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Windows 7 Image fails to boot after ImageX /apply

Posted on 2011-09-02
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
Hi there!

I have had the most frustrating time trying to achieve a viable Windows 7 deployable image.  I'm not sure where I'm missing the boat, but regardless I end up with a disk image that will not boot: most commonly it tells me that it cannot find NTLDR and stops.

I have a formula that seemed to work, yet it simply will not boot once it is applied to another drive.  Obviously I'm missing something fairly important, here.

To start with, I built the initial Windows 7 install image on the Test PC, and just before naming the machine, break into the "short admin" mode using CTRL-SHIFT-F3.  While in that mode, I install a few apps that we will need to perform certain hardware tests (later, on other machines, theoretically).  Without using SysPrep to re-close the image, I shut down the Test PC, remove the hard drive, and attach that drive to the Image Workstation (another PC).  Once on the Image Workstation, I run ImageX to capture the current image in its current state.

imagex /capture i:\ "C:\Temp\Win7-Production-20110902.wim" "Win7 Production"

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Note:  Whenever I attach this particular drive to another machine, it boots just fine to the "Admin" state, with SysPrep already started and ready to re-seal the install.  Drivers and Apps appear as expected, so it would seem that - at least at that stage of the install - the image is stable enough for production.

Now comes the other end.  With the image ready, I prepare an identical hard drive using the following steps:

diskpart
   select disk 6
   clean
   create partition primary
   select partition 1
   active
   format fs=ntfs quick
   exit

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...once that takes place, I transfer the captured/stored Windows 7 image to the carefully prepared drive, like this:

imagex /apply "C:\Temp\Win7-Production-20110902.wim" 1 i:\

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...and take that imaged drive right back to the Test PC, and plug it in.  But this image won't boot.  It consistently tells me that it cannot find NTLDR, and when I decided to "cheat" and use 'BootSect /nt60 i:' to get past that error, suddenly it cannot find winload.exe - which is there, in c:\windows\system32, right where it is supposed to be.

The goal is to provide a Windows 7 image that is ready to perform a few hardware tests (to verify a correct installation) before using SysPrep to re-seal the install before handing it off to the end-user.

Thanks in advance for your timely assistance.
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Question by:LongFist
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by:madhatter5501
ID: 36475602
I think you should be running sysprep to reset the sid.  Then you should be able to apply the image.  or have you tried that already?
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by:LongFist
ID: 36475660
Actually I tried that first (re-sealing the install), figuring that maybe there was something "unfinished" when leaving the install in its un-sealed state like that.  So I connected the (stable) install image back to the Test PC, and ran the unattended SysPrep xml (which re-sealed it, and included some specific drivers along the way), to no avail: it still cannot find NTLDR.
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madhatter5501 earned 500 total points
ID: 36475676
have you tried any of these other free programs that my be simpler than running imageX

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-drive-imaging-program.htm
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by:LongFist
ID: 36475721
Can't say that I have.  We considered CloneZilla for a little while, but its inability to restore an image to a smaller (yet still sufficient-sized) partition knocked it out of the running.  That's why I posed the question here: we're trying to see if we can resolve this little issue - if it's possible - before over-complicating everything by introducing (yet) another utility.  (Those were my boss's sentiments, anyway.)  But we're not averse to an alternate method, should it come to that.

It just seems that ImageX should be able to handle this.  Other people have successfully employed that tool to deploy their Windows 7 platforms; so it shouldn't be too awfully impossible.  (I hope.)
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 36475769
I wouldn't bother with 3rd party apps.

I'll first express concern that you're seemingly using ImageX without WDS or MDT?  Any reason?

Second, one thing I've seen problems with is when you create an image on a system that does NOT include the same EXACT number of partitions.  Basic Windows Setup is to create a 100 MB boot partition and then install Windows on a second MUCH larger partition.  If you skip that boot partition, but the image you built has it, then it's looking to the second partition for the Windows install... but there is NO SECOND PARTITION!

If you deploy using WDS, this shouldn't be a problem (if memory serves) provided you let the Setup image do the necessary work.  (And if 100 MB is REALLY that important to you, get larger drives to begin with!)
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by:madhatter5501
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 36476615
need to do a bcdboot c:\windows

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by:LongFist
ID: 36485414
leew: I'll first express concern that you're seemingly using ImageX without WDS or MDT?  Any reason?
It could be something as simple as ignorance.  Starting with "What are WDS and MDT"?  Sorry, but I'm not conversant on the latest TLAs (three-letter acronyms).  I'll assume that WDS does not mean "Wireless Distribution System" in this case, right?  Pardon my ignorance - I'm from a different background, just getting my feet wet with the new techniques.  Which is why I make/made the assumptions I outlined in the initial post.

ve3ofa: How would I go about doing this?  I mean, do I perform this task on the machine upon which the build was originated, or do I perform it on the Image workstation (a different PC), or what?  I'm unsure how I would apply this step, is all.  (Thanks for the suggestion.  Pardon my ignorance.)
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 36485721
on the machine that will not boot.
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 36485731
WDS - windows deployment services which replaces remote install service (RIS) which is a server role fully automated install of operating systems supports PXE boot
MDT - Microsoft Deployment Toolkit a semi-automated way of capturing images and installing Windows 7
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 36485783
Pilot and Deploy Windows 7
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dd641427

MDT: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/solutionaccelerators/dd407791
WDS: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc772106%28WS.10%29.aspx

MDT has been around AT LEAST 3 years (probably longer)
WDS has been around at least 6 years (probably longer) as it was a component of AT LEAST 2003 R2.
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by:LongFist
ID: 36485918
Ah.  Then I have an answer as to why we're not employing WDS: my boss doesn't want to provision yet another server for a limited engagement of OS distributions.  Thus, I am bound to try and figure out how to (a) "lift" an OS Install Image from one drive in order to (b) "blow" the image onto similar drives for other machines - limited engagement, I don't know how limited.  He probably knows better than I do what's needed/available at this time, so I'm going to try to stick with a simple ImageX /capture ImageX /appy solution, as it seems like it would be simplest.

