VMware ESX Deploy Template Wizard and MS SYSPREP – Guest Customization Grayed Out

ESX Virtual Center has the functionality to allow you to customize any templated Windows OS builds you may have.

Templates are used to ease and speed the process of deploying new Windows based VM OS’s.  Clones can be made of these templates and if prepared with the ‘Deploy Template Wizard’ or Microsoft SYSPREP the OS is individualised.

It should be pointed out that the ‘Deploy Template Wizard’ does in fact use SYSPREP to prepare the templated OS if you want to customize a new VM server instance based on that template.  Also in case you didn’t realise VMware Virtual Center is required to create and deploy templates. 

The ‘Deploy Template Wizard’ can be started by right mouse clicking a template from within Virtual Center (below).


Stepping through the wizard, once you get to ‘Guest Customization’ you may only be presented with one option, ‘Do not customize’.  The other two options being grayed out.


The reason for this is that the server on which Virtual Center is running doesn’t have Microsoft SYSPREP installed into the correct directory.  This however is easily remedied. 

Take a look on the VC server in the path:

“C:Documents and SettingsAll UsersApplication DataVMwareVMware VirtualCentersysprep”. 


Underneath here you will see sub-folders for Windows 2000 and for x86 and x64 versions of Server 2003 and XP. Each OS requires unique and specific versions of SYSPREP. 

Links to download the different versions of SYSPREP are below:

Windows Server 2003 SP1 x86 SYSPREP  – Link

… then install Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86 SYSPREP – Link

Windows Server 2003 SP2 x64 SYSPREP – Link

Windows Server 2000 SYSPREP – Link

Windows XP SP3 SYSPREP – Link

Download and extract what ever version(s) of SYSPREP you require and add them into the folder outlined above.


Once these files have been copied and you run through the ‘Deploy Template Wizard’ you’ll notice that the other 2 options in the ‘Guest Customization’ are now enabled.


You will notice that when customizing a VM based on a template the options given pretty much mirror those presented with the Windows SYSPREP manager.

Happy cloning !



  1. Carsten says

    Hi there,

    Well, I did what you explained above, but still get the greyed out options. :-(

    Do I need to run/reboot/do something additional?

    Kind regards,

  2. says

    Hi Carsten,

    Just run these exe’s and they will give you the necessary files. Some of them are just updates to the original files – in these cases just replace the original files with those contained in the update.

    I would restart Virtual Center just to make sure.

    Hope this helps,


  3. Remco Prins says

    Thanx for the info!

    You must copy all the files from the Windows Server 2003 SP1 x86 SYSPREP (after updated to SP2) to the specified sysprep dir!

    It works fine!

  4. Carsten says


    Well, what I found was that I used wrong deploy.cab.

    Sorry for the inconvenience.

    It works fine now. :-)

    Kind regards,

  5. Willem says


    How do I obtain the sysprep files for 2008?
    What folder do I have to create on the VIM server to put the files in?

  6. Kieran says

    Server 2008 and Vista do not require sysprep files as they are integrated into the OS. Consequently, Virtual centre does not require them to deploy from template either!!

  7. Fred says


    I want to deploy Windows 2008 from a template. (ESX 3.5 Update 2 with VC 2.5) I tried it without copying the sysprep files in a sysprep folder on VC. (because there is no sysprep folder for W2008) Instead of what is mentioned above, this does not work.
    Does anybody has a clue how to deploy Windows 2008 from a template exactly?


  8. Doofrat says

    Thank you for spoon feeding the links, had the same problem, but apparently was using the wrong versions on the deploy.cab for the version of XP I got.

  9. Ytsejamer1 says

    Kudos for this article…I couldn’t figure out why my x64 cust. wizards were not working. I had to do a clean install of VC 2.5u3 after the previous install upgrade hosed itself, so it must have ripped out what I had in place with the sysprep files.

    FYI, XP-64 is just Svr2003-64…so the same sysprep files should work. And there are less files in the deploy cab for x64 than there are in the x32/86.

