The System Preparation Tool (Sysprep), is meant for System Administrators and OEMs, to automate the deployment of Windows operating system. Once you have performed the initial setup steps on a single computer, you can run the Sysprep tool to prepare the sample computer for cloning and automate the deployment on other computers. It can be found in the \Windows\System32\sysprep folder.
You can use Sysprep along with other deployment tools to install Windows operating systems onto new hardware. It prepares a computer for disk imaging or delivery to a customer by configuring the computer to create a new computer security identifier (SID) when the computer is restarted. In addition, the Sysprep tool cleans up user-specific and computer-specific settings and data that must not be copied to a destination computer.
This video demonstrates how to capture a custom Windows system image using the System Preparation Tool (Sysprep) to generalize the installed image and ImageX to capture the contents of the generalized system image for re-deployment to other computers – including different hardware types.
You can get more information about SysPrep at TechNet.
Do note that KB828287 explicitly mentions that Microsoft does not support the following Sysprep scenarios:
- To create images of an installation that has been upgraded. Microsoft however supports the use of Sysprep to create images of an installation that has been updated with a service pack.
- To run Sysprep, on a a computer that has been running in production for extended period of time, then create a new image or clone from the computer. Sysprep is designed to prepare new installations of Windows for imaging.
- To run sysprep after imaging or cloning production computer for the purpose of changing the SID and computername to join the domain and make the computer unique.
- To install an operating system from an image if the image was created by using a computer that has a different or incompatible Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). This limitation applies only to Windows XP and to Windows Server 2003. Starting with Windows Vista, Sysprep includes a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) independent version in the “out of box” installation.
- To create a new image of a system that was originally created by using a custom OEM installation image or by using OEM installation media. Microsoft only supports such an image if the image was created by the OEM manufacturer.
- Microsoft also does not support the use of Sysprep to install an operating system from an image if the image was created by using a computer whose motherboard has a different manufacturer, or if the image was created by using a computer with the same configuration but from a different manufacturer.
- If another user profile has been copied over the default user profile, Microsoft does not support the use of Sysprep to create a new image of the installation.
- Microsoft does not support using Sysprep to install an operating system from an image if the image was created by using a computer that has a different processor.
You can easily identify a Windows installation which has been created with the Sysprep Tool.
- Check for a CloneTag value in the registry. Sysprep places the CloneTag value in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\Setup key, noting the date and time the image was prepared for duplication.
- Look in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\Setup registry key for a cmdline that reads “Setup -newsetup -mini.” This places GUI-mode Setup in the Mini-wizard phase.
- Check for an OemDuplicatorString value. This used by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to place a tag on systems they create. This is added using an answer file (Sysprep.inf) for the Mini-Setup Wizard.
- Check for the existence of Setupcl.exe. This is the file that changes the Security IDs (SIDs) on the system. Look in the %SystemRoot%\System32 folder for this file.
If you need more information on how to identify when the System Preparation Tool for Windows NT 4.0 is used on a computer visit KB180962.