If you’ve been using sector-based images for a while, “the most difficult concept to get used to is that you can apply an image to a volume with files already present without harming or deleting those files. This really comes into play when you want to migrate user files from an old operating system version or corrupted copy of Windows to new image. We can leave files in place on volume and apply the OS image around them. For a computer refresh, we can save a ton of time by not having to transfer user data off the machine or volume before the image app and avoid spending even more time bringing user data back afterwards.
Other thing to get used to is that WIM file is basically a compressed file container. Imagex is a free utility included in Windows Automated Installation Kit and allows you to create, append, mount and unmount WIM files. If you ever wondered why a Windows Server 2008 R2 DVD can install up to eight different operating system types, it’s because seven of them have been appended to original image capture and because the files within are so similar and each is single-instanced whenever possible, that image can stay around 3GB – even though it represents eight unique operating system images appended into one WIM file.
Sysprep can generalize the image and prepare system for cloning. It can also prepare a system for Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE), which essentially resets Windows to the state of new system. Sysprep is now located in %windir%\system32\sysprep folder.You would typically run Sysprep in command line and use either /generalize or /oobe switch, depending on what you’re doing. For imaging, most likely be /generalize switch with /shutdown switch and possibly point to an unattend file via /unattend:unattendpath.
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