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Customized images with Windows 7 Sysprep RRS feed

  • Question

  • Greetings all,

    I'm looking at moving our deployments from Windows XP to Windows 7 sometime after release.  I've been playing around with the RC and attempting to learn how the new version of Sysprep works compared to the version used on XP.

    My solution for a completely customized XP deployment was to do the following:
    1. Install XP or image with a basic XP install I've already done
    2. Install necessary software that the end user will need (including Office, Adobe Reader, etc.)
    3. Run windows update off of our SUS server
    4. Add sysprep to the C drive root and create the answer file for an unattended install
    5. Run sysprep and reseal the system
    6. Capture the image onto WDS
    At this point, I could deploy the image to a target computer.  Since I'm joining to a domain, I specified in the answer file a domain account to join with and manually edited the file afterwards to delete the "*" in the computer name field so it prompts me for a computer name while sysprep is restoring.  This is greatly helps with speedy deployment.  After entering the computer name, sysprep finishes, reboots, and then I have a computer ready to go with user profiles in place, joined to domain, software installed, and updates completed.

    My question is, how do I do this with Windows 7?  I've already installed the WAIK Windows 7 RC version and am playing around with it and I've successfully created a basic answer file.  I can't, however, seem to get it to prompt for a computer name at any time and I don't want to specify one in the answer file.

    I'm also assuming I want to boot it into Audit Mode to do the initial software and updates install?  And afterwards, sysprep it with the Out of Box option?

    Thanks!

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 10:34 PM

Answers

  • Thanks VistaGuyRay, I'll check out that link.  I've read only a little on the Deployment Toolkit and I guess I thought it was more for when you weren't using WDS.

    GordonTanaka, yeah I've read about a few people doing that with a vbs script and you can set the call to it up in the sysprep answer file.  I had hoped to do it through sysprep entirely but at least this is another option to get it to work.  I've read that people think it is a bug as well, however, they haven't fixed it in the time Vista has been out so I'm not holding my breath :).

    So, as for the rest of the process, do I have the basics right:

    1. Create a basic Autounattend.xml file to enable local Administrator and boot into Audit mode
    2. Install all software and updates in Audit mode
    3. Create an answer file for use with final deployment and either include it in the image itself in the sysprep directory or add it as the unattended file for the completed image in WDS later
    4. sysprep with the "Out of Box" option
    5. Capture syspreped drive to WDS
    6. Deploy
    This Audit Mode is definitely a big change from XP.  So far, I did try to enter Audit Mode doing a normal DVD install without the AutoUnattend file and it kept trying to go into Windows Setup after every reboot before it would go back into Audit Mode automatically.  After joining the computer to the domain, renaming it, installing office and AV, and running a few updates, the system errored out at the Setup screen before it resumed into Audit mode and I had to start over.  I wasn't sure if this was due to doing any of that stuff in Audit Mode or if it was because I entered Audit Mode during setup.

    Thanks again!

    I have a few comments regarding the process you describe.
    When you boot into Audit Mode your system already went to the specialize pass. So if you are planning to drop the image on multiple systems later, you have to re-generalize using sysprep. Just booting into OOBE would cause issues in domain environments. If you look in the samples folder where Windows AIK is installed there is a sample unattend file that will boot the system into Audit Mode. You should not make the system a domain member when you boot into Audit Mode. Also make sure that you don't install agents that uniquely identify the system during install like SCCM or SCE. These will cause issues after duplication of the image.

    Please make sure you have a look at MDT2010, because that shows Microsft's best practices regarding Windows 7 deployment from the source. There are many ways you can integrate MDT2010 with WDS. For example, the result can be a custom image that you can perfectly deploy using WDS if you like.
    Ray
    Friday, July 17, 2009 6:33 AM

All replies

  • The Windows 7 Setup is so much different that it will never stop for you to enter the computer name.

    I think you better have a look at the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010. This will create an automated install for you based on the AIK tools.

    When you finished creating the distribution share you can edit customsettings.ini to prompt for the computer name during installation. There is a good description about editing customsettings.ini here at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490332.aspx.

