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Using SYSPREP Before Creating a System Image

SYSPREP is a Windows utility that allows a computer to be generalized. If you’re restoring system images (using Ghost or a similar technology) to multiple PCs on a network, then it is imperitive that you first run SYSPREP to generalize the system.

Not doing this will not only result in several PCs with the same computer name, but their unique identifiers (used by Active Directory and others) will all be identical. As you can imagine, having multiple PCs with the same computer name can be a real issue for network admins. Running a
SYSPREP allows the PC to be generalized with new unique IDs so that you get an “Out of the Box” experience (OOBE) on the next boot. While a SYSPREP can be done to any PC before attaching it to the network, I suggest running SYSPREP before you create a master image.

How to SYSPREP a Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC:

  1. Browse to “C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep” folder and launch the SYSPREP executable.
  2. In the System Cleanup Action drop down select “Enter System Out of Box Experience (OOBE)”
  3. Make sure to check the Generalize checkbox
  4. In the Shutdown options I suggest selecting Shutdown. This way after the system is prepped, the PC will shutdown, and will be ready for you to create your master image.

Once your system has gone through the SYSPREP process, before the computer boots again, it is safe to create a master image using your imaging software.

This method works not only on Windows 7, but Windows 8 and Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012. I do also want to mention that it is a good idea to run SYSPREP on any virtual guest templates before rolling them out in masses on a Hyper-V or VMware host.


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About the author

Robert Borges

About Robert...

I have been in the IT industry since 1993 focusing mainly in networking. Though I got an early start as an amateur computer enthusiast, and wrote my first database app at age 12, I started my professional career working in the MIS department of one of the largest liquor distributors in the northeast. I started out there as a systems operator on the company’s two mainframe systems. From there I moved into PC support, and help design and implement the company’s first client-server network… This was back in the days of Win NT 3.51. I also worked on my first migration to NT 4.0 back then.

From there I went on to work with Novell 3.x and 4.x along with Windows domains and active directory environments. Working my way up from technician, to specialist, to administrator, and eventually all the way up to Sr. Engineer. I spent many years working for consulting firms, 9 of which I owned and operated my own firm.
Over the years, I have worked with (at an expert level) various versions of: Windows client and server operating systems (including Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2);various virtualization technologies (Hyper-V, Virtual Server, Virtual PC, VMware, etc…); MS-SQL server 6.5- 2008 R2; Exchange 4-2010, and much more.

I am now Director of Information Systems at Bay State Integrated Technology focusing on cloud computing and IT service, with expertise in: IT Infrastructure & Architecture, IT Security, and Cloud Computing platforms & technologies (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS).

I am in a constant state of learning about new products, and new versions of products. Many of which we end up implementing in lab environments and sometimes for our clients. I have a pretty broad range of expertise and experience. It is my goal to share some of this experience on this blog to help enrich the IT community.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.robertborges.us/2012/12/windows/using-sysprep-before-creating-a-system-image/


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  1. Dominik

    Hi Robert,

    i´ve searched the net to get a answer how to do the sysprep task right.If I understand you right the process is the

    1. Install the Master with Updates, Tools etc.
    2. Start Sysprep with you settings from above.
    3. Create a Image for example with Acronis
    4. Deploy it to the systems

    But why I read everywhere to use the audit mode to create the image? Is there something wrong with the solution above? I´m already do it like you described it. Is there any advantage to install it in audit mode?
    Hopefully you can help me with that. I like your blog btw 😉



    1. Robert Borges


      Audit mode can be used instead of OOBE (Out of Box Experience) if you’d like to customize you Windows image a little more. There is nothing wrong with doing it either way, it all depends on your preference and needs. Running SysPrep in audit mode allows you to skip some of the Welcome screen stuff on your next first boot. If I’m working in a lab environment I tend to use OOBE so I have the equivalent of a new PC or Server.

      Here is a good TechNet article on using Audit mode: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc722413(v=WS.10).aspx

      Robert Borges

  2. Ron

    Thanks for your excellent counsel with respect to SYSPREP and image creation. I hope my question isn’t too basic, but after I run SYSPREP, generalize, and create an image, am I correct in understanding that PCs running an an operating system built with that image can still be booted into audit mode (CTRL + SHIFT + F3) for a few final tweaks?

    1. Robert Borges

      That is correct. If you want to enter audit mode on a system/image that has already been generalized using SYSPREP, simply press Shift + Ctrl + F3 when you get to the Windows Welcome Screen on your first boot. For more information see my post Using SYSPREP in Audit Mode Before Creating a System Image.

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