Note: This post discusses Sysprep as it pertains to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. If you’re working with a different version of Windows, check out these posts:

About eighteen months ago, I blogged about how to run Sysprep for Windows Server 2008 and this has turned out to be the most popular article on this site by a long shot, so I figured I'd update it for Windows Server 2008 R2 (and Windows 7). If you never had the need to look at Sysprep in Windows Vista/2008, you'll find that it's nothing like what you're used to on Windows Server 2003, XP, etc.

The first step is acquiring the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and installing it on a machine. It will run fine on a Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 machine. You can get it from Microsoft's website at

The tool of choice is the Windows System Image Manager (WSIM). When you start it you'll get a blank screen like this:

The first step is to open the image file for the Windows SKU you want to build a sysprep file for by going to File>Select Windows Image:

Note: You may need to first create a catalog file before completing the preceding step. In order to do this, you'll first need to copy the install.wim from your installation media DVD sources folder to the hard drive as the tool won't work with it if it doesn't have write access to the WIM file. You can then go to Tools>Create Catalog and create the catalog file.

All of the settings you will want to setup in your unattend.xml file are in the tree under Windows Image. The documentation for all the settings can be found in the Unattended Windows Setup Reference CHM file which ships with the WAIK. This link shows a mapping table between the sysprep.inf file and the new unattend.xml format. This link is for Windows Vista but it still applies.

All of the various settings can be applied during different passes of the setup process which sysprep will trigger. You can read about these passes here. I built a simple unattend file just for sysprep'ing my base image which includes settings in the generalize, specialize, and oobeSystem passes. All of the settings I chose are outlined below.

My answer file tree:

Disabling the initial configuration dialog:

Disabling Server Manager from loading at first run:

Setting the Internet Explorer homepage to "about:blank", turning off the IE8 Accelerators, and disabling the first run wizard:

Setting Google as my default Search Provider in Internet Explorer:

Note: To do this, you should right click on SearchScopes and Insert New Scope.

There are two versions of Internet Explorer on a 64-bit machine – the 64-bit IE and the 32-bit one. You'll need to set the settings for them independently. Duplicate the above IE configuration in the wow64_Microsoft-Windows-IE-InternetExplorer_neutral component:

Setting my product key, timezone settings, and my name:

Configuring localization settings – if you want something other than US English, look under Input Locales in the index of the Unattended Windows Setup Reference CHM file referenced earlier:

Configuring the screen resolution and color depth - 1280x960 is what works for me in VMWare full screen mode with the tabs across the top:

Configuring setup not to show me the EULA again:

Configuring setup to install a default local administrator account password:

One of the things that's unlike Sysprep from Windows 2000 – Windows Server 2003 is that the unattend.xml file isn't deleted at the conclusion of the Sysprep process. The down level Sysprep deletes the c:\sysprep folder when it finishes. In order to replicate this functionality, you can put a command in to delete the unattend.xml file in the SetupComplete.cmd batch file (which must be located in c:\windows\setup\scripts\) which gets called at the end of Sysprep.

I put a simple one line command in my SetupComplete.cmd file:

del /Q /F c:\windows\system32\sysprep\unattend.xml

In order to run Sysprep you'll need a new command. The old Sysprep UI that was there in Windows 2000 - 2003 doesn't really exist anymore. All of the Sysprep command line switches are documented at

sysprep /generalize /oobe /shutdown /unattend:unattend.xml