How-To: Image Windows XP with Ghost and Sysprep

I tend to install and reinstall operating systems quite frequently on my home system. With my hectic schedule, I don’t have time to sit down to reinstall and configure every last program. Although it is arguably easier to use a backup of my system for day-to-day mishaps, I tend to change out peripherals a lot and restoring a system that does not have certain drivers “cleaned out” tends to wreak havoc on a new configuration. To make this process go a bit faster, two years ago I created a “Ghost Image” of my hard drive after doing a basic install. Now, instead of it taking a few hours of toiling away to reinstall a system, I can do this all in about 15 minutes with only half a dozen quick mouse clicks. The trick is to use Norton Ghost or any other imaging software and Microsoft Sysprep.

Part 1: Install XP and Sysprep

  1. Install Windows XP on a clean hard drive.
  2. Do not install any drivers or other utilities that are hardware specific beyond what Windows itself installs.
    • This is necessary to make sure the image is as portable as possible across different types of systems. However, different storage controllers and different HALs (Hardware Abstraction Layers) make this harder to predict.
    • Most modern computers these days work fine with a standard ACPI HAL, but if this image is to be truly portable across multiple machines then it must be determined which specific HAL will be needed. Refer to Microsoft KB309283 if you are completely lost.
    • It is also important to determine if the target system uses a storage controller that normally requires a driver disc during a regular XP install. If this is the case, then the necessary paths to the drivers must be included in the Sysprep.inf file. These must be added to the [SysprepMassStorage] section in the form PCI\VEN_###&DEV_#### = PATH_TO_DRIVER_ON_IMAGED_DRIVE where VEN_#### should be replaced by the Vendor ID number (i.e. VEN_1234) and the DEV_#### should be replaced by the Device ID number (DEV_1234). This information can usually be found in the specifc driver INF files. Here is an example for adding the VMWare SCSI controller driver to sysprep.inf

      ….snipped out windows mass storage driver list….


  3. Create a testuser account with administrative privileges. Use this account to install and configure all the software and policies on the system.
  4. Remember to run Windows Update, Office Update and make sure all the rest of the software is up to date. You’ll probably end up rebooting a few times in between but keep going until everything is updated.
  5. Copy all the start menu items from the testuser account to the Administrator start menu. (Note: This is necessary as some installers do not create start menu items in All Users but within the testuser profile only. This leaves some items missing on the Administrator start menu.)
  6. Log out and log back in as the computer Administrator and then copy the testuser profile folder to the default user profile folder. This is done via Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> User Profile “Settings” then select testuser and click Copy to. Copy all of this to c:\Documents and Settings\Default User. If you don’t understand then refer to Microsoft KB291586.
  7. Delete the testuser account. Make sure that c:\Documents and Settings\testuser has been deleted too.
  8. Download Sysprep for XP SP2.
  9. Extract the files to c:\sysprep.
  10. Create the basic sysprep.inf file by running setupmgr.exe. This a tool Microsoft provides for creating an answer file so the restore doesn’t involving asking the normal setup questions. The basic steps are below:
    • Run setupmgr.exe
    • Click Create New
    • Click Sysprep Setup
    • Then choose whichever product you are using. In our example it would be XP Professional.
    • The next question asks: Do you want to fully automate the install? All this question determines is who is going to accept the EULA, you or the person restoring the image. Also, picking yes means that you must enter your Product Key. I pick no because this is for my own use and I don’t want someone to swipe my Product Key accidentally, but a large company or OEM may choose differently.
    • The next few sets of options are for you to enter in any information like your Name, Organization, Time Zone, Product Key (I leave this blank), Network Settings, etc.
    • I leave the Computer Name option set to Automatically generate computer name.
    • Once completed, a dialog box will ask where you want to save the file. c:\sysprep\sysprep.inf is the path we’re using in this example.
    • On the completion screen, click Cancel to close setupmgr.exe.

    The process of creating a basic sysprep.inf file is now completed.

  11. Before proceeding to the next step, create a custom hardware drivers directory for any drivers needed for the target system. Usually I use c:\drivers.
  12. Open c:\sysprep\sysprep.inf in Notepad and add the following lines to the relavent sections (if the heading doesn’t exist, create it):




  13. Do not close the sysprep.inf yet! OemPNPDriversPath points to the c:\drivers directory created earlier. For organizational purposes, I split up my custom driver files based on category (i.e. hardware_cat in the example above). For example, all video drivers go under c:\drivers\video and network drivers under c:\drivers\network. In each of those directories, the specific driver bundles are placed with their driver inf files (i.e. driver_dir). For example, the latest nVidia drivers would go into c:\drivers\video\nVidia\. The last part is refering to driver_inf is just that, the name of the inf file. For example, for the latest nVidia driver, the path would be c:\drivers\video\nVidia\nv4_disp.inf. In sysprep.inf, the path would be written as OemPNPDriversPath=drivers\video\nVidia\nv4_disp.inf;. Do not forget the semi-colon as a separator. For the next driver, repeat the procedure by placing the path after the semi-colon without leaving a space. Once all the drivers are added, save the file.
  14. Run c:\sysprep\sysprep -bmsd. This will build the Windows XP standard mass storage drivers section.
  15. While editing sysprep.inf there is an option labeled InstallFilesPath which usually points to c:\sysprep\i386. I usually copy the contents of my XP CD’s i386 directory into c:\sysprep\i386. This isn’t necessary.
  16. Add any custom Storage dirvers to the [SysprepMassStorage] section as detailed above.
  17. Now run C:\sysprep\sysprep.exe.
  18. Pick options Mini Setup and Detect non-plug and play hardware. If you don’t have a volume license and plan on just using this image for restoring the computer the image was made on, then pick the option Don’t regenerate security identifiers. If you have a volume license key and will be using this image for multiple machines then leave that option unchecked. Ensure that Shutdown is selected from the Shutdown mode drop-down menu and click Reseal.
  19. If you left the SID option to regenerate, then a pop-up will ask you to confirm. hit OK to continue.
  20. This will take a while and your system will shut down once the process is complete.

Sysprep is now complete. Part 2 discusses imaging.

Pages: 1 2 3


146 Responses to “How-To: Image Windows XP with Ghost and Sysprep”

  1. Psycho275 on February 24th, 2006 5:31 pm

    Very well written and useful How-To. Thanks very much!

  2. Kevin on February 24th, 2006 6:32 pm

    Awesome how-to

    Hey i was wondering if this would work for multiple kinds of computers. I repair computers and many of them use XP home edition OEM. now i have an oem disc and this process would help. it’s better than just me making my sysprep floppy every time. EX: 4 comps everyday need at least a destructive restore

  3. Jonathan on February 24th, 2006 7:35 pm

    Hey, nice write up here. I used to do this all the time at a former job of mine. One thing you might want to include in your doc: You can’t run a sysprep more than 3 times under an existing Windows installation AND also regenerate the security identifiers each time.

    In other words, you can’t do a sysprep, dump a Ghost image, load up the image again, make changes, and do another sysprep more than 3 times. If you attempt to do this, on the fourth time, Windows will not regenerate the security identifiers (the activation period), and your Windows image will be worthless after 30 days (the equivalent of running a new Windows installation and not activating it after 30 days of use)!

    This became problematic at my job because a) I was unaware of this behavior, and b) one time I didn’t touch an image for over 30 days, so it was worthless after the time expired.

    My way around this was dumping Ghost images, then after I loaded them up on the hardware, I manually initiated the sysprep. It chewed up more time for installs, but at least I didn’t have worthless images after 3 syspreps 30 days of use!

  4. Ivan Minic on February 24th, 2006 7:45 pm

    Bravo for this great tutorial!

  5. Tri Nguyen on February 24th, 2006 8:18 pm

    the artical is helpful, thx

  6. Abhinav Kaiser on February 24th, 2006 9:23 pm

    This is a great article. I install and uninstall so many times as well…

  7. toasterweasel on February 24th, 2006 9:56 pm

    What is the purpose of step 5? Very much appreciate this step by step, we have yet to implement sysprep where I work. We currently have over 15 different images for our XP machines.

  8. nate on February 24th, 2006 10:20 pm

    Gratz on getting dugg. Nice article! I’m going to try it out this weekend.

