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="">


Windows Product Information

Outlook freezes or locks up when using a personal certificate...

Last updated  September 13th, 2013 by Steven Jordan


Outlook 2013 has a bug that prevents message delivery after a certificate is installed from the Outlook Trust Center.  After adding the personal the certificate  Outlook freezes and locks after attempting to send.
Microsoft KB 2813237 indicates applications may freeze on Windows 8 when using password protected certificates.  Applying the hotfix resolved all Outlook certificate problems.  Email delivery, message encryption, and digital signature now work as expected. 
However, there was a negative side effect from the hotfix.   Internet Explorer was unable to authenticate using personal certificates. This problem affects both IE and Google Chrome.  The issue was a problem because I was unable to logon or authenticate to StartSSL.  Short-term solution was to use Firefox which maintains certificates independent of Windows.

 Specific Errors:
"Your digital ID name cannot be found by the underlying security system"
"Your Digital Id Name Cannot Be Found By The Underlying Security"

Uninstall all personal certificates via Internet Options. 
          Control Panel > Internet Options > Content > Certificates
After personal certificates are removed proceed to import the certificate from Internet Options.  If the personal certificate is added through Internet Options (do not install via Outlook 2013) Outlook automatically works with the certificate and IE continues to authenticate with the certificate.  I normally install certificates via the certificate management MMC so the approach was new to me.

Batman Arkham and Games for Windows Live Profile Problem on Steam.

Last updated  July 16th, 2013 by Steven Jordan

Update to original post:

The login issue reverted to its original state :(
...but I seemed to have found a permanent fix :)

With a couple changes the game was running perfect again.

Some folks on the Internet advised uninstalling the entire game.  Others recommended uninstalling all Direct X clients and only installing the 9.0 version.  This is what worked for me:
  1. Uninstall the Games for Windows client from the uninstaller in Control Panel > Programs and Features.  If installed, also uninstall any related Windows Live clients.
  2. Restart the computer.  This step is very important.
  3. Download the latest Games for Windows client:
  4. Install the new Games for Windows client.
After I installed the new Games for Windows client I kept getting the following error when I attempted to launch the program:

“The program can’t start because wldlog.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix problem
The final steps:

     5.  Download the latest Windows Essentials client:

     6.  Install the Windows Essentials application.  I only installed the bare minimum; no photo gallery or other options.

After I had installed Windows Essentials and attempted to launch Games for Windows from the Start menu I received a logon error.  I was sure I entered my gamer tag properly but the client continued to reject it.  Before I threw in the towel I attempted to launch Arkham City one last time.

To my surprise everything worked perfectly.  I was able to launch Arkham City and was immediately logged onto the game when I hit start.  All my previous progress was saved and ready.  I also tested the concept with Arkham Asylum.  No problems with the other game either.  It's now been 3 weeks without further problems.  I consider the problem solved.

P.S.  This post has been surprisingly popular.   It will be a big favor if you click the Google+ in the right hand column.  Thanks for your help!  -SMJ

Published on 6/1/2013
by Steven Jordan

Installed the Windows Batman Arkham game on Windows 8 for my son ;) over the weekend. After game was launched in Steam we received an error message "no profile" and "not signed into Games for Windows Live".  

I found many others with the same problem on Google; but no simple solution. I also found many others had similar problems with their GFWL updates.  GFWL can run great on Windows 8.  Hopefully this easy fix will help some family gamers:

There seems to be a permission issue with Games for Windows Live (GFWL) running with Steam in Windows 8.  When Steam launches the GFWL client, the Win8 User Access Control (UAC)  prevents the GFWL from running with the necessary permissions.  To resolve the issue, change the GFWL shortcuts and executable to run as "Administrator".

  1. Browse to "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games for Windows - LIVE\Client\"
  2. Right click on "GFWLClient.exe" and left click on Properties.
  3. Click on the Compatibility Tab from the GFWLClient.exe properties.
  4. Check "Run this program as an administrator" and click OK.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the GFWLive.exe program in the same directory. 

For addition accessibility, change the permissions for the "Games for Windows Marketplace" shortcut in the Start Menu:

  1.  Browse to "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Microsoft Games for Windows Marketplace"
  2. Right click on the "Games for Windows Marketplace" short-cut.
  3. Left click on "Properties".
  4. Click on the "Advanced" button.
  5. Check "Run as administrator" and click "OK".

Running programs as administrator should be discouraged.  The manual workaround is to manually run the "Games for Windows Marketplace" from "Start".  This is accomplished by:

  1. Hold the "Shift" button down and right clicking on the "Games for Windows Marketplace" icon.
  2. Choose "Run as Administrator" to launch the GFWL client with temporary elevated privileges.
  3. Launch Batman in Steam after the GFWL client is running.

The last option is to disable the UAC from "Users" within the "Control Panel".  N.B. Disabling the UAC puts the PC and all of its data at risk.  If the UAC is disabled there is a strong likelihood the PC will become compromised.