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I have read a lot of different blog posts, Microsoft documentations and attended several courses (including Microsoft’s ‘Deploying Windows 7’) to find out the most effective method to create a Windows 7 deployment image.

I now feel I have enough knowledge and experience to be able to share my process to a wider audience.

I’ve tried to keep this tutorial clear and concise to ensure that steps are in the correct order, as this matters!

 

Table of Contents:
Section 1 : Install Windows 7 and programs
Section 2 : Create an unattend.xml answer file
Section 3 : Create a script to remove the unattend.xml file after deployment
Section 4 : Image before sysprep
Section 5 : Run sysprep and image
Section 6 : Deploy image

Hint: In most cases throughout this tutorial, file names, script commands and the like are case sensitive.

Section 1 : Install Windows 7 and programs

    1. Install Windows 7 (Enterprise) from CD or USB flash drive

 

  • Important: When you arrive at the Welcome Screen (where you are asked to create a username and account) press CTRL+SHIFT+F3 to enter into ‘audit’ mode.  The computer should restart and automatically log you into a temporary built-in administrator account.  Cool ‘ey!

 

 

  • Warning:  After system startup, a sysprep GUI box will appear.  Close this box (DO NOT PRESS ANY BUTTONS as this will activate the sysprep process and you may need to reinstall!).

 

 

  • Now install any Windows Updates and deployment wide programs (such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash Player, Java, printer drivers etc). You can restart if required because you will automatically be logged back into this temporary built-in administrator account. You will be stuck in this audit mode until sysprep is run later in the process.

 

 

  • Remember to license and activate (except for Windows as sysprep will undo Windows Activation) any required software; as this will be remembered and you won’t have to perform it on each the deployed computers individually.

 

 

  • Hint:  Any modifications you make to this user profile will be automatically copied to the local system default user profile.  So if you don’t use roaming profiles, this is a great time to adjust your start menu, desktop wallpaper and icons, and general profile modifications as these settings will apply to all newly created users on the system.

 

 

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Section 2 : Create an unattend.xml answer file

    1. Head over to the Microsoft website to download Windows AIK for Windows 7, if you don’t have it already. Why?

 

  • Install Windows AIK on any compatible system, this doesn’t need to be your base image system (in fact it is better not to, however you can uninstall it after creating your unattend.xml if you like).

 

 

  • Once installed, open the Windows System Image Manager from the Start Menu. WSIM looks pretty boring: images2

 

 

  • Under the ‘Windows Image’ heading (bottom left) right click on ‘Select a Windows image or catalog file’, you will be presented with a file open dialogue.  Insert your Windows 7 (Enterprise) DVD/image and locate the following file: ‘D:\sources\install_Windows 7 ENTERPRISE.clg’ images

 

 

  • In the File menu select to ‘Create a New Answer File’

 

 

  • The overall idea of this utility is to create an unattend.xml file that the sysprep utility can utilise to preset settings during the Windows Setup process of the deployed image.  Items like creating local user accounts, setting the Windows Product Key, setting the locale (language) information, setting network location settings and other items that you are normally presented with when installing Windows 7.  As these settings are most often consistent across all of your deployment, it makes sense to set them automatically.  These next few steps may seem daunting at first, however all we are doing is obtaining possible options from the ‘Windows Image’ that we have loaded from step 4 and importing these options into the answer file, then specifying these settings.

 

 

  • In the ‘Windows Image’ area (bottom left) select ‘amd64_Microsoft-Windows-Security-SPP_6.1.7600.16385_neutral‘ (amd64 may also be x86 if you installed in 32bit) right-click it and select ‘Add to parse 3 generalize’.  This moves this option into our answer file. Now select this item in the main window, this will show you the possible configuration options in the ‘Properties’ window on the right.  Set ‘SkipRearm’ to 1. Hint: Technically this should overwrite the Windows 7 rearm limit from 3 to unlimited.  Sometimes this hasn’t worked for me, and you could end up with a useless image after 3 sysprep’s.  I will show you later how to ensure to overcome this.

