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How To Add Sysprep to VMware vCenter for VM Customizations (VMware Converter also)

In order to create customized Windows 2003 and earlier virtual machines (VMs) the Microsoft Sysprep tools need to be added to VMware vCenter (also formerly known as VirtualCenter). Doing so is not a difficult process, but can be a bit confusing if an administrator has never used Sysprep before. Fortunately, VMware has a helpful KB article on the topic that explains where to download the Sysprep files from Microsoft and then where to put the extracted contents of those downloads on the vCenter Server. I’m going to high lite the instructions from VMware for downloading from Microsoft, but then I’ll explain how to get Sysprep from an alternate and arguably easier source – the Windows install CD.

Note that integrating the Sysprep files are still required in all versions of vCenter to customize VMs. This includes vCenter 4 for vSphere. Sysprep is no longer used for Server 2008, however, but VMware has added native customization of Server 2008 VMs in vCenter 4 without adding any additional files.

KB Article 1005593 titled Sysprep file locations and versions not only provides download links and extract to locations but also explains the common symptoms when Sysprep is not installed correctly on vCenter.

  • When attempting to customize the deployment of a virtual machine the radio buttons are disabled (greyed out).
  • When a virtual machine (VM) is deployed from a Template, you find that the SID is always the same, despite the fact that you chose the option to generate a new SID during Template deployment and guest operating system customization.
  • When attempting to create a new virtual machine from a Template in ESX v3.5 you receive the following error message

Warning: Windows customization resources were not found on this server

  • Message in the guestcust.log:
deploy doesn’t contain known sysprep files

The KB article explains the cause

Microsoft has a different version of Sysprep for each release and service pack of Windows. According to Microsoft, “You need to use the version of Sysprep specific to the operating system you are deploying”. The differences are not immediately visible in the packaging and documentation of the service packs, so it is necessary to manually investigate.

Use either of the following methods to obtain the appropriate Sysprep files. All instructions in this post assume vCenter has been installed in the default location.

Download Sysprep from Microsoft

Follow the link above to find the table of Sysprep downloads for each Microsoft operating system. Extract those downloads to the exact locations provided in the same table. Basically, all Sysprep versions go in the C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter\sysprep directory but in a separate sub folder specific for each OS.

At the time of this writing KB Article 1005593 has been updated as of August 14, 2009 so the download links seem current.

Obtain Sysprep from the Microsoft Install Media

Whether or not KB Article 1005593 remains updated or not, the good news is that you can always get the Sysprep files from the Windows Install CD/DVD too.

Assuming your CDrom drive is E:\

  1. Use Windows Explorer to browse to E:\Support\Tools on the Windows (insert your OS here) CD/DVD and find the file
  2. Double-click to open it (like a .zip file)
  3. Copy all of the contents of the file
  4. Paste the copied files on the vCenter server in the appropriate subfolder at C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter\sysprep

The sub folders are named after the various Windows operating systems and are obvious, but use the table in KB Article 1005593 if you need to confirm the exact file location.

P2V and V2V Customizations with VMware Converter Stand Alone

The free VMware Converter Stand Alone version also let’s you integrate the Sysprep tools and customize multiple VM migrations from a single physical or virtual server. If you install Converter in it’s default location then obtain Sysprep in the same methods already discussed and place the files in the same locations as vCenter. Of course, this location is now on the server where you installed Converter, and you will only need to use the Sysprep version of the installed OS. You can’t install Converter on a Windows 2003 Server, put the Windows XP Sysprep tools in it’s correct directory, and then expect to P2V/V2V a new Windows XP VM!

Starting with VMware Converter 4 Stand Alone there is a Client/Server install option which allows Converter to utilized as a centralized tool for deploying new VMs. Creative administrators are able to duplicate most of vCenter’s deploy from template and VM cloning features using this install mode.

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  • Craig Berndt

    I hope you can assist. I am getting the “Windows customization resources were not found on the server” message.
    I have reviewed you directions but do not have any sub directories under:
    C:Documents and SettingsAll UsersApplication DataVMwareVMware VirtualCenter
    (on the machine that I run the Vsphere client from)
    I manually created a sysprepsrv2003 directory and expanded the cab files in that directory but the Vshere 4.0 client still is unable to find the neccesary directory/files.
    Ithe proper directory structure is missing could we have missed some option when installing the original Vsphere server?
    Your assistance is appreciated.
    I have a

  • rbrambley


    You have to drop the files on the vCenter server and not the computer where you use the vSphere client. If you don't have a vCenter server then if you installed the free VMware Converter you drop the files on the server where it was installed – the folder name changes from VirtualCenter to VMware Converter I believe.

    Once you have the sysprep files on the server with the application(s) then you can use your vSphere client on a remote machine and take advantage of the guest customizations.

  • stubbint

    Hi Craig. I assume you found the answer, but for anybody else installing vCenter on a W2K8 server the location for the sysprep files is now:
    C:ProgramDataVMwareVMware VirtualCentersysprep

  • Guess men’s watches

    oh,my god ! Thant’s good article. I found it a long time. We all like reading article ! We will always come come here reading. thanks a lot.

  • Satishchirala

    %ALLUSERSPROFILE%VMwareVMware VirtualCentersysprep
    for windows 2008 ,it’s working

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  • Harry Aasterud

    Hi, not sure why this is not working for me. I installed VMware ESX 4.1 on my server. On the ESX box, I installed 2 x 2008 servers. One is strictly for DC, the other is the vCenter server. On the vCenter server I installed the free Standalone 4.3 convertor.

    I have a old laptop running XP Home edition SP2. Took a backup with Acronis B&R 10. Used the included tool to convert to VMDK. Uploaded this file to the data store. Created a new VM WinXP32, changed the virtual HDD to the new one that came from the AB&R10 convertion. I can boot from the new VMDK, but lots of errors (0xc000142). Sure this has to do with the fact that not all drivers are updated for VM (even though Acronis claims they do this under the convertion…).

    So, next step was to start “VMware free convertion client” on the vCenter virtual server. I select VMware infratructure virtual machine, enter the IP of the ESX server, user and pass. Next screen I see the inventory, and choose the new created XP (powered off). I click next, and see he screen “post-convertion processing”. Check box for install VMware tools, Remove system restore, Reconfigure destination machine.

    At the top there is a message saying that sysprep is not found. I download the cab file for XP32SP2. I opened it in explorer, extracted the sysprep file. I have now copied this to the C:ProgramDataVMwareVMware vCenter Converter Standalonesysprepxp directory, as well as
    C:ProgramDataVMwareVMware vCenter Converter Standalonesysprep. and C:ProgramDataVMwareVMware VirtualCentersysprepxp

    Always the same issue, sysprep not found. Any suggestions are welcome.

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