  9. Hisham on February 24th, 2006 11:03 pm

    @Kevin: The problem with my tutorial is that it won’t work unless you have the specific Volume License, OEM or Retail version the owner of the computer paid for. The only solution I could think of for you is to make a basic image for each type. Then it is up to you to look on the bottom of the machine to determine which license must be used. Even then, I’m not sure of the legality of all this. The last thing you want to do is install the Volume License version for your customers with a key because your customers can turn you in for a free Windows license. Where this tutorial helps is when you have a bunch of machines at home/work or a single machine where you swap in a lot of hardware. That is the only way to I can think of to not get in trouble with anti-piracy laws.

    @Jonathan: Thanks for the heads up. I’ve never run into the behavior but does it make a difference if you click “reset grace period” on the Sysprep screen? Let me know if you try it again or maybe I’ll try it myself in VMWare sometime. Again, thanks for the info.

    @toasterweasel: The purpose of step five is necessary for installers that do not put start menu items into “All Users” but the specific user running the installer (testuser in the guide above). Once an item is put into the “All Users” start menu, every user on that machine can see the program group in their own start menu. The issue was that some installers (like Winamp) only installed a program group entry for the user installing the program. In other words, in my example of testuser and Winamp it would drop its start menu folder and icons into c:\documents and settings\testuser\start menu\programs\winamp. When another user logs in or a new user is created, they can’t see the menu entries for testuser but the program is installed and executable by browsing to c:\program files\winamp. So to address this issue, I took all of the installed program folders for my testuser account’s start menu and copied them to the Default User and All Users profiles. That way, new and current users can use the installed programs. If that doesn’t make sense, drop me a line. Also if you are doing this at work, then consider running Microsoft RIS if you are deploying to a ton of machines.

    Thanks to everyone else.

  10. will on February 25th, 2006 12:25 am

    this is pretty good, but the issue here is if you are going to use this bas image on multiple systems, you really need to take the time and find all of the drivers that you will need. if you have multiple generations of pc’s to deal with, this will take some time. but it is totally worth it. then all you will have to do is re-image the pc after you add some new drivers. there is a guy that did this for his whole university, check this out: there is alot of information here, but it will make your life easier if you do have a volume license and if you work for a company that has several different systems….

  11. dino on February 25th, 2006 12:46 am

    Very nice tutorial and very much needed.

  12. MisfitGeek on February 25th, 2006 5:22 am

    How do you restore programs from a backup after the reinstall?

  13. Hisham on February 25th, 2006 5:28 am

    @MisfitGeek: If I understand you correctly, you have a program like Microsoft Office backed up. After reinstalling Windows XP from scratch, you want to restore Microsoft Office from your backup without reinstalling it into your new installation. As far as I know, you can’t do that. Many programs in the Windows world modify the registry and copy files all over the place. Without these registry entries and files the programs don’t run properly. Always have the install media of whatever program you want to install BEFORE formatting your hard drive.

  14. Lifehacker on February 25th, 2006 9:31 am

    Create a Windows XP image…

    Blogger Hisham Rana has posted a detailed, in depth tutorial for creating an pre-configured image of XP to make re-installing Windows a snap. I tend to install and reinstall operating systems quite frequently on my home system. With my……

  15. Fortunato on February 25th, 2006 2:48 pm

    Another thing I have notice is sort of helpful in reducing the size of the image is turning the Virtual RAM down to the minimum.


  16. Vernalex on February 25th, 2006 3:45 pm

    I really like the Sysprep Guide :)

  17. Hisham on February 25th, 2006 3:49 pm

    Vernalex, the master, has spoken. Thank you writing such a great guide.

  18. PJ on February 25th, 2006 6:05 pm

    Excellent article!!

    Couple of things I do before sysprep to make the image smaller and the images more efficient. Run CCLEANER to wipe out temporary files installed by apps and IE. Manually wipe out the $KB folders in the system folder to reduce image size. Run “defrag c: -f” prior to sysprep so that my imaging process is faster and my image is efficient.

  19. aps on February 25th, 2006 7:15 pm

    Amazing article.
    Very helpfull, at least for me.

  20. MarkL on February 26th, 2006 8:31 am

    Great article! Thank you.

    Re: CleanMgr
    I read that CleanMgr doesn’t delete temp files unless they are older than 2 weeks (or something). May be better to do it manually.

  21. Kevin on February 27th, 2006 1:02 am

    Hey Hisham thanks for the Reply. the thing is i DO have an OEM disc/discs and i use the Lisence that either the cust supplies (MS COA) or the one that is on the side/under the case. always need to be legal in business dont we? :-)

  22. Kevin on February 27th, 2006 7:28 am

    Sysprep does a great job with the Windows CDkey but any idea how I can force the office CDkey to be prompted for when I push the image? I don’t have a site license and want to insure that the admins installing the image keep track of what keys they are putting on what machine.

  23. Basil R. Bhan on February 27th, 2006 8:25 am

    Addressing KevinL’s comment re CC Cleaner:

    1. Download the lates version.
    2. Open CC Cleaner
    3. In dialog box click on ‘Options’ and check or uncheck
    the box that determines whether or not you wish to
    launder the relatively more recent temp files.

  24. Thomas on February 27th, 2006 12:57 pm

    Kevin although I’ve never dealt with the specific Office CDKey issue, I looked around for a quick solution for this once. You could probably deploy the image by creating a Custom Installation Wizard, but I’m not sure. Have a look and let me know because I think it would be the most elegant solution. The other less elegant solution is to use RockXP to manually change the product key after an image has been deployed.

  25. jake on February 27th, 2006 1:14 pm


    Where the hell was this a couple years back when I was racking my brain while my boss yelled, screamed, and shot battery acid out of a supersoaker at me!!?

  26. OpsanBlog on February 27th, 2006 8:44 pm

    Create Windows XP PC with Ghost and sysprep…

  27. Downspout on March 3rd, 2006 2:29 pm

    I have a couple of questions maybe someone can help with. I’ve got 15 new computers that just came from HP. What I want to do is make 2 partitions, the first being the system partition and the second being a backup image of the first. Since this takes forever I’d like to configure one of them and clone it onto all the others. Can I clone the entire drive including the partition information using ghost and sysprep?

    How do I deal with the serial key for Win XP? I don’t have an OEM disk, only the HP restore disks so I don’t know what the key is. I used RockXP to compare the license number for windows installed on my machine to the license number on the sticker on the same machine and they don’t match so I’m confused.

  28. Hisham on March 3rd, 2006 4:56 pm

    @Downspout: I don’t actually have instructions to do a remote deploy of an image so you might want to do some research into setting up a RIS server on the local network. The process isn’t very hard and should make your life easier. Although I’m sure there are better ways to do this and consulting a person who does this professionally may be in your best interest. If I was doing this on two or three computers, I would build an initial deployment with Sysprep on a system with two partitions. Then instead of using Ghost, Acronis True Image would be my choice of imaging utility. Then restore the image onto my target machines. Lastly, I would configure Acronis True Image to backup the first partition onto the second on a weekly basis while making nightly differentials. You have obviously paid for 15 licenses from HP so I would call them and ask for the installation discs. The license number on the sticker is your product key. If it isn’t a volume license, then you will need to activate each machine once deployed. (Note, Microsoft may have terms in its license against using non-volume licenses for system deployment so make sure you clear this up for proceeding.) Again, I’m sure there are much better ways to do this in your environment so I would search around on the various forums on the web dealing with system deployment or ask a consultant because I am in no way an expert.

  29. GreNME on March 7th, 2006 4:55 pm

    The anti-IE inlining is lame and completely useless. It is just as lame as the Mac-vs-Windows losers and the Windows-vs-Linux zealots. Anyone who has even a shred of sense can use any of the various cometitors to a reasonably equal level of functionality, practicality, and security. Elitists need to get a grip on reality–behaving in a way that Microsoft gets bashed for behaving stinks of hypocrisy.

    That said, you made a pretty good breakdown of the process for a beginner. I would have eschewed Ghost and gone with RIS for the imaging in the instructions, but that’s because I deal with a server-client environment at home as well as at work. As you stated in one of your replies, the process is easy, though slightly different than using Ghost.

    Kudos on a good entry.

  30. Hisham on March 7th, 2006 8:02 pm

    @GreNME: I appreciate your comments.

