sysprep windows 10

Sysprep Windows 10 Machine: Step by Step Guide


In this article we will show you how to use PowerShell and Windows System Preparation Tool to prepare a highly customized, personal Windows 10 install image. Before starting the installation, we need to make sure that our computer or virtual machine is not connected to network, because the sysprep process will later fail if the PC was connected to Internet during the installation. You need to notice that we are using Build 9926 of Windows 10, so maybe this bug will be fixed in later builds. Let’s start this process.

Step 1 – Boot to Audit Mode

Start Windows installation normally. After reboot or two Windows is installed and process stops waiting your input. At this point we need to click on the Use express settings button. On next dialog you should not type a username, so don’t enter it.

windows 10 your account

Instead, press and hold down the CTRL+SHIFT+F3 keys combination. Windows will now reboot to a special customization mode, the Audit Mode.

As no user profiles exist yet, Windows will use its built-in administrator account to sign in to Audit Mode. There is only one visible sign to mark that you have entered the Audit Mode desktop, the Sysprep dialog in the middle of the display. But we don’t need it right now, so click on the Cancel button.

Read also: Sysprep a Windows 7 Machine – Start to Finish

Until now the installation was done without a network connection. So, you can connect your PC to network and Internet now.

Step 2 – Download and Install the Windows 10 ADK

What we are going to do next is to download and install the Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). First of all we need to install the Windows System Image Manager (WSIM), a part of the Windows ADK. You can download it from the links below:

Home link
Direct Link

windows 10 adk download

Once it is downloaded, run the installation file. Here you don’t need to change the location, so click on Next. After that accept the license agreement and go ahead.

Now you need to select the features you want to install. In our case, we just need to install only WSIM, so put the mark only on Deployment Tools and click on Install.

windows 10 deployment tools

Step 3 – Install OEM information and logo

It’s very easy to install OEM information and logo. You just need to create the .reg file and put information that you want. In our case we put in the following content:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\OEMInformation]
“Logo”=”C\\WINDOWS\\oem\\OEMlogo.bmp”
“Manufacturer”=”TheITBros, LLC”
“Model”=”Windows 10 Pro Image 10-1-2015”
“SupportHours”=”9am to 5pm ET M-F”
“SupportURL”=http://theitbros.com

Now, you need to create the oem folder in C:\Windows and put there your logo. Once it is done, just open up the .reg file that we have created earlier and it will automatically add it to the registry.

oem reg file

windows 10 info system

Step 4 – Begin customization in Audit Mode

Now we will install all the applications and settings we would like to be present in the default user profile. Default profile is used as base profile when you later create users on your Windows PC.

To install default all user apps we will use OneGet, an integrated module of PowerShell. We cannot just go to the Start Menu and to the Search, because they are disabled in Windows 10 Audit Mode. So, we need to start PowerShell manually by browsing deep into Windows folder and starting it from there.

Go to C:\Windows\syswow64\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0 and then run powershell_ise application.

powershell ise

First thing we need to do is extend our rights to run scripts, in order to be able to install software from a package provider later on.

All we need is just type Set-Executionpolicy Unrestricted command.

Now we need to use the package manager or provider. The package manager we will use now is called Chocolatey. It needs unrestricted script execution policy, which is why we set it first thing after the PowerShell had started.
To add a provider we need to type Get-Packageprovider Chocolatey command.

windows 10 powershell sysprep

Step 5 – Install the software you need

To install all the software that we need, we just have to use the Install-Package script. Let’s say we want to install Opera, Google Chrome, VLC, Adobe Reader, 7Zip and Zoomit.

To do it, you need to type Install-Package Opera, GoogleChrome, VLC, AdobeReader, 7Zip, Zoomit –Force command.

Step 6 – Uninstall built-in apps

Also you can uninstall built-in apps, but it’s really up to you. So, if you don’t want to uninstall built-in apps, just skip this step.

Paste the following scripts onto the PowerShell command line and press Enter.

Get-AppxPackage *3dbuilder* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *windowsalarms* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *Appconnector* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *windowscalculator* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *windowscommunicationsapps* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *windowscamera* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *CandyCrushSaga* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *officehub* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *skypeapp* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *getstarted* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *zunemusic* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *windowsmaps* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *Messaging* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *solitairecollection* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *ConnectivityStore* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *bingfinance* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *zunevideo* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *bingnews* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *onenote* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *people* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *CommsPhone* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *windowsphone* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *photos* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *WindowsScan* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *bingsports* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *windowsstore* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *Office.Sway* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *Twitter* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *soundrecorder* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *bingweather* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *xboxapp* | Remove-AppxPackage
 Get-AppxPackage *XboxOneSmartGlass* | Remove-AppxPackage

Step 7 – Create an Answer file

Now we need to create an Answer File. An answer file is a set of instructions in an XML file. When sysprep is run, it reads these instructions, what changes it should make to the Windows image.

