When it comes to building custom Windows images, few tools are as helpful as Microsoft’s venerable System Preparation Tool. Usually known as “Sysprep,” this tool works with a variety of other elements from the Microsoft Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). Savvy admins use Sysprep in Audit Mode to make and capture alterations to running Windows images. The Microsoft docs tell us that once you get to the final dialog after the last boot during the Windows install process, one can enter Audit mode using Ctrl+Shift+F3 keys. Why, then, is a Sysprep audit mode alternate key sequence necessary? [Note: this is the dialog where the system asks you to choose “Customize” or “Use express settings.” See Kari’s great TenForums tutorial Customize Windows !0 Image in Audit Mode with Sysprep… for fully illustrated step-by-step instructions.]
When you enter Audit Mode, the System Preparation Tool pops up. For those who wish to customize a Windows install, the next thing to do is to press the Cancel button to close this window.
It seems that on some keyboards — especially those found on laptops — system builders monkey with the handling of function keys. Often, that’s because keyboards are smaller and include fewer options. On my Lenovo laptops, for example, there’s a blue function (Fn) key that must be pressed for those keys to perform alternate functions. These include lock/unlock, sleep, display redirection, snapshots from the built-in camera, brightness controls, and so forth. On my Dell Venue Pro, the function keys work only if the blue Fn button is depressed. Otherwise, system control functions apply. Still other laptop makers use different conventions, key assignments, and so forth. You get the idea, I hope.
Sysprep Audit Mode Alternate Key Sequence Revealed
Ok, then. Let’s assume you try the default key sequence of Ctrl+Shift+F3 and nothing happens. What then? My preceding discussion foreshadowed the fourth key you’ll add to this mix. Try Ctrl+Fn+Shift+F3. That’s because you’re trying to use the Function key as a veritable function key and pressing Fn on some keyboards will make that happen. If neither sequence works, you’ll have to visit your laptop (or keyboard) maker’s website to get the right sequence from them. Since their deployment techs invariably use some sequence to get Sysprep into Audit Mode, somebody there will undoubtedly know the answer. All you have to do then, is to find your way to that somebody or some other source for that information. My best guess is that if the site has a user forum, you’ll be able to find the info there in short order by searching on “Sysprep” or “Audit Mode.” Good luck!
For the record, on my Lenovo systems Ctrl+Fn+Shift+F3 works like a champ to get into Audit Mode. If the default sequence doesn’t work for you try the alternate sequence next.