For Staff> UNSW Desktop

UNSW Desktop

The introduction of a Standard Operating Environment (SOE) across the fleet of desktops and notebooks commenced in 2008 as part of a significant IT Change Program at UNSW. There are now over 8,500 Windows and 1,500 Mac SOE computers supported by UNSW IT, delivering a highly consistent computing experience across the university.

To assist staff in understanding the SOE, the list below of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) has been produced. Feedback is welcomed via an email to the IT Service Centre.

How do I request a desktop or notebook?
Procurement information and the ordering process can be found on the UNSW IT intranet:
This information includes the standard computers available (Windows and Mac) and their specifications, prices, etc. along with more FAQs specific to procurement.

Can I order a device with different specifications than the standards?
SOE machines can be ordered with increased specifications to meet users’ needs, though delivery time will take longer. A specific build can be provided with a larger Hard Disk and/or memory and still be supported by Shared Services as a SOE.

If unsure about anything, call the IT Service Centre on 9385 1333 or your local IT support staff for assistance.

Standard UNSW Desktop Configuration

What is a Standard Operating Environment (SOE)?
An SOE is a collection of standards and components that make up the desktop environment.  The UNSW SOE includes:

  • A Base Operating system (e.g. Windows 7)
  • Security software (e.g. Anti-virus)
  • Application sets (e.g. MS Office and Adobe Reader are part of a base set)
  • Desktop Customisation and configuration to provide a more seamless experience when connecting and accessing UNSW systems.
The operating system and security software are part of a base system ('Tier 0'). Applications and tailored settings are then installed and applied as follows:

  • 'Tier 1' – Applications common to all computers (eg. MS Office);
  • 'Tier 1.5' – Applications common to a Department or School or Lab (eg. AutoCAD)
  • 'Tier 2' – Application specific to users (eg. MS Project)
Why has UNSW adopted a SOE? What are the benefits?
Managing a fleet of approximately 14,000 PCs is a sizeable challenge and more so if there are many brands, models, and software environments. UNSW is taking progressive steps towards standardisation of the hardware, software and deployment tools. The benefits of doing this are numerous including:

  • Quicker delivery of hardware and base software;
  • Consistent and more responsive support of your environment, from UNSW support staff and 3rd party servicing;
  • Automated delivery of applications;
  • Improved protection from vulnerabilities through responsive security patching;
  • More efficient support processes which will ensure UNSW’s growing complexity and demand for IT services are accommodated;
  • Improved asset management and equipment replacement; and
  • Improved protection of locally stored data, and the overall ‘health’ and stability of the PC.
Over 10,000 of UNSW’s Windows and Mac fleets are currently supported under the SOE support model.

Do I have to use the UNSW SOE PC; can I build my own?
UNSW encourages staff to adopt the UNSW SOE to receive the benefits outlined above. If a staff member’s role involves significant activity not viable under the SOE, requirements should be directed to your local Manager or IT Manager. They will review your request with the UNSW IT Desktop Management team.
A reminder that UNSW is accountable for all UNSW-issued desktop hardware and software and as such, any deviation from the SOE must be reviewed.

Are Mac and Linux SOEs included in the rollout?
An SOE for the Mac operating system was developed in 2010 and has continued to evolve. There is currently no SOE build process for Linux.


What software comes on the UNSW SOE?

Windows 7 Mac OS X v10.9
Internet Explorer 11 Safari 7.x
Google Chrome Google Chrome, Drive, Earth
Adobe Reader XI Adobe Reader
MS Office 2010 Pro Plus Mozilla Firefox
UNSW Screensaver, fonts, ppt templates MS Office 2011, OneDrive, OneNote
MS Media Player Apple iTunes, iBook, iMovie
Cisco VPN Anyconnect (Laptops) Citrix Receiver
VLC Media Player Evernote
Adobe Shockwave Player Endnote
Adobe Flash Player MS OneNote
RealPlayer CrashPlan Backup (Laptops only)
Apple Quicktime Cisco VPN Anyconnect (Laptops)
Mozilla Firefox Dropbox

Why are some packaged applications not the current version?
The UNSW Community has very diverse needs resulting in over 320 unique applications the Desktop team package and deploy. We endeavour to keep the more commonly requested applications up to date, and a large majority are updated in the Nov-Feb period in readiness for the Student’s return.

I have a different version of Windows and/or OS X than what is listed above; will this be supported?
The Desktop Shared Services group currently support only the above listed Operating Systems and the last previously deployed version on proviso it is still supported by Microsoft and/or Apple.

How do I get other software installed on my computer?  Who pays for it?
Requesting additional software either specifically for an individual or for a team is actioned through the IT Service Centre. We recommend staff first view UNSW’s software pages as there are various conditions to be aware of. In some cases, delivery of pre-packaged software can be installed automatically upon the first call to the IT Service Centre, and in other cases approval, payment and/or manual installation are required.

