Fatal error when using Sysprep utility to clone Windows Vista machine

Systems administrators who are using the Sysprep utility to prepare a Windows Vista system (typically for cloning) may gets a fatal error message. Microsoft says the problem is more the fault of Vista than Sysprep. Right now the only solution available is a free hotfix available from Microsoft's Product Support Services.

The few systems administrators who are already deploying Windows Vista are brave; they're the ones taking the arrows, running into problems the rest of us haven't seen yet.

One such intermittent problem occurs when an admin uses the Sysprep utility to prepare a Windows Vista system (typically for cloning). The error message that comes up simply reads: A fatal error occurred while trying to sysprep the machine.

Open up the Setupact.log file generated by Sysprep, and you'll find a bit more information: 0x80070020 / ERROR_SHARING_VIOLATION. This message is generated by the Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator (MSDTC), a Windows component that shows up in nearly every Vista installation out there.

Microsoft's take on this is that the problem is more the fault of Windows Vista than Sysprep. Why? Here's my guess: When the MSDTC tries to reset its log, it discovers it can't do this because Sysprep has locked the log for exclusive access. Hence the error, and Sysprep itself aborts as well. Essentially, the two programs interfere with each other's operation. The problem appears to affect all SKUs of Vista.

There is a solution, but today it's only available as a free hotfix from Microsoft's Product Support Services. Call them and refer to Knowledge Base article 930193. The solution involves patching two files: Msdtcprx.dll (to version 2001.12.6930.20502) and Xolehlp.dll (2001.12.6930.20502). Both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of the fix are available as needed.

Note: A vaguely similar error sometimes occurs when you run the sysprep -reseal command in Windows Vista, which logs the following error in Setuperr.log: Failed to delete reg value SystemIndexNormalization under reg key. A hotfix is available, but, again, only from Product Support Services. Refer to Knowledge Base article 929913.

Note: If you're not experiencing these problems with Sysprep and Vista, the hotfix isn't required. For now, this fix is only for people who are actually experiencing the issue. A fully regression-tested fix for everyone to use will show up in Service Pack 1 for Vista, which, by all accounts, will be out in the second half of 2007.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in May 2007

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