Best Practice Ezine #102 – Sysprep
As usual, my aim is to introduce a tool, or remind you of a utility that you had forgotten. Today’s utility is Sysprep. My mission is to persuade you to evaluate the tool and then employ Sysprep for at least some of your Windows XP installations.
Topics for Sysprep
Problem – You have the boring task of installing lots of XP machines or member servers. Variation, you want to build a replacement for XP or Windows Server 2003 – quickly.
Solution – Sysprep. You also need image creating software such as species of Ghost. I have to confess that in the past I should have made more use of Sysprep instead of building test machines from scratch. Installing a machine with sysprep is so much faster watching numerous screens of files being copied from the XP CD. Incidentally, one of the top uses of Sysprep is for experimenting with Windows operating systems in virtual machines.
Sysprep files – Where do you get Sysprep and its associated files? From the Windows Server 2003 CD. Extract the support\tools\deploy cabinet and examine the sysprep related files, note there are great help files with instructions for entries in your sysprep.inf.
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The Master Installation means one ‘template’ machine. This master operating system can contain other programs, for example Microsoft Office. However, it must not have any encrypted folders and avoid certificates with Sysprep.
The Destination Installations are lots of new machines which are cloned images of the master.
When you boot a Sysprep image on the destination machine, it quickly builds a new operating system complete with unique SIDS. You can control precisely what happens during this first boot with entries in sysprep.inf. This sysprep.inf file can be short as a few lines of default instructions, or can be the result of three months intensive research.
Basic check list
Sysprep works best if the Master and Destination machines are identical. I know this is common sense, but the art of getting the most from Sysprep is knowing how far you can push minor differences. For example, a Master Installation on a 40 GB disk, but destination machines now have 80 GB disks – no problem. But, master installation on a machine with 32-bit processor, IDE discs and HAL PIC, yet the destination machine is 64-bit, SCSI disks and HAL MP – no chance. Note: Windows Server 2003 SP1 has update for Sysprep
On training courses the highlight of Sysprep is ‘playing’ with the setupmgr and creating smart, flashy sysprep.inf answer files. In truth, in the real world a simple sysprep.inf works well for automating most installs. What these setup.inf answer do is remind us that the whole point of an automated sysprep installation is to capture the commands, text strings, dialog boxes – call them what you will – that you would type in a manual installation. Setupmgr captures these commands and brackets them with the correct syntax for example, [Display]
Tricky Location of Sysprep.inf.
If you run sysprep from the command prompt then you can check its switches, for example, -factory, -quiet or -reboot.
Once you have the master machine ready, then go to the Run dialog box and type: c:\ sysprep\sysprep. You should get a dialog box like the one on the right.
Will and Guy Humour
Will and Guy are always on the lookout for original material. This week Will has extracted stories and jokes from trawler man Jackson. You may like this humour, you may hate it, but I guarantee that you will not have seen these stories anywhere else. Jackson Jokes and Stories
Lots of useful computer services