What is ‘software packaging’ and when might I need it?
UNSW IT are progressively packaging software commonly used across UNSW. This allows the software to then be automatically delivered (and configured) to the PCs for immediate use. It also allows for easy (and automatic) removal.

Can I install software myself?
UNSW encourages users to install software under the assistance of IT support staff and to ensure all products have been captured/registered either via a call or email to the IT Service Centre. All staff are also requested to be familiar with the licensing conditions that come with software products as listed on the software pages.
Academics and specific general staff who frequently need to install software on the PC will be provided the ability to do so.

I regularly run software simulations or research processes on my machine and do not want them interrupted by patching and updates. Can I do this with SOE?
UNSW IT offer HPC services to cater for long computations, in addition to high specification SOE workstations to minimise the simulation/computational timeframes.
UNSW IT are required to implement information security controls, such as security patching computers, to protect the university against malicious activity. However, UNSW IT recognise there will be exceptions and can cater for deferring patching for a nominated time, conditional on the business justifications. Exceptions can be requested through the IT Service Centre.

Can I use an Apple Mac rather than a Windows PC?
Apple Mac machines (laptop and desktop) can be ordered via the IT Procurement web site. Similar to Windows PCs they can be built to higher specifications if required and still remain a SOE. Before placing an order, check with your supervisor/manager and IT to ensure the applications you require can be run on the SOE Mac.

Can I install Parallels or VMWare on a SOE Mac?
UNSW IT permit the installation of Parallels or VMWare on SOE staff Macs, but do not support either product, or the [Windows] platform and products when installed within the virtual machine(VM).
UNSW IT recommend not proceeding with such a configuration without first consulting Desktop Services to understand your business requirements and the responsibilities and risks you will face to support the VM.

Can I have a SOE Dual Boot Mac (with OSX & Windows)?
UNSW IT do not support Dual Boot solutions (such as using Bootcamp). This has been tried in earlier years and was found to be an unsustainable solution as both platforms went through version upgrades and security patch cycles.

Can I run windows-based applications on a SOE Mac?
Desktop Services have many applications packaged for both the Windows and Mac SOE environments, including apps common to both platforms, such as Skype, Dropbox, Adobe CC, etc. Applications that are only designed for Windows (such as Visio, Calumo, TRIM) cannot be installed locally on SOE Macs. There are some cases where Windows apps are hosted on central systems and made available by using Citrix software installed locally on Mac (and Windows) devices.

Can a generic ID be used for a shared computer, such as pool laptops?
‘Guest connection’ services are available to allow visitors, conferences, etc. to access UNSW’s wireless network without the need for a zID.

Shared SOE PCs are viable (eg. front counters, kiosks) and depending on the circumstances can be configured with an auto logon.

Contact the IT Service Centre for further information.

Can I use and install UNSW software on my home PC for personal use?
Some products are available for home use. Details can be found in the Software Distribution section.

I need non-standard software? Can I have it?
UNSW encourage staff to use the standard software products. Where a standard product does not exist to carry out part of your university role, or, only partially accommodates your requirement, IT will assist with the provision/installation of non-standard software.

Can I access my “My Documents” folder if I log into a different machine?
The My Documents folder for Windows users is replicated to the central file server for Windows 7 users and is therefore accessible from another SOE Windows 7 computer.

Am I able to use another person’s computer using my log in?
Yes. Staff will be able to login to other UNSW computers and access your “My Documents” folder and mapped network drives. Staff may find the installed software on other UNSW computers is not the same as on their own computer. If access to different software is required, the IT Service Centre will be able to assist.

Is MS Office compatible with earlier versions of MS Office?
Yes, MS Office is natively compatible with earlier versions of MS Office and has been setup to save documents in a format that can be opened on earlier versions of MS Office. ‘Viewers’ are also installed on all computers as part of the standard build.

Travel Plans and/or Off Campus

I am going on Sabbatical and will be away from the office for a long time. Do I need to arrange any changes to my SOE laptop before I leave?
The SOE service offering relies on various systems beyond what is installed on the laptop. As an example, any Microsoft products installed receive their licenses from a central system and must ‘check in’ to that system every 180 days. If you plan to be away and your laptop will be off the UNSW network for several months, UNSW IT recommend you preferably ‘check in’ the computer to the UNSW Network once per month. ‘Checking in’ is achieved by launching the Cisco AnyConnect software that is installed on all SOE Windows and Mac laptops.

UNSW IT recommend contacting the IT Service Centre to assist in preparing for any of the following scenarios:

  • You will be off-network for any period longer than 180 days;
  • You are going on sabbatical;
  • You will be working in remote or Internet-limited locations; or
  • You have a desktop computer that will be idle while away for longer than 180 days
Will my laptop receive patch updates if I connect to the Internet when I’m away?
SOE computers will continue to receive Anti-virus updates when connected to the internet. To receive security patches for windows and other software products, you are required to launch the Cisco AnyConnect software while connected to the Internet.

