I have read a lot of posts suggesting to "run sysprep" on a system. I have done some looking around, but Microsoft's site is confusing at best.

What is the purpose of sysprep?

What does sysprep do to accomplish its purpose?

What are some real-world examples of how sysprep is used?

2 Answers 2


Sysprep is really for corporate environments in creating an image for automated Windows installations that allows unique SIDs to be created. This is critical in Active Directory domains as logins and SIDs are tied together. Outside of Active directory, sysprep is not extremely useful.

If you want to use sysprep at home, there's really no point as it won't give you any real benefits, unless you run AD at home (doubtful). Sysprep is meant for system administrators, not end-users.

Wikipedia has a shorter, succint explaination here (link).


Desktop deployment is typically performed via disk cloning applications. Sysprep can be used to prepare an operating system for disk cloning and restoration via a disk image. Windows operating system installations include many unique elements per installation that need to be "generalized" before capturing and deploying a disk image to multiple computers.

Some of these elements include:

  • Computer name
  • Security Identifier (SID)
  • Driver Cache

Sysprep seeks to solve these issues by allowing for the generation of new computer names, unique SIDs, and custom driver cache databases during the Sysprep process. Administrators can use tools such as SetupMgr.exe (Windows XP) or System Image Manager (Windows Vista) to generate answer files that Sysprep will process on new computer deployments.

Edit: Essentially, you cannot clone one machine (system disk) and re-image numerous other computers as the SIDs will all be the same. Sysprep allows admins to dynamically generate unique SIDs as part of the sysprep deployment, which is something a simple disk-imaging tool cannot do. If you have more than 2 computers that need to be prepped for a Windows Active Directory domain (or possibly workgroup), sysprep is the way to go.

You didn't specify why you were looking at sysprep or to what ends you hoped to accomplish. Could you elaborate on why sysprep is of interest to you?

  • 2
    It's important to highlight, as mentioned here, that this is not just about SIDs (especially as we now believe these do not necessarily have to be unique). Other unique IDs get replaced too (eg for WSUS), and the driver cache reset means that the second installation will do a proper hardware discovery and install necessary drivers.
    – AdamV
    Nov 11, 2009 at 8:36
  • Good point AdamV. I don't know about SIDs no longer being relevant, but I wouldn't be surprised that SIDs will eventually be phased out of the whole Windows Desktop/Server system, but yes, other systems like WSUS are affected by having duplicate images of the same machine.
    – osij2is
    Nov 11, 2009 at 14:15
  • I have to mention a every important article about the SID blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2009/11/03/… . Read this and you will get smarter. Jan 22, 2015 at 9:48
  • Isn't generalize useful for end users who want to copy their setup to multiple systems...Or some just want to install a pre-customized windows instead of re-installing everything all the time. I don't get why you say it has no benefits for home users.
    – jiggunjer
    Jan 6, 2016 at 8:17

the following is direct from Microsoft's Technet website

The System Preparation tool (Sysprep) is a technology that you can use with other deployment tools to install Microsoft Windows operating systems with minimal intervention by an administrator or technician. Sysprep is typically used during large-scale rollouts when it would be too slow and costly to have administrators or technicians interactively install the operating system on individual computers.

Basically it allows you to "prep" a system for deploying the OS. - all the normal installation tasks are done automatically during the install so you can deploy the install and walk away.

One read world application -

Recently we used G4L ( Ghost 4 Linux ) to deploy 30 some odd machines. Each of these windows xp installs were identical.

  • Started the process by using an XP install
  • Added all of our 3rd party applications
  • Add printers and settings - security updates etc

then ran sysprep to sum it up ... it configures the image for distribution in a way that it forces a shorter version of the Windows setup - which can be automated- so you can define "computer specific" settings adding the computer to a domain etc.

If we had not used sysprep. Each machine would have identical computer names- they would all think they were the same member of the domain, and they would share the same SSID - which causes a large problem.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .