If you manage a network of any size at all, you know what a pain that it can be to manually install Windows 98 on each computer. Even after Windows 98 has installed, you still have to configure options such as network settings and desktop options. However, there’s a way to do all of this automatically, which lets you to start the installation process on several new computers, go to lunch, and have the process completed by the time you come back. This automatic process is even cooler if you think about how many hours the process would take to perform the old fashion way.

An overview
As with Windows 95, the process of automating Setup involves creating a script file. Windows 98 can then refer to the options listed within the script file every time Setup normally requires user intervention. Unfortunately, the process of creating this script file tends to be long and tedious. There are countless options that you can specify within a script, and of course, if you misspell a command or accidentally leave something out, the whole thing will come to a screeching halt. The good news is that there’s a tool hidden on the Windows 98 CD that automates the process of creating the script. By using this tool, you can eliminate the risk of making an error in the script.

The Batch tool
The Batch tool is a graphical tool that you can use to automatically build the setup script based on the selections that you make. The best part of the Batch tool is that you already have it—it’s included on the Windows 98 CD.

To install the Batch tool, go to the \Tools\Reskit\Batch directory on your Windows 98 CD and run the Setup program. The Setup program is very straightforward and doesn’t include any complicated options. Once Setup is completed, you can access the Batch tool by selecting Start | Programs | Microsoft Batch 98.

When you run the Batch program, the first thing that you’ll see is the main Microsoft Batch 98 window, as shown in Figure A. As you can see, this window contains a Gather Now button and several Options buttons.

Figure A
The Gather Now button loads Setup Settings from your PC’s registry.

Gather Now
With so many options to configure, the Gather Now button may be the Batch tool’s best feature. The Gather Now button was designed to duplicate existing settings. Simply load the Batch tool onto a PC that’s already configured the way that you want your other PCs configured. Once you’ve loaded the Batch tool, click the Gather Now button. When you do, the Batch tool will run a very quick process (if you blink you’ll miss it) that reads the various Setup options from your system’s registry. The Gather Now button makes the process much easier by automatically filling in most of the necessary fields for you.

General Setup Options
When you click the General Setup Options button, you’ll see the General Setup Options Properties sheet. This properties sheet contains tabs related to the most common things that you might associate with the Setup Process. For example, the Install Info tab allows you to enter the product ID number and the installation directory. You can also use this tab to disable the directory warning message and to select whether or not you want for Setup to save uninstall information for your system.

The User Info tab allows you to enter a user name, company name, computer name, workgroup, and description. As you might guess, this is one of the few places where Setup requires unique information for each computer. To get around this issue, you can create a separate script for each computer, or you can run one generic script on each computer and manually change the computer name and user name once Setup is completed. Another alternative is to select the Multiple Machine Name Save option from the Batch tool’s File menu. This option allows you to specify the name of a text file that contains the names of all of the machines that you’re setting up. It will custom-produce setup scripts for each machine.

The Windows 98 Setup program displays several annoying warning messages and other prompts that you probably don’t want to deal with during a mass installation. The Setup Prompts tab displays the following choices:

  • Auto-Accept The End User License Agreement
  • Do Not Prompt For An Emergency Repair Disk
  • Automatically Reboot PCI And PnP Machines During Setup
  • Do Not Search The Source Folder For New Devices
  • Automatically Skip The PC Card (PCMCIA) Wizard

For an unattended installation, you must select all of these options.

The Regional Settings tab enables you to select your time zone, keyboard layout, and language.

The Desktop tab relates to how you want the PC’s desktop to appear. It enables you to use or delete various icons such as My Computer, Network Neighborhood, and Recycle Bin. You can also automatically delete the Online Services from the desktop and disable the Windows 98 Welcome screen and Registration Wizard.

When setting up several new PCs, there are so many details to think of that it’s often easy to forget about the printers. The Printers tab lets you select which printers will be set upon the new machines. You can also control the printer’s name and driver and specify whether the printer resides on a local or network port.

The MRU Locations tab enables you to specify the most recently used paths. This tab may come in handy if you know where users will be looking for document files. However, in most situations, you’ll probably want to clear the MRU list.

The User Profiles tab enables you to decide whether user profiles will be active on the new machine. You can let everyone use the same settings or you can allow each user to have their own custom settings. If you decide to enable user profiles, you also have the option of deciding whether desktop icons and the Start menu will be unique for each user.

