Unattended Installation for
By Marshall Cooper
An Unattended installation is a way to nearly fully automate a windows installation.
Before you start you need 3 things:
• A computer with Windows already installed
• A Windows XP CD
• And a formatted floppy disk
First thing you need to do is put in your Windows XP CD and view the contents of the disk. Now
open the “Support” folder and then the “Tools” folder. The file you’re looking for is a compressed
file called “DEPLOY.CAB”. Before you go any further make a new folder on your desktop and
extract the contents of this CAB file to that folder. You can name this folder whatever you like.
Now open the folder that you just created. You should see the extracted files there. The one we
want is setupmgr.exe. Just disregard all the other files except for the ref.chm which is a
Windows XP Installation Reference. This is a help file that goes more into creating an answer
file and explains more about the other files that are included in the folder that we just made. If
you run into problems it might come in handy.
Run the setupmgr.exe and the Welcome to the Windows Setup Manager screen will
come up. This Wizard is going to take us through the options of creating the answer file
so just click next. Then the Create or Modify the Answer File dialog box will open.
Since this is going to be the first answer file, select “Create a new answer file” and click
next. Once you have created an answer file successfully, you can edit it with the Setup
Manager by selecting “Modify an existing answer file” and providing a path to it.
Type of answer file to be used
There are 3 types which are:
Windows Unattended Installation - Unattended installations use setup scripts to answer
installation questions and to automate the Setup process. This simplifies the installation
of the operating system.
Sysprep Install (System Preparation Tool) - Disk imaging, which is also known as cloning.
This is a timesaving way to install Windows XP on multiple computers that use identical
or similar hardware configurations.
Remote Installation Services (RIS) - Enables you to perform a clean installation of
Windows XP Professional on multiple computers throughout a network. You can
simultaneously deploy the operating system on multiple clients from one or more remote
For now choose the “Windows Unattended Installation” option.
Windows Platform – This screen is where you would choose which version of Windows
you are going to install.
User Interaction during Windows Setup:
Fully automated - This option will not prompt you for any information.
Provide defaults - This option will fill in the info you supply but you will be able to change
it if you choose to.
Hide pages - This option does pretty much the same thing as the fully automated with the
exception of letting you see the Setup Wizard.
Read only - This option does pretty much the same thing as the “Provide defaults” option
with the exception that you would not be able to change any of the settings.
GUI attended - This option only allows the text portion of the Setup to be automated.
Choose the “Fully automated” option unless you feel another option is better for you.
Distribution Folder - Select “No” if the installation files are from a CD like I’m describing. If
you want to install from a network share, you would choose to create a distribution folder.
The distribution folder option gives you the flexibility to add other files as well, such as
drivers not found on the Windows XP CD.
License Agreement - We can’t forget about the License Agreement. We have to check
this now because we won’t be seeing it during the installation.
Customize Software - Now it’s time to input your personal information. I’m sure most of
you recognize this from previous Windows installs that you have done before.
Display Settings - Everyone is different when choosing display settings but put in what
you most commonly use here. If you’re not sure what your video card and monitor
support, just choose the Windows default. If you try to over do it you may run into
problems later. Remember that running a monitor at a refresh frequency that it does not
support can damage the monitor. Once again, if you’re not sure just set it to Default.
Time Zone - This one is simple enough. Put in the time zone that you live in.
Product Key - This is a handy one. Put your Product Key in here. Saving it to the answer
file will automatically put it in for you so you don’t lose the Product Key unless you lose
the answer file.
Computer Names - If you plan to use your name as a user on the computer it can’t be
the same as the name here. You can also have the setup automatically generate the
name by ticking the box at the bottom. If you plan to use the exact same setup on
multiple computers then you would add their names here as well.
If you’re willing to accept computer names that follow no pattern, you can allow Setup to
create each computer’s name on the fly by appending seemingly random letters and
numbers to the first few letters of your organization’s name.
Administrator Password - If you don’t want someone to look at your answer file to
figure out what it is tick the Encrypt password box. You can also specify the number of
times it allows the computer to auto logon as the Administrator. I choose “1” because
there are certain settings you can change that can only be done by being logged on as
*Note - Automatic Logon does not work if the local administrator password is encrypted
in the answer file.
Networking Components - By default the Setup Manager includes the Microsoft
Networks Client, File and Printer Sharing, and TCP/IP. If you’d rather set this up later,
leave it at the typical settings. To set it up now have TCP/IP highlighted and click on the
Step 13 continued
TCP/IP Settings –Here you can ether set it to automatic or configure it for however you
wish. If you choose to configure TCP/IP properties in your answer file, you must create a
unique answer file for each computer you are setting up on a network.
Workgroups and Domains - Here you just need to add the name of the workgroup or
server domain your computer is going to be on if any.
Now were in the advanced settings section of the setup. I won’t go over Telephony (a.k.a
Dial-up Settings), Regional Settings, Languages, Installation Folder, Browser and Shell
Settings and Install Printers as the are all pretty strait forward or need a network already
installed. This will skip Step 15 to 20.
Run Once - The Run Once section has other commands you could use in the answer
file. If you wanted to have the answer file create disk partitions for you then you would
add the command here. You can add commands and make this as simple or advanced
as you like.
Additional Commands - This allows you to have setup install things that you would
normally want to install right after Windows XP. If you desire to this then you may have
needed to choose different options earlier the setup manager. Once you have finished
here click finish.
Save the Answer File - Now put in the formatted floppy disk into your floppy drive.
Where it says “Location and file name”, type in a folder to save the file and name it
After that the Setup Complete screen will come up telling you that it has created 2 files
winnt.sif and winnt.bat
You will need to put these onto the formatted floppy disk.
The Final Step
First, you're going to need to change your boot order in the BIOS to boot from CD-ROM.
After changing the boot order in BIOS, save your changes and reboot the computer. Now
you can start the installation.
Make sure your Installation CD is in your CD-ROM. If it is you'll be prompted to press any
key to boot from CD-ROM. Press any key on your keyboard as soon as you see this
message. Wait a few minutes while the installation begins to copy the setup files to your
If you decided to create your own partitions, you need to decide which partition of your
hard drive you will install Windows XP on. Once you have figured out which partition XP
will be installed on it's time to format it.
Choose to format the partition to either FAT32 or NTFS. After you have select one of the
options hit enter and Setup will begin to format the partition.
Now just sit back and wait or go do something else. The only things you will be asked to
do are register or activate Windows XP and setup user accounts. Everything else is done
Using this method of installing windows XP may take a little
of your time at first but can be handy in future installations.
You can also add the answer file strait to a Windows CD
that way you don’t have to find the floppy disk or worry
about it corrupting. I would recommend you try the floppy
disk method first so you can play with all the different ways
of automating the Windows XP setup.