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
- Install Windows XP on a clean hard drive.
- 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_DRIVEwhere 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
….snipped out windows mass storage driver list….
testuseraccount with administrative privileges. Use this account to install and configure all the software and policies on the system.
testuseraccount to the
Administratorstart menu. (Note: This is necessary as some installers do not create start menu items in
All Usersbut within the
testuserprofile only. This leaves some items missing on the
c:\Documents and Settings\Default User. If you don’t understand then refer to Microsoft KB291586.
testuseraccount. Make sure that
c:\Documents and Settings\testuserhas been deleted too.
sysprep.inffile 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
The process of creating a basic
sysprep.inf file is now completed.
c:\sysprep\sysprep.infin Notepad and add the following lines to the relavent sections (if the heading doesn’t exist, create it):
sysprep.infyet! OemPNPDriversPath points to the
c:\driversdirectory 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\videoand 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_infis just that, the name of the inf file. For example, for the latest nVidia driver, the path would be
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.
c:\sysprep\sysprep -bmsd. This will build the Windows XP standard mass storage drivers section.
InstallFilesPathwhich 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.
[SysprepMassStorage]section as detailed above.
Sysprep is now complete. Part 2 discusses imaging.