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Windows 7: Windows 7 Image - Customize in Audit Mode with Sysprep

04 Mar 2014   #20
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Thanks Wazzbler.

Was going to start this post with the normal "welcome to the Seven Forums" as I usually do when seeing a member has joined and posted his / her first post, then I noticed you have been a member over 4 years already. Your thanks mean especially lot considering you deemed the tut to be worth posting your first post .

Kari


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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05 Mar 2014   #21
Wazzbler

Windows 7 64 Bit
 
 

Hi Kari,

I appreciate your response, and yes you are absolutely right about having joined years ago. I joined because I found some articles interesting over the years, but never REALLY got into any serious stuff, and so was an occasional browser. However, in the recent past, I have become my company's resident IT person, although my profession is in retail. As I said, I have been a "learn the hard way" person having been fortunate to have had some brilliant 'teachers" along the way who could explain things in a simple enough way for me to understand. Most IT people seem to only speak in binary code, and if the listener doesn't have a degree in computer science, they feel totally inept and stupid. As I have proved that experience (especially making and learning from mistakes) is superior to academic knowledge, I have been called upon more and more to fix other employees computers, reload them, join company domain etc. etc. I even ended up in a thunderstorm 100 feet up on a narrow ledge trying to adjust the satellite dish with a cell phone strapped to my head with a technician 500 miles away trying to get me to adjust the dish alignment. It wasn't a success, because the alignment was not the fault... rats had chewed the cables, but it was something few other retailers have had the opportunity to do. My main reason for studying your tutorial is because I will shortly have to load/reload about 10 laptops in our offices, and knew that there must be an easier way than doing each one separately.

I attempted numerous methods, and all failed or gave different result to what I expected. Fortunately, I came back to seven forums and studied up a bit, and then used your tutorial - I was so happy that at last, it worked EXACTLY as explained in the tutorial. After completing the setup and image, I did a test run on an old laptop. With bated breath, I watched the process, and when the laptop booted to the OOB screen and I logged on to see it worked flawlessly, I was ecstatic. I wish Microsoft had someone with your ability to explain things, because then people like me would not waste countless hours, days and weeks going completely insane wasting time trying to decipher their "computerese" technical jargon. I would have smoked far less, drank a few bottles of Johhnie Walker Black less, and not put a fist through a monitor!

Please keep up the great work, and thank you again,

Wazzbler
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Mar 2014   #22
SIW2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64
 
 

32 bit version here, might need testing RE64v7-and RE86v7
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Mar 2014   #23
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Thanks Siw, I will test it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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07 Mar 2014   #24
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

The 32 bit works as well as expected, one more time thanks Siw! Edited the tutorial which previously said the tool was only available for 64 bit versions.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Mar 2014   #25
Britton30
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ultimate X64 SP1
 
 

I just saw something of interest upon re-reading. I can install w7 in a VM, install program, updates, my personal data, etc. and image that VM install and restore it to a physical drive later?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Mar 2014   #26
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Britton30 View Post
I just saw something of interest upon re-reading. I can install w7 in a VM, install program, updates, my personal data, etc. and image that VM install and restore it to a physical drive later?
Yes. That's how I am doing it.

The Generalize switch when sysprepping really removes all hardware related information so putting it very simple the image does not know afterwards where and how it's done and can be used in deploying the image to any computer, a real physical one or a vm.

There are a lot of added bonuses in doing it on a vm, one of the most important ones for me personally being the flexibility; regardless which OS I have on my host rig I can make and prepare any Windows image. I don't have any IOS or MacOSX devices but my dear Angie has; this laptop I'm using at the moment runs Windows 8.1 Pro installed using an image I made on a Parallels vm running on Angie's iMac.

One more bonus worth mentioning is how easy it is to create a snapshot or checkpoint of your vm, whatever name various virtualization platforms use for their "quick images". You install Windows first, enter Audit Mode and before starting to test different answer file and other scenarios you create a checkpoint and if something does not work as you expected, you simply restore the vm using your checkpoint which takes a minute or so and start again.

I cannot remember when I have last time installed Windows "normally", booting a physical rig from the install media. The vm method is so easy and flexible to use.