At first we need to create a catalog file. For that we need the install.wim file from a Windows install disk or ISO file.

Note. Windows 10 Build 9926 install.wim file for some reason cannot be used for the catalog file. This will be fixed in future builds, for sure. But for now we have a workaround.

To get an answer file for our Build 9926, at first we have to create the catalog using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 Builds 9841, 9860 or 9879 install.wim file, and later edit the answer file.

Find the install.wim on any install media for above mentioned Windows versions and copy to the desktop of the PC you are using for this process now.

The install.wim can be found in Sources folder in any Windows install media. We are using the install.wim from Windows 8.1 Update 1.

Open Windows System Image Manager.

Location of the Windows System Image Manager is:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.1\Assessment and Deployment Kit\Deployment Tools\WSIM\imgmgr.exe

windows 10 imgmgr

Now, create a new answer file, and select the install.wim we just copied to the desktop.

Creating the catalog will take quite a long time.

windows 10 catalog file

Once it is done, we need to do the most important thing, set the CopyProfile value to TRUE. This setting is telling Sysprep to copy all our customizations to default user profile.

sysprep windows 10 copy profile

Once it is done, let the Windows SIM validate your answer file and check it for errors. Click on Tools -> Validate.

In our case it is nothing to be worried about, only warnings about some deprecated settings no longer possible to change, and notices that because we did not change some settings, they will be left out.

Now, we can save the answer file and name it as we want to. But the file extension must always be .xml. Save the answer file to root of any drive other than C:.

messages sysprep

After that you can delete the install.wim and catalog files from the desktop.

Because the install.wim file that we have used is not belonging to the version of Windows we will Sysprep, the answer file must be edited. So, open it in Notepad.

Change the path to your Windows 10 install.wim file at the bottom of the answer file. In our case we need to change drive and Windows version to Windows 10 Pro. Now, save this file as CustomImage.xml on the drive D:.

custom image

Step 8 – Run Sysprep

Finally let’s run sysprep. Open up Command Prompt as admin.

Go to Sysprep folder and type in the following command:

Sysprep.exe /generalize /oobe /shutdown /unattend:D:\CustomImage.xml

In our case the answer file is on the root of the drive D:. Change the command according to where your answer file is located.

sysprep cmd

The system will now shutdown and is ready to be imaged using your choice of imaging software.

When the computer has booted to imaging and recovery tool, create a system image according to instructions for the program you are using. Once it is done, shutdown the computer.

You have created a generalized, highly customized Windows install image which can be restored to any computer instead of installing. Restoring takes only half of the time needed for installation.

Start PC normally to finalize the installation.

The Welcome phase first boot is a bit different in a Sysprepped Windows. You will be asked to enter the product key. This is of course not necessary, you can skip it.

enter product key

Now, create a local account. You can later change it to a Microsoft Account.

Finally, we did it. After installation you will see that all customizations are there, all software you installed in Audit Mode are there as well.

That’s all. If you have any questions, you are free to leave them in the comments section below.


  • Joe L

    Hello, need some help here please. I have setup a win 10 64-bit computer with all latest ms updates, device drivers, and applications. I have enabled local hidden admin, created two other local admins as well. I have activated Windows 10 already since we have VL licensing. After re-imaging, I would for it to only prompt user for computer name. We will add to our domain manually for now. We create disk image using symantec ghost to deploy to similar model desktops/laptops with UEFI bios. With this info, what passes and settings do I use on my unattended file. Your advise would truely be appreciated, I will donate as well as your articles are very useful.

  • David_Levine

    Thanks for this great article! But, there is a problem with the CTRL-SHIFT-F3 reference, it doesn’t work at the Windows 10 user account creation screen as mentioned above. It DOES work at the Settings screen though.

    • DJMankiwitz

      I’m also trying to figure this out. I set up the image as a single partition on the drive initially for simplicity, and here it’s suddenly telling me I was supposed to have an extra partition as drive d where this is all stored. Some explanation would be most helpful here.

  • Piotr Smalira

    How can I upgrade my customized image to Windows 10 1607? Is it possible?