 

 

  • Now you have performed one setting and realised ‘it’s not that bad‘ you should be able follow these steps for the following items:

 

 

amd64_Microsoft-Windows-Deployment_6.1.7600.16385_neutral into parse 4 specialize, right-click on RunSynchronous and add a command, then select ‘RunSynchronousCommand[Order=”1″]’ and in Properties add the following:

Order: 1 path: net user administrator /active:yes WillReboot: Never

– amd64_Microsoft-Windows-Security-SPP-UX_6.1.7600.16385_neutral into parse 4 specialize

SkipAutoActivation: false (false will ensure that if you have used a volume license key Windows will automatically activate for you)

– amd64_Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup_6.1.7600.16385_neutral into parse 4 specialize

Computer Name: Leave blank CopyProfile: true Registered Organization: Microsoft (you must leave this in this section) Registered Owner: AutoBVT (you must leave this in this section)  Why AutoBVT? ShowWindowsLive: false TimeZone: AUS Eastern Standard Time (Must be spelt exactly according to TimeZone settings here from Microsoft’s website)

amd64_Microsoft-Windows-International-Core_6.1.7600.16385_neutral into parse 7 oobeSystem

InputLocale: en-au SystemLocale: en-au UILanguage: en-au UserLocale: en-au

amd64_Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup_6.1.7600.16385_neutral into parse 7 oobeSystem

RegisteredOrganization: Your Company Name RegisteredOwner: Your Name AutoLogon

Enabled: true LogonCount: 5 (this will automatically log into the following account this number of times after setup so you can easily perform other software activations etc.  Logging out will override this setting.) Username: administrator

Password: Administrator Password

 

FirstLogonCommands (right-click and add 2)

SynchronousCommand[Order=”1″]

CommandLine: cscript //b c:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs /ipk XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX (windows 7 license key) Order: 1 RequiresUserInput: false

SynchronousCommand[Order=”2″]

CommandLine: cscript //b c:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs /ato Order: 2 RequiresUserInput: false

 

OOBE

HideEULAPage: true NetworkLocation: (Home/Work/etc) ProtectYourPC: 1

UserAccounts

AdministratorPassword: Administrator Password         On LocalAccounts, right-click and select action: AddListItem (this automatically creates a local Admin account) LocalAccount[Name=”Administrator”]

Description: Local Administrator DisplayName: Administrator Group: Administrators Name: Administrator

Password: Administrator Password

 

 

 

Important Security Information

Any passwords you have set in the answer file are stored unencrypted. Ensure you protect this file, especially if you entered a local administrator account password.

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Section 3 : Create a script to remove the unattend.xml file after deployment

    1. On the deployment base image computer open Notepad and enter in the following lines:
      del /Q /F c:\windows\system32\sysprep\unattend.xml
      del /Q /F c:\windows\panther\unattend.xml

       

 

  • These lines of code will delete the unattend.xml file from the computer once the Windows Setup is finished with them (this file is copied into the panther directory during setup hence the two lines)

 

 

  • Save this file to the desktop called SetupComplete.cmd (ensure to change the file type from .txt to all types so the file doesn’t get saved as SetupComplete.cmd.txt)

 

 

  • Now create a folder called Scripts in this directory: C:\Windows\Setup\ and drag this file into it (you may be prompted for Administrator authority).  Hint:  Windows will automatically check for the existence of this file and run it after Windows Setup has completed, feel free to add anything else into this file you think may be helpful at this stage.

 

 

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Section 4 : Image before sysprep

    1. This is an optional step, however it is a lot easier down the track to restore an image of your current system to apply updates/modifications to before you run sysprep.  This also ensures that you don’t run into any activation issues (as mentioned earlier Windows 7 has a maximum number of 3 rearms before the image can no longer be sysprepped, rendering your image useless for deployment).

 

  • Use your preferred PE boot environment to upload the image to a server (I use DeployStudio as we are a majority Mac school, however it still supports Windows PXE boot and you can share the same Windows image on PCs as well as bootcamp partitions).  Please let me know if you would like a blog post about this section in more detail!

