Go Premium for a chance to win a PS4. Enter to Win


How can I put an OS pristine machine onto a 32gig USB drive

Posted on 2013-07-01
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-07-05
good afternoon experts,

I am in the process of rebuilding one of my computers. I am at the stage now where I am simply doing windows updates. I used to use CloneZilla to clone pristine machines, but the current version is a bit confusing to me. I like the old version better. To my point, after I am done with this current machine, I want to put it on a USb Drive that has 32 or 64 gig on it.

It there a step by step that someone can link my to in order to achieve my goal of having a pristine operating system  ( OS, Application, Windows Updates, etc..) on a USB drive ,I want to the solution to be able to sysprep itself in order to remove the possibility of duplicate sids.

Is this possible.???

Please help
Question by:BLACK THANOS
  • 4
  • 4
  • 2
  • +2
LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 39291845
Will you be wanting to boot into Windows directly from the stick, or will that just containf the image so you can restore it to your PC's? If the first option, with Windows you can't, at least not the way you want it done.

But with Windows 8 you can use "WindowsToGo" which is included with the enterprise version. But also here your USB stick must be larger than 32 GB, and it must be included in the list of compatible sticks, of which there aren't too many currently.

What works with Windows 7 and 8 is also the following method:


But with this method (which I tried), the system ran very slowly , and windows updates didn't work properly after the OS booted from the stick. This is probably because you can't have a pagefile on the stick, and it seems that without the pagefile the updates don't work.

Either ways you need to do the installation to the stick, so you can't first install the OS with all the apps to an internal HD, and then clone it to run from the stick. But once you have installed the OS, you can of course use CloneZilla to duplicate the sticks.

Author Comment

ID: 39291988
No rindi,

I do not want to ever boot into windows with a USB stick. I simply want to be able to install windows 7 on a clean pristine physical machine, with all of the necessary applications , including but not limited to Office 2010 and  Windows Updates. I want to put this image on a stick and use it to install of other machines. To put things into perspective , here at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County  (BGCMC), all the machines are identical, so I thought that I could immolate an install like I used to do with CloneZilla, But as I said, many changes have been
made to Clonezilla and I don't want to take the time right now to re-learn it. I will though in the future, but for now, I simply want to clone this machine that is almost done with installing the necessary updates and then I will install all my applications on it. before I would simply use a sata mounting kit with two slots and clone one drive to the other. This worked fairly well, but I had to use the same disk capacities i.e. 500 to 500 gig or 1000 gig to 1000 gig for the respective slots. If that's what I have to do , then could someone , please illuminate me on how to use the new CloneZilla. A how to would suffice. We also have Acronis and Spotmau options here at the BGCMC.  Which option is best for what I want to do?? I hope I have explained myself well enough. I am not interested in virtual machines right now unless it will help me convert the virtual to physical onto the stick and then I can install from the stick and worry about the sys preping later. I never really got the whole sysprep concept, but I know how to perform it on a machine, but I don't understand the three times limitations you can use sysprep. Please explain to my in Sysprep  for dummies fashion.

Expert Comment

ID: 39292077
I have been using Clonezilla for years as replacement for GHOST, Acronis, and others.  And have always thought that duplicate SIDs where bad; but, I came across this article (The Machine SID Duplication Myth (and Why Sysprep Matters)) by Mark Russinovich formally of Sysinsternals and now a Microsoft Employee: http://blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2009/11/03/3291024.aspx 

So, what I do is create an image of the computer with the workgroup name the same as the domain name and with a generic name for the computer.  Image the system.  Then, if you really do not beleive Mr. Russinovich run sysprep with the generalize option.  Change the name of the computer to suit the primary user.  Then join the computer to the domain.

On the writing, the image to a USB drive.  Try using the beginner interface.
Concerto's Cloud Advisory Services

Want to avoid the missteps to gaining all the benefits of the cloud? Learn more about the different assessment options from our Cloud Advisory team.

