Clone Microsoft Windows XP using Sysprep and Norton Ghost, Part 1: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Clone Microsoft Windows XP using Sysprep and Norton Ghost


If you are a corporate administrator or an IT staff, you may have confront a situation that you have to install and setup Windows XP on many computers which all computers have identical hardware configurations. What will you do? Go to each computer, sit and manually install Windows XP? If only a few computers, it’s OK to do that. It would takes few hours to complete that. But what if there are more than 10 computers or 100 computers waiting you to install and setup. That would be painful to do that way.
Note: This topic isn’t a new technology but I think it may be useful to many people so I decide to post it.

The common way which is widely use to do this task is called Cloning, Imaging or Ghost (The name comes from Norton Ghost which is a popular Disk Imaging Software in the old days). Cloning, the name has already described what it does. It creates image file bit-by-bit from source disk and then restores the data on destination disk. So that the destination disk has the same data as the source disk. This can be done using Disk Imaging Softwares such as Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image, R-Drive Image, Paragon Drive Backup, etc. In this tutorial, I’ll use the popular one Norton Ghost.

But wait, don’t start cloning a disk now. There is one problem since Microsoft Windows 2000 has assigned a unique security ID (SID) to each computer when it was installed. If you cloned the Windows, they would have the same SID and may cause many problems when both computers are in the same domain. On stand-alone computer, this is not a problem. But you can’t join the cloned computer to same domain as the original computer.

So to prevent duplicated SID, Microsoft provides a tool “Sysprep” to handle this problem. Sysprep is a tool to deploy Windows XP on multiple computers. Sysprep prepares the sample computer for cloning. After cloned, Sysprep modifies the local computer security ID (SID) on the destination computer the first time the computer is restarted so that the SID is unique to each computer. The requirements for using Sysprep as part of disk duplication process are at the following:

  • The master installation and the destination computers must have compatible hardware abstraction layers (HALs). For more information on HAL compatiblity use the following knowledgebase article: Q309283 HAL options after Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 Setup.
  • The mass–storage controllers (IDE or SCSI) must be identical between the reference and destination computers.
  • Plug and Play devices such as modems, sound cards, network cards, video cards, and so on, do not have to be the same. However, any device drivers not included in should be included in the master installation before you run Sysprep. Alternatively, make sure the uninstalled drivers are available on the destination computer at first run, so Plug and Play can detect and install the drivers.
  • Third–party software or disk–duplicating hardware devices are required. These products create binary images of a computer’s hard disk, and they either duplicate the image to another hard disk or store the image in a file on a separate disk.
  • The size of the destination computer’s hard disk must be at least the same size as the hard disk of the master installation. If the destination computer has a larger hard disk, the difference is not included in the primary partition. However, you can use the ExtendOemPartition entry in the Sysprep.inf file to extend the primary partition if it was formatted to use the NTFS file system.

Reference: How to Prepare Images for Disk Duplication with Sysprep

There are also some notes that you should know about Sysprep tool:

  • Sysprep runs only if the computer is a member of a workgroup, not a domain. If the computer is joined to a domain, Sysprep removes it from the domain.
  • You cannot run Sysprep on a computer that has been configured as a Cluster Service server, a Certificate Services server, or a domain controller. You can run Sysprep on a standalone server.
  • If you run Sysprep on an NTFS file system partition that contains encrypted files or folders, the data in those folders become completely unreadable and unrecoverable.
  • You can only use this version of Sysprep on Windows XP installations. You cannot use this version of Sysprep on a Windows 2000 installation.

For full information about Sysprep, see How to Use Sysprep: An Introduction and What Is Sysprep?

In this series, I’ll show you how to duplicate Windows XP by disk to disk only. But in the production environment, you can apply to clone through network so that you don’t have to touch any hardware device. But this way requires that the network should be fast enough (at least should be fast Ethernet – 100 Mbps). Otherwise, the network may be congested and resulting in slow down network application and cloning will takes too much time.


Now you have understand things to clone Windows XP. Here are summarize steps you have to perform:

  1. Use Sysprep to prepare source disk for cloning.
  2. Create Image file from a source disk and restore to destination disk. Or may be cloning by Disk-to-Disk.
  3. Finalize the destination disk for production use. This will be automatically run by Sysprep tool.

Enough for chit-chat? Let’s do it now, see the next post.

Note: Windows XP is an example I’m going to use in the tutorial. But you can clone other Windows Operating System besides XP by this way, too.

Series NavigationClone Microsoft Windows XP using Sysprep and Norton Ghost, Part 2: Prepare Source for Disk Duplication >>


  1. Walker Dada September 28, 2012
  2. Boni October 10, 2012

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