Software Updates

Is software on SOE computers automatically updated?
Any planned rollout of new software versions will go through a Change Management process including ample warning and announcements to all staff. Updates are released in the last week of the month, and typically include latest updates for commonly used applications (Adobe Reader, iTunes, Skype, Chrome).

Do I need to download patches or update my anti-virus?
All Desktops and Notebooks will receive their anti-virus and SOE security patches automatically.

What about non-security related patches for my software?
The desktop team will pro-actively publish non-security patches for 'packaged software' (e.g. Visio Service Pack) as part of the monthly patching cycle.

Computer Relocations

I’m relocating to another desk and need my computer equipment to move too.
Some of the things UNSW IT need to consider when you relocate are:

  • Does the new desk have active phone and computer outlets?
  • Have you changed roles; are you relocating to a new School and/or department?
  • Is the computer outlet on the same local network (“vLAN”) as your original desk?
  • Which printers will you now be using?
So, we recommend contacting the IT Service Centre to arrange for an IT person to schedule a time to help relocate your computer (and your desk-phone extension). This will be done during business hours.

If many computers are being relocated as part of a larger project, such as during building works, the request to the Service Centre will be directed to IT Desktop Management for project scoping and costing. These requests will typically be handled outside business hours.

Computer Replacements

When my computer is due for replacement, how long does it take?
Migrations typically take 3-4 hours per computer. To minimise disruption to you, the installation of the common and departmental applications are done before we come desk-side. The migration time varies depending on the amount of data you require to be transferred from the old to the new computer.

What is the lifecycle of the computers?
The desktops are procured with 4 years on-site warranty and the laptops with 3 years

What happens to my old computer?
Your old computer will be disposed of through your Local IT (or Buyer) department. In conjunction with UNSW Sustainability and Facilities Management, UNSW IT has an e-waste service for the asset recovery of obsolete IT equipment.

What happens if my computer falls Out of Warranty (OoW)?
If you are aware your UNSW computer has fallen out of warranty, contact your Manager to discuss a replacement. In the event you experience any issues while the SOE computer is out of warranty, UNSW IT will:

  • a. Resolve it when it is a non-hardware related issue AND we will inform you it is OoW and advise you to contact your manager; or
  • b. Alert Local IT and/or your Manager if it is hardware fault AND OoW to arrange for a replacement.

Can I extend the warranty of my computer?
Departments can extend warranties for batches of PCs, and UNSW ITs’ preference is it be for no more than 6 months.

Using and Customising your UNSW SOE Computer

Will I have administrative access to my SOE computer?
The SOE is provided to the majority of staff on desktops with user-level access as the default. Due to the mobility needs of laptop users, they are provided with elevated privileges (Admin Rights); this means the user only leverages the Administrator privileges when performing certain actions (e.g. Adding a printer or installing s/w). This is a safer method of operating than running with Administrator privileges all the time, but caution must still be taken to avoid security threats.

Elevated Privileges are provided to some Desktop users based on their business needs, and can be requested through the IT Service Centre.

Why can't I save files to some areas of my C: drive?
The SOE computer has been setup to prevent saving files to selected areas of the C: drive to minimise security threats. To save personal files, the “My Documents” folder is the recommended location to do this. The “My Documents” folder resides on the File Server and is backed up each day.

Can I change my Desktop background (wallpaper)
Yes. The SOE allows you to change your wallpaper to suit your own preferences.

Laptop Users

Why does my laptop “Synchonize Offline Files” every time I log in or log off?
Windows Laptop users have the feature “Offline Files” enabled. This feature synchronises your files and folders saved in the “My Documents” folder with the server each time you log on or off. This enables access to the My Documents folder when offline (i.e. not connected to the Network). Any changes made to a file or folder within the “My Documents” folder will be replicated between your computer and the server.

Tip: For laptops users, it is recommended that large amounts of data are not stored in the “My Documents" folder, but rather on Network Shares or Research storage services which can be requested via the IT Service Centre.

For Apple Mac SOE laptop users, a CrashPlan backup service is used rather than MobileSync. The CrashPlan service seamlessly backups up locally stored data every 15mins across systems at two UNSW data centres.

How can I enable or disable wireless networking and Bluetooth?
Press the wireless network button on your laptop to enable or disable wireless networking and Bluetooth. For HP laptops it is located near the power button and looks like this:
wireless icon

Can I connect to my wireless network at home with my SOE laptop?
Yes. To do this, first enable the wireless networking on your laptop. Press the wireless network button on your laptop to enable or disable wireless networking and Bluetooth. For HP laptops, it is located near the power button and looks like this:
wireless icon
Now click the wireless icon in your system tray. Choose your home network from the list and enter the “Network Key” or password for your home Wireless network.