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Unattended Installation Facts

Windows Setup is the program that controls the Windows installation process. You can run Windows Setup using the following methods:

Method Description
Interactive (attended) Using the interactive method, a user installs Windows on a single computer by inserting the installation medium and manually starting the setup program.
  • During the setup process, the user responds to prompts on the screen to customize the Windows installation.
  • Interactive setup is typically used by end users to install Windows, or for small-scale Windows installations where the administrator installs Windows on a small number of computers.
  • Interactive setup can be used during image preparation to install and configure Windows on the source computer.
Automated (unattended) With an automated installation, the installation program runs with little or no user intervention.
  • Automated installations use an answer file to provide answers to the prompts during Windows Setup.
  • When setup finds the necessary information in the answer file, the on-screen prompt is skipped (not displayed). If the answer file does not contain a needed response, the installation pauses and waits for user input.
  • Automated installations require up-front planning and configuration, but reduce the overall time and effort for installing Windows.
  • Answer files can be used to install Windows on the source computer prior to image capture, or to control the installation of images on target computers.

Use the Windows SIM tool to create and manage answer files that are used for automating installations. Use Windows SIM to:

  • Create an answer file that includes the basic Windows Setup configuration.
  • Modify the answer file's settings to change how Windows 7 will be installed.
  • Add or remove custom drivers or add applications via the answer file.

To create the answer file, use the following steps:

  1. On a technician computer, insert the Windows 7 product DVD.
  2. Run Windows SIM and load a preloaded install image (Install.wim) from the DVD.
  3. After loading the image, select and edit the responses to the questions presented during product installation. Add actions to be performed during the various configuration passes of the installation process.
  4. After creating the answer file, validate the file in Windows SIM.
  5. After validation, save the answer file. Answer files are saved in XML format.

Be aware of the following when using an answer file for automated installations:

  • The recommended name for the answer file is Autounattend.xml or Unattend.xml.
  • Before starting Windows Setup, save the answer file to a location that will be accessible during the installation (such as a removable device or the network installation share).
  • When Windows Setup starts, it will automatically search the following locations for an answer file (with the default names):
    • The same directory as the Windows Setup program. For example, if you are installing Windows from a network share, copy the answer file to the share in the same directory as the setup program.
    • The root directory of removable storage devices (USB drives). If you are installing Windows from the installation disc, copy the installation file to a removable drive and insert the drive before starting the setup program. Note: Configure the computer to boot from the installation disc, not the removable device.
  • You can start setup using an answer file with a non-default name or in a non-default location by using the /unattend switch to identify the path and name of the answer file. For example, use the following command to use a custom file located on the D: drive: setup.exe /unattend:d:\install\answer1.xml
  • With Windows 7, a single answer file can be used during all installation phases. For example, you can create an answer file with responses that would occur during all configuration passes during installation. Instead of using a single answer file for the entire installation, you can create separate answer files to be used at different stages of the installation process. Using different answer files could be useful during image preparation and deployment.