From Microsoft “The System Preparation tool (Sysprep) is a technology that you can use with other deployment tools to install Microsoft Windows operating systems with minimal intervention by an administrator or technician.”
This tool is included by default with all of the Windows 7 versions. Generally, this tool is used to prepare a “master” image of a computer and deploy it to other computers. Thanks to new “file based imaging” system of Windows 7, we can create a “template” image of a computer with all the settings and applications and deploy this image to different type (brand and model) of computers.
By using sysprep, we can take off the integrated drivers from the OS. So, next time the syspreped image is booted, it is generating new SID (security identifier) and new drivers. This way, your Windows OS is not going to be in conflict with the new hardware that you are copying the image.
You can use an imaging tool of your choice right after the sysprep. It can be your preferred one like Symantec Ghost, Acronis, ClonZilla or a new tool that Microsoft is supporting “ImageX” which is part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). In this guide, I’ll only cover the sysprep part and I’ll explain briefly what to do after the sysprep.
I’ll try to cover the imaging process in my following posts. It’s a very critical process of big system deployment jobs. I’ll cover that subject with the ImageX tool from Microsoft. I’ll go in deep as usual in order to give you all the tips and hints of deploying systems with ImageX and Windows Automated Installation Kit.
Please read the whole document before proceeding with the instructions.
1- First thing is first; let’s build your system as you like. Setup all your preferences and install all your applications. Don’t forget your updates and latest drivers for your system.
2- Once everything is set and you believe that your system is ready to be deployed to your other computers, we can start syspreping your computer. Open an elevated command prompt as “Administrator” and type
“cd C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep” hit the “Enter” key.
“sysprep.exe /generalize /oobe /shutdown” hit the “Enter” key.
3- Your system begins the sysprep operations and with the command that we entered, the “/generalize” switch will prepare the image, take off all the drivers from the OS which makes your image “Hardware Independent”. The “/oobe” switch will show you the “Out-of-Box Experience after the deployment of the image and finally the “/shutdown” switch will shut down your computer after the sysprep process is completed.
4- Once your computer is shut down, boot into your “System Image” software such as Acronis or WinPE for ImageX and make a “backup” of your computer or “capture” an image with ImageX to a network location or to an external hard drive.
5- Now it’s time to clone! Boot into your “System Image” software on the new machine that you want to copy the OS and this time do a “restore” or “apply” the image with ImageX.
Congratulations, you have just syspreped and imaged a Windows 7 computer. You can now deploy an OS with all the applications and updates installed in about 1 hour!
As I mentioned, this guide covers only the sysprep process and a brief explanation of the imaging process. In the following posts, I’ll try to cover the imaging process with details.