Sysprep a Windows 7 Machine – Start to Finish

This is the old version, please see the new Sysprep a Windows 7 Machine – Start to Finish V2.

Note – I highly recommend creating a boot or rescue disk before starting any windows 7 technical projects. There are many tools in the market and I use Spotmau BootSuite rescue software and boot disk utility because of it’s versatile features and top notch performance.

Windows 7 Sysprep

Last Updated on 10.04.12

This is a step by step guide on Sysprepping a Windows 7 machine from start to finish. I cannot take full credit on this because my first article had so many helpful comments and discussions that this is simply a combination of all the good advice written into a working guide. (I would especially like to thank George for his input on Cscript for auto activation and Nathan for input on Sysprep Audit Mode). This will guide you through the following:

  • Audit Mode
  • Building the unattend.xml file in WSIM
  • copyprofile=true command to copy the default profile (no manual copy)
  • Prompt for a computer name
  • Enable Administrator account
  • Administrator account logs in first time automatically
  • Activate windows automatically with Cscript;
  • Successfully copy over taskbar icons;
  • Delete unattend.xml file automatically upon completion of re-image.

Tip. In case you want to sysprep Windows 10, you can use our step-by-step guide.

Here is a list of what you will need:

First we are going to walk through building the unattend.xml file (answer file) and then we will walk through the actual Windows 7 imaging process.


Step 1

If you have a Windows 7 installation DVD, insert it now. Or if you have an ISO of 7, go ahead and extract it to a folder on your desktop. (I recommend 7-zip).

Step 2

Launch Windows System Image Manager. Your start menu should look like the image below:

Windows 7 WAIK Version 1

Step 3

Under the “Windows Image” header, right click and select new image.

Windows System Image Manager

Step 4

You will now want to browse to the .CLG file in your Windows 7 installation (I am using Windows 7 Enterprise x64 in my example). It is located in the sources folder. See Image below. You can select either the .clg file or the install.wim. Both will have the same result.

Selecting CLG File - WSIM

Step 5

Now we need to create a new answer file. Go to the file menu and select “Create New Answer File.” Right after creating one, go ahead and simply go to file menu and select “Save Answer File.” This will give your XML file a name and save location. I chose to name mine unattend.xml. Now you see we have two category folders, Components and Packages. Under the Components folder you see that we have 7 options:

  • 1 windowsPE
  • 2 offlineServicing
  • 3 generalize
  • 4 specialize
  • 5 auditSystem
  • 6 auditUser
  • 7 oobeSystem

Step 6

These are very important as these are the steps in which the unattend.xml file is sequenced.
The next part is a little confusing. You are going to add components, from under the “Windows Image” section on the bottom left hand side to the passes on your Answer File. To add a component, you can right click on them and select “add to # pass”. There are many different options you can add, but they have to be done in a certain order and pass otherwise your sysprep might fail. I am simply going to use the one I created as the example.

Answer File - Unattend.xml

Here is more information about adding options under the passes:

1 windowsPE

Nothing required in my example.

2 offlineServicing

Nothing required in my example.

3 generalize

Set 1 for SkipRearm to allow up to 8 rearms

4 specialize

Order: 1
path: net user administrator /active:yes
WillReboot: Never

SkipAutoActivation: true

Computer Name: Leave blank (we will deal with this at the end)
CopyProfile: true
Registered Organization: Microsoft (you must leave this in this section)
Registered Owner: AutoBVT (you must leave this in this section)
ShowWindowsLive: false
TimeZone: Pacific Standard Time

(Please view TimeZone settings here ->

You can delete other sub-header components if you don’t need them.

5 auditSystem

Nothing required in my example.

6 auditUser

Nothing required in my example.

7 oobeSystem


InputLocale: en-us
SystemLocale: en-us
UILanguage: en-us
UserLocale: en-us

RegisteredOrganization: Your Company Name
RegisteredOwner: Your Name

Password: Administrator Password

Enabled: true
LogonCount: 5
Username: administrator

CommandLine: cscript /b c:windowssystem32slmgr.vbs /ipk XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX (windows 7 license key)
Order 1
RequiresUserInput: false
CommandLine: cscript /b c:windowssystem32slmgr.vbs /ato
Order 2
RequiresUserInput: false


HideEULAPage: true
NetworkLocation: Home
ProtectYourPC: 1

Password: Administrator Password

Action: AddListItem
Description: Local Administrator
DisplayName: Administrator
Group: Administrators
Name: Administrator


AdministratorPassword: Administrator Password

If you have questions, look at my image above to see full layout of components, it should help.

Step 7

K, now go ahead and save your answer file as unattend.xml.

Step 8

If you want the sysprep to prompt for a computer name you need to remove a line from your XML file. Open up your XML file you saved with notepad and remove the following line:

Unattend.xml Computer Name


Step 9

Install Windows 7 (Enterprise) from CD or USB flash drive, when you arrive at the welcome screen and it asks you to create a username, hit ctrl+shift+f3.
This will reboot your machine and put your windows build in ‘audit’ mode.

Step 10

On reboot, you’ll automatically be logged in under the built-in Administrator account. A sysprep GUI box will appear, but you can close it and NOW begin to customize your profile.

Step 11

Install any software/drivers, make any profile customizations, etc.
If you need to reboot, the computer will boot you back into the Administrator account. You will be stuck in this audit mode until you run sysprep with the /oobe parameter. After doing so, sysprep will delete/clean up the Administrator account, but if you have copyprofile=true in your unattended answer file, it will copy the customized Admin account to the default profile before deleting it.

Step 12

On the PC you are going to be running sysprep on, you need to create a folder called scripts in this directory: %WINDIR%Setup. Now you are going to create a CMD file within the %WINDIR%SetupScripts directory. Right click and make a new text file called SetupComplete.txt. Remove the .txt extension and replace that with .cmd. You now have a SetupComplete.cmd file which windows will read the first time it boots up from the sysprep. We need to place a script inside the CMD file. Edit the cmd file with notepad and insert this line: del /Q /F c:windowssystem32sysprepunattend.xml. This script will delete your unattend.xml file after it has been used. The unattend.xml file is also copied to the C:WindowsPanther directory, so you will want to add a second line to the CMD file, del /Q /F c:windowspantherunattend.xml. If you have passwords or cd keys stored in that xml file you don’t have to worry about it being left on the computer.

UPDATE AS OF JUNE 16TH: Read my Taskbar Icons Tutorial before continuing.

Step 13

Once you have everything configured correctly, Copy or move your unattend.xml file to : C:windowssystem32sysprep. Now to run sysprep, navigate to that sysprep folder, hold SHIFT and right click and select “Open New Command Windows Here”. Next, input the following commands:

sysprep /generalize /oobe /shutdown /unattend:unattend.xml

Step 14

Turn the computer back on and boot to WinPE 3.1 environment (USB stick or CD/DVD). You can use my theITBros WinPE3.1 BootLoader to boot up from USB or CD and capture your image. Capture image and save image to network location.
A Dell 960 or GX755 is a good standard for capturing when you want a generic image for use with multiple systems. Might require injecting additional drivers for 3rd party brands, HP, etc. Most should work though right out of the box.

Step 15

On reboot, Windows will run out of the box, as the /oobe is intended. As long as you put your cd key into the unattend.xml file, windows will be activated automatically in the background, you will be automatically logged into the administrator account, and the unattend.xml file is deleted. You are now ready to use the computer or join it to the domain. Enjoy!

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