 

 

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Section 5 : Run sysprep and image

    1. Ensure your unattend.xml file is in: C:\windows\system32\sysprep

 

  • Hold SHIFT and right-click on the sysprep folder and select ‘Open New Command Windows Here’

 

 

  • Input the following command to initiate sysprep loading the unattend.xml file (this is all one line of code):
    sysprep /generalize /oobe /shutdown /unattend:c:\windows\system32\sysprep\unattend.xml

     

 

 

  • Once the computer has finished the sysprep process it will shutdown ready for imaging!

 

 

  • Image the computer.

 

 

For further explanation on sysprep and all available switches visit this Microsoft Article.
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Section 6 : Deploy image

    1. Once you have your sysprepped image, deploy it to your clients using your usual imaging processThe computer will restart twice after the image has been applied, installing device drivers and preparing the system for first boot

 

  • You should be prompted for a computer name, enter a unique name and continue.  You will notice you will not be prompted for any other information as this has all been supplied from the unattend.xml file

 

 

  • You should then be automatically logged into the Administrator account that was created from the unattend.xml file to enable you to join the computer to Active Directory and run any other post-imaging tasks you may require.

 

 

  • Hint:  It is worth checking on one computer that the unattend.xml file has been deleted as well as any other testing you may wish to perform.

 

 

  • Hint:  If you need to update the base image, restore the pre-sysprep image and follow from Section 5.

 

 

I hope you have found this tutorial informational and helpful.  Please don’t hesitate to comment if you have any suggestions/feedback or otherwise.

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70 Responses to The Complete Guide to Preparing a Windows 7 Deployment Image using Audit Mode and Sysprep with an unattend.xml Answer File

  1. Devin says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us. After slogging through page after page of microsoft misinfo and just plain wrong info in relation to getting a wim image done using the unattend answer file (been doing xp imaging for years and win 7 was just a whole new territory to conquer)this guide of your was straight forward and accurate.

    Thanks again, Devin

  2. Sam says:

    Hi Devin,
    Glad I could help out. I too found Windows 7 a whole new kettle of fish, which is why I felt I needed to collate all the correct information I could find in one place.
    If you do find any tips, updates, errors or omissions please let me know.
    Kind regards,
    Sam.

  3. Doalwa says:

    Thank you very, very much for this incredibly detailed writeup! Especially the part covering the creation of the unattend.xml file saved me an enormous amount of headaches!

    I owe you at least one beer :-)

  4. Sam says:

    I once was referred to as an Image Guru by my coworkers (At least with XP and Svr 2003), Windows 7 though has proved to really tough to find any good supporting documentation to do it right the first time without breaking your system, I was able to make the images but not a good answer file that would do what I needed it to do. My hat is off and head is bowed to the real Image Guru, Thank you for this Detailed and easy to follow write up.

    • Sam says:

      Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment. Glad to hear my blog post helped you out! I found it difficult transitioning to Win7 yet alone Win8 and to find a single place which covers most of the process was hard. Let me know if you have any recommendations to update the post!
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  5. JBE says:

    “Technically this should overwrite the Windows 7 rearm limit from 3 to unlimited. Sometimes this hasn’t worked for me, and you could end up with a useless image after 3 sysprep’s. I will show you later how to ensure to overcome this.”

    Where can I find the information how to overcome this? 😉

    • Sam says:

      Hi JBE,
      Thanks for your comment. My “workaround” was to simply image the machine prior to performing a sysprep, then I have an image to go back to and make any updates/changes without having to go through the entire process again.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  6. Joe says:

    Sam, great guide! Really like the way your site/instructions flow..
    I’d love to bounce some questions off you without posting a ton of comments on the site. Any email/messaging ID you can share? I agree that coming from mastering windows XP sysprep/imaging.. that windows 7 is a pain to get started with!

