Vista Sysprep and Altiris: deploy an image

This article covers the second stage of using Altiris Deployment Solution to deploy Vista: deploying an image with the default sysprep process.

Sysprep is the tool provided with Vista to enable you to prepare a new computer for deployment. It is the only supported way of doing this. Altiris Deployment Solution uses Sysprep. However it does it behind the scenes. If you want to change the process, you need to understand a bit about what Altiris is doing, and a bit about how Sysprep works.

First we do a simple Distribute Disk Image job and check the box "Prepared using Sysprep". This is a strange title for a checkbox. If the image was prepared using Sysprep there is nothing you can do about it now. You can’t un-sysprep it. It is going to open and perform the next step specified when it was sysprepped before imaging.

If you don’t check this box, the image will be deployed and Setup will run using the unattend.xml put there when the image was created. But this xml was intended to put the imaging computer back to where it started. It has the name of the computer hard coded into the xml. When you check this box, you tell Altiris to replace the xml of the imaging computer with custom xml for the target computer.

The computer starts, copies down the image and the new unattend.xml file, boots into Windows Setup and ends with a logon screen ready to go.

If you look in %windir%system32sysprep at the unattend.xml you will see that it has the computer name and networking properties of the computer the image came from. This is the unattend used for the Generalize pass. But if you look in %windir%Panther at the unattend.xml used to set up the new computer, you can see that the computer name and the networking properties (including MAC address on the network card) have been replaced with the properties of the target computer. The custom unattend file has been written into the image by Altiris using the imaging OS (Linux or WinPE) before the Vista setup runs.

By default in a Distribute Disk Image job the box is checked to "Automatically perform configuration task after completing this imaging task". The configuration task modifies the target computer to match what is given in the Deployment console. For example, if the new computer in the console is configured to be a domain member, the Altiris configuration task will join the computer to the domain. For Vista, Altiris recommend not checking this box. Instead, configuration is run as a separate task after the image deployment is complete.

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