How-To: Image Windows XP with Ghost and Sysprep
Update (2.24.2006): I’ve gotten some great tips from both the comments at Digg and below. Let me address a few of those.
- Once Sysprep shuts down the computer, if you are able hook up the drive to another system as a secondary device then delete
hibernat.systo save a few hundred megs of space in the final image. Thanks master_of_fm.
- I forgot to go in-depth on the Ghost process. I’ve included basic steps for Ghost 2003 but once the intial Sysprep deployment is made, any disk imaging program can be used. The basic priciples are the same but let me know if you have problems. Thanks hakujin & definiteform.
- billyboobs34 asked if it is possible to make an image that is totally hardware independant. The quick answer (to be best of my knowledge) is no. The problem hinges on the HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) in Windows XP being different on, for example, a uniprocessor and multiprocessor system. The Microsoft Knowledge Base article is linked above. If the HAL is not the problem then it sounds like there may be more of an issue of finding appropriate chipset and mass storage controller drivers for different motherboards. In the custom drivers section, adding in paths to the necessary drivers for other motherboards may mitigate this problem.
In my opinion, the best solution is to have one basic machine for each HAL to make all of your images from. Follow all the steps above but do not reseal the system. Drop down to Ghost (or whatever backup utility you are using) and create an image of the system. In the future, creating compatible images for newer machines would be as simple is restoring the almost-complete Sysprep image and adding in new drivers for the chipset, mass storage controller and anything else you need. Then resealing the system and imaging it for a viable deployment image. Again, I am not an expert so hopefully the Sysprep gurus can step in to address this one if I went wrong somewhere.
- If you are presented a blue screen of death after restoring the Sysprep image to a target machine, then chances are that either the HAL is incompatible for the target machine, you forgot to build the mass storage driver section or you forgot to add a third-party mass storage driver. Refer to Microsoft KB309283 to confirm the source machine HAL is compatible with the target machine. Refer to Microsoft KB303786 if a Stop 0x7b blue screen is shown. This means that the mass storage driver section or third-party mass storage driver is missing.
Update (3.8.2006): If after rebooting, the install hangs at mup.sys or agp440.sys then it’s more than likely a HAL problem. Refer to the previous update to change your HAL. For most modern day single-processor machines make sure your HAL is changed from Uniprocessor ACPI to Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) PC. You can find this setting in Control Panel -> System -> Hardware tab -> Device Manager -> click (+) next Computer -> right click the HAL shown and pick Update Driver -> Install from a list or specific location (Advanced) -> Don’t search. I will choose the driver to install. -> then pick the proper HAL -> hit next/okay until you finish. Now reboot and run through the Sysprep instructions again.
It took me a few tries to finally make an image that restored properly when I first started but, like riding a bike, it’s second nature now. Be ready to experience frustration but in the end it is worth having this knowledge. Again, read the comments below and at Digg to see how others have achieved this process. I don’t claim to be an expert (I’m just a med student by day) but I certainly hope this helps someone.