I am deploying new systems on my network and I built my reference computer by installing the OS the manufacturers (Dell and a custom built system from some local business) gave with all drivers, installed all the desired applications. As for the settings part, I'm doing most of it thru GPOs. I want to image my reference computer and deploy it with WDS. i found several links on how to sysprep, but they're all doing it with some differences without explaining them.

My questions :

  • How do I manage (into sysprep) the domain join/computer naming part since (from what I understand) WDS manages that?
  • How do I know/determine what I need to setup into my sysprep.xml?
  • Can you sysprep a first time, try and if it fails, do some modifications and try again? I am thinking of doing a basis sysprep, checking what info can be automated and correct that in the answer file.
  • What do I miss if skipping the "audit" mode? I don't plan on re-doing the reference computer...
  • I read that when sysprepping, it resets settings from the reference computer like the computer name, activation/key and such... what setting is sysprep resetting by default that I should be aware of?

I must admit I am quite lost about Win7, sysprep, RIS, MDI toolkit, WDS.. I understand the way of doing with XP, but it changed so much with Windows 7!

The links I am reading are :




Thank you VERY much for any answers, they are much appreciated.


WDS is a great way of imaging systems. However it's only good for imaging the system. If you're using it for deploying a single large image then you'll need to create a few things like your Unattend.xml and catalog files. These are pretty easy to make using Windows Automated Installation Kit. You'll need that along with it's supplement for SP1. (You'll have to extract the file from the supplement iso to \Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\PETools.) When you have it installed look for Windows System Image Manager under it's start menu group. This will let you generate the files needed for sysprep. Sysprep is basicly making the image hardware agnostic and resetting the windows activation arming. You can only sysprep an image 3 times, so it's important to keep a clean & reference image before you sysprep for deployment. When you're creating your image your'll need to do a few things. The WSIM will give you most the options you need like domain joining, user settings, etc. for the unattend.xml. You'll need to explore this and figure out what you need. The Windows 7 Resource Kit has everything outlined. I believe Microsoft has that chapter for free.

  1. Install a fresh copy of windows. (PROTIP: Use a desktop, never use a laptop) Don't touch anything and create an image of it. I like to boot into WINPE and use GIMAGEX. and reboot the computer after the capture. This will be your clean image. This part is optional but recommended.
  2. Now let's engage audit mode! Head over to the sysprep folder (Windows\System32\Sysprep) and launch sysprep.exe. Turn on Audit mode and reboot. Now install all your updates and applications on the system. Take care with apps like Office 2010 and most enterprise anti-malware clients as most don't like syspreping You'll want to use this because you'll want things to behave after syspreping.
  3. STOP EVERYTHING! You have all the stuff you want/need on the system. Open up sysprep.exe select audit mode and check the box for generalize. This will make it hardware agnostic. Now capture an image of the system. This will be your reference image. If you mess up with your unattend.xml for sysprep or need to make changes to your image this is what you'll use.
  4. Now sysprep this bad boy! You'll need to copy over your unattend.xml file to the computer. I like to stick it in the sysprep folder but you can stick it where ever you like. You'll need to use the proper syntax for launching it e.g. C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\Sysprep.exe /generalize /oobe /shutdown and capture this image.

Protip: WIM files have Single Instance Storage (SIS). So you can capture many images in one image. Using GIMAGEX you an easily append your Clean, Reference, and sysprep images into one file. Make sure you click append though. If you click create you'll loose everything in that file!

However if you wanted to make things easier on your self grab MDT and setup everything in there. MDT will make all the files you need and setup tasks for deploying systems.

You'll need MDT (Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.) Install this on your WDS server along with Windows Automated Installation Kit & it's supplement for SP1. You'll have to extract the file from the supplement iso to \Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\PETools. This will give you WINPE 3.1. Once you have done that you can then install MDT. MDT will walk you though the process of creating a new deployment share. Once that is finished import your OS by right clicking on the OS folder and selecting Import Operating System. You'll notice there is an option for importing them from your WDS server. This will import links to the images on WDS. You'll need this for multicasting. If you're not multicasting then the only thing WDS is going to useful for is PXE. You can also augment it with WDSLINUX (PXELINUX) to boot cool things like Memtest and UBCD. Once your OS is imported you'll need to create a task sequence. So right click on the task sequence. This will walk you though everything you need. You can capture images, sysprep, deploy, replace, etc. You can also combine this method with the one above to create a hybrid image. The blogs you're reading have tons of great information for this kind of deployment too. If you need more info on this just let me know and I'll add it.


To answer your question (several years late to the party) about running sysprep multiple times: You can only run sysprep on a machine at most 3 times. After your 3rd sysprep, it will cease working, so be careful how many times you tweak your image. An easy way around this is to use a VM as the basis for your image, since you can just snapshot and roll back to the snapshot.


Go here for everything you need to know:


This second Deployment CD has the following detailed Step-by-step Guides and Video Tutorials:

MDT 2010 Lite Touch Deployments (just the free tools)

  • Installing the server for MDT 2010 Lite Touch
  • Creating a Windows 7 reference image using Lite Touch
  • Deploying a Windows 7 image using Lite Touch
  • Dynamic Settings, creating and using the deployment database

MDT 2010 Zero Touch Deployments (deployment with ConfigMgr 2007 SP2 R2)

  • Installing the server for MDT 2010 Zero Touch and ConfigMgr 2007 SP2
  • Creating a Windows 7 reference image using ConfigMgr 2007 SP2
  • Deploying a Windows 7 image using ConfigMgr 2007 SP2
  • Dynamic Settings, creating and using the deployment database

Additional Presentations

  • New features in MDT 2010
  • Upgrading MDT 2008 to MDT 2010
  • Migrating Windows XP to Windows 7
  • Not an answer, just pointing to a product.
    – Chris
    Mar 10 '11 at 17:36

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