All right, I’ll be honest in that 90% of this article is cut and paste from a much more detailed article at MicrosoftTechNet.
I recently did a reinstall of Vista for a friend. I didn’t know about this trick at the time but stumbled across it shortly afterwards. I had to awkwardly guess at answers and set up some basic accounts before installing a slew of updates.
Instead I should have just used Audit mode. From the article:
Audit mode enables OEMs and corporations to customize a Windows installation before shipping the computer to an end-user. In audit mode, you can install applications, add device drivers, run scripts, and test the validity of a Windows installation. Audit mode is a networked-enabled environment that does not require settings in Windows Welcome to be applied.
For attended installations, from Windows Welcome screen, press SHIFT+CTRL+F3.
After you have completed your customizations and have verified that the computer is ready to ship to a customer, configure the system to boot to Windows Welcome by running sysprep/oobe. The next time the system starts, Windows Welcome starts.
Had an interesting situation the other day where try as I might I could not get chkdsk to scan the C drive. This was on a Windows Vista Home Premium installation that had apparently hiccuped at some point and was fairly disabled. Networking didn’t work, and initially I had difficulties getting the control panel, task manager, network connections, etc to work. I eventually restored some of it but never did trace down exactly what happened or how to get networking back.
But I did have a clue and a problem. Chkdsk reported some errors on the drive along with gparted. Chkdsk also refused to fix them and all my typing yes to a scan next reboot was worthless. Finally I turned to the internet where I found the fsutil solution.
You see apparently chkdsk doesn’t set the dirty bit on the drive but rather sets the dirty bit in the windows registry. This computer was mucked up fierce, so windows wasn’t able to do anything with the bit. However if the bit is set on the drive Windows catches it much earlier and can finally scan.
Fsutil comes default with Vista and I know it is present on Windows XP 64. I’m not sure what other operating systems include this utility. For my purposes I just needed to type ‘fsutil dirty set c:’ and I was set.
It still didn’t fix my problem, a new install of Vista took care of that.