LVL 20

Expert Comment

ID: 39293618
@sbrozinick While duplicate SIDs aren't necessarily bad, that  Mark Russinovich article still recommends running Sysprep:
Note that Sysprep resets other machine-specific state that, if duplicated, can cause problems for certain applications like Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), so Microsoft’s support policy will still require cloned systems to be made unique with Sysprep
LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:Mike T
ID: 39294525

A great link regarding sysprep is here: sysprep and MDT.

You have two options: one is clone using something like Acronis OR use Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 (soon to be 2013).

There are pros and cons to each.

static - snapshot in time i.e. updates, apps etc are frozen
hardware dependent - hardware has to be identical

Quickest - disk to disk is possible in a few minutes
Same - each disk is identical to a low level

Learning curve  - you have to learn a little but can create a simple build in 30 mins

Dynamic - it can pull down new updates automatically
Unique   - will run Sysprep for you
Flexible - you can add any step you already do manually as a step
Automated - you can automate things as much or as little as you like
Pre-prepared scripts - it includes lots of little scripts as task-sequence steps that you either want, or didn't know about until now, but now you want those too
Free - yes it's free.
Media option - you can run the deployment from a server OR create a media-based deployment which will create a bootable fully-automated build as an ISO. You can burn this to DVD or use a tool to convert it to USB.

If I were going the clone route I would use Acronis personally. It supports booting off USB as here: http://kb.acronis.com/content/1526.

However, my preference is MDT. I used cloning using Ghost for many years but find MDT better simply because if one tiny thing changes on your image, you have to start from scratch. Loading the image, adding the change, running sysprep again and capturing is NOT an option owing to the sysprep limit.

I understand you are probably lacking time to invest in yet another tool but you can learn the basics very quickly with the following book:  Deployment Fundamentals vol 1

MDT Lite-touch video walkthrough

Don't worry you don't need to read the other volumes. That's all you need. The authors speak at TechEd and are both MVPs.


Author Comment

ID: 39295189
drmiket wrote:

"However, my preference is MDT. I used cloning using Ghost for many years but find MDT better simply because if one tiny thing changes on your image, you have to start from scratch. Loading the image, adding the change, running sysprep again and capturing is NOT an option owing to the sysprep limit"

Good afternoon drmiket,

Please explain the sysprep limitations to me. Also, did you mean that MDT doesn't depend on sysprep and do I need to be in and Active Directory environment, because my environment is WORKGROUP ONLY.
LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:Mike T
ID: 39296281

With 2000 or XP you could run sysprep many times on the same machine. With Windows 7 Microsoft re-wrote it and made some key changes to profiles and also introduced OS activation which has a limit of 3 times before entering "restricted functionality". Every time you run sysrep it uses an activation (or life of the OS). To be able to run sysprep again on the same machine, you run the command "slmgr.vbs /rearm".

Owing to the activations ceiling, you can only do this three times. If you use disk-cloning tools it matters most because you have a gold image, apply it, make changes and run sysprep again. This makes cloning Widows 7 a pain. You only have 3 "lives" before you have to rebuild the whole OS from scratch.

The alternative is an unattended build which uses a script, to build up the OS every time. There are two main ways: WDS which uses a server, the WIM file from your source DVD/ISO and any customisations you want in an answer file - unattend.xml.

This needs a server and a network though so is not suitable for many.

The other automated way is MDT. MDT simply comes with a step to run sysprep for you in the default task-sequence template - which is simply a list of steps for the machine to follow. You can have the default or add more steps for more drivers/apps.
Don't delete *anything* from the default step - only add new ones. This includes the sysprep one.

SUMMARY: The worst that can happen running sysprep is an empty eventlog
The worst NOT running sysprep is WSUS for updates failing, and other weird behaviour with licensing or drivers that only appears much later. The other big reason is to be supported by Microsoft, should you ever feel the need to contact them that is.

These things are important whether on a workgroup or a domain. It doesn't matter. Let MDT run and it will run sysprep so you don't even think about it.

PS: Reasons to run sysprep

Author Comment

ID: 39298839
even with MDT is there still a rearm limit of three??
LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:Mike T
ID: 39299744
Nope. You create your build and then put on DVD or USB or a network
Go to the machine, boot with the build disk and it gets built. That counts as being armed once.
If you need to start again or add something, make the change in MDT then create a *new*  by updating the distribution point. For media based (DVD or USB) this will take a while as it creates a brand new ISO file.

