In my previous article, “Don’t let Win2K push you around,” I explained how to remove most of Win2K’s system components. But you can save yourself some effort if you keep unwanted items from being installed in the first place. Here’s a quick look at how you can use an answer file to prevent the installation of selected components.

Unattended installation
Most network administrators know about unattended installation. It’s a normal installation, but instead of manually clicking prompts and answering questions, you provide a special text file (called an answer file) that includes all the required answers. This allows you to specify the settings before the installation begins. More importantly, it lets the installation automatically proceed without your intervention.

Unattended installation is useful if you have to install Windows 2000 on several machines or when you want to customize the setup (for instance, to prevent specific components from being installed). The magic is hidden in the answer file, which includes everything the setup program needs to install the operating system according to your specifications.

You can create the answer file manually or by using the Setup Manager Wizard. Setup Manager is on the Windows 2000 CD in the file in the \support\tools folder. The same cabinet file includes the unattended.doc file that contains detailed instructions on manually creating the unattended file.

Creating the answer file
Although it’s easier to create the file with the wizard, you can’t configure all the options that you can by doing it manually. If you look through the unattended.doc file, you’ll see some options that allow you to configure which components to install. These options are located under the Components section of the answer file. For example, if you wanted to prevent the installation of CD Player, Freecell, HyperTerminal, and WordPad, you would add the following lines in your unattended answer file:
cdplayer = off
freecell = off
hypertrm = off
mswordpad = off

Figure A shows a sample answer file.

Figure A
Answer file

There are quite a few components (48 to be exact) that you can configure to be either installed or not. For the exact syntax of each component, refer to the unattended.doc file. As you’ll see, not all components are supported. Specifically, you can’t prevent the installation of Telnet server, Outlook Express, or NetMeeting through unattended installation. Hopefully, a future version of Windows 2000 will provide this functionality.
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