SysPrep fails on a Windows XP SP2 installation without file and printer sharing enabled

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I’m trying out some workstation deployment scenarios right now and need to use the Microsoft System Preparation Tool (SysPrep) to prepare my Windows XP SP2 build for imaging. The trouble is, that SysPrep was refusing to play ball reporting the following error message:

There is an incompatibility between this tool and the current operating system. Unable to continue.

Although there are other tools available for changing workstation SIDs, like Sysinternals NewSID, SysPrep is the only one supported by Microsoft.

I was using the version from the file on the Windows XP SP2 CD (dated 4 August 2004, 13:00), so I thought that a later version may be available but Microsoft knowledge base article 838080 links to an identical set of deployment tools and even indicates that the version on the SP2 CD is current.

It turns out that because the latest version of SysPrep can be used for either Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, it asks the Server service which operating system it is running on. If the server service is not running (e.g. if the File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks service is not installed), this fails.

The workaround is to install the File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks service, start SysPrep, and then uninstall the File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks service whilst SysPrep is working. I found the answer on the Microsoft Software Forum Network Unattended Windows board, but I’m amazed there is not a Microsoft knowledge base article on this.

17 thoughts on “SysPrep fails on a Windows XP SP2 installation without file and printer sharing enabled

  1. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

    I have reinstalled to OS using different install methods, slipstreamed of course, and kept getting that same error message.

    Wanted to pass on what I did, which may be beneficial to anyone else who reads this.

    I left File/Print Service unbound from the ‘Local Area Network Connectio’

    Turned the Server Service to Menual,and Started it.

    Sysprep ran just fine.

    The create/update a GPO over your computer accounts (assuming you’ll put them in a domain) that DISABLES the Server service.

    once you’ve deployed a machine, moved it to the appropriate OU, Server service is effectively disabled.

  2. Glad to hear my post was of use to you, anonymous. Your ingenious method of leaving the File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks service unbound, starting the Server service and then using a GPO to disable it later sounds like a much more satisfactory answer than my method of uninstalling a service part way through a SysPrep!

  3. Thank you for this work around. At work we use Windows XP, but we just started turning the Server service off by domain policy. So a co-worker went to sysprep a pc and it popped up with the error you received. I did a Google for the error and it lead me to your blog. Thanks again.

  4. Cheers –
    What a dumb thing for MS not to either have a KB entry for or (better) just not depend on cos it’s stoopid.

    Well done on figuring it out, and thanks for posting it.


  5. Thanks a lot for this very useful information !

    I discovered that doing the following works well and doesn’t force you to re-apply any policy to re-disable the server service :
    – Put the server service in “manual”
    – Click apply, you will be able to start it.
    – Put it again back to “disabled”, click on apply.

    The server service will still be runing just to let sysprep do what it needs.

    As it is still disabled, it will not be restarted after rebooting the computer.

    Hoping this helps, best regards.


  6. Excellent!
    This answered my problem right away – I have an image that I did some changes to (among others I uninstalled the File and Printer sharing), and when I ran sysprep it failed just like this.

    Thanks a lot!!

  7. This blog has saved me a stack of time. Awesome solutions people. And that way of enabling server service and having in turned off on a restart was also a great help.

  8. Thanks for posting the solve – it had me quite stumped until google sent me to your website :-)

    I saw many references to the issue on the web, but they all referenced a solve for Server 2003 (without actually saying that was that platform of choice) which doesn’t work for a lowly XP SP2 workstation. I owe you a virual beer! – Rob

  9. Hi

    Just FYI we deploy images using the method of installing the file and print sharing but disabling the serviec but if you check your PC’s after they have undergone the mini setup the server service is now enabled again. This is a huge no-no on our network. We are going to try your method of starting sysprep and uninstalling straight away.

  10. I’m on the public beta test for some of MS’s new OSes (2003 SP2 w/ R2 addons for example) and this is something that needs to be made a known issue and solution! I guess I should pay more attention to the forums – I just try stuff until it breaks, look for a solution, and report if it’s impossible to find by myself or search. Hehe I must be lazy?

    Too bad I checked and “Server” service=enabled. They should just write a more idiot-proof version of the sysprep tool that at least _tells_ you why it failed. The incompatible with this OS message just made me frustrated. I’ll post a message there with a link to here.

  11. couldnt you add a batch file for the mini-setup to run that looks like this?

    : Stop the “Server” service
    net stop lanmanserver

    : Set the “Server” service to Disabled
    sc config lanmanserver start= disabled

    I think that’d work, no? the GPO idea is the best one, i’d think.

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