Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hey Sysprep.exe, Factory Reseal This!

I use Samba running on Debian for my Domain Controller at work with Windows 2000 & XP Professional desktop clients. I find it's helpful to buy identical desktop workstations in batches from my local vendor PC Club, 5 or more at a time, and automate their configuration.

If you've ever tried to update a master image(Ghost, Acronis Trueimage, etc.) in order to deploy multiple Windows XP Pro systems, you may have run into this special error message:

"Your grace period limit has been reached and will not be reset"

[quote source="www.mcse.ms thread"]
In Windows XP Professional, Sysprep can reset Windows Product Activation a maximum of three times.

This causes a problem when deploying the image on other pc's as the image is redundant after 30 days of it being created.

e.g. create image on 1st sept - can deploy on other pc's in sept but when deploy the image on a pc in Oct it has expired and wont let me log on.
[/quote]

There is a solution buried in Microsoft KB308554:

(all actions tested on Windows XP Pro SP2 with an OEM Product Key - a big thanks to Amit in MS Tech Support!)
1. Update your master system with applications and patches.
2. Run 'sysprep -factory' & reboot.
3. Activate windows.
4. Run 'sysprep -reseal -activated'. No error message about the grace period appears this time!
5. Use the prepped system's drive as your fresh master image for deployment.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lars of all the 'fixes' i found yours actually worked. Cheers
Simon

Lars Rasmussen said...

It takes time if you are forced to rebuild an image from scratch. Glad to hear this worked out for you, Simon.

David Remy said...

So I have tried this and it does not seem to work...
You sysprep a computer 3 times and receive the message that you have don't it to many times, then you run factory, then reseal it.
This process still does not let you clone the computer out or get ride of the error. After you do the first reseal it does stop giving you the error, but then when you try to reseal and reset the activation you still get the error.

Lars Rasmussen said...

David, you are correct in that this is a workaround that allows you to bypass the 3 time sysprep reseal limit. It's basically buying time. However, you could follow the instructions over & over again if needed to keep using a master image that often takes a long time to build. It does work, and I have used it.

Make sure you're running sysprep from the command line with the same switches, and in the same order as in the original article. I spent several hours to make this work. If my instructions are not clear, I would encourage you to open up a case with Microsoft support and get your specific situation resolved.

As an aside, I have found that slipstreaming a CD can be very effective for installs - and fast. I know that doesn't speak to your specific issue, but the tools from ryanvm.net make it possible to roll your own ISO, combined with post-SP2 rollups, the latest version of Acrobat Reader, JRE, and .NET updates. When your hardware upgrade cycle within a company moves fast, it sometimes makes sense to look in this direction. I have not yet used it, but the
Unattended
sourceforge project offers some good points re:disk imaging and application repackaging. Let me know how things work out for you, David.

David Remy said...

Buying time? Since this is the first time I have tried this sysprep -factory 'fix' could you explain what I am buying time from? We are in the process of ghosting out our syspreped computers and have not seen any issues with it, but in 30 days if we are going to run into errors I'd rather know ahead of time.
We have used this process on the master clone and cloned this image out. On the cloned computers we activated them and everything looks to be running properly.
I still am a little lost, because it seems we could have done the cloning without running -factory and still got the same result, both ways show the error and both ways clone out to the clients (visually) the same way. Could there be a difference in the two processes and will we be hit in 30 days with activation errors?
I'm sorry I don't quite get this but your help has been greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

This has not worked for me, I updated my master images which I have already to many times syspreped. So I tried sysprep -factory and got the same error : Your Grace...

Lars Rasmussen said...

Anonymous:
There are multiple steps to this process:

1. Run 'sysprep -factory' & reboot.
2. Activate windows.
3. Run 'sysprep -reseal -activated'. No error message about the grace period appears this time!
4. Use the prepped system's drive as your fresh master image for deployment.