Sysprep is built into the OS, if you do a fresh win7 install, at the welcome screen before you create any users you can do a cntrl+shift+f3 and access audit mode, do your updates then when done, click the generalize/shutdown options and on next startup it will load back up to the welcome screen, this is of course a good time to use imagex to capture it as well.
ImageX, DISM and the SIM (system image manager) are part of the windows 7 automated installation kit (AIK) which is free from MS. Imagex allows for .wim file image capture, SIM allows for creating unattended installation scripts, DISM is used at command line to update offline images. Also let's you create a WinPE preboot environment to work from and the USMT (user state migration tool) but the USMT is more for business use to migrate user data, the win7 easy transfer definitely works better for customer use imo.
When you install the WAIK in start/all programs/Microsoft Windows AIK there is a documentation folder that includes a pretty good step-by-step basic win 7 deployment for IT, I would suggest following that pretty much step by step if you want to learn more about these tools. If you don't know a ton about win7 too might be worth just picking up a MCTS:win 7 configuring certification book, think mine was like 35 and it's definitely worth it even if you don't go for the certification itself, I read: http://www.amazon.com/MCTS-70-680-Cert-Guide-Configurin...
This guy has videos on A+, Net+, he's been working on the updated Security+ videos lately and the 70-680 the windows 7 exam videos. Best free videos for the basic IT areas I have seen and I found them to be a HUGE help.
I have been using Paragon Backup and Recovery 2011 Free Edition for image backups of my own personal
but I have been curious about how to image Win7 for customers computers
Any info and links are appreciated
There are a number of solutions available for deploying Windows 7. Every product differs in price, functionality, etc... Below is a list of some products and different methodologies.
First you have your sector based imaging tools. These tools will take a sector by sector image of the hard drive and put it in a file. Generally sector based imaging tools are hardware specific, which means you need to install/configure Windows on every model of computer you have and take an image of each. There are some enhancements on this like with Ghost Deploy Anywhere or Snap Deploy's Universal Image components which will add the NIC and mass storage drivers to a deployment so the machine will boot and drivers can be updated.
A few sector based imaging tools are: Symantec Ghost Acronis Snap Deploy FOG (Free Open Source Ghost)
The sector based technologies have been around for quite some time. The next wave in image file type came with the Windows Imaging format. There are many tools based on this file based image standard (most from Microsoft). The Windows imaging format or WIM is what Microsoft has used to ship operating systems from Vista/2008 forward. The advantage of WIM over third party sector based imaging formats are; single instance storage, easily updated and modified as well as a standard file type that works with many different tools. Imaging tools that use WIM are generally hardware independent, which means you can have one image that is used for every computer model you have available.