Sysprep problem



  • I have a few HP ProBook 450 G1s that came with windows 8/7 Pro that was downgraded to 7 pro by HP. I am trying to sysprep them, but when I try to go into audit mode it shuts down and reboots with the sysprep gui showing the progress of sysprep, then shuts down again. When it restarts again this time I’m at the oobe start up screen. If I try to just go into sysprep and place my unattend file into the sysprep folder, it does not even see it in there. I get the “can’t parse or process unattend answer file. specified file does not exist.” The answer file is in the folder, but I don’t know what’s going on. Could it be something that HP did to prevent someone from using sysprep and imaging the computer? The laptops did not have a product key sticker and were already activated upon powering on. Any help would be great. Thanks



  • Ok, well after setting up the computer back up, all is well and working like it is supposed to.


  • Moderator

    have you tried including the whole path to your unattend? (I may have missed a bit since there have been a load of posts…)


  • Senior Developer


  • Senior Developer

    The product key field is not required because the OEM Disc already knows where to look on the bios to obtain the key. If you add a ProductKey field it doesn’t match what’s on the system and overwrites the systems key. The whole reason for needing the key is to tell the system how to activate. SLP takes care of this process for you. That’s the point of the OEM:SLP.

    I’ve built a VM and used the OEM Disc to create a “base” image. From that VM the system was not Activated, but when sysprepped/generalized, and placed on the machine the OEM goes with, all activates properly and works awesome. Gives me the ability to narrow down 12 systems to 2 images as we’ve got two “manufacturers” in our district. HP and Nexlink. Luckily all of the Nexlinks use the same SLP information and the HPs use the same SLP information.



  • [quote=“the_duke, post: 31751, member: 23777”]Ok, well I just put the install/repair disk that came with one of the laptops in one and I deleted all the partitions and am reinstalling windows. I just hope that it will sysprep properly this time around and be ok. Did you take a look at my unattend file and does that look good to you? I used a keyfinder and was able to obtain the key that way, I Xed out where I have the product key currently in the .xml file. Tom was saying to not have a product key field at all, so which is the way to go here?[/quote]

    [quote=“Tom Elliott, post: 31752, member: 7271”]You do not need to have a product key at all if you’re using the OEM disc![/quote]

    As Tom said above, if you’re using the OEM disc, then don’t worry about the key. Not just that, I’ll defer to Tom’s opinion rather than mine, as I too am still getting this all understood myself.

    I’ve never used OEM discs for our installs. We always get the systems downgraded already, then I just image them out.

    @Tom and @Lee- Is the product key field not required when imaging from other OEM machines? Is this because of the preinstalled OS license on the bios? If so, what’s the point of the OEM:SLP key?


  • Senior Developer

    And from the documentation, just to stress it more:
    [quote]Make sure the answer file does not include product-key settings (Microsoft-Windows-Setup\UserData\ProductKey\Key or Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup\ProductKey), to avoid overwriting the product key already present in the OEM image. Inserting a blank entry may also result in an error.[/code][/quote]



  • [quote=“Lee Rowlett, post: 31748, member: 28”]you don’t actually have to specify unattend:unattend.xml if it’s in the default location i.e. C:\Windows\System32\sysprep\unattend.xml
    how many times has this machine been sysprepped? check /panther folder also. have you always had <ProductKey>xxx-xx etc in ur unattend.xml if so that would cause it to fail - try this: remove ur unattend file from sysprep folder, open sysprep.exe leave as is and click ok, when/if machine reboots goes to oobe and asks u for pc name press ctrl, alt F3. let me know the outcome btw just to check it is win7pro x64 on the machine isn’t it?[/quote]

    I haven’t actually been able to sysprep it at all. As far as the product key xxxx-xx, I just removed the actual key and put xxxx in its place to post on here. What I was describing earlier is what was happening when did try to go to audit mode…it just wasn’t working properly. I just reinstalled the win 7 pro x64 and hit ctrl shit f3 and now it is working properly. I’ll get back to it on Monday when I come back to work. Heading home now. Will let y’all know how it goes.


  • Senior Developer

    If you don’t believe me, maybe believe the documentation?
    [url]http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=5114[/url]


  • Senior Developer

    You do not need to have a product key at all if you’re using the OEM disc!



  • [quote=“braindead, post: 31747, member: 24282”]

    Yes, an OEM key can only be on one computer, but this is regards to the OEM keys that are printed on the machines, or come with an OEM version of Windows.

    What I’m referring to when I say ‘generic OEM key’ is a key that is only used on machines that have preinstalled licenses in the BIOS. For example, on these Lenovos I’m working on, there’s a line in the main section of the BIOS called “preinstalled OS license”. Microsoft has what keys called “Windows 7 Professional OEM:SLP” (System Locked Pre-Installation Key); i.e., the key is used in conjunction with Windows disks/ISOs that are used by OEM manufacturers that rely on the BIOS to activate the key. Volume installation images will not work this key, and neither will individual CD installs, be it OEM or retail disks.

    These keys are specifically for manufactured machines.

