Skip to main content

Goodbye imaging; hello better IT workflows

Change can be hard. And when you’ve been imaging computers for most — if not all — of your career, it can be extremely hard.

The whispers of “imaging is dead” accompanied macOS High Sierra as Apple introduced Apple File System (APFS) to the Mac. Now, whispers have turned to shouts as macOS Mojave takes yet another step further in rendering imaging a thing of the past.

What is imaging?

Imaging is a set of technologies that are used in a variety of deployment scenarios to copy configurations onto a computer, and comes in a variety of forms:

  • Monolithic imaging — Erasing an entire hard drive or volume and re-writing it with entirely new data, including operating system (OS), customizations and applications.
  • Modular imaging — Similar to monolithic imaging, the entire hard drive is erased. However, a known good OS is applied first, then components such as configurations and applications are applied on top of it.
  • Thin imaging — While technically not imaging, this method assumes the shipping version of macOS is good and simply applies settings, configurations and applications on top of the shipping OS via management solutions like Jamf Pro.

With macOS High Sierra and macOS Mojave, Apple no longer recommends or supports monolithic system imaging as an installation method, because the system image might not include model-specific information such as firmware updates. Additionally, Mac computers must be connected to the internet to receive updates.

Why is imaging going away?

Traditional imaging techniques can be time consuming to build and maintain because software is updated often, and new hardware usually ships with different macOS build numbers.

Aside from the time component, security plays a tremendous role in the move away from supporting traditional workflows. The last thing any organization wants is a user to have malicious software installed on their computer. In order to ensure the OS is genuine and secure, Apple has added security to new Mac devices. This security comes in the form of the Apple T2 chip, and is shipping with the iMac Pro and new MacBook Pro.

From a security perspective, this is fantastic news for organizations, IT and users. But, the traditional workflows of pushing OSs over the network or block copying monolithic images via cables to Mac devices is rendered incompatible on new Mac hardware with an Apple T2 chip.

Shifting to modern deployment methods

It’s important to understand that the transition from imaging to provisioning workflows is just that, a transition, and not a complete cutover. There are many Mac devices currently being used by employees, staff and students that utilize traditional imaging workflows. These methods will still work on older operating systems, but organizations will need to migrate workflows moving forward.

A modern provisioning technique (and the recommended process for replacing imaging) involves Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP) — now part of Apple Business Manager and Apple School Manager. As Apple’s modern deployment programs, these services automatically configure systems by loading a mobile device management (MDM) profile onto devices when those devices initially connect to the internet.

This makes devices more secure, and forces all devices to comply with organizational standards, all while empowering IT with zero-touch configuration of endpoints.

With the rapid pace at which third-party software development, patches and updates are published, the pace of provisioning has never been more fluid and matches the needs of organizations as they change and evolve. Hosting and/or moving data to the cloud simplifies deployments further and becomes the source of truth for configuration and security needs — allowing IT to forget about outdated images and old packages.

How to build new provisioning workflows

Our recent white paper, Tides of Change: New Workflows to Replace Imaging, provides step-by-step guidance for three deployment workflows to replace imaging:

  1. Provisioning — Preparing a new device for a user.
  2. Re-provisioning — Re-issuing old hardware to a new user.
  3. OS Upgrades — Installing the latest operating system on a device.

Read the paper to see which best fits your needs and start putting a plan in place to successfully upgrade your devices to macOS Mojave.

Download Now