On the surface I figured this to be pretty simple, especially because all of the buzz I'd heard about how Windows 7 was so much easier to distribute (being image-based) than Windows XP was, etc.  So like a fool I downloaded WAIK, figured out how to build an image ready to re-seal, then set about capturing the image for use on another box.  It all sounded too simple, I guess.  It looks like it would work, though, so logical on the surface.

So, here's a problem with the "bcdboot" solution: How do I "bcdboot c:\windows" on a machine that does not boot up?  It comes up to a DOS-style screen telling me it cannot find NTLDR, then allows me to hit ENTER to try and continue, where it tries to let me restart the box: no prompts or other asides are available.  It's not that I didn't try: maybe my ignorance truly runs that deep.  I'm attempting to overcome that at present.  But I haven't been successful so far.

Sorry if I seem confused (or worse): I'm still trying to get my head around all of this.

Oh, and thank you for your timely assistance.  I'm still trying to get this to work...
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 36486555
use the winpe.iso and burn it to disk then boot from that cd, you will then have a command prompt to fix the boot sequence
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by:LongFist
ID: 36489251
Situation Update: While it would be nice to deploy our Win7 platform in a single image, something I have (or have not) done keeps the new (/apply) image from booting, with a missing NTLDR.  As a result, we have some options that I'm going to pursue:

(a) It has been suggested to allow Win7 to build both its normal partitions, and /capture both of them, and try to /apply them (both) to a new drive, and see if this doesn't boot up properly.

(b) It is possible that - after blasting the image to the new hard drive - it will be necessary to boot the target machine(s) under winpe to perform a "bcdboot" in order to allow the target machine(s) to properly start up.  (I wondfer if this fix could somehow be /captured in a later image step, to circumvent the extra step(s) involved in booting to the CD, etc.  Just curious.)

...I'm sure there was a third option, but I don't remember directly what it was, so I'll skip it for now.  But it is still my intent to build this image such that all our Tech needs to do is blow the image to a disk, plug it into some new hardware, and do a quick burn-in test before "re-sealing" the install for the end-user.

One of the problems that caused me to want to perform burn-in before closing/re-sealing the install initially is that Windows 7 wants you to create a user right off, but when the image is re-sealed that user account remains, and doesn't go away.  Which means it shows up for the end-user, and I'm told that's a "bad thing".

Anyway, I'm going to try both approaches, see what happens, and report back shortly.  Thank you all for your help and understanding - I'm still pretty new at this.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 36492551
WDS is a ROLE on server 2008 R2 - it doesn't require any additional systems be added to the network and its system resources (when not doing a deployment) are minimal other than the disk space to store the images.  When deploying, it can saturate the network line (it is pushing out GIGABYTES of data).   Further, the images stored are de-duped if you use one group, so that further cuts down on requirements.  I strongly recommend you consider using WDS to deploy.
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by:LongFist
LongFist earned 0 total points
ID: 36495398
I built a WindowsPE boot disk, and performed the "bcdboot" option, to no avail.  The boot-up still failed, unable to find NTLDR.  Frustrating: this has been developing for over a week, and my bosses expected better performance/results than what I currently had (which were only excuses, labelled 'rationalization' during the process/case review).

Since WDS is not an option (the powers that be already said so), we have to find another way.  Looking at it this logically, one would suspect that ImageX would serve at least passably.  According to current experience, This Is Not So.


Time ran out.  Time ran out, and we reached the point where "something's gotta' give" - so I threw in the towel, acquired a copy of Acronis TrueImage 2012, and in less than five minutes was intalled, configured, ready to go.  It took 14 minutes to create the image from the working drive, and 7 minutes to blow that image onto a blank drive for a target (different) machine.  Plugged the new image into the target machine and it worked.  It worked!

So, as far as I can tell, reading everything out there on the 'net - and having conferred with Experts who have probably forgotten more about drive imaging and OS distribution than I may ever know (thanks you loads, Experts!) - it has been determined that ImageX is unfit for simple image transfer and/or distribution duty.  For $50 USD we resolved the problem with an external product (which we initially resisted, for fear of over-complicating matters).

In fine: If you have a custom Windows 7 image that you want to deploy to various machines (without over-complicating matters), Acronis TrueImage 2012 will handle the task of image transfer expertly, requiring less outlay of time and resources than the current Microsoft recommendations.
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by:LongFist
ID: 36521347
For simple OS image distribution, Acronis TrueImage 2012 handles the task of image transfer expertly.

Had I done a little research ahead of time (ImageX looked like a viable solution - who knew?) this would have been resolved two weeks ago.  Thank-you to all of the Experts who contributed to this thread: each of you made it possible to resolve this issue.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 36496442
> requiring less outlay of time and resources than the current Microsoft recommendations.
Not if you license it properly.  I believe it requires one copy PER COMPUTER.  
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by:LongFist
ID: 36503047
> Not if you license it properly.  I believe it requires one copy PER COMPUTER.
We have the discs, we have the licenses.  What we want to do is save time.  Why spend 30+ minutes per machine (per install) when you can perform the same function in 10 minutes or less?

It just makes more/better sense to do it this way.
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