VMware vCenter 4.1 clone using Custom Sysprep doesn't work on previously cloned copy.

Posted on 2011-04-29
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hello Experts!

After I've already cloned and used sysprep on a virtual machine, cloning that newly configured VM doesn't want to run sysprep...

Virtual Machines -- Clone/Sysprep Process and how deep I've gone:
Deploy/Sysprep Template(Win2k8R2Web) to AlphaOneServer
Clone/Sysprep AlphaOneServer to AlphaTwoServer
Clone/Sysprep AlphaOneServer to AlphaQAServer
Clone/Sysprep QA-AlphaOneServer to BravoServerOne
Clone/Sysprep BravoServerOne to BravoServerTwo - doesn't sysprep, really just BravoServerOne...

This may look confusing or moreover convoluted but I assure you there is a reason to why I need to Clone/Sysprep that deep.  My question remains the same... how do I troubleshoot VMware Cloning and Sysprep?

This is a snippet of C:\Windows\Panther\UnattendGC\setupact.log during the time the cloned version “tried” to sysprep…:
2011-04-29 00:00:00, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM started
2011-04-29 00:00:00, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] Panther path is C:\Windows\Panther
2011-04-29 00:00:00, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SQM not opted in
2011-04-29 00:00:00, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM is finished
2011-04-29 08:45:05, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM started
2011-04-29 08:45:05, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] Panther path is C:\Windows\Panther
2011-04-29 08:45:05, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SQM not opted in
2011-04-29 08:45:05, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM is finished
2011-04-29 10:05:23, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM started
2011-04-29 10:05:23, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] Panther path is C:\Windows\Panther
2011-04-29 10:05:23, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SQM not opted in
2011-04-29 10:05:23, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM is finished
2011-04-29 11:13:45, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM started
2011-04-29 11:13:45, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] Panther path is C:\Windows\Panther
2011-04-29 11:13:45, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SQM not opted in
2011-04-29 11:13:45, Info	[SETUPSQM.EXE] SetupSQM is finished

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I’ve been successful cloning and sysprep’ing other VMs but not the VMs that I’ve already Sysprep’d a few times.  Is there anything I need to “clear” or remove to allow sysprep to run as if it hasn’t yet?

Happy Friday!
Question by:TickSoft

    Author Comment

    I just realized my original clone wasn't activated yet... I think this is the cause.  I am in the processes of Cloning the (now activated) VM...
    LVL 16

    Expert Comment

    I believe there's a limit of 3 times a system can be sysprep'd.  I'll see if I can find the link.

    Author Comment

    Here is Microsoft's article: How Sysprep Works

    There is no limit to the number of times Sysprep can run on a computer. However, the clock for Windows Product Activation begins its countdown the first time Windows starts. You can use the sysprep /generalize command to reset Windows Product Activation a maximum of three times. After the third time you run the sysprep /generalize command, the clock can no longer be reset.
    LVL 16

    Expert Comment

    thanks ticksoft for that link!

    Author Comment

    Np - Although I'm sitting here watching the cloned VM do absolutely squat after activating the source VM.  Either I'm misinterpreting the " limit to the number of times Sysprep can run..." or I have something corrupt on this batch of VM Clones.
    LVL 116

    Expert Comment

    by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
    I always thought it was the magic 3!

    Could you deploy the clone without Customization first and Sysprep?

    Author Comment

    The cloning works fine with or without Customization/Sysprep.
    LVL 23

    Expert Comment

    hi ticksoft,

    we ran into a similar issue with windows 2008 32/64 bit images. The issue with them was that the VMs were created from media which was a CTP image and not RTM. The CTP images have time limits and activation is not the only limitation with such images.

    another issue was that the initial image was cloned three times before we started the deployments on VMware i.e. we had used the third copy and not the first copy.

    few things we did to avoid such issues :

    1. Use RTM version to build the image
    2. Skip entering license key on the image and rather enter the key while activating the image.

    LVL 116

    Accepted Solution

    Here's an interesting note if you've never seen it...

    Customization Specification of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista Guest Operating System Can Only be Changed Thrice Successively

    Consider a virtual machine running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista. You can clone this virtual machine with customization, and edit the customization specification of the clone to create another virtual machine. However, only three such successive cloning operations can be performed.
    For example, if virtual machine A is cloned to virtual machine B, virtual machine B is cloned to virtual machine C, virtual machine C is cloned to virtual machine D, and the customization specification of the guest operating system is edited for every clone operation, then an operation to clone virtual machine D with customization might fail.

    The above is also applicable to Windows 7, because I've seen the issue there with VMware View LInked Clones!

    this is from the release notes of VI3.


    Author Comment

    Hey bhanukir7,

    I'm using the following copy of Win2k8 R2 - SW_DVD5_Windows_Svr_DC_EE_SE_Web_2008R2_64-bit_English_X15-59754

    As for your #2. are you saying modify the unattended.xml file and skip the rearm?

    I found an answer to the rearm issue here:

    I just tried adding the following to my unattend.xml:
    <settings pass="generalize">
      <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Security-SPP">

    Open in new window

    And I just verified the sysprep performed this time.

    I'm not sure if SkipRearm will have any future ill effects...would anyone have any clue as to whether rearm will cause any issues down the road?

    LVL 23

    Assisted Solution

    hi ticksoft,

    in conjunction with what i have earlier said, refer to what "hanccocka" has posted after my comment.

    while the skiprearm trick would still work you need to ensure that the template you have in place is the first copy of OS install.

    To elaborate what hanccocka posted

    if this is how you have made copies Copy "A">>copy "B" >> copy "C" >> copy "D"

    its better to mark either copy "A" or Copy "B" as you template and from that deploy multiple copies.


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