Cloning an OEM Windows 7 installation

First of all: Microsoft's licensing does not permit this. The "Unsupported Sysprep scenarios" document tells you this clearly:

Microsoft does not support the use of Sysprep to create a new image of a system that was originally created by using a custom OEM installation image or by using OEM installation media. Microsoft only supports such an image if the image was created by the OEM manufacturer. For more information see the following licensing brief on Reimaging Rights.

Don't get fooled by the "supports" or "is supported" terms in the above paragraph. The the referenced "Reimaging Rights" document they make a clear statement:

OEM Specific Information:
  • Organizations do not have the right to reimage by using OEM media.
  • An OEM image can only be preloaded on a PC by the OEM during manufacturing. An image can be individually recovered by the organization (or a service provider they choose) by using the Recovery Media. The OEM recovery media should match the product version originally preinstalled on the system; no other image may be used to restore the system to its original state.

However there's a method to clone an OEM Windows 7 instance and change the product key afterwards. But legally you're on your own.

  1. Set up the OEM Windows installation on the master/source PC (as usually) and prepare it for cloning (ie. do whatever you used to do before cloning).
  2. Run C:\Windows\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe. Until know there was nothing special.
  3. Clone the disk/partitions to another PC.
  4. Boot up the PC. If you go to Control Panel / System and check the product key, it's still the same as on the original PC. And it says it's activated.
  5. Start a command prompt with administrative rights and run:
    slmgr.vbs -ipk <insert your new product key here>
  6. Verify in Control Panel/System screen that the product code changed, but activation is required.
  7. Now run the following command to activate:
    slmgr.vbs -ato
  8. Verify in Control Panel/System screen that Windows is activated.
The above tip came from Electrotune1200's post. You can read this Technet article for more info on the slmgr.vbs script.

P.S.: the above instructions are for people who already know their way around sysprep and cloning. If you don't, executing the above commands can easily break your Windows.