The purpose of this guide is to discuss the abilities and usage of the Microsoft System Preparation Tool (SysPrep) tool that Microsoft provides in order to make replication of their operating system easier. It is an invaluable tool that can be used in combination with other tools like Symantec Ghost, Acronis True Image and the now defunct PowerQuest Drive Image (since it was acquired by Symantec in 2005). The guide focuses on the Windows XP SP2 version of SysPrep, but the guide can easily be applied to other versions of SysPrep on Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003 and even to Windows NT4.
The generalized instructions chapter will show you the general steps to go from Windows install to deployable image. There is a lot of background information to SysPrep and without understanding it all then you will have a much harder time deploying SysPrep.
One of the important steps that you need to take before you apply SysPrep is to use a hardware abstraction layer (HAL) that will be the most compatible so that your image won't freeze on the boot after applying the image on certain computers.
One of the most problematic areas of SysPrep seems to be the lack of understanding in the configuration of mass storage devices. This section will provide flexible instructions for deploying an image that works on all controller cards and chipsets so that you can avoid the blue screen of death that causes your computer to reboot after using SysPrep.
This chapter is useful when your template computer is setup, you have configured your sysprep.inf, your driver stores are all set and so on and so forth. The execution chapter focuses on how to run SysPrep and tips on running it in the most streamlined ways.
When you get stuck then this is the place to go. I try to provide answers to the most common questions that I receive through email, and from the most common problems that I experienced when learning SysPrep. If you do not see an answer to one of your problems in here then please email me and ask it because chances are if you're having a problem then there are hundreds or thousands had, have or will have the same problem.
I have put together this video and I highly recommend that you watch it after you have a general idea on how to use SysPrep. It will step through the various phases of downloading, installing and configuring SysPrep, and it will do this while I explain what the steps mean. It is my hope that this video will put it all together for you so that it finally makes perfect sense. If you are extremely confused by SysPrep then you may want to begin with the video guide and then end with the video guide.
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