Now go to the target machine and boot with the build disk. It's a complete wipe disk and start again, so only gets armed once.

There may be confusion between activation and arming. Activation is when the OS calls home to Microsoft to validate the license. If your build machine never changes (i.e. no CPU or motherboard swap), then you only activate that once.
Building it with MDT will arm it once too. Make a mistake? Update your build and rebuild again and again until you're happy.


Author Comment

ID: 39301122
I love what you are saying drmiket, but I want to build on a network share and then kind of like the old pxe days have it get the build from the share. Is this possible?

Assisted Solution

sbrozinick earned 400 total points
ID: 39302577
Microsoft's sysprep has a three pass limit no matter what application starts the execution process.  To get around this limitation make an image before the running sysprep as described in previous post.  About not running sysprep, I have not run newsid (sysinternals or sysprep for years and have deployed over 500 computers this way and never once has WSUS been hindered.  On points that Microsoft does not support - they stated this back when only GHOST written by Binary Research was the only stable tool for the job.  You can make an image in not much more than a half hour using clonezilla.  Start the process and go do something else until it is completed.

If your not comfortable not running sysprep then run it.  If the activation process does not complete because of over activation use change the product key.

If you are only working with Microsoft products maybe MDT is fine.  But, if Linux and virtual systems are incorporated I would highly recommend Clonezilla - no cost, no setup, reads RAIDs that Image X, Acronis, and MDT had problems with and you can read and write to external usb drive, network shares, and local disk.
LVL 19

Accepted Solution

Mike T earned 1600 total points
ID: 39303284
Absolutely you can use MDT with any existing Windows (WDS) PXE service.

MDT automatically creates a Boot file when you update its distribution point (which is the core share where everything will install from). This file is named LiteTouchPE_x86.wim and will be in the Boot folder underneath the distribution folder.

All you need to do is add this file to the WDS 'Boot images' section. Set it to 'Respond to all clients' and don't Require admin approval. In the PXE Boot Policy are select 'Always continue to PXE boot' for both known and unknown clients.

Finally, on the boot tab, in the Default boot image (optional) section, next to the x86 Box, click Select and then choose the x86 image name.

It sounds a little more involved than it is without pictures to help, but it's very straight-forward if you've set PXE up before. Here's a video though.

MDT Lite Touch Video Walkthrough!

MDT is designed to integrate into WDS and Microsoft's behemoth - SCCM (which definitely don't want!)

I must say for small scale use for clubs or custom builds I like free, so would use MDT with USB media. The main advantage is:

you can alter USB later very easily (albeit a very advanced step)
You don't waste plastic if you mess up and have to create a new image
They don't get scratched
They are fast to build with, maybe faster than the network if USB 3

One final point (honest): expect to make mistakes and change your mind on what apps you include. This means lots of build cycles. I tend to do about 10 until I am happy. Obviously if sysprep was an issue this would be a major pain but it's not. It is not even considered. The trickiest bit is normally persuading third party software to install silently and automatically.

Cloning is undoubtedly useful for non-Windows things but that's not you from said.


Featured Post

Efficient way to get backups off site to Azure

This user guide provides instructions on how to deploy and configure both a StoneFly Scale Out NAS Enterprise Cloud Drive virtual machine and Veeam Cloud Connect in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

Question has a verified solution.

If you are experiencing a similar issue, please ask a related question

Is your phone running out of space to hold pictures?  This article will show you quick tips on how to solve this problem.
This article shows how to use a free utility called 'Parkdale' to easily test the performance and benchmark any Hard Drive(s) installed in your computer. We also look at RAM Disks and their speed comparisons.
This Micro Tutorial will teach you how to change your appearance and customize your Windows 7 interface to your unique preference. This will be demonstrated using Windows 7 operating system.
The viewer will learn how to successfully create a multiboot device using the SARDU utility on Windows 7. Start the SARDU utility: Change the image directory to wherever you store your ISOs, this will prevent you from having 2 copies of an ISO wit…
Suggested Courses

877 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

Join & Ask a Question