Hardware configuration registry

Like many other geeks out there, from time to time I get called to fix up laptops, computers and other generic hardware, with and without network connections and other stuff like that. With a series of reasons, causes and other happenings, it turns out that sometimes I wish to finish, clean up, and go away as soon as possible. Today was one of those times.

Usually, when I have updates to take care of I travel with an USB stick with the most common Windows updates, service packs, drivers, and other things like those. Unfortunately it does not always work quite that well because I have difficulties to remember which driver to download for nVidia motherboards and graphics cards, but I can usually manage quite quickly.

Unfortunately, today I learnt the hard way that I should also travel with firmware updates for other hardware, since everything is upgradable nowadays. In particular, I should remember to ask the router’s model before going, and remember whether there are PlayStation3 units involved or similar. Would have reduced the time spent taking care of all the updates.

Now I’m also considering, since I have quite a few people whom I manage the computers for, whether I should keep a hardware registry of all those computers, so I can remember not only the type of hardware in them (to know which drivers I need to carry around), but also the bios/firmware versions, the hardware addresses for network cards, and other similar details.

This is not really much of a problem if it isn’t that I need to find a way to keep this data easily searchable per person, with due comments, private but also accessible over the net (especially since adding entries to such a registry I could very well do when I’m away); maybe I should use a private wiki on my server to take care of this, password-protecting it (maybe I should also put it over SSL).

Another problem I’d have to cope with is an easy way to get the data I need. I guess I can easily use an USB key with SysRescueCD and a couple of custom scripts to generate a system report. What remains a problem is a way to connect the data I have on my box, on the storage filesystem, with the various configurations, so that for instance, just opening the configuration for Bob it could tell me which drivers I have available locally, and provide me an easy interface to just copy them over on a given flash drive. And links to the sites to download the new ones.

Does anybody know if anything vaguely similar? I’d rather not have to write my own software for this. I think the worst problem is finding a way to export the data in a more software-manageable way so that it could generate CDs and USB keys on the fly for the various configuration. But I’m sure I’m not the first person to have similar needs, am I?