    The entire IE issue is pretty ridiculous to me because the Windows world has been divided into two camps: pro-IE and pro-Firefox. Each side seems to religiously admonish the other and I find that amusing. Quite frankly, I don’t really care what people run on their systems as long as they:

    1) keep their system patched and free of any program that would results in malicious traffic over the wide-open internet (i.e. SPAM, worms, etc),

    2) don’t expect me to fix HTML code to make things display properly in a non-standards compliant browser (like IE), old versions of browsers, esoteric platforms, etc. I just don’t have time to do it.

    With that said, I don’t see anything wrong with poking a little fun at people who take themselves entirely too seriously.

  31. Marc on March 8th, 2006 11:42 am

    Can you explain why SysPrep is needed?

    I would like to create an image but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I was expecting to just do a basic Windows install, update the service packs and everything, maybe add a few must-have apps, and then use Ghost to create an image.

    Will this not work? Does SysPrep get around some problem with this approach?


  32. Hisham on March 8th, 2006 11:59 am


    Sysprep solves a few problems when deploying an image…

    1. Forces Windows to remap the hardware in the machine by running through a mini-setup.
    2. Removes and regenerates the Security Identifier to facilitate workstation recognition in a domain.
    3. Creates a unique machine name (if you choose the option to auto-generate one) or asks the user for a machine name.

    If you are just going to installing on a single machine, then get it all setup and just do a normal backup with Ghost without running Sysprep. However, since I want Windows to start from a certain baseline configuration with my applications installed AND also to redetect all the hardware in the system, then Sysprep is required. The side effect of using Sysprep or Risprep is that once an image is built, it can be restored on to a potentially unlimited number of workstations that utilize the same HAL depending on whether all the necessary drivers are included for the mass storage controllers. As many others have shown an extremely basic image (i.e. devoid of any OEM drivers) can restore onto any mass produced ACPI-compatible computer system from 1998 until today.

    As I said before, you don’t need a Sysprep image unless you need windows to rebuild/remap the hardware in your system. If all you want is a backup then just use Ghost or Acronis True Image to make a backup image without going through the trouble of Sysprep.

  33. Marc on March 8th, 2006 1:53 pm

    Thanks for the explanation, Hisham!


  34. Xalorous on March 8th, 2006 6:21 pm

    Regarding Step 5.

    I think you have an error. If you follow this exactly, you’ll end up with the same thing in your ‘default user\start menu’ folder that is in the ‘all users\start menu’ folder. The result will be that you end up with two of everything. (User logs in for the first time and all shortcuts in default user start menu are copied to their profile, and when they click on start menu, all those PLUS any in the “All Users” profile are shown.)

    Better to MOVE all shortcuts from the testuser profile to the “all users” profile. (If you want all users to have the same shortcuts and no arguments.)

    OR MOVE all shortcuts from “all users” to “testuser”. Then once you do step 6, all shortcuts will be present in every account created. (Use this method if you want all users to start with the same shortcuts and allow the user to customize their profile.)

    Also note that you can set up the entire profile this way, from IE preferences to outlook profile to desktop background and shortcuts.

  35. Xalorous on March 8th, 2006 6:25 pm

    I wrote a nice response but it doesn’t show up. That’s really too bad too.

  36. Hisham on March 8th, 2006 9:48 pm

    @Xalorous: I have comment moderation turned on that is why comments don’t show up immediately. I was dealing with a lot of SPAM and non-sense comments after my page was “dugg” that made it necessary. Regardless, I appreciate the post.

    Now to address your comment. Windows is smart enough to not duplicate names. Where you run into problems is that since each individual user has the same shortcuts in their profile along with the duplicate in “All Users,” it means that if a program is ever uninstalled then it requires deletion of the folder in both locations. I think your solution works quite well–either copy it to “All Users” or the default folder, not both. Thanks for the correction.

  37. GreNME on March 9th, 2006 8:19 pm

    “With that said, I don’t see anything wrong with poking a little fun at people who take themselves entirely too seriously.”

    You know, when put like that (and your preceeding text), I would have to say I agree. As one who enjoys poking fun in similar ways, I can only say emphatically, “carry on!”

    I’ve been reading more of your entries, and I must give more kudos. Good on you.

  38. Hisham on March 9th, 2006 11:52 pm

    @GreNME: I’m glad we’re laughing “on the same side” with the entire infobar thing. HAHA! :-)

  39. Swoopy on March 17th, 2006 9:56 am

    What I would like to know is regarding Branding. Can you Add your own logo to the mix using Sysprep?

  40. Hisham on March 17th, 2006 7:16 pm

    @Swoopy: Yes you can. The answer is here in Microsoft’s Knowledge Base Article #314472. Follow the instructions in Section D. I would probably do this after I’ve completed installing all of my updates and applications (Step #4 in the Sysprep section above).

  41. Kevin on March 19th, 2006 7:41 am

    I follow the instructions but when I do the “Reseal” I get an error saying it could not write to my registry. What did I forget to do?

  42. Hisham on March 19th, 2006 12:15 pm

    @Kevin: Could you be more specific by uploading a screenshot to a free host like imageshack and dropping a link to it in the comments? I need to have the entire error message so I can attempt to figure out what happened. I’ve never encountered this issue so I’m going to have to look around for answer so the more info you provide the easier it will be to attempt a fix.

    1. Which XP (i.e. home, pro)?
    2. Which license (retail, oem, vlk)?
    3. Which service pack level (i.e. SP1, SP2)?
    4. Did you use EFS, syskey or any other fancy items?
    5. Did you include and administrator password in your answer file?

    This way anyone coming here could attempt to post a solution as well.

  43. Spork on March 22nd, 2006 1:27 pm

    Hi, I work for a company with well over 3,000 computers. Many of them Dell and Gateway. We use images for each site and we have one image per model of computer (ie. we have 13 Fell images at one site) This seems like it could be a solution to a more generic image.

    Im using windows XP Professional vlk(i think) its the one you don’t have to activate. Anyhow, is it possible to do this with other imaging software? for example Power Quest’s imaging software (its slightly older than the DOS version of ghost… which we also have but don’t have as many licenses for)

    So basically, I want to make a generic image for all dells (since they’re all P4’s and not too far different hardware) instead of like 13 different ones taking up 50GB of space on my server.


  44. Martokk The Deployer on March 24th, 2006 7:48 pm

    Yo –

    You can deal with different HALs by setting the original system to the base ACPI setting in DevMan, then sysprep, then add a line to update the HAL in the sysprep.inf. Seems to work ok.

  45. Hussain on March 26th, 2006 1:49 am

    Great article! Thank you. Please tell me how we can create sysrep image in same HDD itself (like IBM’s systems create temp image partition for Pre-insaller program). Thanks Again.

  46. HardwareGuy on March 29th, 2006 6:17 am

    Great article! This just saved me a week’s worth of manhours. Thanks again for the tutorial.

  47. Hisham on March 30th, 2006 2:02 am

    @Martokk The Deployer: You are correct. However, this method only works if both machines are using ACPI HALs or both are using non-ACPI HALs. In other words, the method I think you are speaking of only lets you switch between uni- and multi-processor HALs. The most common method is to use an ACPI multi-processor HAL as a source machine and then let the target machine update to an ACPI uni-processor HAL if necessary. To do this, add this to your Sysprep.inf file:

    UpdateUPHAL = “ACPIAPIC_UP,%WINDIR%\Inf\Hal.inf”

    Again, this assumes an ACPI multi-processor HAL. If your system does not use ACPI then change “ACPIAPIC_UP” to “MPS_UP”.

    To go from a uni-processor ACPI HAL to a multi-processor ACPI HAL, add this line to Sysprep.inf:

    UpdateHAL = “ACPIAPIC_MP,%WINDIR%\Inf\Hal.inf”

    Thanks for the heads up.

    @Hussain: The idea behind syspreping off the same hard drive is very simple. Before following the instructions for syspreping, create two partitions on your hard drive. One is the main partition for the operating system and the second partition should be large enough for the image you plan to create. Now you can follow the Sysprep deployment creation section as it is written. Then go to the backup image creation section. Instead of choosing to backup the entire disk, only backup the partition that has the Syspreped deployment. Pick the target of the backup image to be the second partition you created earlier.

    Some things to note are:

    1. This partition will be visible to the user of the system and they could delete the sysprep image. I have no experience with hidden Ghost partitions but they may be necessary here. This is where Acronis True Image shines. If you want more detail, I can go into that.

