Easy Sysprep Answer File Retains Activation

Create a simple answer file for the Windows System Preparation (Sysprep) tool.

Create Sysprep Answer File

By Steven Jordan on April 4th, 2012.

Why use an answer file?  The answer key includes the Windows product key and retains its activation throughout the cloning process. Newly provisioned systems have an out of box (OOB) experience which boots straight to the Windows Start Screen.

How do I use Sysprep with an answer file?

  1. Setup & configure a fresh version of Windows per individual preference.  Install all applications and updates.
  2. Enter the Windows product key and activate the product.
  3. Use the XML code (below) as the Sysprep answer file.  
  4. Edit the code to include the correct key.
  5. Save the XML to c:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\autounattend.xml
  6. Run Sysprep with the following switches:  
          C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\sysprep /generalize /oobe /shutdown /unattend:Autounattend.xml

That's it.  Before you attach the VHD to a new VM, or starup the newly sysprepped VM, make a copy of the original (i.e., golden image) so it can be used again.  The VM starts up with the product key already activated.

N.B.  2012 systems ask for a key when it boots up for the first time.  Don't worry about the key; simply click next.  Confirm the system is activated in System from the Control Panel.  This does not appear to be an issue with 2012 R2.

# Save the code below as Autounattend.xml.
# Change the <Product key> to match correct key.
# Save in c:\Windows\Ststem32\Sysprep

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<unattend xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:unattend">
<settings pass="oobeSystem">
    <component name="Microsoft-Windows-International-Core" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="" xmlns:xsi="">
    <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="" xmlns:xsi="">
        <TimeZone>Pacific Standard Time</TimeZone>
<settings pass="specialize">
    <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="" xmlns:xsi="">


Back up Windows 2012 Active Directory (AD) with DPM 2010

Last updated  October 13th, 2013 by Steven Jordan

Backup 2012 AD with 2010 DPM.

Disclaimer:  Microsoft does not support DPM 2010 backup for Windows 2012 servers.  I have found however, the backup process still works.  I have only run into 2 (resolvable) issues so far:
  1. Automatic installation of the DPM 2010 installation agent on Windows 2012 servers no longer works.  The DPM agent must be installed manually.  See my previous post on DPM for instructions.
  2. DPM 2010 backups of the system state for Windows 2012 server with Active Directory (AD) server installed failed. 

    Windows Server Backup must be installed on the Windows 2010 AD server in order to backup the system state.  This is only true for 2012 servers with AD roles installed.  After the Windows Server Backup feature was installed there were no longer problems with related DPM backups. 

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