VM Junkie

April 1, 2009

Making a Thin Client on Fat Hardware: Part 2

Filed under: microsoft, vdi, view, vmware — Justin Emerson @ 6:24 pm

This is a continuation of my last blog post.

Feel free to take a look around WinFLP at this point if it’s your first time. You’ll notice that the Start Menu is a lot more spartan than a normal XP installation. This is good because that’s less junk we need to rip out. The other benefit is that the whole install in my case takes less than 700MB, and that’s including the page file!

Now that we have WinFLP installed, we need to do some basics. First, you should download and install Service Pack 3 for WinFLP. This is a different package from the standard XP SP3 one – if you try to run the wrong one it will say it’s for the wrong version. After SP3, install Windows Updates. I recommend not installing Internet Explorer 7, just because it will add to the size of your image and potentially consume more RAM. And remember, we won’t be running IE on this machine anyway once we’re done. I would also recommend turning on automatic updates, because you want these devices to be as unmanaged as possible, so letting them auto-update at 3AM will make your life easier.

With that OS housekeeping out of the way, it’s time for the interesting stuff. First, install the VMware View Client. Current version as of this writing is 3.0.1, so I used this in my example here. You can download this from VMware’s site here, if you have the license bound to your store account. It’s under the “View Manager” downloads. Be sure you download just the client, and not the client with offline desktop! We don’t want that bloating our image, since offline desktop is currently experimental anyway. During the install, you can select your default connection broker name – I would recommend doing this as outlined in the screenshots.

Finally, and here’s the good part, I have created a script called AutoView, which I use to automate the process of turning an XP/XP embedded/WinFLP device into a Thin Client. For the WinFLP use case (which I’ll discuss here) it’s actually the easiest. Just take the contents of the zip file and extract it to C:\AutoView on your WinFLP system. Be sure to read the README.txt file if you have any questions about what it’s doing, and feel free to poke around the various files. When you’re ready to rock, run the InstallAutoView.cmd file, and then site back and watch. After a couple reboots (you can ignore the warnings related to XPe and the write filter since we’re using WinFLP) you should see the user account log in and the View Client start automatically. If you click exit, it disappears, and if you hit Ctrl+Alt+Del, the user account won’t be able to do anything except log off or shutdown the system. If you want to get back into the Administrator account (and you will at some point) hold down the shift key after logging off the “user” account.

Congratulations! You now have a fat hardware-based thin client! Now how can I go about cloning this to multiple systems? Hopefully most of you are familiar with SysPrep – and I’m happy to report it works on WinFLP as well. Just grab the deployment tools from XP SP3 and copy the sysprep.exe and setupcl.exe to C:\sysprep on the WinFLP system. I have also prepared a sample SysPrep file, which you can find in the AutoView zip file. It randomizes the computer name (so you don’t end up with duplicates) based off the company name, so be sure to edit that file and add your license key and company information. Also note that in order for sysprep to work properly, your administrator password should be blank. You can then set the AdminPasssword by changing the * in the Sysprep.inf file to something else. The other thing to note is that Sysprep screws up the autologon stuff, so my sysprep.inf file calls another script after the sysprep process is over in order to get it back to the way it was pre-sysprep.

And that’s it! Now, after SysPrep shuts down the machine, you can use any imaging tools to clone it, and when the system boots up, it will autoconfigure and you’ll have yourself a thin client on fat hardware!

To wrap it up, here are some screenshots of the whole process, including sysprep:



  1. […] a thin client on fat hardware: part 1 Making a thin client on fat hardware: part 2 « Storage VMotion, exploring the next version of ESX/vCenter addthis_pub = […]

    Pingback by Is your PC overweight? Transitioning from fat to thin… » Yellow Bricks — April 2, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  2. Nice couple of posts. I used WinFLP a few years ago to bring one of the first ultralight notebooks back to life, the Toshiba Portege 3480CT. WinFLP runs like a dream on the 500MHz CPU / 128MB RAM on the machine, who needs one of these new 1.6GHz / 1GB RAM netbooks 🙂

    Comment by Stu — April 4, 2009 @ 7:23 am

  3. […] Gebruik een minimale Windows installatie.Weinigen weten dat Microsoft een speciale uitgeklede Windows versie speciaal hiervoor heeft uitgebracht onder de naam “Windows Fundementals for Legacy PCs”. Justin Emerson heeft hierover een blog in twee delen geschreven (deel 1 en deel 2). […]

    Pingback by Maak een thin client van je oude PC « EarlyBert — April 12, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  4. have you thought about making a ‘free’ version using a version of linux and the linux vmware view client?