    2. If you are doing a same-system restore then you probably do not need to run “mini-setup” unless you plan on swapping out hardware on that machine.

    I hope that helps.

  48. Tylerd on April 3rd, 2006 4:55 am

    This is a really exciting article I manage over 700 donated machines, we must have at least 40 different types. I am wondering about this process in the context of having lost a peice of hardware. One of our machines mother boards has failed and I would like to re-launch the machine. I can not try the sysprep process, because we do not have another identical machine and the mother board is shot in the one I have. I am running server 2003, this is a test environment and I would like to not recreate all of the work I have done. Any ideas?


  49. Hisham on April 3rd, 2006 7:12 am

    @Tylerd: Well, I’ve never had to deal with such a situation but I would recommend looking at Acronis Universal Restore. It allows you to take an image and bare-metal restore it to another machine with different hardware. There are some limitations but it might achieve what you want. I would suggest looking at the product manual and then contacting Acronis to see if this is a feasible option. You may also want to search the Official Acronis Support Forums for a solution or posting on their board.

  50. Matthew on April 3rd, 2006 7:14 am

    Ghosting question: The newer computers that are coming in have a “hidden” partition that is used for a factory default restore and in my case an ‘HP’ partion for runnning utilites. If I ghost a machine, will it also pickup the ‘hidden’ partition and the ‘HP’ partition?

    Thanks to all, this is a great source of info.


  51. Hisham on April 3rd, 2006 7:21 am

    @Matthew: I’m fairly sure that if you Ghost the entire disk then it will catch all partitions on the drive. If you want to be 100% positive, then Ghost the entire drive and view the image in Ghost’s image explorer to confirm everything was backed up as intended.

  52. ken on April 6th, 2006 6:44 am


    I have a question relating to this topic.

    Right now I have a bootable USB key that we use to boot to the network to pull down the ghost images.

    My question is if I purchase a large enough USB key and copy the ghost image onto it, I should be able to run the whole process directly from the USB key. Most of our stock images are Syspreped, and usually less than 2 GB.

    Thanks in Advance,


  53. Hisham on April 6th, 2006 6:47 am

    @ken: I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible.

  54. Andrew on April 13th, 2006 3:08 pm

    I work for a college and I have been trying for quite some time to develop an image that could be used for a number of different boards. We Sysprep all of our images, which are XP Pro Volume. Because we manage labs, student computers, and faculty systems, all of which require various changes in applications and permissions, a completely universal image is out of the question. However, an image that could work for all the lab systems, for example, would be a huge step in reduction. I have had some luck doing this in the case of one board that was simply an updated revision—I sent the image from one revision to the other, added the LAN driver, and ended up with an image that was fully functional on both boards. Unfortunately, I have not had as good of luck with other systems. Today, I added the “Standard PC” driver, as well as the line in the sysprep.inf file to check for a different HAL. Just like every other time, the PC ends up in an endless rebooting cycle; this even occurs with a different chipset from the same manufacturer. I’ve been researching online and everyone mentions “adding the correct drivers,” but they are usually referring to LAN, video, etc. I just want it to boot after I re-image it. As far as adding accessory drivers, I can figure it out along the way. What am I missing? What types of drivers should I be adding to my system folder or to my Sysprep install in order for it to boot correctly and not continuously give me the “Windows has failed to start” screen?

    Thank you in advance for any help.

  55. Hisham on April 13th, 2006 5:39 pm

    @Andrew: Okay, the most likely causes of a constant reboot problem on your image is either a lack of proper chipset drivers, wrong HAL or (most likely) bad mass storage drivers. Have you tried using this how-to to build your image? If so, at what point in the boot up process (i.e. what specific driver loads right before the problem) do you get constant reboots? Does it blue screen? Have you tried building an image on the affected system and distributing that to other similar machines? Let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

  56. JJ on April 19th, 2006 10:30 pm

    thank you, very nice write up.
    I was looking for some research in this area since I have ghosted so many computers in my network under WIN2K. At work I have over 100 computers that will migrate to XP at some point. We have a VLK and most computers fall into 4 or 5 basic mobos so that is what i have in ghost images.
    My process has typically been to ghost the image back, and any minor changes in hardware, it will just detect and I can add at that point. In addition I use the free program from to change my SID (newSID.exe). You can also change the PC name at the same time if desired.
    My question is that 2000 and XP have always seemed to detect hardware changes when they occur, and since I have a VLK I wouldn’t really need the SYSPREP step? I might attempt it anyways just to learn something
    Thanks again,

  57. Hisham on April 20th, 2006 10:40 am

    @JJ: Are you running “newSID.exe” and picking a unique computer name on every system? The main draw to using a tool like Sysprep is SID regeneration without having to physically run to each system after being restored from an image. Although I’ve never used “newSID.exe” I’m sure you could execute “newSID.exe” via a script after restoration and generate a unique SID and computer name. There could be a point at which two or more systems on your network may have identical SIDs/names and this can cause problems for services (i.e. WSUS), and centrally managed security and system/application logs. If large numbers of systems are identical then skip running mini-setup. The best practice in your situation, as far as I know, is to have a default image for the system type without any of the additional hardware present in your master machine. Then be sure to include drivers in the image for unique hardware in the target machines. In your case, Sysprep is primarily handling SID and computer names changes automatically. Let me know if that helps.

  58. Gary Lyons on April 20th, 2006 6:13 pm

    Thanks for this guide. It’s great for introducing kids to Ghost and Sysprep.

  59. dave606 on May 1st, 2006 3:08 am

    Congrats,Great articles!
    I do computer repairs and what I would like some help with is: how can I install windows XP to a customer’s pc who has lost the XP disk or restore CD without purchasing a new copy. The customer has The CD key written on their PC cases so I guest there should be no licencing issues.

  60. Satch on May 1st, 2006 4:12 am

    Is is possible to let Sysprep search for drivers on a network share instead of searching in e.g. c:\drivers ?
    And if a create a network share for pnp drivers, how should i deal with security (read or write access ?)

  61. Hisham on May 1st, 2006 1:05 pm

    @dave606: I would call Microsoft to confirm what to do in that circumstance. If the system case has a genuine Microsoft license on it, then it is up to the Microsoft and the OEM to send you the proper version to install on the system. As far as I know, most of those licenses are OEM in nature and would require an OEM copy of XP.

  62. Hisham on May 1st, 2006 1:56 pm

    @Satch: Storing drivers in a network share is a great idea but there are some caveats to this approach. The built in mini-setup, as far as I know, will not go over the network to grab drivers. However, what you can do is restore your target machine with the deployed image as written above. Before powering on the system, insert a bootdisk with appropriate software for read/write NTFS access and network card drivers into the system. Copy the “drivers” folder on the network share containing the appropriate drivers to the local system’s C:\drivers directory either manually or automate it via a script. After that you can reboot into the system normally and let Windows mini-setup detect all the hardware as necessary.

  63. Gurcharn Singh on May 20th, 2006 3:54 pm

    I am greatly thanks for this wonderful solution. It is really a good salution for diff. HALs

  64. JPN on May 23rd, 2006 5:30 am

    Hi Hisham,
    It seems this a very useful and well documented blog about the painful Ghost process!
    I need help about image deployment . We used to reimage PC’s cluster in classrooms, keeping the same machine name. We use sysprep and everything was almost OK so far (except stuggling with DOS Nic drivers). But since a couple of weeks, the machines stopped to join the domain or change their name, using the DOMAIN-funny convention name.
    Means we have to go to every machine and rename them manually with the previous name. Any idea what’s wrong?
    Many thanks.

  65. CodeMan47 on May 23rd, 2006 11:10 am

    Very helpful article, many thanks for putting it together. I must add that the Firefox in lining is hilarious. I’m an IE user myself, but like you said, I see nothing wrong with poking fun at people who take their “side” far too seriously.
    Again, great info!

  66. Michael on May 27th, 2006 8:44 am

    As everyone else said, great article and contribution.

    I have multiple PCs each with two XP Pro partiions (C: and D:). This is my standard setup due to many XP melt downs in the past solved with dual booting to the other partiion. I ghost partitions individually but this becomes a problem after a while.

