Guest blogger D. J. Moore noticed that we’ve not been covering IT content as much as we have in the past, and this saddened him. In an effort to correct our course, he’s submitted these 10 simple steps to operating Microsoft’s System Preparation Tool so that we might pass them along to you. Enjoy!

SysPrep was developed by Microsoft to make it easier for IT departments that prepare machines from cloned images of Windows. When you image a hard drive it retains old registry entries, device drivers, and product keys, and all of this has to be removed for a new system to operate correctly on a network of computers and devices (known in the IT industry as a domain). Running SysPrep is simple. It is also an alternative way to do a little spring cleaning of a computer before doing a full-fledged reinstall of Windows.

Reminder! Please make sure that you have all Product Keys for Windows and Microsoft Office before beginning this process.

Here are 10 simple steps to operating the System Preparation Tool.

To invoke SysPrep:
Start > Computer > Local Disk (C:) > Windows > System32 > sysprep > sysprep.exe

10 Simple Steps to Operating Microsoft's System Preparation Tool

When the System Preparation Tool 3.14 dialog box pops up, make sure the following settings are in place: System Cleanup Action: from the drop-down menu choose Enter System Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE) and check the Generalize checkbox. For the Shutdown Options I recommend Reboot, but Shutdown is also a viable choice. If you are currently busy with something, you may choose Quit.

10 Simple Steps to Operating Microsoft's System Preparation Tool

Depending on the speed of your configured System Unit, the next process could take up to five minutes once you click the OK button. The computer will then reboot (or wait for reboot or shutdown) and begin the preparation procedures. Upon boot it will start by updating the registry, refreshing services, and installing device drivers.

You will then be prompted by a dialog box called Set Up Windows. Here you will choose your country or region, time and currency, and keyboard layout. The most likely choices are often preselected. Proceed by clicking the Next button.

You will then be asked to make a user name (name of new local admin account). This name will appear on the Windows User Login screen. Choose a computer name (host name), which is also suggested for you. I recommend not using personally identifiable information, but make sure to choose something descriptive enough for you to understand.

After clicking Next again, you will be confronted to make a password, which I recommend, but it is not necessary at this point. Click Next.

Windows 7 licensing terms have to be accepted by checking the “I accept the license terms” box and clicking Next.

On this screen, depending on your environment and reasoning, choose how you would like Windows Updates to operate. I suggest using the recommended settings, but you can also choose to install only important updates, also known as critical updates, or have it ask you at a later time. If you choose to be asked later, it will only “ask” when you launch Windows Updates from the Start menu. Again, click Next.

You are then asked to review your time and date settings. Find your correct Time Zone and make sure the Date and Time fields are still correct. Windows will often set your default time zone to (UTC -08:00) Pacific Time (US and Canada) if you chose United States as your country or region on the first screen of Set Up. Click Next.

Choose your computer’s current location (or network type). Home Network is the most open as far as sharing options are concerned, along with providing an easy Home Sharing utility, making networking amongst other Windows 7 computers easier on your network. Work Network is a good middle ground alternative, and Public Network battens the hatches and hardens the defenses. Upon clicking Next you will be brought to the User Login screen.

System Preparation Utility does remove theĀ Windows Product Key and Office’s Product Key, and the same goes for Visio and Project. All of these keys will have to be re-entered and verified through an Internet connection or via phone. Remember: Windows will only allow you to evaluate it for three days before telling you that your legitimately purchased copy of Windows may be pirated. Microsoft Office typically starts to harass you after 30 days of use to give it a valid product key. Any other keys stored in the registry by other software might have to be reestablished, also.

Use this time to update drivers, check for Windows Updates, and run malware scanners. There is no feeling like a clean, fast, fresh copy of Windows humming along free of unwanted software and drivers, bit rot, and errors. Happy computing!