Setup & Configure A Windows 7 SysPrep Image

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For the purpose of this tutorial, we will be running the install of Windows 7 Professional on VMWare Workstation 7.0. If you are not able to emulate this setup, another hypervisor product will suffice or a physical computer that meets the minimum hardware requirements of Windows 7.

Pre - Installation Tasks

Before we proceed any further with this tutorial, you will need to ensure that you have the following tools on hand:

Installation Tasks

Installing The Operating System

You will need to insert the Windows 7 Professional Or Windows 7 Ultimate DVD into your CD / DVD Drive and then configure the boot order for the devices in the computer or boot from the drive using your specific key combination as this varies between computers.

Windows 7 Install - 1.png
  • As you can see from the above image, this screen will appear briefly while Windows 7 is being prepared to install onto your computer.
Windows 7 Install - 2.png
  • On this screen, you will need to select your Language, Time & Currency Formats and finally, what type of keyboard or input method do you use. Once you have made all the necessary changes, click "Next".
Windows 7 Install - 3.png
  • To continue with the installation of Windows 7 (Professional Or Ultimate), click the "Install Now" button.
Windows 7 Install - 4.png
  • You will need to wait while your computer processes the above step.
Windows 7 Install - 5.png
  • If you understand the licensing agreement and will abide by it's terms, click the "I Accept The Licensing Terms" tick box and then click the "Next" button.
Windows 7 Install - 6.png
  • You now have a choice presented to you. You can either upgrade the existing computer or run a custom install. As we are going to create a new image for a business deployment, we will want to do a Custom Install. Press Custom "(Advanced)".
Windows 7 Install - 7.png
  • You are now given the oppotunity to modify partition layouts. As we are creating a new image from scratch, do not modify this section and click "Next". This will start the installation process.

Post Installation Tasks


"Audit Mode" is the mode whereby it allows you to customize the Windows installation by skipping the typical OOBE wizard presented to "End Users". This is very handy if you are deploying Windows 7 to a medium to large business as it allows you to customize it by being able to install software, drivers, configure networking etc. It is critical to know that SysPrep is essentially useless if you miss the following steps as it will go to OOBE and it will not give you a chance to customize the installation to how you want it.

Accessing Audit Mode

Windows 7 Install - 8.png
  • Once you have hit the above state, instead of going any further with the OOBE wizard, you will now need to press the following key combination "CTRL - SHIFT - F3". If you have got the combination correct, the background will turn black and then reboot the computer. Once the computer has restarted, it will automatically log you into the Administrator Account.

Please remember that now you have accessed "Audit Mode", you are now continually in this mode until you SysPrep the computer.

Customizing The Installation

Once you have reached this stage, you are now safe to go ahead and install any software, drivers, configure networking, tweak Windows 7 etc. You will need to imagine this as the time where you would normally install the required software in previous versions of Windows while making an image.

Creating The SysPrep Unattended File


Structuring The Unattended File

You will need to copy off the "install_Windows 7 PROFESSIONAL.clg" file which is located in the "sources" folder on either version of the Windows 7 media mentioned previously and store it on another spare computer.

On this spare computer, you will need to install the "Windows Automated Installation Kit" software. This will give us the "Windows System Image Manager". This key bit of software will allow us to create the Unattended file.

You will now need to launch the "Windows System Image Manager" from the "Start Menu" of your spare computer.

Windows 7 Install - 9.png
  • Under the "Windows Image" header in the "Windows System Image Manager" application, you will need to right click and select "New Image".
  • You will now need to browse to the .clg file that you copied onto this machine previously in order to start creating the Unattended file for your Windows Installation. Once you have done this, click "Ok".
  • This is where all the fun is about to begin, you will now need to create the actual Unattended file. To do this, you will need to click on the "File" menu and select "Create New Answer File". As soon as it is created, it is best to save the xml file to a location for incase of loss.
Windows 7 Install - 10.png
  • You will now need to load in "Components" from the "Windows Image" section that we mentioned previously. Components are what makes up the SysPrep Answer File as it "Answers" sections that the computer would normally ask you to complete. We will be loading in "Components" that will deal with the frontend but also the backend of the Windows 7 Installation.
  • To start off with, you are going to need to right click on the following "Components" and select "Add to pass #" and add the following options:
  • x86_Microsoft-Windows-Security-SPP_neutral (Add To Pass 3 - generalize)
 SkipRearm (Set value to 1 to enable up to 8 rearms of the trial)
  • x86_Microsoft-Windows-Deployment_neutral (Add To Pass 4 - generalize)
 - RunSynchronous (Right click and select "Insert RunSynchronousCommand")
 -- Set "Order" to 1 & "Path" to "net user Administrator /active:yes" 
  • x86_Microsoft-Windows-Security-SPP-UX_neutral (Add To Pass 4 - specialize)
 - SkipAutoActivation (Set value to "True")
  • x86_Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup_neutral (Add To Pass 4 - specialize)
 - Set ComputerName to "*", CopyProfile to "True", ShowWindowsLive to "False"
 - & TimeZone to "AUS Eastern Standard Time"
  • x86_Microsoft-Windows-International-Core_neutral (Add To Pass 7 - oobeSystem)
 - Set InputLocale, SystemLocale, UILanguage & UILanguageFallback to "en-au"
  • x86_Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup_neutral (Add To Pass 7 - oobeSystem)
 - Set RegisteredOrganization to "Your Business Name" & RegisteredOwner to 
 - "Your Business Person"
 - Navigate to AutoLogon (Set Enabled to "True", LogonCount to "5" & 
 - Username to "Administrator" 
 - Navigate to AutoLogon Password (Set to the Administrator Account password)
 - Set OOBE (HideEulaPage to "True", HideWirelessSetupInOOBE to "True",
 - NetworkLocation to "Home", ProtectYourPC to "1"
 - Navigate to UserAccounts
 - AdministratorPassword (Set to Administrator Account password)
 - Navigate to LocalAccounts (Right click and select "Insert NewLocalAccount"
 - LocalAccount[Name="Administrator"] (Set description as "Local Administrator",
 - DisplayName as "Administrator", Group as "Administrators", Name as 
 - "Administrator"
 - Password (Set to the Administrator password)

Creating The Final Image

Once you have completed all of the above, you will need to save it as "Unattended.xml". You will then need to transfer this to the Windows 7 Installation that you would like to SysPrep.

You will need to move the file to "C:\WINDOWS\system32\SysPrep\". Once you have the file there and are absolutely sure you are happy with the configuration of this Windows 7 Installation, open up a command prompt and type in the following:

  • cd C:\WINDOWS\system32\SysPrep
  • sysprep /generalize /oobe /shutdown /unattend:Unattended.xml
  • Press "Enter"

The computer will now reboot, you will need to capture an image of this using Symantec Ghost or your preferred Imaging Tool before it boots back into Windows otherwise you will have ruined your image and will need to restart it.

© Shaun Andrews 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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