    MDT2010 is currently in beta and available from connect.microsoft.com

    Ray
    Thursday, July 16, 2009 10:40 PM
  • Hi Dotren,

    It will not prompt you for a computer name even you leave it blank. I am sure it's a bug cause I was having the same issue on Vista. For the time being, I am using script so it will prompt for computer name.
    Thursday, July 16, 2009 10:45 PM
  • Thanks VistaGuyRay, I'll check out that link.  I've read only a little on the Deployment Toolkit and I guess I thought it was more for when you weren't using WDS.

    GordonTanaka, yeah I've read about a few people doing that with a vbs script and you can set the call to it up in the sysprep answer file.  I had hoped to do it through sysprep entirely but at least this is another option to get it to work.  I've read that people think it is a bug as well, however, they haven't fixed it in the time Vista has been out so I'm not holding my breath :).

    So, as for the rest of the process, do I have the basics right:

    1. Create a basic Autounattend.xml file to enable local Administrator and boot into Audit mode
    2. Install all software and updates in Audit mode
    3. Create an answer file for use with final deployment and either include it in the image itself in the sysprep directory or add it as the unattended file for the completed image in WDS later
    4. sysprep with the "Out of Box" option
    5. Capture syspreped drive to WDS
    6. Deploy
    This Audit Mode is definitely a big change from XP.  So far, I did try to enter Audit Mode doing a normal DVD install without the AutoUnattend file and it kept trying to go into Windows Setup after every reboot before it would go back into Audit Mode automatically.  After joining the computer to the domain, renaming it, installing office and AV, and running a few updates, the system errored out at the Setup screen before it resumed into Audit mode and I had to start over.  I wasn't sure if this was due to doing any of that stuff in Audit Mode or if it was because I entered Audit Mode during setup.

    Thanks again!
    Friday, July 17, 2009 12:10 AM
  • Thanks VistaGuyRay, I'll check out that link.  I've read only a little on the Deployment Toolkit and I guess I thought it was more for when you weren't using WDS.

    GordonTanaka, yeah I've read about a few people doing that with a vbs script and you can set the call to it up in the sysprep answer file.  I had hoped to do it through sysprep entirely but at least this is another option to get it to work.  I've read that people think it is a bug as well, however, they haven't fixed it in the time Vista has been out so I'm not holding my breath :).

    So, as for the rest of the process, do I have the basics right:

    1. Create a basic Autounattend.xml file to enable local Administrator and boot into Audit mode
    2. Install all software and updates in Audit mode
    3. Create an answer file for use with final deployment and either include it in the image itself in the sysprep directory or add it as the unattended file for the completed image in WDS later
    4. sysprep with the "Out of Box" option
    5. Capture syspreped drive to WDS
    6. Deploy
    This Audit Mode is definitely a big change from XP.  So far, I did try to enter Audit Mode doing a normal DVD install without the AutoUnattend file and it kept trying to go into Windows Setup after every reboot before it would go back into Audit Mode automatically.  After joining the computer to the domain, renaming it, installing office and AV, and running a few updates, the system errored out at the Setup screen before it resumed into Audit mode and I had to start over.  I wasn't sure if this was due to doing any of that stuff in Audit Mode or if it was because I entered Audit Mode during setup.

    Thanks again!

    I have a few comments regarding the process you describe.
    When you boot into Audit Mode your system already went to the specialize pass. So if you are planning to drop the image on multiple systems later, you have to re-generalize using sysprep. Just booting into OOBE would cause issues in domain environments. If you look in the samples folder where Windows AIK is installed there is a sample unattend file that will boot the system into Audit Mode. You should not make the system a domain member when you boot into Audit Mode. Also make sure that you don't install agents that uniquely identify the system during install like SCCM or SCE. These will cause issues after duplication of the image.

    Please make sure you have a look at MDT2010, because that shows Microsft's best practices regarding Windows 7 deployment from the source. There are many ways you can integrate MDT2010 with WDS. For example, the result can be a custom image that you can perfectly deploy using WDS if you like.
    Ray
    Friday, July 17, 2009 6:33 AM
  • hi

    I do exactly the same to deploy my Xp computer in my park.