    One thing I noticed is that you state that the admin password will be in the unattend.xml file “unencrypted”.. well, it looks to be encrypted in mine! (I’m using winx64sp1 with WSIM 6.1.7600.16385) and I understand this might cause a problem with autologin?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Joe,
      Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately in my current job I no longer image and therefore don’t keep as up to date as I would like. But please, feel free to ask questions here as the community is the greatest power of support around (I am all for FOSS).
      Yes, I will have to update to note that the password is now encrypted. However, better safe than sorry!
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  7. HowAreYou says:

    Hello Sam,

    You really did a great job. You had made a comprehensive guide includes important procedure/step/points about Windows 7 Sysprep & unattend.xml. I ever created mine guide for my task reference, however yours is better! That’s really wonderful and impressive!

    For “rearm count limitation, if this rearm parameter reaches 3 and doesn’t be ignored, then it will displays “Fatal error” message during Sysprep process, and Sysprep stop.

    I ever encountered such headache problem and cannot found a good workaround, my task progress was delayed :-( I search many posts on the Internet and eventually fortunately I found one very useful post (likes yours) to skip rearm limit, it solved my headache indeed.

    I share it to you and everyone who needs it, I hope it will help someone who needs it in someday.
    http://mickitblog.blogspot.tw/2011/08/fatal-error-occurred-while-trying-to.html

    Best Regards,

  8. Ciprian says:

    Can this workflow work with Windows 7 PRO [volume license]?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Ciprian,
      Yes, this workflow should work (with a few minor adjustments, mostly referring to naming) with Windows 7 Pro VL.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  9. G-sizzle says:

    Thanks for putting this together Sam. Really appreciate it.

    Would anyone have any thoughts on this? Sysprep is failing “fatal error” similar to “rearm” fatal error but different log entry (setuperr.log) file: “could not load DLL C:\Windows\System32\sysmain.dll [gle=0x000000c1]

    What I found were VM issues with IE 10…I am running IE9 in my image.

    Any thoughts would be most helpful.

    Thanks in advance.

  10. Jason F says:

    I have a couple of questions about two settings in the unattend.xml file:

    Registered Owner: AutoBVT
    For this setting, why does this need to be set specifically to “AutoBVT?” What is special about that name?

    RegisteredOwner: Your Name
    For this setting, what are the implications of the “registered owner” being the same on all computers? What is “RegisteredOwner” used for in Windows and applications?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Jason,
      Thanks for your comment.
      From my research, the AutoBVT user account (which stands for Auto Build Verification Test) is a standard account which was required upon sysprep (in Vista at least) in order to verify that the sysprep operation completed successfully. I believe that it has been resolved in Win7+, however I have not verified this and therefore left the setting in place to ensure success. This first setting in Parse 4 is identified as a “system wide across all systems” settings. Yes, if the same values are set in Parse 4 as in Parse 7, then everything is going to get the same name anyway, however Microsoft designed sysprep and the unattend xml to try and be more flexible.
      In regards to your second question, nothing really. This is what shows in Control Panel as the registered owner, however has nothing to do with Windows Activation. When launching programs such as Office, it defaults to this value. I recommend testing different scenarios and letting me know greater detail if you have the time.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  11. John Smith says:

    omg i just struck gold(your post is gold i mean).. 😀
    but can i ask u a question? because i dont want to install any users and only to use the built-in admin of windows all the time, my computer is home-use only, how can i do that?

    i’m a complete newbie(noob) in the area so.. forgive me if my question is stupid 😀
    have a good day! 😀

    • Sam says:

      Hi John,
      There isn’t really any point in using this method if it is for one computer. This process simply makes it easier if you are deploying more than 15-20 computers. In a single computer situation, you might as well just install it from the DVD as normal.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  12. Aaron says:

    So, if you are buying desktops WITHOUT volume licensing for Office 2013, how can you install it without putting in a single license that gets copied (and potentially fails) authentication?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Aaron,
      It seems a pretty straight forward answer to me, however if you aren’t using Volume Licensing, a KMS or MAK, i.e. single retail editions of Office, then you should install Office on the first computer without activating it, image it, then log into each imaged computer and enter its individual product key and activate it. Basically there are the right tools for each job, and if you don’t have the correct tools, you either make do or get the right tools. Remember if you need to image the computers again, deactivate Office before wiping. Otherwise it may be a long time on the telephone to M$.
      Regards,
      Sam.

