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 imperative 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. The next boot will bring you to the Windows Welcome Screen, where you’ll be prompted to accept the EULA (End User License Agreement) and enter an Administrator password (if running Windows Server).
Audit Mode is a special way to boot directly to the desktop before you get to the Windows Welcome screen. This gives administrators or OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) the opportunity to install Windows Updates, drivers, and other software. Audit Mode is completed when SYSPREP is run again.
There are two ways to get to audit mode: Run SYSPREP with the “Enter System Audit Mode” option, or press <Shift> + <Ctrl> + <F3> at the Windows Welcome screen.
How to SYSPREP a Windows 7/8 PC or Windows Server 2008/2012 in Audit Mode:
- Browse to “C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep” folder and launch the SYSPREP executable.
- In the System Cleanup Action drop down select “Enter System Audit Mode”.
- Make sure to check the Generalize checkbox.
- 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.
How to SYSPREP a Windows 7/8 PC or Windows Server 2008/2012 in Audit Mode from Command Line:
- Open an Administrative Command Prompt.
- Type the following then press <Enter>: CD \Windows\System32\Sysprep
- Type the following then press <Enter>: SYSPREP /generalize /audit /shutdown
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.