Monday, June 17, 2024

Windows 2000 Unattended Installation

What is an unattended install? Installing Windows 2000 is not difficult, but it can sure fill up a day’s worth of time just doing a few computers.

Windows 2000 has the option of automating your installations with no help from you after it starts. Windows NT had this option, but it has been greatly improved. An unattended install is something that can be done with all of 2000, but it is most commonly used with Professional. While it can be performed on Windows 2000 Servers, it cannot be used to install a domain controller.

How do I install unattended?
To perform an unattended installation you must make answer file that will provide setup with the necessary information to complete the installation. An answer file is easy to make. Grab a Windows 2000 CD and find the Support folder then go to Tools and there will be a file called Extract it to your hard drive in a folder then click setupmgr.exe which will launch a wizard that will walk you through creating your answer file.

When the wizard begins, you will have 3 options to choose from as follows:

– Build a new answer file –
This option creates a new answer file from scratch.

– Build an answer file based on your current computer’s configuration –
If you are sitting at a machine that is configured the way you would like the other machines to be set up, you can select this option. This will create an answer file using the current configuration of the computer you run the wizard on.

– Modify an existing answer file –
Allows you to edit previously created answer files.

Next, you will need to decide the “User Interaction Level” for your installations. Below the various options are explained:

– Provide Defaults –
You provide the default answers and the user accepts them or makes changes as necessary during installation.

– Fully Automated –
You provide all answers and the installation can be fully unattended.

– Hide Pages –
This option will only allow the user to interact with setup where answers were not provided in the answer file. The portions of setup where answers where provided are hidden from the user.

– Read Only –
This option will display the entire setup process, but will not allow the user to make any changes.

– GUI Attended –
This option only automates the text-based portion of setup. The GUI portion will run like a regular installation requiring the user to enter the required information.

Next, the setup manager will walk you through a series of questions that will be nearly identical to the ones that would appear during the installation process. Of special note is the “computer name” field. Each computer on your network must have a unique computer name so how can an unattended installation assign unique computer name to each computer? This is accomplished using a Uniqueness Database File (UDF). When setup manager prompts you for a computer name, you can enter as many computer names as necessary and setup manager will automatically create a UDF file for you. UDF files can be used to configure other machine specific settings and parameters.

Once you have specified all of the configuration options, you will see the Distribution Folder options as follows:

– Yes, create or modify a distribution folder –
If you wish to create a single location where the Windows 2000 source files, OEM drivers, batch files, etc are located select this option. This is used when you wish your automated installation to use a network location for installation instead of the CD. If you select this option, the wizard will walk you through a couple of extra steps in which you will specify the locations of the source files, drivers, etc.

– No, this answer file will be used to install from a CD –
If you will be using the Windows 2000 CD-ROM to perform the installation, then select this option.

Now you just need to name the answer file and specify a location to save it. By default, this will be unattend.txt, however, you should probably give it a unique name that you can remember it by.

Now you are ready to begin your unattended installation. Simply use the WINNT or WINNT32 command with a /unattend switch to start your installation. The following is an example of the syntax:

WINNT32 /unattend:”answer_file_name” /s:”path_to_installation_files”

Not enough options? There is one important thing missing from the wizard and that is putting in the serial number. Inputting the serial number is important because if it is not in there then the installation will stop in the middle and ruin the whole purpose of installing with an answer file. Fortunately, answer files are text files and can be easily edited in any text editor. Under the [UserData] add the line for ProductID like shown here:


You can even shut off the games or some utilities that you don’t want your employees to use. For this add a [Component] to the answer file that looks like this:


For a detailed explanation about answer files and a list of valid parameter values, refer to the Unattend.doc file in the directory on the Windows 2000 Professional CD.

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