  13. prl77 says:

    Excellent guide sir! Thanks for all the time you put into this.
    I just started working on this project and right away just running a very basic test without unattend, I find that customizing desktop features, such as background, start menu, IE home page, etc., does not survive sysprep. All of these settings are reset to default after sysprep’ing. Any idea why that might be?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Peter,
      Yes that is expected behaviour. In order to copy the customised profile into the default profile, you need to stipulate this setting in an unattend file. Refer to Section 2 Point 8 on the third declaration category where it states “CopyProfile: true”. Greater detail here.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  14. mat says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for a great guide!
    I only have one issue : I entered my product key for windows 7 in the first logon command and Windows show that is is activated afterwards when I check it in Control Panel.
    However … When the mini setup starts it asks to enter a Product Key. Can I disable that somewhere as I enter the product key via the answer file?

    Thanks!

  15. Rob says:

    Hello, just wanted to drop bty and first say this is an EXCELLENT guide for those of us who have very simplistic imaging needs. Windows 7 has been a beast to wrangle and this guide is picture perfect.

    I only have one question: You specify Windows 7 Enterprise; I don’t think the version matters much, at least in terms of using Pro instead of Enterprise, am I correct?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Rob,
      Thanks for the positive comment! Yes all versions of Windows 7 I believe will work. I more used Enterprise as I utilised a single Enterprise License Key.
      Cheers,
      Sam.

  16. Darkster says:

    Thanks for this guide!!

    Quick question for you, in Section 4 : Image before sysprep, you say to upload the image before syspreping. So in audit mode once you have the administrator profile setup the way you like it (I have copyprofile:true in my answer file) you then copy the image? We use WDS and I can’t upload any image to the WDS server without syspreping the machine so can you elaborate more on how you do this? I only ask because I have somehow screwed my image up after multiple syspreps, and my answer file does not seem to be coping the profile anymore and I am going to build another image and want to save a master this time.

    • Sam says:

      Hi Darkster,
      I don’t image with WDS, therefore I am unable to comment.
      Sam.

    • Scott says:

      With WDS, you can create a checkpoint before sysprep. The checkpoint creates a restore point to the un-sysprep’d image. After running sysprep, upload the prep’d image for deployment. On WDS you’ll see that your image now has a “sub-branch”. So you’ll have the pre-sysprep checkpoint, and below it will be the post-sysprep.

      A few months down the road, maybe you want to go back to the checkpoint to install updates or other software. You can do that (and delete the sysprep “branch”, so you don’t lose any rearms. After the updates, do the same thing: Create a checkpoint pre-sysprep, then run sysprep and send the prep’d image up.

  17. Dan Houg says:

    great tutorial! i didn’t see this page in time and did not do Step 2 where one enters Audit mode, i merely setup a user and configured the machine. will the CopyProfile: true setting essentially correct my mistake and copy the machine and user account tweaks when i deploy the sysprep image?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Dan,
      No, you will run into issues. The CopyProfile only works on the built-in temporary Admin account utilised during Audit mode. You can, however, manually copy your new user account profile into the default.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  18. Brendan says:

    I am about to do this for the first time and I have a question.
    I am using Win 7 Pro 64bit

    When creating the answer file, in the part where you state to enter the username and password
    “Username: administrator
    Password: Administrator Password”

    I am using Sysprep so I am on the built in Admin account and have not set up a user or a password, so what password would I be using?

    Thanks for the great guide, this is way easier to understand than the MS (supposed) help files.

