Automating the OOBE process during Windows Server 2008 Sysprep Mini-Setup


One of the more common questions we have with Windows Server 2008 deployment revolves around the basic components needed in our answer file to automate the OOBE process during Sysprep mini-setup.

Let’s start out with a few basic facts.

· Sysprep is no longer in the on the operating system CD. Instead, it’s installed by default to %systemroot%\system32\sysprep.

· The options for Sysprep have changed from those available in legacy operating systems such as Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. 



· The common switches you will need to use are OOBE, Generalize, and Shutdown.  Generalize is a required switch for the majority of scenarios.


· All answer files for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista are created with Windows System Image Manager. Windows System Image Manager is installed as part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit. This can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center at the following location:

When first opening Windows System Image Manager, you must first select a Windows image or catalog file. Contrary to popular belief, one does not have to generate a catalog for the install.wim. A quicker practice is to use the catalog files included on the Windows Server 2008 DVD in the Sources directory. Unlike the install.wim, these files do not need to be copied locally and if you do wish to have them local, they’re a much smaller footprint.


Make sure you change the file type dropdown to Catalog files(*.clg) when browsing to see this files.


For this blog topic, I have selected to use the SERVERENTERPRISE catalog to create my answer file. After you have selected your catalog (or generated a catalog using the install.wim) and selected the option to create a new answer file, Windows System Image Manager should look similar to the following:


Now let’s get down to the four basic components you need to add to automate the OOBE process during Sysprep mini-setup. For this basic Sysprep deployment, please note that we will only be configuring the Specialize and oobeSystem configuration passes.

The first page we need to automate during OOBE is the Language and Country or Region Selection page. To automate this, expand Components in your Windows Image pane, right-click and add the Microsoft-Windows-International-Core setting to Pass 7 oobeSystem. In your answer file, configure the InputLocale, SystemLocale, UILanguage, and UserLocale with the appropriate settings for your language and country or region.

REMEMBER: Should you have a question about any of these settings, you can right-click on the specific setting and select Help. This will open the appropriate CHM help file with more information, including examples on the setting you are attempting to configure.


Secondly, we need to automate the Software License Terms Selection page, otherwise known as the End-User License Agreement (EULA). To do this, expand the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup component. High-light the OOBE setting, and add the setting to the Pass 7 oobeSystem .  Under Settings, select the drop down next to HideEULAPage and select true.


The third page we need to automate is the Product Key Selection page and the Computer Name Selection page.

If you are working with volume license media you can either leave the product key blank if you are using KMS host for activation or you can enter your MAK key.  If you are using MAK key for activation you can also just enter the MAK key on the machine prior to running sysprep to create your image.  That way the product key is not in your answer file.  The key is removed automatically but during setup it is possible to see the key in the answer file.   

Please make sure to note that you must have a KMS Server setup in your environment in order for your KMS clients to activate. For Windows Server 2008, you have 60 day grace period to get KMS configured and to the appropriate count.  For more information on Volume Activation, I highly recommend reading the documentation available on Microsoft TechNet on the following website:

To automate the Product Key Selection page, right-click on the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup component and add the settings to the Pass 4 specialize configuration pass of your answer file. Under Settings, enter your Product Key in the space provided next to ProductKey. Furthermore, to automate the Computer Name Selection page, under Settings, specify a computer name next to ComputerName.


If no computername is entered you will be prompted for the computername on bootup of the image Also, you may notice the TimeZone. However, do not configure it here. We do not prompt for Time Zone on Windows Server 2008. If you wish to configure it, configure it on the top level of the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup component we added to the 7 oobeSystem configuration pass of your answer file.

The forth and last page we need to automate is the Change Administrator Password page. Windows Server 2008 automatically prompts for you to specify the Administrator password prior to first logon. To automate this, expand the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup component (if it is not still expanded), expand UserAccounts, right-click on AdministratorPassword, and add the setting to the Pass 7 oobeSystem configuration pass of your answer file. Under Settings, specify a password next to Value.


Click on File and Save Answer File. You can save the file as unattend.xml in the c:\windows\system32\sysprep folder and sysprep will automatically use the answer file or you can specify /unattend switch if you are running it from the command line to point to the path and name of the file.

During the saving process, Validation is run in Windows System Image Manager. Do not be concerned by any of the following sorts of Validation messages as it is simply stating that any of the settings we did not modify will not be saved to our answer file. These will automatically be removed:


You are now DONE! Obviously there are many, MANY more settings you can configure. The customizable settings are extensive. However, these four settings are the only ones that need to be added to your sysprep answer file in order to avoid any prompts during Sysprep Mini-Setup.



Author: Charity Shelbourne
Microsoft Enterprise Platforms Core Support
Sr. Support Escalation Engineer
Deployment Subject Matter Expert



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