Prepare a snapshot of the PC: Generalize and capture Windows images

In this section of the OEM Windows Deployment and Imaging Walkthrough, you can create a snapshot of the Windows files, including any customizations that you’ve already added. We use the term thin image to describe this image, because these customizations should be minimal. We’ll add drivers, languages, and apps later.

Diagram showing Image Capture process

  1. Click Start, type command prompt, right-click Command Prompt, and select Run as administrator.

  2. Generalize the PC:

    C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep\sysprep /generalize /oobe /shutdown

    Sysprep removes PC-specific information from the Windows installation, so that you can capture an image that you can deploy to other PCs. This process can take several minutes. After the process completes, the PC shuts down automatically.

  1. Connect the USB flash drive to the reference PC.

  2. Turn on the PC and press the key that opens the boot-device selection menu for the PC (for example, the Esc key).

    Select the option in the firmware menus to boot the PC to the USB flash drive that is labeled Windows PE.

    If Windows begins booting instead of Windows PE, you must generalize the PC again before capturing the image:

    1. After Windows boots, press Ctrl+Shift+F3 to enter audit mode. The PC will reboot.

    2. Generalize the PC again by using the instructions in the Generalize the PC section.

  3. Connect a storage drive, such as an external USB hard drive, to the reference PC.

  4. At the Windows PE command prompt, use the DiskPart command to list the current drive letters:

      list volume

    For example, the drives can be lettered like this: C = Windows; E = External hard drive; F = USB flash drive. Note that some partitions might not receive a drive letter.

  5. Capture the image of the Windows partition:

    dism /Capture-Image /CaptureDir:C:\ /ImageFile:"C:\ThinImage.wim" /Name:"Fabrikam" /NoRpFix

    where C is the drive letter of the Windows partition and Fabrikam is the image name.

    The DISM tool captures the Windows partition into a new image file. This process can take several minutes.

    Although you can capture the image directly to the external USB hard drive, it is usually faster to capture the image onto a hard drive, and later copy the image file to the USB flash drive.

  6. Create an Images folder on the external USB hard drive and then copy the image file into it:

    md E:\Images
    copy C:\*.wim E:\Images\

    where C: is the drive letter for Windows, and E: is the drive letter for the external USB hard drive.

    This process can take several minutes because the image file is several gigabytes.

    Troubleshooting: If you receive an: "A parameter is incorrect" error message when you try to copy the file, the file might be too large for the destination file system. Copy the file to a drive that is formatted as NTFS.

  7. Leave the PC booted to Windows PE.