    My question is: does your sysprep scheme allow restoring to different partiions? I would like to have an image that I could select to install on C: or D: and have it work. I am sure your process works if all XP partitions are on C: but I could not determine if it would work on any other drive letters.

    Thanks for any details you can provide.

  67. Kathy Phan on June 13th, 2006 9:57 am


    I am a very new computer technician. I am learning to use sysprep. This is very cool tutorial. Thanks Hisham!
    I don’t understand step 12 and 13.
    Step 12: OemPNPDriversPath=dirvers\hardware_cat\driver_dir\driver_inf;(repeat);
    Step13:How can I get…\video\nVidia\nv4_disp.inf ????
    How I can get the driver INF files because PCI information can found here, right?

    Thanks all for your help!


  68. John Ball on June 17th, 2006 10:43 pm

    Was there ever a response or resolution for Kevin’s issue on March 19th?

    I have now gone thru 3 different builds and I get the same thing after I start the reseal process.

    XP Pro w/SP2 VLK
    No fancy items (I don’t think – not sure what falls in this catagory).
    Administrator password was in the file.

    The exact error is:
    System Preparation Tool 2.0
    An error occurred while trying to update your registry.
    Unable to continue.

    I have googled and others seem to have run in to this, but I did not find an answer. I am a fairly experienced sys admin, but this is my first shot at using sysprep.

  69. Hisham on June 17th, 2006 11:06 pm

    @John Ball: There is a mistake in your Mass Storage Section in Sysprep.inf. If it’s not that, then my next question is if you’ve tried sysprep on a barebones XP install with only SP2. If it continues, then I’d suggest calling Microsoft support.

  70. John Ball on July 8th, 2006 9:25 am

    I went back and re-did the entire process. I think the mistake I made was with the test user account. I made it part of the administrators group and then removed it from users. So at some point it did not have the right permissions. Everything else was the same/correct.

    It is working now – thanks!

  71. Tiny on July 12th, 2006 6:40 am

    There is a program out now from symantec called UIU 2.0. What it does is have all the drivers in a big file that is downloaded onto your computer. It works with sysprep and it takes all the extra work of finding drivers for your machine. It basically has all the common drivers from major companys in this file. With this you can image from different machines without any problems. Tiny

  72. Glenn Trewitt on July 17th, 2006 9:50 pm

    I read this article while trying to figure out why some of my identical Dell GX150s would fail to boot after getting an image restored onto them. (I used Acronis to store the image on my Mac, across a network – you have to buy it to use the network option, but IMHO, it’s worth it.)

    Anyway, what people have said about matching HALs – it matters. (I’m not interested in images for hetrogeneous hardware – just want to get my 14 little Dell boxes running.)

    What I haven’t seen mentioned is that there are often BIOS settings that determine what HAL the “hardware” supports. In my case, “IOAPIC Support” was disabled on some of the computers. Enabling it fixed the problem.

    Note that the error when trying to start from the “Last Known Good Configuration” was:
    Windows could not start because the following file is missing
    or corrupt:

    I hope this helps someone else…

  73. Craig on July 18th, 2006 4:00 am

    Does anyone know how I can stop system prep from addidng things to my star menus after I have created and customized the menus already. I deleted most things out of the dealult users folder, but it still puts things in the startup folder and negates that part of the group policy for some odd reason.


  74. Jon on July 26th, 2006 7:13 pm

    Greetings Hisham and kudos on a terrific guide to sysprep and Ghosting. I’ve been doing Ghost images for a while, but I’m still struggling with keeping my image size down. I came across a site recommending to fill up the unused blocks on my disk with 0-bytes. Do you (or anyone) know if this is true or not? I got this straight from a website:

    Windows “onboard” solution:
    Aparently Windows XP comes with a tool to do some harddisk encryption that can also be used to write 0-bytes to the disk. To do so, run the following command: cipher /W:C: for drive C:. You will need to abort (Control C) after the first round, else it will write random data after filling the disk nicely with 0-bytes.

    I did this step and then created a new image. I experienced no real difference in image size. I’ve also read about deleting the pagefile.sys file and this would make sense since that is a large file. I followed some steps to deleting the pagefile in the Recovery Console, but not sure if it worked since my image size didn’t change again. Any ideas on these suggestions and do you have any hints of your own? Thanks

  75. Samir Abboushi on August 13th, 2006 12:55 pm

    Hi Jon-
    I use BartPE to delete the pagefile and hibernation file (with 2GB of RAM and the default windows managed pagefile, that’s 4GB of useless data that would be added to my Ghost image). NOTE: I need to press Shift/delete (instead of delete)to delete the files so that they will NOT be added to the recycle bin. If they are added to the recycle bin, then the size of the ghost image will not change… ; )

    My problem if anyone can help:
    Ghost 2003 and the factory supplied image on the last 5 models of HP laptops I have ordered have ALWAYS been incompatible! I would image the system partition right out of the box, delete the system partition, create new partitions and then restore the Ghost image to a newly created partition. Upon bootup, would get a blank screen with a flashing cursor.

    So I would rebuild the system partition from scratch – install XP, drivers and applications, etc… and then create a ghost image of the final system partition.

    No problems restoring the one I created. For years, I have never figured out what was “unique” about the factory system partition that was incompatible with Ghost.

    So now – I have a new DV8000. I made a ghost image of the system partition. I restored the image – and it worked fine. GREAT! I deleted the partitions and recreated new ones (I wanted different sized partitions) – and restored the ghost image. I got a black screen with a flashing cursor…

    Hmmm…. seems that the problem has to do with the MBR configuration since that is the only significant thing that I can see has changed.

    Can anyone offer some help here so I can get the image restored again?

    With Regards-

  76. tombtek99 on August 15th, 2006 7:25 pm

    Re: Tiny,
    Have you checked the licensing fees for UIU – they’re insane.

  77. Woody on August 16th, 2006 12:49 pm

    I have a total of 36 images I maintain and update There are 4 different images for 9 different laptop models.
    Is there any way to store the device drivers, chipsets etc in the image and have only 4 images, each for multiple machines??

  78. Jesseboy on August 17th, 2006 7:45 am

    Is there a way to update the HAL from a “Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) PC” to a uniprocessor or multiprocessor HAL? I have created a universal image that will rollout to any machine but will always take the “Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) PC” HAL. I recently found out that using this type of HAL on a P4 or high end AMD CPU will cause a performance hit. If anyone know of a way to do this please respond.


  79. nealro on August 22nd, 2006 1:46 pm

    I’ve been trying to do this on a handful of Dell systems that the company I work for is going to sell on e-bay. The problem I’ve ran into is, after installing from the original Dell Windows XP CD (an actual OS install CD, NOT a system restore CD) I am never prompted to activate windows. I can set the date forward a month and still I’m never prompted to activate windows. I finish getting the system ready by installing service packs and windows updates and such and then run sysprep and make my ghost image. I booted up the first one to test it out and I am prompted during mini-setup to enter the product key – I enter the key and setup continues so it’s obviously a valid product key – besides that it’s listed right on the certificate of authenticity sticker on the PC case. After a couple reboots I’m prompted to activate windows, I re-enter the product key and it tells me it is an invalid product ID and windows can’t be activated. I’ve tried various combinations of sysprep options, it seems like I would need to use “sysprep -activated -reseal” and all would be OK but it doesn’t seem to work. Anyone have any ideas?

  80. Abhilash on September 5th, 2006 9:44 pm

    Dear Hisham,
    Do you have a write up about the way how ghost server should be installed and be used for the minisetup of Windows XP onto the client machines? if you have can u plzz add it in your reply.

  81. Akhen on September 12th, 2006 12:29 pm

    You specify the actual “driver.inf” file in the OemPNPDriversPath statement. For example: OEMPNPDriverPath=”drivers\IBM\video\video.inf”; but everywhere I look on the Internet on this subject, they never include the actual file name. They say it should be more like this: OEMPNPDriverPath=”drivers\IBM\video”; Should I or shouldn’t I include the file name ?

    I thought this was similar to the the registry entry that includes all the paths to include when trying to find a driver for new hardware found. The registry entry doesn’t include the actual file names, just the paths.

  82. Ray on September 17th, 2006 8:31 pm

    I am just finishing a fresh XP Home reinstall on my Dell XPS Gen 4 system. I have all my apps loaded and all the Windows updates installed. Do I need to use sysprep if I have the Dell OEM OS installed? I was getting an incompatibilty error when trying to run sysprep.

    What other methods should I be using to make a solid image of my OS after all the apps I wanted and all Windows updates installed?

    Should I just install all the drivers etc and make a regular ghost image of the system after its all done?



  83. Eggman on October 17th, 2006 1:25 pm

    For those of you using OEM software for your image see MS TechNet Article – Preserving OEM Pre-Activation when Re-installing Windows XP.

    I experienced the same problem as nealro and found this article to be very helpful.

  84. Tim on November 10th, 2006 1:48 pm

    First off – great guide! I have learned a lot from it.

    Sadly I am still having issues however with ghost 10.0 booting to the ghost boot disk. I have machines that do not have an internal floppy drive so I am using a USB external floppy drive. I create the boot disk as instructed but when I attempt to boot to the disk on my sysprep-ready machine it fives me an error and states no devices are found. “Bad or Missing FWR\ASPI1394.sys. Error in Config.sys line 2.

    Any ideas? Is it something in the command.sys file that has to be edited? I am lost. I just don’t want to seal the PC and then reboot only to hit this error and lose the image. Thanks for any help.

  85. jvc on November 13th, 2006 12:59 pm

    I have used Sysprep and two images went to 15 different types of computers and about 1100 computers with no problems. Some were more than 6 years old and some were fresh out of a box bought the day before, some had SATA drives and other IDE. I just made sure all my drivers and the mass storage were built right and used 2 images (2 because some pulled programs from diff servers and needed to be configured diff) and I have had no problems, some were Dells, HP’s, Self Built, and laptops for a school district and havent had a problem yet so I would say yes you can build an image that is hardware independent. The only computer that gave me problems was a pos that had a mother board from Russia and thier support site no longer existed and it took me four days to find the SATA drivers for the board. thanks to driver guide!

  86. Ricky on November 20th, 2006 8:21 am

    Hi Hisham

    Your article seems really good, but before trying i wanted to know, if its ok for just one machine. basically i am sitting my MCP and also i have been asked to make images at work.. i have never used sysprep or RIS before, i would like to try syspreping my home machine first… is it possible? i have a legitimate windows but its not activated would it make a differnce?

    please let me know if i can sysprep my pc at home and then take a back up image using ghost or other imaging utility and use it as a backup whenever my OS plys up.


  87. Grant on November 23rd, 2006 7:13 pm

    A minor correction:
    Where you list:OemPNPDriversPath=drivers\hardware_cat\driver_dir\driver_inf;(repeat);

    It should only reference the folder the INF file resides in, NOT the INF file itself. So it should read:

    Other than that (and the days it took me to work it out) THANKS VERY MUCH for a great tutorial!!! :-)

  88. fixati0n on December 1st, 2006 9:16 am

    To: Grant

    Thanks for that bit of info. It’s going to save me some time with currently building a master image for 200 PCs spanning 13 models.

    To: Author

    This is a great write up and has helped me a lot.

  89. Brian Tran on December 7th, 2006 8:57 am

    I really need advice. I saw a real ghost before and im really frightened! What should i do? The ghost looked like HIS eyes are bloody and his his arms are right in front of my face. Then he vanished into my closet but i turned on the lights and he wasen’t there anymore. I am scared he will come back but im not sure. What should I do please give me advice. Thank you very much ! Bye all

  90. Mian Atif on December 8th, 2006 3:19 pm

    Is there any way to include just one SATA driver in the [SysprepMassStorage] section without building up the huge list of Windows drivers.

    Basically, will the following work:

    No [Sysprep] section

    [SysprepMassStorage] section as follows:

    and then run Sysprep.


  91. Tony Co on December 12th, 2006 4:50 pm

    i have a very strange issues,
    we currently have 12 intel systems 2 AMD systems.

    my image works for all the intel system but doesn’t work with the amd system.
    it keeps on rebooting a endless loop when i ghost it AMD system. they are using UNI HAL type

    i have even added the correct SATA device name. under [sysprepmassstorage]

    i’m running my master image off of vmware which runs off a intel computer system, could that be the issues?

    once i’m done editing sysprep.ini
    i run command line, and type in sysprep.exe -clean, bmsd, mini > reseal and shutdown.

    i’m not sure what the issues is.
    drivers install fine on the intel system.

    i believe the AMD system has the new nvidia 6150 chipset.

  92. J Bryan on December 20th, 2006 10:03 am

    I, too, got burned with Ghost, as installed by Systemworks Pro 2003. The boot floppy it created would not boot — died part way through. (My Systemworks had all patches applied, etc.) I tried another release’s Ghost Boot floppy I knew worked, but it required .gho files and the Ghost with Systemworks creates .vi files, so no joy there.

    If you can’t trust Ghost, who can you trust?? Right now, I have a copy of my Windows on a 2nd,bootable drive that can be swapped out.

  93. Hisham on December 20th, 2006 10:06 am

    @J Bryan: Use Acronis. I’ve dropped Ghost for my day-to-day usage.

  94. jimboy on December 29th, 2006 7:50 am

    Thanks for very useful Sysprep tutorial. I created master image, and works fine on all PC that use PS2 mouse and keyboard. However I have some PC’s that are USB only (no PS2 ports), and problem is that master image would not detect mouse and keyboard when deployed to these PC’s.
    Does anyone have any suggestions on this problem?

  95. Hisham on December 29th, 2006 2:32 pm

    @jimboy: Unfortunately, if you are doing a large deployment then the easiest thing is to build the image on a machine with a USB keyboard/mouse.

  96. Todd Stephens on January 10th, 2007 5:46 pm

    When you create a sysprep’d image on an Intel CPU based machine it will not boot an AMD based machine without a manual step before running sysprep. There is a bug in sysprep (Microsoft document design feature) that doesn’t clean out the device manager reference to the Intel CPU. So, when Windows tries to boot the machine on the AMD CPU based machine Windows first tries to load the Intel CPU driver (it’s acually a service) and bam… BSoD. The fix is to go to the device manager, delete the processor and then run sysprep. Good luck and have fun.

  97. cainlc on January 17th, 2007 4:42 pm


    I have been doing troubleshooting on pcs for 8 years. Back in the Windows 98 days i had One Master Windows 98 Image that worked on almost all the system i restored it to. However, when XP came out i struggled to make a master Image that would work on all systems. So what i did first is i had a different image for each chipset. So i had about 4-5 images for Inter, VIA, Gigabyte, Ali. Later on i managed to create a master XP image that i’ve had now for the past 3 years and i have tested it on hundreds of system desktops/laptops and it worked perfect each time. I created this image without using SysPrep. The whole secret of the image is making a few changes in the device manager before ghosting the system. The problem i’m having is when i restore my image to a customer’s system that image has my windows “product key”. Now, Is it Possible that i can change the product key to the one on the Customers systems (the key that came with his computer “OEM KEY”) i tried many tools that claim they can change the product key but no success so i thought about adding sysprep to the equation not because of the drivers or compatibility but just to be able to enter the user own product key. Do you think that would work.

    Your suggestions are appreciated .

    Thank You for your time & thank you for this website


  98. james on January 19th, 2007 6:02 pm

    yet another trick to try………

    Creating an image on an IBM 6792 targeting use on 6792 and 6794 machines.

    Have sysprep build mass storage via the INF file. Keep the list in the inf blank.

    Run sysprep with
    sysprep.exe -reseal -activated -mini -pnp -noreboot

    Boot the image into mini setup on the 6792. Complete this process, and move the drive over to the 6794. Boot the 6794 and celebrate.

    Personally I reran sysprep and created an image for the 6794’s. Perhaps this new 6794 imge would work for both 6792’s and 6794? Don’t know without more playing around so I am in no mood to try it.

  99. Chris G on February 9th, 2007 3:39 am

    Hi can someone help me with my mental block.