    That’s the way the crazy license world of Microsoft and these keys was explained to me. You’ll need to get that key from your vendor, then you can put that in your unattend file and as long as the machines are manufactured OEM machines with preinstalled keys, all will be well.[/quote]

    Ok, well I just put the install/repair disk that came with one of the laptops in one and I deleted all the partitions and am reinstalling windows. I just hope that it will sysprep properly this time around and be ok. Did you take a look at my unattend file and does that look good to you? I used a keyfinder and was able to obtain the key that way, I Xed out where I have the product key currently in the .xml file. Tom was saying to not have a product key field at all, so which is the way to go here?


  • Developer

    regarding key in bios, it’s the “new” way to act as a deterrent and also remove the need for key labels and ppl losing keys cause they’re worn/illegible or peeling them off and using them on other machines, greener, easir blah blah etc etc etc… if u do have the new version of key (no sticker) then aslong as ur using same version os that the key is for then u certainly dont need to specify a product key in ur unattend and if u want to automate activation just run: cscript //b c:\windows\system32\slmgr.vbs /ato as postscript if u dont trust sysprep will automatically activate :-)


  • Developer

    you don’t actually have to specify unattend:unattend.xml if it’s in the default location i.e. C:\Windows\System32\sysprep\unattend.xml
    how many times has this machine been sysprepped? check /panther folder also. have you always had <ProductKey>xxx-xx etc in ur unattend.xml if so that would cause it to fail - try this: remove ur unattend file from sysprep folder, open sysprep.exe leave as is and click ok, when/if machine reboots goes to oobe and asks u for pc name press ctrl, alt F3. let me know the outcome btw just to check it is win7pro x64 on the machine isn’t it?



  • [quote=“the_duke, post: 31743, member: 23777”]When you say a generic OEM key, I thought generic keys didn’t activate windows. Also, where can you see the key in the bios?[/quote]

    [S]I believe that the generic OEM key automatically activates Windows, because, IIRC, Windows will try to activate on its own after it’s started up.
    [/S]Read below. OEM:SLP keys automatically activate when working with machines with preinstalled OS keys.

    [quote=“the_duke, post: 31744, member: 23777”]I thought an OEM key could only be placed on 1 computer, if its on all 3 laptops that I received is it still an OEM key?[/quote]

    Yes, an OEM key can only be on one computer, but this is regards to the OEM keys that are printed on the machines, or come with an OEM version of Windows.

    What I’m referring to when I say ‘generic OEM key’ is a key that is only used on machines that have preinstalled licenses in the BIOS. For example, on these Lenovos I’m working on, there’s a line in the main section of the BIOS called “preinstalled OS license”. Microsoft has what keys called “Windows 7 Professional OEM:SLP” (System Locked Pre-Installation Key); i.e., the key is used in conjunction with Windows disks/ISOs that are used by OEM manufacturers that rely on the BIOS to activate the key. Volume installation images will not work this key, and neither will individual CD installs, be it OEM or retail disks.

    These keys are specifically for manufactured machines.

    That’s the way the crazy license world of Microsoft and these keys was explained to me. You’ll need to get that key from your vendor, then you can put that in your unattend file and as long as the machines are manufactured OEM machines with preinstalled keys, all will be well.



  • I thought an OEM key could only be placed on 1 computer, if its on all 3 laptops that I received is it still an OEM key?



  • [quote=“braindead, post: 31737, member: 24282”]The way I understand OEM installs of Windows is that OEM licenses are attached to the BIOS of machines, so the only key you need with your unattend file is a generic OEM key that the system uses for activation.[/quote]

    When you say a generic OEM key, I thought generic keys didn’t activate windows. Also, where can you see the key in the bios?


  • Senior Developer

    If you’re trying to use the OEM key, you should NOT have a ProductKey field at all!



  • [quote=“Tom Elliott, post: 31732, member: 7271”]I have a method that seems to work using the OEM key provided with the system.

    In your unattend file, just remove the <ProductKey>XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX</ProductKey> according to microsofts documentation should allow it as long as you’re using the OEM provided install disk.

    I don’t know if it is an OEM product key that they provided because all 3 of the laptops that i received had the same key.

    I use the unattend as I described, but generalize shutdown. I also ensure i’ve only got the “default” two partition setup and upload as resizable image. What I’m confused about, though, is why your’s isn’t going through sysprep properly. Maybe their re-arm standards have been maxed?[/quote]

    I am confused about why it’s not going through sysprep properly as well, which was what I was trying to get at in my original post. I’m attaching a txt file of my unattend file with product key xxx out. I’ve been told that where I placed the product key is where it should be. Let me know if I’m missing anything else please.

    [url="/_imported_xf_attachments/1/1087_Unattend example.txt?:"]Unattend example.txt[/url]



  • I ran into a similar issue with downgrading to 7 from 8 with Lenovo machines. The way I understand OEM installs of Windows is that OEM licenses are attached to the BIOS of machines, so the only key you need with your unattend file is a generic OEM key that the system uses for activation. You shouldn’t have to worry about losing product keys.

    At least that’s the way we’ve been doing it.


  • Senior Developer

    I have a method that seems to work using the OEM key provided with the system.

    In your unattend file, just remove the <ProductKey>XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX</ProductKey> according to microsofts documentation should allow it as long as you’re using the OEM provided install disk.

    I use the unattend as I described, but generalize shutdown. I also ensure i’ve only got the “default” two partition setup and upload as resizable image. What I’m confused about, though, is why your’s isn’t going through sysprep properly. Maybe their re-arm standards have been maxed?


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