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Sysprep (Generalize) a Windows installation

Updated: October 20, 2013

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

Use Sysprep to generalize a Windows installation. To deploy a Windows image to different PCs, you must first prepare the image. You can either use the System Preparation (Sysprep) tool or you can specify a setting in an answer file to prepare the image as part of an unattended installation. To prepare the image, you must remove the computer-specific information from the image. This process is called generalizing the image.

In most Windows 8 deployment scenarios, you no longer have to use the SkipRearm answer file setting to reset the Windows Product Activation clock when you run the Sysprep command multiple times on a computer. In Windows 8, the SkipRearm setting is used to specify the Windows licensing state. If you specify a retail product key or volume license product key, Windows is automatically activated. You can run the Sysprep command up to 8 additional times on a single Windows image. After running Sysprep 8 times on a Windows 8 image, you must recreate your Windows image. For more information about Windows components and settings that you can add to an answer file, see the Unattended Windows Setup Reference.

CautionCaution
Don't use the Windows Store to update your Windows Store apps before running sysprep /generalize. Sysprep fails to generalize the image in this scenario. This issue also applies to the Windows Store apps that are included with Windows 8 (for example, Mail, Maps, Bing Finance, Bing News, and others). This can occur when you are customizing your installation in audit mode as the built in administrator, or when using a specific user account. The following error appears in the sysprep log files (%WINDIR%\System32\Sysprep\Panther):

<package name> was installed for a user, but not provisioned for all users. This package will not function properly in the sysprep image.

Sysprep /generalize requires that all apps are provisioned for all users. However, when you update an app from the Windows Store, that app becomes non-provisioned and is tied that user account.

Instead of using the Windows Store to update your apps, you should sideload updates to your line-of-business apps, or have end-users update their apps by using the Windows Store on their destination PCs. In managed environments, if Windows Store access is disabled by an IT administrator, you will not be able to update the Windows 8 Store apps.

For more information about sideloading line-of-business Windows Store apps, see Sideload Apps with DISM and Customize the Start Screen.

If your server has Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) clients or remote RADIUS server groups defined in the Network Policy Server (NPS) configuration, you should remove this information before you deploy it to a different computer. For more information, see Prepare a Network Policy Server (NPS) for Imaging.

In this topic:

When you generalize a Windows image, Windows Setup processes settings in the generalize configuration pass. You must run the Sysprep command together with the /generalize option, even if the technician computer and the reference computer have the same hardware configuration. The Sysprep /generalize command removes unique information from a Windows installation so that you can safely reuse that image on a different computer. But, you can persist drivers during the generalize configuration pass.

ImportantImportant
When you set up your reference computer, Windows Setup installs drivers for any detected devices. By default, Windows Setup removes these drivers when you generalize the system. If you're deploying the image to computers that have the same hardware and devices, you'll want Windows Setup to reinstall these same drivers. To keep these drivers on the computer during system generalization, set the Microsoft-Windows-PnPSysprep | PersistAllDeviceInstalls setting to true. For more information about Sysprep-related Windows components that you can add to an answer file, see the Unattended Windows Setup Reference.

Windows replaces only the computer security identifier (SID) on the operating system volume when you run Sysprep. When Sysprep generalizes an image, it generalizes only the general partition. So if a single computer has multiple operating systems, you must run Sysprep on each image individually.

  1. Add one of these settings to your answer file:

    • Use the Microsoft-Windows-Deployment | Generalize setting. Set Mode to OOBE or Audit, and set ForceShutdownNow to true. The computer automatically generalizes the image and shuts down.

      - or -

    • Add the Microsoft-Windows-Deployment | Reseal setting to the oobeSystem configuration pass. Set Mode to Audit. After the computer boots in audit mode and displays the System Preparation Tool window, use one of these methods:

      • In the System Preparation Tool window, click Generalize, click Shutdown, and then click OK. The computer generalizes the image and shuts down.

        - or -

      • Close the System Preparation Tool window, open a Command Prompt window as an administrator, and then move to the %WINDIR%\system32\sysprep directory. Use the Sysprep command together with the /generalize, /shutdown, and /oobe options. For example:

        Sysprep /generalize /shutdown /oobe
        
        The computer generalizes the image and shuts down.

  2. After the computer shuts down, use an image-capturing tool to capture your image. You can use the Dism /capture-image command in the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool for this purpose.

  3. Deploy this image to a reference computer. When the reference computer boots, it displays the Out-Of-Box Experience (OOBE) screen.

For more information, see Settings for Automating OOBE andConfigure Oobe.xml.

If you have additional customizations, you can enter audit mode manually and make those customizations before you generalize and deploy your image.

  1. At the OOBE screen, press Ctrl+Shift+F3. Windows reboots the computer in audit mode, and the System Preparation Tool window appears.

    CautionCaution
    The Ctrl+Shift+F3 keyboard shortcut doesn't bypass all parts of the OOBE process, such as running scripts and applying answer-file settings in the oobeSystem configuration pass.

  2. Add the customizations that you want to include.

  3. In the System Preparation Tool window, click Generalize, click Shutdown, and then click OK. The computer generalizes the image and shuts down.

    - or -

    Close the System Preparation Tool window, open a Command Prompt window as an administrator, and then move to the %WINDIR%\system32\sysprep directory. Use the Sysprep command together with the /generalize, /shutdown, and /oobe options. For example:

    Sysprep /generalize /shutdown /oobe
    

    The computer generalizes the image and shuts down.

  4. After the computer shuts down, use an image-capturing tool to capture your image. You can use the Dism /capture-image command in the DISM tool for this purpose.

  5. Deploy this image to a reference computer. When the reference computer boots, it displays the OOBE screen.

For more information about audit mode, see:

In Windows versions that are earlier than Windows 8, you can use Sysprep to generalize a virtual hard disk (VHD). But, Windows 8 includes the Sysprep VM mode. VM mode generalizes a VHD that you deploy as a VHD on the same virtual machine or hypervisor. This mode supports rapid deployment of virtual machines. VM mode is supported only when you run it from inside a virtual machine. Additionally, VM mode is available only through the command line. You can't use VM mode to prepare a VHD for deployment to any computer.

  1. In audit mode, open a Command Prompt window as an administrator, and then move to the %WINDIR%\system32\sysprep directory.

  2. Use the Sysprep command together with the /generalize, /oobe, and /mode:vm options. For example:

    Sysprep /generalize /oobe /mode:vm
    

    The computer generalizes the VHD image.

  3. Deploy the generalized VHD image on the same virtual machine. When the virtual machine reboots, it displays the OOBE screen.

The only additional options that apply to VM mode are /reboot, /shutdown, and /quit.

See Also

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