    I am trying to create the Mass Storage section by running “Sysprep.exe -bmsd” But all tha happens is that the hour glass appears for seconds and the Sysprep.inf file is not changed.
    I have come across this problem before and if i remeber rightly there was something i had to do in the registry to fix this.
    I have the correct format for the sysprep.inf file.
    Any help greatly appreciated


  100. SML IT Support Techblog on March 7th, 2007 6:49 am

    Sysprep – Cloning a PC to new hardware…

    Links:Sysprep Guide …How-To: Image Windows XP with Ghost and Sysprep …

  101. Luc on April 4th, 2007 4:21 am


    I work for a company that makes many pc’s from images for different types of models.
    My problem is when i create a unattended windows install cd with a installation-product key that is provided with the xp. I want now to use sysprep to make the pc’s ask the user for there licence key.
    I made a ghostimage to put on every pc that we have to make but when i do not use the image in 30 day’s we get the message to activate the pc. It’s the idee to let the final users activate and register those xp themselfs but when we put the image back on the computer we can not do the last step : activate syspreps reseal option because we are obligated by the xp to activate first. Does anyone have a sollution for this?


  102. jimmy on April 11th, 2007 8:33 pm

    hey does any 1 know any solfware that i can remove all the window driver? cuz im scare storage driver and other driver taht installed on the system will afffect the other system that i gonna install my ghost in

  103. Slider on April 16th, 2007 6:02 pm

    In my company, we use Dell desktops and laptops. I have been using sysprep image for few years and have been able to resolve most of the issues.

    Now I created a multiprocessor image that works on all desktops and newer laptops. The problem is with the machines using ATI graphics cards (X300, X600, X1300). Image loads fine and everything is functional. After about a day, I reboot the computer and the resolution changes to VGA and the colors change to 4-bit. This only happens to the computers with ATI cards and this did not happen with the uniprocessor image. Some computers have been upgraded with nVidia cards and the laptop D820 came with nVidia card, so these computers don’t have this problem. Also, if I remove the ATI card and run on the onboard Intel graphics adaptor, problem disappears.

    I have the latest drivers and BIOS. I am desparate for a solution.

  104. KP on April 18th, 2007 6:36 am


    For some reason when I copy over the testuser profile to the default user profile … run sysprep … the settings in the start menu and desktop don’t seem to stay … anyone have any ideas what I’m doing wrong ? … appreciate the help.


  105. Titch on June 14th, 2007 4:31 pm

    I am having trouble with this when doing it with Windows Home. My problem is that one cannot log into the Admin account to delete the account you create on first boot. Unlike XP Proyou have to have atleat one other account it seems. When my cust boots up for the first time everything will be fine except for the fact that there is an extra user account.

    How does one remove this account prior to or during customer first boot?

  106. Dane on June 15th, 2007 4:47 pm

    I image systems at my company pretty much exactly as described in the article. I make specific images for each brand/model and they are stored on our SAN. I have a boot disk I made that logs the machine onto the network, then goes out, searches for all the ghost images on the SAN then generates a menu on-the-fly and displays them based on manufacturer and model. Just highlight the one you want, hit enter and it starts up ghost and pulls the image.

    I’m having a problem with the images though. Every time I pull an image down, many of the settings are no longer there. For example: part of the settings I make when I build a load from scratch on a system is to add some DNS suffixes for our network. On our laptops, we also set up some dialups (in case a user is somewhere that doesn’t have highspeed) and they run through a proxy. Well, when I pull the image back down, all the DNS suffixes are missing and the proxy settings for the dialups are gone as well. There are a few other settings that don’t seem to transfer over either. It seems sysprep is blowing them away.

    What can I do to get an EXACT image of my drive? It’s very time consuming to have to image a new system, then go through all the settings and reset them. I would like to just pull the image and be done.

  107. roy on July 11th, 2007 1:21 am

    Steletje maffe hoeren,

    stelletje geeks, jullie zijn egt dom!!!:|:|:| cker allemaal voor ajax(N)


  108. IT Intern on July 17th, 2007 5:41 am

    dose any one know how to use this with Microsoft’s Automatic Deployment Service (ADS)????

  109. Sunyata on July 22nd, 2007 11:50 am

    Thanks a lot for the article! Have an old laptop with a broken CDROM drive. The HD died as well, so I bought a new one and tried installing Windows onto it first through USB and then by sticking it into another laptop. Putting it back into my old laptop, XP wouldn’t boot, freezing after mup.sys. You and saved my day

    Peace and best regards,


  110. Olli Janatuinen on July 24th, 2007 9:26 am

    Now it is really possible. You can make generic WDS image from XP. Please check my guide:

  111. juegos on August 1st, 2007 12:54 pm

    Very good blog, and nice the content, thanks for the information..

  112. Sohaib Hassan on August 6th, 2007 11:06 pm

    Asslam o Allikum
    Sir I want to make a windows ghost but I don’t know to make it.
    please help me.

    thanks a lot.

  113. Sexo on August 14th, 2007 9:19 am

    yet another trick to try………

    Creating an image on an IBM 6792 targeting use on 6792 and 6794 machines.

  114. Dengo on August 31st, 2007 8:44 am

    Hi! I’ve created a bootable floppy and tried to boot the PC. OS is loaded into memory, and then the Ghost program started and hung. Nothing happened after that. HDD is formatted as NTFS (but there shouldn’t be a problem, since you did the same). The external HDD is also SATA, formatted into NTFS and connected via USB2. What do you think can be done? Thank you!

  115. Polssak on September 5th, 2007 3:39 am


    If are using IE7 and then run sysprep, OS not run propertly(error msoobe.exe).


  116. Clif on October 3rd, 2007 6:57 pm

    I found that duplicating a WinXP SP2 partitiion with the source ( primary master ) as the boot and the target as a secondary master produced a duplicate that would go directly to shutdown moments after the login procedure begins .

    I put the drive into another system as a non bootable drive .
    I created a partitiion and used Ghost 12 to duplicate the source into the newly created partition without MBR or bootable options.

    Being limited on component expansion in this bench system , I swapped the source drive for target drive .

    I created an unformatted partition on the target drive and used Ghost 12 to duplicate the the stored partition created from the source . I used the MBR bootable options .

    didn’t have to do enough trial and error to run upon too many issues . As for a login going direct to shutdown issue when booting a Ghosted drive clone , maybe this will help others .

    The target boots and WinXp works fine .

    — Clif
    Kansas City, Missouri

  117. Dtown on October 29th, 2007 1:00 pm

    Is the following step #11 required?
    Before proceeding to the next step, create a custom hardware drivers directory for any drivers needed for the target system. Usually I use c:\drivers.

    If the source computer and the destination computer are exactly the same, do I really needs to do this? Wont the drivers from the Source computer copy to the destination computer without having to do step 11?


  118. Eddie on November 19th, 2007 4:44 pm


    I am trying to create an image of one computer to use on other computers, I dont want to reinstall XP, i just want this image to automatically log computers onto the domain and install various sw, any ideas on how i can do that??

  119. William on November 30th, 2007 7:38 am

    I am using the sysprep utility and the mini-dump is not working the way I need it to. After I run sysprep.exe I choose to quit rather that restart or shutdown. I then delete the sysprep folder and then shutdown the computer. I then use a BartPE CD to boot up the computer and image it to an image server. After I creat the image I shutdown the computer and then when I turn in back on it seems like it starts correctly but I want it to only ask me for my computer name but it requires me to enter company name, XP key, etc. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. Any help would be appreciated.

  120. on November 30th, 2007 8:57 am

    i cant uninstall yahoo internet installer its wrong or uninstall yahoo mail i have yahoo 7 and have searched many sites until i am now completed frustrated. i know there is a link called auto complete but cannot find it again. PLZ help this lost little soul i dont know if i can reinstall messenger 7 over these in the add remove programs and that will be ok. please advise

    thank you in advance

  121. Sigin on December 13th, 2007 3:14 am

    How to Run c:\sysprep\sysprep -bmsd.???????
    i tried but i dont know how……………………………
    please tell me step by step………………

  122. MattPSU on January 10th, 2008 12:56 pm

    I am getting the following error message while trying to run sysprep 2.0:
    “An error occurred while trying to update your registry.
    Unable to continue.”
    I think it has something to do with certain updates for software that I am installing.
    Anyone have any ideas????
    Thanks in advance!

  123. Robert_RaleighNC on January 10th, 2008 2:47 pm

    Jan 10th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I am getting the following error message while trying to run sysprep 2.0:
    “An error occurred while trying to update your registry.
    Unable to continue.”
    I think it has something to do with certain updates for software that I am installing.
    Anyone have any ideas????
    Thanks in advance!


