In order to mass deploy software on multiple computers in the Active Directory domain many administrators use the built-in feature—Group Policy Software Installation. Using GPO, you can assign the installation of any application in MSI or ZAP format to several computers. You can start the application installation when the computer boots or when the user logs on. However, installation of programs via the GPO has significant drawbacks:
- You cannot schedule software installations for a specific time;
- You cannot install the program from EXE or other popular types of application distributions (only MSI and ZAP format supported);
- You cannot control the applications installation order;
- No installation controls (you cannot guarantee that your software has been successfully installed).
In large companies, products such as System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) are used to manage software installation on users’ computers, but the license cost of this product is quite high. In small infrastructures, PDQ Deploy can be used to remotely deploy applications. There is a Pro (paid) version of the PDQ Deploy, but in most cases you can use a free edition.
PDQ Deploy allows you to automatically deploy an application, update it, and monitor installation. PDQ Deploy library has more than 200 different popular applications, but you can add your own applications. Thanks to PDQ Deploy, you can install any applications from exe files in the background, or even Windows updates in the MSU or CAB format. The ability to run script files in the formats vbs, reg, bat and ps1 is supported.
It supports both network installation from a shared folder on the server and the possibility of local installation by copying the package to the user’s computer. PDQ Deploy allows you to customize the installation schedule of the application or updates (it is convenient when you urgently need to update the software on multiple computers within a given maintenance window).
To download the PDQ Deploy Free you need to register on the vendor website. As a PDQ Deploy control computer, you need a computer with at least 8 GB of RAM. Installing PDQ Deploy is not difficult, even for the average user.
Let’s show an example of a remote software installation using PDQ Deploy.
Open the PDQ Deploy console and create a new PDQ Deploy package (you can create your own package or import it from the predefined packages library).
By default, all PDQ Deploy distributions are stored in the C:\Users\Public\Documents\Admin Arsenal\PDQ Deploy\Repository directory ($(Repository) variable). Copy the installation file to this directory and specify the path to the installation exe file in the Install File field. Specify installation parameters. Option /q in this case means that the program should be run in a quiet mode.
In the Options > Credentials section, you need to specify the account credentials under which applications will be installed (this user must be a local administrator on remote computers).
Then at the Options tab, specify the remote computers names/IPs on which you want to perform the software deployment. You can add computers manually, select from AD, or load from a text file.
Now click the Deploy Now button to start the installation.
PDQ Deploy will connect to the target computers and remotely create the PDQDeployRunner-1 service and copy the distribution to the directory \\pcname\ADMIN$\AdminArsenal\PDQDeployRunner\service-1\exec\, after which the service starts installing the software.
After the installation is completed, the PDQDeployRunner-1 service will be removed from the target computer, and the software installation status will appear in the PDQ Deploy console. Also, after installing the application, you can configure the report to be sent by email.