Replacing Computers in a Hospital, Part 2 – Linux Liaison

Replacing Computers in a Hospital, Part 2

In the last post of a similar title, I went through a surface-level view of how the process goes with replacing the computers at the hospital I’m doing an internship at. A few wanted more; they wanted to read about the finer details, like the software and hardware being used, and a little more detail on the day-to-day of replacing these machines. Here it goes.

The day starts out by checking out which rooms with PCs to be replaced are close together (mostly about being on the same floor). This makes for a more efficient schedule because there’s too many people for the amount of people traveling in the hospital. Once a collection of PCs have been gathered (usually about 3-4 PCs) I take the sheets with the computers’ info, like the room, and the last user that logged on, with me and go to those rooms.

I scout the location of the computer within the room, see of the monitor needs to be replaced, and ask any users around if they recognize the username I have on my sheet and ask when the best time would be to replace the computer. I iterate that it’s important that the PC be replaced and at that point, it’s up to the user to specify the time that’s best, or straight up refuse to have the PC be replaced. I’ve not yet had a person refuse a “free” new computer to do their work with. If they refuse, we have the right to refuse to support their computer forward, aside from replacing the computer at the time their current machine fails.

Once I’ve gotten a few PCs that I can replace same day, I start actually manipulating the hardware. I bring the computer and (if needed) the monitor down to the room on a cart and sit at the desk belonging to the computer to be replaced. I check the software that resides on the Windows 7 (of course) Enterprise machine as well as mark down the name and location of the printer currently assigned to the machine. After that’s done, I shut the computer down and begin unplugging it and untether the locking kit from the PC and the desk.

Once all the old hardware is removed from the desk, I install the new machine. At the moment, any machines smaller than 22 inches in size is being replaced, regardless of age. However, if the monitor is 22 or larger and I’m installing a ThinkCentre tiny and doesn’t have a displayport input, then I have to change the monitor regardless. At the same time, I install a new mouse and keyboard if warranted. I make that judgement based on whether the keyboard and mouse look decent or not.

After the new hardware is installed and everything is all plugged, I boot up the new PC and test various pieces of software that have been preinstalled to make sure that they’re functional I remotely connect to the PC in my office. From there I do a lookup for the new machine’s hostname in Active Directory and add the machine to two or more groups. The groups correspond to specific printers. When a machine is part of a printer group, the printer is added  to the list of printers a logged in user can print to. I don’t know if this is industry standard, so I might be explaining this for nothing.

Once I’m done testing the software, I have to mark down the tag numbers that correspond to the old monitor, and new monitor (or just the existing monitor if I haven’t replaced it) as well as the number marked next to the ethernet outlet that the PC is plugged into. This is for keeping inventory up to date and to make sure that the new hardware is linked together in the database.

After I write down the important information, I pack up the old hardware and bring it back upstairs to our office for backup. Keep in mind this is not a functional backup and they are only stored for a month. This is not meant to restore a full machine, just to preserve potentially local data that resided on the old machine. To back up the hard disk, I plug an external drive and USB stick into the machine, power it up, and boot into a Macrium Reflect rescue image. From there I take an “intelligent” image of the main partition and store it on the external hard drive. The intelligent part means that it only takes up as much space as there are bits actually used in the partition, and this is part of why I use this and not an open-source piece of software. It means that I can store more backups on the same amount of storage. I haven’t found a suitable alternative.

After the backup is taken, I unplug the eHD and plug it into a networked machine. I look up the hostname of the new machine using an application called C2 which handles inventory and support ticketing. Once I find the hostname, I use the “back door” into the machine using the path \\hostname\c$ which gives me access to the C drive of the new machine. I then mount the backup image of the PC I just removed, and transfer the data folders from the backup into the new machine. If the user is missing any files, they’re told to call us and they’ll know where to find your files.

Once this is done, I enter all the data collected during the install into an excel spreadsheet for future reference and email my boss with these details as well so he can manually update the inventory.

All of the actual changing of hardware, testing of software, and backup/restore of data can take anywhere between an hour and two hours depending on whether or not any issues occurred during the testing of software or backing up/restoring of data.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this step-by-step process. This is part of my daily routine. The fact that I have a platform to talk about it with people who are interested in seeing behind the scenes makes me so happy. I feel so lucky and I’m glad that you stopped by.

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