Q. I need to maintain a gold virtual machine (VM) image, but can only Sysprep it three times. What can I do?

A. In many virtual desktop environments, you want a single template VM image, the gold image, that you duplicate to create the bulk of your VM environment. This VM must be Sysprep'd to enable duplication, but you need to be able patch the VM, which typically means turning it on. (With tools like Deployment Image Servicing and Management and the offline patching solution, you can patch offline Virtual Hard Disks.)

If you just turn on your template VM, patch it, then re-Sysprep it, you use up an activation rearm, and you only get three of them. The solution is to use the following approach:

  1. Build the base OS VM.
  2. Create a snapshot of the VM (pre-Sysprep) or a backup.
  3. Sysprep and save the image, and distribute as needed.
  4. One month later, get the snapshot or backup from Step 2 (which was not Sysprep'd).
  5. Patch it. Snapshot or backup again, replacing the previous pre-Sysprep'd image.
  6. Sysprep and save the updated image for distribution.

Repeat the cycle as needed. Note that you're never updating the Sysprep'd image.

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