    Brendan

  19. Logan says:

    My company has bought some laptops that were configured with win 7 pro with windows already activated. There was no windows 7 product key sticker but was able to attain the key using a third party program and its the same key on all laptops. I have placed this key into my answer file in the windows shell setup component in the specialize section. Do i need to place either of the first logon commands in the shell setup component in the oobe section that you have listed in your guide?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Logan,
      I would assume yes as long as the key is the same for all machines. If they are individual keys for each machine then this cannot be automated unless you create a csv file with the MAC address and the key paired, then you will have to create a script to retrieve the appropriate key. The first cscript sets the key in the OS and the second starts auto activation.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  20. Hilary says:

    Hi
    Can you tell me how long should it take to build this image?
    Thanks

    • Sam says:

      Hi Hilary,
      There are too many variables for me to answer that question. Speed of hardware, experience, number of installed applications, imaging (ghosting) techniques, how many computers are being imaged and LAN bandwidth/congestion variables. How long is a piece of string…
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  21. Ben says:

    I can’t find “amd64_Microsoft-Windows-Security-SPP_6.1.7600.16385_neutral”
    only “amd64_Microsoft-Windows_Security-SPP_6.1.7601.17514_neutral”

    I also have ” wow64_Microsoft-Windows-Security-SPP_6.1.7600.16385_neutral”

  22. Chris says:

    I am so glad for this… I am new to using this method of deployment for my images, but it has really helped me with the 35 or so images I have deployed. Only about 100 more to go.

    The issue I am coming across though is that Office activation using KMS has become an issue. I don’t see anything in here about “SYSPREP”ing Office specifically, but my research online and experience locally is showing that unless this is done, every computer deployed with the image esentially maintains the Office machine ID for the original. This causes issues with KMS activation because you never meet or maintain the minimum unique computer request threshold for the machines to KMS activate.

    I am wondering if you have thoughts on this, any modifications for it, and or a potential solution if someone has rolled out 30 or 40 units before finding the issue.

    Thanks again for a good walk through.

  23. Matt says:

    What method do you use to take an image? I’ve been using Macrium Reflect, with the Windows PE USB recovery media to capture the image onto a separate USB Drive, but I’ve been getting errors both in the sysprep process “Fatal Error” on a clean install, in Audit Mode. I uninstalled IE, and Windows Media player, and installed the hotfix for this problem…
    [0x0f0082] SYSPRP LaunchDll:Failure occurred while executing ‘C:\Windows\system32\msdtcprx.dll,SysPrepDtcCleanup’, returned error code -2146434815[gle=0x000000b7]
    [0x0f0070] SYSPRP RunExternalDlls:An error occurred while running registry sysprep DLLs, halting sysprep execution. dwRet = -2146434815[gle=0x000000b7]
    SYSPRP WinMain:Hit failure while processing sysprep cleanup providers; hr = 0x80100101[gle=0x000000b7]

    … And in the unlikely event that a sysprep actually works, I’ve gotten the error:

    SYSPRP LaunchDll:Failure occurred while executing ‘C:\Windows\System32\spbcd.dll,Sysprep_Generalize_Bcd’, returned error code 2[gle=0x00000012]

    the only info I can find on this error is about deploying onto a USB, but I’m not, just deploying an image stored on USB HDD.
    I’m beginning to wonder if it’s my method of capturing the image.

    • Sam says:

      Hi Matt,
      I use DeployStudio PXE imaging, similar to Norton Ghost or FOG. FOG might be something worth looking into (http://www.fogproject.org) in your situation to utilise the LAN for imaging rather than an external USB drive?
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

      • Matt says:

        Thanks for that, Just thought I’d add something interesting I found: I was using a USB configured with lynux “YUMI” ISO multiboot to load my Windows PE for Macrium Reflect imaging and deployment software. If I happened to boot up Windows 7 with this plugged in, even though I chose to boot off the Hard drive instead of USB, it would fail.
        If I reboot the system without my USB plugged in, it works fine.

  24. Matt says:

    Is there a way to let the System Automatically log in as Administrator without having a password?
    During the Windows Setup, I get a red X “User’s Password must be changed before logging in at this time”. and I can just leave the password empty, and it will accept that as changed, but I can’t seem to get it to do that automatically.

