"Windows could not parse or process the unattend answer file" when running Sysprep on a Vista Client using a Ghost Console task.

Article:TECH110386  |  Created: 2008-01-30  |  Updated: 2009-01-01  |  Article URL http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH110386
Article Type
Technical Solution


When you execute an image create task with Sysprep on a Vista [Ultimate] client machine (where the unattend file is created at the Ghost Console), the machine runs sysprep successfully, boots into Ghost where the image is created, and then reboots to the Vista setup wizard where Sysprep should apply the information located in the unattend answer file.

While the machine is running through the Sysprep setup, you get the following error message:

"Windows could not parse or process the unattend answer file for pass [specialize]. The settings specified in the answer file cannot be applied. The error was detected while processing settings for component [Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup."

When you click OK to this error message, the Vista machine reboots and then presents the following error message:

"The computer restarted unexpectedly or encountered an unexpected error. Windows installation cannot proceed. To install Windows, click "OK" to restart the computer, and then restart the installation."

At this point, the computer restarts and then the same error message is presented again.

** When you run Sysprep directly from the client computer with -oobe -reboot -quiet -generalize (the same switches the Console uses when executing Sysprep), Sysprep is successful.

The client machine boots back up without error message.


With Windows Vista, Microsoft changed the sysprep mini-setup's behaviour for incomplete or bad sections in the answer file. Instead of stopping and prompting the user for the incomplete/bad sections like in Windows XP, Windows Vista will halt the mini-setup process and leave the system in an unusable state. The problem with the answer file would be the section being blank. Sysprep fails because it can't apply a zero-sized string as a computer name.


There are multiple possible solutions:
  • Make sure that a computer name is specified.
  • Make sure you have added the Windows Activation Key.
  • Capitalize the domain name.


Apply the Ghost_Solution_Suite_2.5_server-client_b2165.exe file on both the console and clients to resolve the issue. The file can be downloaded from the following FTP site:


Apply the build, run a Refresh Configuration task from the Ghost Console on the client machines, re-create the image and restore the image.

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Article URL http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH110386

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