Network Options
Click the Network Options button and you’ll see the Network Options Properties sheet. This properties sheet enables you to decide how the network will be configured on the new machines. The first tab on the Network Options properties sheet is the Protocols tab. The Protocols tab allows you to select which protocols will be loaded on the new machines. You can also use this tab to select options such as the ISX/SPX frame type and whether you want to enable NetBIOS over IPX/SPX. You can also use the TCP/IP Settings button to configure the various options involved with setting up TCP/IP. Finally, make sure to select a default protocol.

The Services tab allows you to enable or disable file and print sharing on the new machines. You can decide whether to use file and print sharing for Microsoft Networks or for NetWare Networks. If you do decide to use a Microsoft network, you should also use this tab to define the computer’s browse master role.

The Clients tab enables you to select the default login client. Additionally, you can specify the Windows NT domain, the NetWare server, or the NetWare NDS tree that you want the new machines to log in to.

The Access Control tab enables you to specify whether you want shared resources to be distributed using share level access control or user level access control. If you specify user level access control, you must also specify the name of the domain that will provide the user and group list.

The Other Clients list is used for installing nontypical clients such as Banyan. This tab comes in handy if you’re planning on using an MS-DOS based network requester, such as NetWare’s NETX or VLM.

Optional Components
Windows 98 contains many utilities that may not be installed by default. Click the Optional Components button to select these utilities, such as the various accessories, desktop themes, screen savers, and system tools. By default, only a partial list is selected, so it may be worth your time to look at all of the options and decide what you want to install.

Internet Explorer Options
When you click the Internet Options button, you’ll see the Internet Explorer Options Properties sheet. The first tab of this properties sheet is the Desktop tab. The Desktop tab allows you to enable the various Internet Explorer icons in the taskbar. You can also use this tab to enable or disable the channel bar on the new PCs.

Internet Explorer is integrated very tightly with Windows 98. Many Windows 98 behaviors can be directly attributed to Internet Explorer settings, and the Display tab allows you to control some of these settings. For example, you can use this tab to enable or disable Active Desktop, decide whether you want to open each new folder in the same window or in a new window, and select whether you want to use a single- or a double-click to open items.

The Browser tab lets you select items such as the new PC’s home page, post setup page, and online support page. This is useful if your company uses the Web extensively. You could point the home page to your company’s Web page. You could also connect the online support page to your help desk’s page on your corporate intranet.

The Security tab allows you to establish security policies for various zones of Web content. For example, you can decide whether users should see a warning before running potentially damaging Internet content, or if they should even be allowed to run it at all. The Proxy Settings tab is only useful if the new PCs will be accessing the Internet via a Proxy Server. If your network uses a Proxy Server, you can use this tab to establish all of the typical Proxy Client settings.

Advanced Options
Click the Advanced Options button and you’ll see the Advanced Options Properties sheet. The default tab on this properties sheet is the Additional Files tab. This tab is used to incorporate nonstandard registry entries into the new PC’s registry. For example, suppose that you have some proprietary software on your network that requires a special registry setting. You could create a registry file that includes that setting. You could then use the Additional Files tab to automatically incorporate those settings onto the new PC. This tab also enables you to specify a system policy file. If your network uses system policies, you can specify the name of a pre-existing policy file and avoid having to recreate or reenable it on the new PC.

The last tab is the Windows Update tab. This tab allows you to decide whether you want to permit the upgrade of drivers and software via the Internet. If you do decide to enable Windows Update, you can specify the URL of the pages containing update information.

Running the script
The final button the Batch tool offers is the Save Settings To INF button. Click this button and Windows will enable you to enter a file name and path for the newly created script file. A sample of the script file is shown in Figure B.

Figure B
The Script file will be used to automate the Setup process.

When the script is complete, save it to a shared location. When you run the Setup program, specify the name of the script file. For example, you might use a command similar to one of the two shown here:

Manually installing Windows 98 on multiple computers can be very time consuming. You’ve always had the option to create a setup script for automating the installation of Windows 95 and 98, but doing so can be tedious, and it leaves a great deal of room for error. In this Daily Drill Down, I discussed the Batch utility, which uses a graphical user interface to create a script file automatically. I also explained how to set up Windows 98 by using the script created by the Batch utility.

Talainia Posey learned to handle PCs the old fashioned way: by reading manuals and doing on-the-job troubleshooting. Her experience also includes installing networks for several small companies. When she’s not working on computers, Talainia loves to shop for toys, watch cartoons, or spend time with her cat, Beavis.

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