    The prompt of the computer name is greatly appreciate..

    I'm trying to perform the same installation for Win 7.

    Working with WDS , WAIK, & MDT2010.

    imo, WDS is totally perfect for everything i need to do.

    WAIK & MDT permit to creat go litetouch pe environnement easely but i don't want to use it to deploy my software or drivers. ( GPO's and WSUS do their job )


    So have you find a way to do on Win 7 the same like we do together on Win xp ?

    Thx a lot for reply
    Monday, October 26, 2009 2:40 PM
  • I do have this working via the unattend.xml file, here are the steps: 

    1. Use the WAIK to create your unattend.xml and save it.

    2. Open up your newly created unattend.xml and and find the component section labeled "Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup."

    3. Under the above section you will find <computername>{something or nothing here}</computername>.  Delete only this line from <computername></computername> and save the change.

    Use this newly created unattend.xml when you sysprep and you will get prompted for a system name at first boot post image capture/deployment.

    Follow the link below for additional datails.

    http://blog.brianleejackson.com/sysprep-a-windows-7-machine-%E2%80%93-start-to-finish-v2

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010 7:17 PM
  • Dotren, et al.,

    Have you seen these threads since your posts?

    "Windows 7 Sysprep - Manually entering computer names"

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en/w7itproinstall/thread/f8ca3da3-0999-4abb-9bda-bf41aaf32094?prof=required

    and - "how make sysprep promt to enter a computer name?"

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/itprovistadeployment/thread/2d03e17d-c2ea-4d19-bf32-7db2e9975251/?prof=required

    I realize it's been a while, but I just thought you might still want some assistance with this issue. It took me along time to find these, for what it's worth.

    Regards,

    cmc.tech

    • Edited by cmc.tech Tuesday, May 29, 2012 4:53 AM
    Tuesday, May 29, 2012 4:47 AM
  • Hello I was wondering if anybody can assist me with using WAIK to create a sysprep answer file for windows 7 enterprise 64-bit mak license.  Currently, what we do is get a reference computer and do a clean install of windows 7 and activate it via by inputing windows 7 mak key.  Then download all windows 7 updates, necessary apps, latest device drivers and any customizations.  I run disk cleanup, defrag, and then run error checking.  After I do this then I capture it with ghost.  Once I do this, I deploy it to similar computer models with similar hardware and run ghost walker to change sid.  Once I we go this and we log in as local administrator and once on the desktop environment we have to re-activate windows 7 but don't have to input key again, we just click on activate online which is successful.  However, I'm not very conformable doing it this way because of the sid changing and the windows 7 mak activation.  My question would be, how would I perform all of this but using WAIK to build the answer file to automate the process and use the Microsoft way of syspreping, changing the sid, and also handling the windows 7 mak activation in a way that it does not count against my total mak activations.  And what I mean by "not count against my total activations" is when I need to reuse the same reference computer to create a different image with different software.  I would like to do everything the same except use ghostwalk to change sid and windows 7 mak activation.  Please help!!!  If you can email me it would be great.  (jaluna75@hotmail.com)  Your help would be greatly appreciated.  Recommendations welcomed. 


    Joe Luna

    Thursday, June 14, 2012 10:51 PM
  • Joe A. L. _:

    Yes, it is much easier to use Windows sysprep to handle the SIDs. I'm not sure you have to worry about the MAK count if you are using the same reference machine. It may be that the activation process can recognize the same hardware, thus, not taking up additional counts. Perhaps we can get an MS expert to verify this, I haven't had to worry about it, yet, but I can't say for sure.

    As far as automating the activation goes, there is an option in the "System Image Manager" when building the unattend file to "SkipAutoActivation". I believe the intent of this is to allow manual activation, but a "false" value, would, to me, suggest that the system should try to auto-activate at the appropriate time during the restore. (It seems to me that one reason for preventing the system from auto-activating might be for the case where you have more than one product key and wish to apply the different keys later in the process, but before the attempt at auto-activation, which would already lock it in.)

