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This problem has existed since Microsoft introduced Windows apps (Metro or Modern apps) in Windows 8. However, the error message in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 was “A fatal error occurred while trying to sysprep the machine.”
The new error message is less intimidating, but still fatal:
Sysprep was not able to validate your Windows installation
Actually, it is not really a new error message. In previous Windows versions, sysprep produced this message for a variety of reasons.
The most common one is that sysprep was executed on an upgraded Windows installation. I didn’t verify this with Windows 10, but I suppose it is still not possible to sysprep after a Windows upgrade. I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. If you create a reference image, you should keep things as simple as possible. Always start with a fresh installation and modify only what you require in your environment.
Another reason that some bloggers mentioned is that the Windows installation was not activated. I tried to sysprep a Windows 10 installation that was not activated, and sysprep ran through without complaints. I suppose this problem only exists if the 90-day trial period expired.
In some situations, outstanding reboots can cause sysprep to fail. I remember cases where I had to reboot twice. It is essential that Windows is in an absolutely stable state before you run sysprep.
However, I believe the most likely reason for the above error message in Windows 10 is that sysprep ran into problems with the new Windows apps. These apps are still somehow alien to Windows, and you have to treat them with great caution in your reference image. These are the possible causes for app-related sysprep failures that I am aware of:
- You installed an app from the Windows Store.
- You updated a built-in app through the Windows Store.
- You unprovisioned built-in apps without uninstalling those apps for all users.
The bottom line here is that, whenever a discrepancy exists between installed and provisioned apps, sysprep will not be able to validate your Windows installation. I outlined the difference between provisioned and installed apps in my previous post. Make sure that you understand these concepts if you are working with Windows 10 images.
For instance, in my test, I installed an alarm clock app from the Windows Store. After I ran sysprep, the following error messages were in the log file:
2015-09-11 02:27:27, Error SYSPRP Package AntaraSoftware.AlarmClockHD_18.104.22.168_neutral__7jhd16s0b93qm was installed for a user, but not provisioned for all users. This package will not function properly in the sysprep image. 2015-09-11 02:27:27, Error SYSPRP Failed to remove apps for the current user: 0x80073cf2.
You should always check the log files in the Panther folder if sysprep doesn’t work as expected. If User Account Control (UAC) is enabled, you first have to copy the log file to another folder. If you just double-click the log file in the Panther folder, you will receive an “access denied” error message.
Note that this discrepancy affects all user accounts that have been created on the machine. For instance, if you install a new app for one user and then run sysprep with another account, sysprep will fail. Likewise, if you removed provisioned apps but didn’t uninstall them for all users on the system, you will run into trouble.
Thus, if you need local users on a Windows 10 machine, you should only log on with these users on your reference machine after you unprovisioned all apps that you don’t want to have in the image. As noted in my previous post, Windows 10 installs provisioned apps only when the user logs on the first time.