Prepare to Capture an Image for Deployment (Generalize)

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2


This content applies to Windows 7. For Windows 8 content, see Windows Deployment with the Windows ADK.

To deploy a Windows® image to multiple computers, you must first prepare the image for deployment. To prepare the image, you must do the following:

  • Remove the computer-specific information from the image. This is called generalizing the image.

  • Reset the Windows activation clock. This is called rearming the activation clock.

Generalizing the image

When you generalize a Windows image, Windows Setup processes settings in the generalize configuration pass. For more information about this configuration pass, see generalize Configuration Pass.

Persisting Plug and Play Drivers During Generalize

When you set up your reference computer, Windows Setup installs drivers for any detected devices. By default, these drivers are removed when you generalize the system. If you are deploying the image to computers with the same hardware and devices, Windows Setup reinstalls these same drivers. To keep these drivers on the computer during system generalization, use the Microsoft-Windows-PnPSysprep\PersistAllDeviceInstalls setting. For more information, see the Windows® Unattended Setup Reference.

To generalize your image

Do one of the following to generalize your image:

  • Use the unattended setting Microsoft-Windows-Deployment\Generalize. Set Mode = OOBE or Mode = Audit and ForceShutdownNow = true. When the reference computer is created, the computer automatically generalizes the image and shuts down.

- or -

  • In audit mode, in the System Preparation Tool window, select Generalize and Shutdown, and then click OK. The computer generalizes the image and shuts down.


  • In audit mode, open a Command Prompt window as an administrator. Use the sysprep command with the /generalize, /shutdown, and /oobe options. The computer generalizes the image and shuts down.

After the computer shuts down, use image capturing tools, such as Windows PE and ImageX, to capture your image. For more information, see Capture Images.

You can then deploy this image to another computer. When the other computer starts, it boots to Windows Welcome.


The computer security identifier (SID) is only replaced on the operating system volume when you execute Sysprep. When Sysprep generalizes an image, Sysprep only generalizes the general partition. Therefore, a single PC has multiple operating systems, you must run Sysprep on each image individually.

Rearming the activation clock

If you install Windows with a single-license product key, you have 30 days to activate that installation of Windows. By default, when you generalize the computer, the 30-day activation clock resets. The number of times you can reset the activation clock may be limited. For more information about the activation clock, including instructions on how to manage the clock, see Manage the Activation Clock.

See Also


Customize Windows in Audit Mode
Capture Images
How Sysprep Works
generalize Configuration Pass