    I don't recall "off the top of my head" which value we are using, but I do know that we use "commands to run at first logon" that use the "/ipk" and "/ato" switches of the "slmgr.vbs" script to attempt auto-activation, programmatically, so to say, after, first, determining the product key to be used. See the links http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en/w7itproinstall/thread/a684d33a-c199-4c8b-8f79-998e29c3220b and http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff793433.aspx.

    On our previous "go-round" of cloning we were stuck with clicking the "Attempt to activate online now" link, but, to the best of my understanding, this was primarily only a domain/network access issue that was caused by improper machine renaming, which would break the "Trust Relationship". Now that we've resolved our "Trust Relationship" issue, by renaming the machines through a specialized script, see the links in my above post, I don't think we have a Windows activation issue, anymore.

    I could be mistaken, but now that we are out of third-party training, I will be going back to imaging, so I will test our system, once again, hopefully, on Monday, and get back to you. If you want, I will post the specific command lines that we use in our answer files to activate Windows.


    cmc.tech

    • Edited by cmc.tech Saturday, June 16, 2012 3:09 AM
    Saturday, June 16, 2012 3:00 AM
  • That would be great cmc.tech.  I really appreciate your professional opinion on this matter.  We are also on a domain environment and using active directory.  I will look at the links that you provided.  Thank You.

    Joe Luna

    Monday, June 18, 2012 1:39 PM
  • On futher note, we are using only one Windows 7 mak key.  Anytime we get a new key, we start to create a new windows 7 image with new mak key specifically for our win 7 computers so that whenever we need to reimage a computer or laptop due to corrupt os or virus we use the new image with the new key.  At the same time we start to mess around with the VAMT 2.O (volume activation management) microsoft utility in which you can see how many windows activations you have, deploy key to windows os and office 2010, and activate remotely as well.  It is an ok tool, but the way we approach cloning (on major pc/laptop deployments) is that we create base image using reference computer/laptop, activate windows 7 and office 2010, then we ship hard disk to 3rd party vendor and they do the cloning on 1000 or 2000 plus computers/laptops (same models/hardware the base images were created with) the we receive them and deploy them already activated, we just need to rename them and add them to our domain.  In my case I want to start using new microsoft sysprep method (MD2010) but seems kinda complex.  I definitely do not want to mess up the imaging process.  I want to start using the new sysprep method for internal purposes for having to reimage due to OS corruption and virus issues.  Like I mentioned previously, I just want to install clean windows 7 version, activate os and office 2010 mak, apply all service packs, latest device drivers, install apps, NOT added to domain, run disk cleanup, defrag, and error checker.  I do want to use ghost to capture (disk capture) and deploy image and for it to use microsoft sysprep with answer file.  I dont mine if I have to activate windows online manually but I dont want for our techs to have to key it in all the time.  I just need to do testing with microsoft windows 7 sysprep.  I apologize of all the details, lol.  Just some extra info.  Thanks for any assistance.

    Joe Luna

    Monday, June 18, 2012 2:48 PM
  • Joe:

    I believe we are only using a provider web page that reports our activation counts. I'm not sure anybody has started using VAMT, but I could be wrong. Thanks for pointing that out, I'll have to see if I can use that to monitor our status more closely. I can empathize with your practice of [outsourcing] the major cloning, as we've been down that road. Our only problem is that we have different images for different groups of applications, as we do not already have an active software packaging solution, in production, to push out specific software. (This provided a debate because we have gotten used to, and reasonably efficient at, cloning whole drives, bit-by-bit, with, currently, very high speeds.)

    It sounds like, having mentioned renaming the machines and adding them to the domain after receipt, you may find the computer name prompting script useful in your environment, going forward, though it is mostly valuable if you plan to run the Windows setup/deployment yourselves, on site. As for the MDT 2010, I can't speak much to that, as we have only used the WAIK to access the System Image Manager for building sysprep answer files for preparing images to be Ghosted or duplicated. My personal take on the MDT, from what I've seen, is that it is a little complex, but, then, the whole process became complex, as of the release of Windows Vista.