    I had the exact same problem today after carefully crafting an image that supports 9 different pieces of IBM h/w. I found a MS article for Sysprep 1.1 that may hold the clue even tho it is for the previous version of Sysprep:

    It says to look carefully at the mass storage drivers section of your sysprep.inf for mis-entered components. I used the sysprep -bmsd command to build my list for the default MS components that are natively supported, and then added about 6 lines of my own MANUALLY for AHCI controllers on the IBM T60, 61.

    You can, of course comment out any line in the sysprep.inf file by putting a ; at the beginning of the line. I am going to go back through my manually entered lines to make sure the h/w ID is correct, etc. for the ones I did by hand.

    This exact Sysprep.inf worked fine for me last March when I did this the first time (and it worked beautifully). The only thing that changed was some updated programs, Windows updates, etc. and THE LINES I ENTERED MANUALLY. I had entered 2 lines of mass storage driver info before for a 6218 Intellistation desktop’s SATA RAID controller with no problem. It’s got to be (according to MS kb249690) in those last 4 lines I did by hand.

    I’ll let you know how it turns out. Post back if this helps out…

    Robert B
    Raleigh, NC
    Private CRO Co.

  124. Rob_RaleighNC on January 11th, 2008 6:25 am


    I am getting the following error message while trying to run sysprep 2.0:
    “An error occurred while trying to update your registry.
    Unable to continue.”


    I got the same error today. I think i fat-fingered one of my manual entries for a mass storage driver in that section at the bottom. I have the natively supported stuff that sysprep -bmsd command puts at the bottom and a few entries of my own. I recently added 2 more and may have duplicated a device as 2 different descriptions. See the MS article (applies to sysprep 1.1, but may be the answer in 2.0):

    I’ll let you know what happens with my sysprep.inf file as soon as I look at it for errors at the bottom…

    Rob B. Raleigh, NC

  125. Odie Pastunik on January 19th, 2008 2:25 am

    Overwritten default user profile

    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.

  126. rafeeque on March 5th, 2008 12:36 am

    plz send image also

  127. right.. on March 6th, 2008 1:45 am

    found this site through google while installing a clean machine (no FF alas)

    but WHY THE HELL do you need that F*CKING annoying yellow bar all the bloody time?
    i KNOW i should use FF – now GET RID OF THAT CRAPPY THING

  128. Nick on March 18th, 2008 9:44 pm


    Great, great guide. Ghost Solutions Suite documentation does not cover sysprep in detail, so your guide has been a tremendous aid.

    Good one!


  129. ctitimothy on March 26th, 2008 12:47 pm

    I have to create an image file to deploy XP on multiple DELL laptops configured with the same settings and applications. My boss also wants me to make a step by step instructional for installing job specific applications into the active directory to prompt. So, my question is: Will Ghost be able to do this or should I try Acronis?

    Also, any tips you can give me because he is adament that I will only need one iso file (add all necessary drivers for each model laptop of course) to be able to deploy to any of these laptops at a given time.

    Thanks in advance.

  130. Gord on April 7th, 2008 4:00 pm

    I thought this had been covered before but i can’t find it at the moment so i’ll post this.

    We have Acer machines with an OE factory XP Pro image, but when we sysprep with minisetup, and using our corp vol license key, we get an error stating that the product key is not valid, which is somewhat expected but is there a setting to use to get sysprep to wipe whatever setting is in the factory image so our vol key doesn’t conflict?

  131. Hisham on April 9th, 2008 10:32 pm

    @Gord: I’m assuming that you’re trying to repackage the Acer machine’s OEM XP install without installing your own corporate XP install cd? If that is the case, then that is your problem. You need to run a “key finding” utility and find what key Acer has installed. The chances are that it is the same OEM key on every machine. You may just need to enter that instead of your corporate key. However, I’m not sure of the legality of this method so please call Microsoft to confirm it–I can’t take responsibility if you get in trouble.

    To use the corporate key in your possession you’ll have to do a fresh install with the corp version of XP.

  132. dave on April 28th, 2008 8:48 am

    You mention that the base OS shouldn’t have have any other drivers installed other then the ones the OS found.
    In my case the NIC card wasn’t found. Therefore, I won’t be able to install all the Window updates and security patches without the card. So if I install the driver, will this have an affect on other machines that don’t have the same card?


  133. Hisham on April 28th, 2008 8:18 pm

    @dave: the problem isn’t the driver itself. The problem is the helper applications the driver can install that go haywire when they don’t detect the card they were installed for. If your card allows just the driver to be installed then you should be okay.

  134. Khaled on May 29th, 2008 8:14 am

    Do you know how to image the XP to a network location?

    Thanks a lot, I really appreciate your help !

  135. Linda on June 16th, 2008 7:51 am


    Very good site. We are having a problem using UIU and Sysprep. The computer hangs while doing the mini-setup looking for a driver. The mouse and keyboard stop functioning so we are stuck. Any advise. Thanks in advance for your support.


  136. Hisham on June 16th, 2008 11:47 am


    You should probably call UIU’s support facility because I don’t have any experience with that particular piece of software. Good luck.

  137. Dick Treen on July 12th, 2008 7:30 am

    Thank you for this excellent tutorial Hisham. I have a small, 4 station network and have used sysprep to transfer XP with updated software from 1 machine to the other 3. My problem is that I find the nodes in the workgroup under “Microsoft Windows Network” although having the correct individual names, are duplicated in their sub-structure. This means the have the same shared drives and folders etc. as the source machine instead of their own. Please can you tell me if this is fixable?

  138. Johan Michel Struijk on February 23rd, 2009 7:06 am

    I do this quite a bit also but I only run into trouble when a system has a different motherboard… is there any way to make it totally hardware independent (while still keeping all the applications and settings I have set up)..?

  139. Hisham on February 23rd, 2009 7:19 am

    @Johan: I’m sure people have found ways to do this without additional software but I know of two programs that can help achieve this feat. One is Acronis Trueimage with Universal Restore. The other is Ghost Solution Suite. Once you build a base image, you can restore onto any machine using either software.

  140. Chaos on March 29th, 2009 4:55 pm

    Is it possible to modify the sysprep file to look for additional drivers AFTER the sysprep image has been made? I have an image that is already made, and I need to add support for a different model. In the past I have added support for new models by ghosting my image to the new model, renaming the C:\drivers folder, letting the machine setup, and adding the drivers to my c:\drivers folder and re-sysprepping. I have been wondering if it is possible just to modify the sysprep.inf OemPNPDriversPath to add the new path and just put the drivers into the image and be done with it.

  141. Mikael Sundlin on April 16th, 2009 1:01 am

    If your mouse get stuck in the mini installation take a look at this =)


  142. Don Seibert on August 24th, 2010 6:25 am

    Is there a way to update the image once it is sysprepped? I am going to be managing a number of images but don’t have all the hardware to update with.

    Thank you.

  143. Don Seibert on August 24th, 2010 6:31 am

    Also, what files are neccesary to go into the drivers directory. Do you need all the install files and support files or will only the .inf files do.

    Thank you.

  144. Hisham on August 24th, 2010 9:16 am

    @Don Seibert: If you’re managing a number of images then it behooves you to check out Microsoft Deployment Toolkit which is designed to make your life easier.

    This is one of those times that having a “master” computer for each hardware type is useful. However, you may be able to do the same thing with a strategy involving VMware or VirtualBox. I’m not sure if the Windows XP HAL issue will cause problems with this strategy but it’s worth exploring.

    As far as drivers, I usually dump the entire contents of a driver into its directory because it’s far too time consuming to figure out which files are needed without digging through INF files and/or tracking a driver installer’s behavior. These days, a few extra megabytes just isn’t worth the time.

    You should also take a look at this thread on a possible strategy:

    I’m only a hobbyist so take my advice with a grain of salt.

  145. Help? on January 25th, 2011 6:24 pm

    Hisham, I was wondering if you could offer some advice to a fellow hobbyist about drivers. I can follow everything up to Step 13, but have some trouble understanding what exactly you would put in these folders. Let’s use a theoretical Acme Network Card for this example. Would I just go to, find my model, and download a single file there? Will the drivers for my Acme card just be one file, say AcmeCard.dll? I’m confused about drivers and what files actually make them up.

  146. Hisham on January 30th, 2011 11:35 pm

    It gets tricky here but I usually dump all the driver files and leave them there. If I was hurting for space then I may put in a bit more effort to see exactly what needed to be installed.

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