    Sounds like what you really want…..

    Comment by justme — May 14, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

  5. Unfortunately, the Open View Client doesn’t have the same feature set as the full client. No USB, no MMR, no multiple desktops, no sound are just some of the shortcomings…

    Comment by ermac318 — May 15, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  6. Your script “autoview” couldn’t open. Please verify it!!!

    Comment by sandra — May 24, 2009 @ 7:55 am

  7. sandra,
    I’m not sure what you mean by couldn’t open. What file is it that you’re trying to run? Have you read the README file?

    Comment by ermac318 — May 25, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

  8. Nice post

    i have some questions on security, you don’t install a anti-virus on the win flp ?
    do you activate firewall on win flp

    sorry for my english…

    Comment by BABAOU — May 27, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  9. Babaou,
    I don’t generally install an A/V on the client system because it’s locked down to the point where a user is not going to have the opportunity to infect the client system. To make sure that happens, yes make sure you have the firewall on and as secure as possible – there’s almost no reason you should need to connect TO the client system, only FROM the client system.

    Comment by ermac318 — May 29, 2009 @ 8:24 am

  10. Hi there, nice blog post. I have made some customixation to be able to do the same for Citrix, launching a Web Interface instead of VMware View. Hope it’s okay I customize these, post an artical and give you the credits ? Please give me a feedback


    Comment by Trond Eirik Haavarstein — June 24, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  11. Eric,
    Of course. Credit or not, it’s not rocket science. =)

    Comment by ermac318 — June 24, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  12. Hi maybe a stupid question, but I have a single ESXi host with 2 windows XP Pro VMs. I am converting two fat PCs to thin clients and would like to know whether to use Remote Desktop Connection to access each winxp VM or VMware View Client?


    Comment by cookieme — July 31, 2009 @ 7:23 am

  13. In order to use VMware View you need to have more than just a couple of XP VMs. You need to have your XP systems belong to active directory, you need virtual center, and you need a View connection server. If you are only dealing with 2 desktops it’s probably way more than you need, and if you’re using the Free version of ESXi you can’t even use that with View because you can’t join it to VirtualCenter.

    Comment by ermac318 — July 31, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

  14. And then somebody made a product of it and sells it for $25 pr lic….

    Google thin desktop

    Comment by Eric — August 4, 2009 @ 4:47 am

  15. Very helpful script. It dosen’t do anything that I wasn’t already doing manually but this made the process easy.

    However there were a couple of modicifiactions I needed to make to it to allow it to work on the HP T5630 clients I am using as follows.

    * Changed the password to User. This was required as the user account aleady existed with a password of User (uppercase U)
    * Added the command “ewfmgr c: -commit” just before the shutdown commands in both the .cmd files to automatically commit the changes rahter then having to carry this out manually.
    * reduced the count down timer to 10 seconds to speed things up.

    NOTE: Their is also an error in the UserRunOnce.cmd file which needs fixing. The command to remove the User account from the Administrators groups should be “net localgroup administrators user /delete”

    Comment by Richard — October 5, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

  16. Many thanks for the tutorial this has really helped me improve the way which we repurpose PCs. Do you happen to know a way of disabling the blue shade at the top on the vmware client. I know you can do it with an adm file but do not know how to import into WFLP. Maybe there is a registry value i can add instead. Many Thanks

    Comment by Ross — August 31, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  17. Ross,
    Anything you can do in group policy you could simply implement directly using registry keys. If you check out the ADM file in a text editor you can see what registry changes it would make and then add them straight up to the WFLP image…. assuming WinFLP has the Group Policy-reading capabilities, which come to think of it I’m not sure if it does. Try it out!

    Comment by ermac318 — August 31, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  18. […] into a thin client for our View deployments, I came across many solutions before we came upon AutoView by Justin Emerson at VM Junkie. AutoView is a series of scripts and registry edits that convert an […]

    Pingback by AutoView: Most Underrated View Tool? — September 29, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  19. Great Script! How did you set the USB to autoconnect by default?

    Also, are you aware that if you leave the Shade enabled, it makes it extremely easy for someone to break into a Locked VM. They just have to go up to the shade, Select switch desktop, close out of the current locked session then select that same VM again and the single sign on logs the intruder right back on. I’m struggling to find a way around this without disabling the shade.


    Comment by Dan — March 1, 2011 @ 7:20 am

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