    Sounds like you have a generally common approach to image building, though I thought I might suggest an option to you: You might be able to join the reference computer to the domain if you were to set up a "sterile" OU, that's mostly void of Group Policy, by design, that would allow you network access, etc., if you might benefit from downloading programs, drivers, etc., from a server, for example, and pre-stage the computer account in that OU. Sysprepping the reference system before capturing it will cleanly remove the machine from the network, for you, and you can reuse the remaining machine account in AD for the next image build, or delete it if you prefer.

    I had to do some testing today, to get back to a reference point, and noticed that setting the answer file option to "SkipAutoActivation" to "true", and then using two command lines with the "slmgr.vbs" script, the test machine activated Windows for me, as expected, with the MAK product key specified in the answer file. Further testing will need to be done to see if we can get Office 2010 to either auto-activate or stay activated after image creation.

    If you think it will be of some help, I can share a "sterilized" copy of our current answer file, which has been partially borrowed from other sources, so I don't mind sharing it. That might give you a head start with your testing, as it did for us.


    cmc.tech

    • Edited by cmc.tech Monday, June 18, 2012 11:37 PM
    Monday, June 18, 2012 11:33 PM
  • That would be great cmc.tech, I appreciate your valuable info.  Regarding the VAMT, you can install it on your computer, input your windows 7 and office 2010 mak keys and then it connects to Microsoft servers and displays the number of activations you have.  You can deploy product keys and activate win vista, win 7, server 08, and office 2010 remotely.  It is an ok app.  Regarding the major cloning, we do this because we are a school district and that is how we roll out major pc and laptop deployments.  As far as in-house, when we need to reimage a lab of about 30 computers, we get a 1gig cisco switch and do a spider and used ghost cast server to deploy the image which works for us.  We don't do imaging via the network.  What do you all use for cloning whole drives at very high speeds?   Sounds great.  Regarding the computer name prompting is what will be useful.  I had performed this task on Win xp sysprep which worked great and added to our domain automatically which saved time.  I have googled and researched regarding using WAIK only for creating answer file only and not for deployment of images.  My goal is using Microsoft method of creating answer file with how we make our images (with everything in it).  Just looking into businesses or school districts that run the same scenario or something close to it.  Unfortunately not training for this due to budget constraints.  Regarding for reference computer joined to domain, I really do not do that.  What I usually do is load up the reference computer with everything but not add to domain, run disk cleanup and defrag but not sysprep it.  Then I clone the reference (technician) computer so that if I need to create a new image for that model, I do not need to start from scratch.  Then after I clone it, then I can sysprep same image then capture it with ghost and then test it out and add to domain.  Now, when we reimage a lab or individual computers, I would like for it to prompt for computer name and then add to domain, however I know that due to Netbios character naming scheme is limited to 15 characters, if Im not mistaken.  Last year I tried testing WAIK answer file creation and it was cool but I got stuck with the adding to domain and now just cautious with our Windows 7 MAK activation and Office 2010 activation, we want them to stay activated after installation and not prompt user for activation.  I want to improve the imaging process and do it right.  Learning here and trial and error.  Regarding the "SkipAutoActivation" setting to "true", this is also where I kinda get little confused.  Since we only have one Windows 7 mak key, should this parameter be set to "true" all the time in our case?  Regarding when we add computers to our domain, it prompts for a user and password in which it has rights to add to domain, then it added to active directory where our active directory admin puts them in their respective OU.  So, regarding the software packaging solution, you might want to test out a software from Dell called "KACE" it is a pretty nice solution.  It has for scripting, patch management, software deployment, imaging, asset management and wake-up-on lan features.  Thanks for the reply cmc.tech, I know that lots of pros with enormous knowledge and experience as yourself, can help lots of people.  So again, thanks a million.  The sterile copy would be greatly appreciated.

    Joe Luna

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012 2:31 PM
  • Thanks for the info Joe. I'll look into those. Unfortunately, I'm unable to assist you at this time. I apologize for any inconvenience. cmc.tech

    • Edited by cmc.tech Wednesday, June 20, 2012 4:01 AM
    Wednesday, June 20, 2012 12:14 AM
  • No problem cmc.tech.  Thanks for the valuable info.

    Joe Luna

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012 4:53 PM