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Mar 2014   #27
Britton30
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ultimate X64 SP1
 
 

That sounds very handy then Kari.
When using a VM, say, to create a "perfect" install with all the added stuff, what about the activation key? Many updates won't work without a valid, genuine install and I have only one key to use, which is in use now.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Mar 2014   #28
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Britton30 View Post
That sounds very handy then Kari.
When using a VM, say, to create a "perfect" install with all the added stuff, what about the activation key? Many updates won't work without a valid, genuine install and I have only one key to use, which is in use now.

A very good question, the answer is a bit complicated and depends on the circumstances.

Let's first talk about retail versions of Windows. As you know installing Windows 7 you do not need to enter a product key. You can skip that and install without a product key as told in step 14 in this tutorial: Clean Install Windows 7

You can now finalize and create your image using the grace period with no product key.

Windows 8 is a bit different, you need to enter a product key every time you install, whether a normal install or just for image's sake. However this is not a problem as the Windows product key will in any case be removed when sysprepping the image with generalize switch.

This from another Seven Forums tutorial (Windows 7 Installation - Transfer to a New Computer). I've highlighted the key part:

Note   Note
What does Sysprep generalizing do to my Windows 7 setup?
  • All system specific information is removed or uninstalled
  • Security ID (SID) of your hardware setup is reseted
  • All system restore points are deleted
  • All event logs are deleted
  • All personalization is removed (taskbar, toolbars, folder options, start orb etc.). Notice that this is not true if the following two conditions are met:
  • Built-in administrator account is disabled (if it was enabled)

What happens when booting first time after sysprep generalizing?
  • First boot configuration is run
  • New SID is created
  • Re-arm counter is reseted if not already re-armed three times
  • Windows 7 is booted using first boot default drivers and settings


Luckily, although always requiring a valid product key when installing (for example for creating an image on a vm), Windows 8 understands that a deployed Windows (installed from a pre-made image) as in opposite to installed (installed using original install media) needs to be checked before entering the product key and activating it. This is why whereas it's impossible to bypass entering the product key when installing, the generalized image let's you to skip the product key when deployed allowing you to check everything works before activating it:
Windows 7 Image - Customize in Audit Mode with Sysprep-2014-03-09_11h33_50.png
OK, how about OEM Windows? Of course it's quite clear that you cannot install an OEM Windows from a PC manufacturer's hardware specific OEM install media to a virtual machine.

The same if you have bought a normal System Builder's OEM version, it is not hardware specific but can only be used and reactivated on the same hardware setup it was activated for the first time. In case of using OEM you can use the virtual machine method if you have access to a retail key to be used when installing on vm you use for image creation, then when deployed to a real physical target machine use your OEM key. Later, when finally deployed and activated, reactivations are only possible on the very same machine.

In other words, to install for purpose of creating a Windows 8 / 8.1 image for deployment you need to use a retail product key once, to access installation and further enter to Audit Mode. When image is then generalized the product key will be removed and the image can be used to deploy the image to any PC, regardless of which type of product key will be used.

Software? Personally I have a rule not to include any software in my image which requires a product key when installing. Microsoft Office is a good example. If an image I am preparing needs Ms Office 2010 I will not include it in my image because the installation requires a product key. This is the first you'll see when installing Microsoft Office 2010:
Windows 7 Image - Customize in Audit Mode with Sysprep-2014-03-09_11h46_00.png
Installation requires a valid product key.

However, if the image I am creating will have Ms Office 2013 I will include it in the image (install it) because the Office 2013 only asks the product key when first time used, not when installed.

OK, here's the short version: Retail Windows as well as software which does not require a product key when installing, no problems. Hardware specific or System Builder's OEM Windows on Windows 7 totally OK by skipping the product key and activation and preparing the image on non-activated Windows using the OEM key first on target machine when deployed. On Windows 8 and 8.1 possible using a retail key when installing on production machine for image creation, and the final OEM key only when deployed to target machine. In some extent software requiring a product key when installing, doable but not practical.

Kari


My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Mar 2014   #29
Britton30
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ultimate X64 SP1
 
 

Thanks a lot Kari, especially on the software requiring a key to install with. Photoshop and CorelDraw are that way too.
I have Office 2007 so I reckon it want a key to install too, I don't remember.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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