imaging machines each night as well? Seems like a lot of work for no reason, and no flexibility!

Interested to hear what you decide, let me know if you need more info!

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Yeah I'm deploying OD and the Profile Manager on these machines. I'm just trying to get the initial "golden image" setup before running the deployment. – Chase Florell Jan 23 '12 at 22:48
I'm confused what the question is now! The profile you build is the 'golden image'. If you need to re install an OS on a machine you will need to push the profile out again I think. – Robin Jan 23 '12 at 23:13
I'm creating a netboot installer. Then as I buy more and more machines, I just push out the netboot golden image. When it's installed, there will be no setup required, all accounts will be built and functioning exactly as expected without any user intervention. – Chase Florell Jan 24 '12 at 0:03

Very basically, you could set up a new machine with a new user account, configure it exactly as you wish, and then do a complete Time Machine backup.

When you get a new machine, when the Migration Assistant comes on, you can simply restore the new machine from the Time Machine backup. This will result in all your machines being identical out of the gate.

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On Lion you have two options:

  1. Managed preferences and Workgroup Manager (often referred to as MCX profiles)
  2. Profile Manager (or other device management software like Casper suite)

Basically, you pick apart each item that needs to be standardized and set the default user template to create each account as desired or have a process to standardize each account after it is created. Lion server is a very inexpensive way to get started and there are many books and web sites to guide you if you go down that path...

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