  10. says

    Kudos for this article…I couldn’t figure out why my x64 cust. wizards were not working. I had to do a clean install of VC 2.5u3 after the previous install upgrade hosed itself, so it must have ripped out what I had in place with the sysprep files.

    FYI, XP-64 is just Svr2003-64…so the same sysprep files should work. And there are less files in the deploy cab for x64 than there are in the x32/86.

    Glad you found the article useful – thanks for the feedback and the information on the XP-64 files.



  11. MIke says

    I can’t get sysprep to work with XP. Do I have to copy the sysprep files somewhere on the XP template too? I figured that the info provided in VC should be sufficient.

  12. peson says

    Hello there
    I have some problem with join the servers into my domain.
    I have used the step-by-step installation version in VIC but also the scripted sysprep version but both give the same result in C:WINDOWSTempvmware-imcguestcust.log

    “The network path was not found.”

    Both the OU-object name and the account is correct.


  13. pratazzi says


    to get Windows 2008 syspreped in a VMWARE ESX 3.5.0 until Update 3 environment(didn’t test it with U4) with a Template, just tell the template config that it is a Vista-32 template instead of 2008-32 or a Vista-64 instead of 2008-64 in the Template. After you have installed a Windows 2008 VM with your “Vista”-Template (wait for the 2 automatic sysprep reboots after the first start) you just have to change the config of this VM from Vista to Windows 2008.
    This works because the integrated Vista sysprep is similar to the integrated Windows 2008 sysprep, but VMWARE had only the Vista Template/Sysprep correct implemented. Although Windows 2008 is released since ESX 3.5.0 Update 3.


  14. wasim says

    I am not getting your steps.

    I have extracted windows 2003 SP1 Cab file, and pasted the contents in VC directory.
    But the template is having Windows 2003 R2 SP2.

    do i need to setup the SP2-sysprep exe on VC server?

  15. wasim says

    For my previous question, we do need to run Windows 2003 R2 SP2 sysprep.exe on VC server.

    Right now I am trying to work on cloning XP SP3.

    • shirish says

      or XP sp3 what folder we need to create in sysprep folder. i downloaded the deploy.cab, extracted and replaced the contents with new XP sp3 files .Still i face problem, it gives error ” customization failed” at the end of deployment stage.

      Please help.


  16. Nathan Hammes says

    No – you don’t run Sysprep.exe on the VC – that will basically wipe it out. You just need to copy the appropriate versions of Sysprep into the correect directories on the VC server. I believe the default path is “C:D&SAll UsersApplication DataVMwareVMware VirtualCentersysprep” – there you need to create the directories (if not already created) for each different version of sysprep…

    Hope that helps.


  17. Abhishek says


    I have few question regarding installing template in the virtual machine. First thing, is it possible to install any template in a Virtual Machine? I tried installing template but I am getting an error like “Number of CPUs. Expected value: 1, found: 0”. But the VM already has a CPU present and detectable albeit through the system information.

    I am intending to achieve virtualization using the VM in template environment for trial. This VM contains RAM of 8GB and Disk space of 150 GB.

    The installation started fine with the regulation template screens but failed later with the above error.

  18. Jmason says



    i cannot get the cusomtizations to apear for windows 2003 R2 32bit

    I have vcenter on 2008 and have installed Sp1 and Sp2 sysprep to the sysprepsvr2003 folder in programdatavmware

    please see the attached for the directory contents

    any help appriciated

  19. CCoulange says

    Any suggestion for JMason post ?

    I have exactly the same problem…. with the same infrastructure.
    My Win 2003 is R2 SP2 32bit.


  20. Colleen says

    I’m having an issue with deploying 2003 vm’s. According to vmware (http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1005593)the sysprep files required to deploy/customize 2003sp1 and 2003sp2 vm’s are to be stored in the svr2003 folder located on the vCenter server. However, 2003sp1 and 2003sp2 require different versions of the sysprep.exe file thereby overwriting one another when placed in the svr2003 folder. With that said, how is it possible to deploy both versions in your environment if they require different sysprep? At this point, my 2003sp1 customization fails as the 2003sp2 sysprep was placed in the svr2003 folder as instructed by vmware.


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