    I’ve tried “Write empty text string” in Pass 7 Oobe system – Windows Shell Setup – AutoLogon – Password (with Username entered), and also an empty text string in Pass 7 Oobe system – Windows Shell Setup – User Accounts – AdministratorPassword -(Empty Text string)

    • Sam says:

      Hi Matt,
      I don’t believe its possible for automatic log in with no password set. And not something I would recommend. Is this to make it easier for you to activate additional software etc then set the password afterwards?
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

      • Matt says:

        Thanks for that, It’s just to make it easier for Servicing department and customers – as they send out a replacement hard drive to a customer. They can set it up how they like afterwards, but initially I just wanted it to deploy as per the original system they received, with no password set.
        But If it’s impossible, we’ll have to arrange a workaround, or an obvious password for them…

  25. Mike says:

    At the end of Step 5 you instruct to “Image the computer.” How do you do this? Sorry, I’m a noob!

    • Sam says:

      Hi Mike,
      There are so many different methods to accomplish this and they are all quite detailed I unfortunately don’t have the time to write an article on them.
      Look into FOG, Norton Ghost, SCCM and see if you get the idea.
      Kind regards,
      Sam

  26. Shannon says:

    Hello Sam,

    I have captured an image in audit mode leaving the local Administrator account password blank. I have deployed this image using SCCM and the image is successfully copied to the new machine. Windows then tries to login with the Administrator password but displays that the username or password is incorrect despite the fact that the password is blank. When I hit enter on the password prompt, sysprep to oobe mentioned in the answer file executes successfully. I am confused what password is windows using here as it is set to blank for the administrator account. Is it possible to automate this process as I do not want to go to each computer and hit enter during this prompt. Your inputs are much appreciated.

    Regards,
    Shannon

    • Sam says:

      Hi Shannon,
      I think in order to utilise auto login a password must be specified. Have you tried creating another image with a password to see if the auto login works?
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

      • Shannon says:

        Hello Sam,

        Got this issue resolved by removing the Specialize and Audit system pass in the answer file, Windows did not seem to take that too well. The first image I captured contained the Administrator Password for which I used Auto-Login in the audit system phase but Windows was not reading the answer file while logging in due to which I had to create an image without an administrator password and set the Administrator password via SCCM.

        Thanks and regards,
        Shannon R

  27. Joshua B says:

    I’ve been trying to prep and clone machines for a company I I’m at regularly, and have been pulling my hair out try to make it work. Thank you so much for this guide!!!!!!! They buy Dells that don’t require Activation Keys so I left that out without any issues and with a few tweaks made this work perfectly for me. Thanks again

  28. Ale Vix says:

    Hi Sam,

    This guide is fantastic!!!

    I need to depoly many desktop, at this moment a desktop Lenovo M93 with Windows 7 Professional X64, the desktop to deploy are 25/30. At the moment i’m at the step 1, so I’m entered with Audit Mode e renominate the account administrator with our account. I also installed all programs and setup the configuration. But every time that i restart appear the sysprep GUI box, I close it every Time. Wich command of sysprep I need to do after finish to Install all the programs and to prepare the machine? (thank a lot)

  29. Zach B says:

    What are my options if the SysPrep tool doesn’t want to run. I’ve got my unattend.xml file all set, but when I go to run Sysprep, I get “You must be an administrator to run this application.”

    • Sam says:

      Hi Zach,
      Thanks for the comment. You will need to run it as administrator. This can be done by one of two ways. First is to start an elevated command prompt and navigate to the sys prep folder and run the command from there [recommended]. The other is to right-click on it and select run as administrator and yes to the UAC.
      If you are in a locked down environment though you won’t be able to do this. You will have to reinstall fresh [or reset the local administrator password utilising a free linux iso image ;)].
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  30. Matthew Gill says:

