Clone Windows Server 2003 image using System Preparation (SYSPREP) tool – Walkthrough Steps

During Windows installation, the computer is assigned a name and a unique computer SID. If a system is cloned after this step the cloned machines will all have identical computer SIDs. You have the option of changing the SID using the NewSID tool, but it is not supported by Microsoft.

The System Preparation tool
The System Preparation tool enables administrators to prepare Windows Server 2003 system images as part of an automated deployment (normally in Virtual environment).

Using SysPrep tool, you can change security identifiers (SIDs), other system settings, and other configuration settings to make them unique. This method is faster and full proof way of changing the security identifiers (SIDs) of the new image.

SysPrep is found in the file in the \Support\Tools folder on your Windows product CD

Walkthrough Step to use the SysPrep tool:

Step # 1

  • Install fresh copy of the operating system in your virtual environment. (Note: Keep the Administrator password blank)
  • Install necessary components like Service Pack, Windows Updates, .Net Framework etc.
  • Install integration components (VMware or Virtual PC) which software you are using.
  • Make sure you have installed everything after which you can move forward to clone the image.
  • Restart the computer once to make sure that the installed updates have taken effect.


Step # 2

Login to the operating system using the Administrator account (Remember, the password is blank)

Map the ISO image of the Windows operating system to the image.

Create two folders in the C: drive of the operating system.

  • C:\Deploy
  • C:\SysPrep

Browse the \Support\Tools folder on your Windows product CD, and extract all file in the to C:\Deploy folder


Copy sysprep.exe and setupcl.exe file from C:\Deploy folder to C:\SysPrep folder


Run setupmgr.exe file in C:\Deploy folder to create configuration and answer file (sysprep.inf) to automate the installation of Windows.






Answer the set of configuration answers as per your requirement and click Next


In the Computer Name section, select Automatically generate computer name

In the Administrator Password section, keep the password field blank.


In the Identification String section enter any string which will help you determine which Sysprep image has been installed and click Finish.


Setup Manager will prompt you the location where the sysprep.inf file will be saved. Click OK and then click Cancel to exit Setup Manager


Confirm that the sysprep.inf file is automatically saved in the C:\Deploy folder and C:\SysPrep folder.

The i386 folder will also be automatically created in C:\SysPrep folder


Run the sysprep.exe file in C:\SysPrep folder. The following message suggesting that Sysprep tool will change the computer security setting will be displayed. Click OK.


The System Preparation Tool 2.0 dialog box will open. Click on Reseal button.


Click Ok for the prompted dialog box


A dialog box saying “Sysprep is working” will appear and once the activity is complete, the system will shut down.



Step # 3

Copy the virtual hard disk (.vhd/.vmdk as the case may be) to another location for future use.

To confirm that the Sysprep image has been properly created, perform the following steps:

  • Copy the above created virtual hard disk (.vhd/.vmdk) file in the folder where you will create the new virtual machine.

In Virtual PC, you will have to manually copy the .vhd file to the destination folder.

In Hyper-V, you’ll have to use the Export-Import option

In VMware Workstation, you can select the option to clone the image.

  • Rename the virtual hard disk file as per your wish, normally similar to your VM config file.
  • Create a new VM config in Virtual PC/VMware and select to map existing hard disk
  • Start the new virtual machine.

The following screen will be displayed. The rest of the activities will be automatically performed.


Once the logon screen appears, login using the Administrator a/c. Remember the password is blank.

!!! Sysprep installation complete !!!