    Hi Sam,
    I want to thank you for this amazing guide. We have been using your documented imaging process at my office for more than a year and it has worked perfectly. One issue we are running into is that the SetupComplete.cmd isn’t deleting the unattend.xml file from the image once complete. I was wondering if you might have any suggestions as to anything we can try/change?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Matthew,
      Thank you heaps for the positive comment. It is great to hear how some of my writings can help people. Please feel free to provide me with any updates or notes which you feel may be helpful in thickening out the guide.
      A few items could be causing this issue. First could be permissions. Second could be boot order.
      I doubt it would be permissions, however it may be worth investigating if newer versions of Windows applies different install level permissions on files which require elevated privilege to remove the file. There may be a switch that can be passed into the script to provide it with this.
      If its the boot order, what I mean by this is that the script could be running too early – sometime before the dependancies are fully loaded. Maybe the disc isn’t mounted yet when its running from RAM or maybe the system isn’t ready to support the deletion of something. In this situation the easiest method to check is adding a sleep into the script. Even 300 seconds (5 minutes) would be a suitable time to test it out.
      And maybe the third, but I didn’t want to put emphasis on this however it must be noted. User error [oh no he said it!]. Maybe there is a typo or variable inconsistency?
      Hoping this helps. Please get back to me if any of these helped you or if you found a great solution.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  31. Marshall says:

    Following your instructions, i still get the prompt to create a user when the PC loading for the first time. I thought i was suppose to only get prompted for a PC name but not to create a User.

    • Sam says:

      Hi Marshall,
      Thanks for your comment.
      That is correct, if all of the entries are made in the sys prep xml then you should not be prompted to create a user. Make sure you check over each step – because user account details are set in two separate places. Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  32. Hugo says:

    In the process we have to image twice once without sysprep and once sysprepped,

    my question is : can we deploy the image without sysprep and perform a remote sysprep (with a script or send the cmd), like that we have just to keep one image instead of two?

    • Sam says:

      Hi Hugo,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes that would be possible especially now with PowerShell. You will have to make yourself prepared for it though. For example, you would need a local administrator on the computers with the same credentials so you could connect to them remotely. You would also need to make sure the computers you wanted to got one script and the others received another. Easiest way to accomplish this is time – simply only send the first script when all the computers who should receive it are on the LAN. You could get fancier with MAC addresses and pxeboot if you wanted.
      I hope this helps to provide you some guidance. I’m happy to demo and document the process if required.
      Kind regards,
      Sam.

  33. Marshall says:

    When deploying my image, during the “Preparing the system for the first boot” stage, i get prompted for a user name & computer name. It appears it is not using the local Administrator account to automatically login during this stage and I’m not sure why?

    I’m using Windows 7 Enterprise x64

  34. Kyle says:

    Thanks for this great step by step guide. I followed exactly but I could not capture it using mdt. I was abble to boot to winpe using mdt litetouch script but at the sysprep step, it errors out like “Litetouch deployment failed, Return Code = -2147467259 0x80004005”. Is it because of the sysprep was already done early in the steps and could not find that sysprep file? I need to capture it as wim file. Can you help please. Thanks!!

  35. Thank you for the guide! I was wondering if you or anyone you know has tried smartImager. We are looking at it and I was wondering if you had any feedback on simplicity of use or how it plugs in to WDS to deploy Windows images.

  36. Scott says:

    This is a great guide for mass-imaging. But this uses a single unattend.xml to set all the first startup parameters (language, time zone, user account, etc); I’m currently using an unattend.xml that will setup and format partitions (I reuse hard drives somewhat frequently) before bringing the image down to install on a computer. Is there any way to merge the two together into a single unattend.xml? I’ve gotten it to work by linking the partition xml file via the imaging server, and the startup config xml via the image directly, but I was hoping there was a better way to do it.

  37. Teapot says:

    Thanks for this!

    So many tutorials on the internet that just say, create your unattend file, then go to the next step….. finally someone has gone into the details on HOW to create the unattend file and all other settings. I was so close to giving up on sysprep but the simplicity of this guide has shed light on so many things.

    Great work!

  38. John Smith says:

    Fantastic guide!!!

    Does the unattend.xml file that you create in section two just have the entries that you describe or does it contain many other entries?

    Thanks for your help.

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