Learn to set up Windows 2000 Professional unattended installation

The procedure takes a while, but once it's complete, setting up a Windows 2000 Professional unattended installation will make your network administration so much easier. Learn how to use the Setup Manager in this Daily Drill Down by Steven Pittsley.

To help eliminate the cumbersome task of manually installing Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft devised a method that allows you to perform the installation automatically, or unattended. Organizations that have multiple shifts of employees or have remote locations will find this installation method quite helpful. This Daily Drill Down will provide you with an overview of the Windows 2000 Professional unattended installation, preparing you to perform such an installation on your network.

For the sake of brevity, in this Daily Drill Down I’ll refer to Windows 2000 Professional as Windows 2000. Other Windows 2000 products will be specified, such as Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

Preparing for an unattended installation
As with any task, you must prepare to install Windows 2000 by ensuring that your computer hardware meets the minimum hardware requirements that have been set forth by Microsoft. You must also ensure that your hardware is compatible with Windows 2000 by verifying that the hardware components of your system are listed on the Hardware Compatibility List, or HCL. (See “Installing Windows 2000.”)

Once the hardware has been selected and you have verified that it is compatible with Windows 2000, you must determine how the hard drive will be partitioned and what file system you will use. Partitioning the hard drive is really dependent on your needs. You can create a small partition to prevent your customers from installing their own software, or you can make the entire drive one single partition. For more information on choosing a file system, see the TechProGuild Daily Drill Downs, “Installing Windows 2000” and “The essential Win2K multiboot troubleshooter: Planning partitions and file systems.”

Creating a distribution folder
The unattended installation uses a distribution folder so that you can put all of the files and device drivers used by the unattended installation into a single hierarchical structure. Using this type of structure, you can easily add new device drivers without making major changes to the installation routine. This type of setup is ideal if you have multiple hardware configurations.

The creation of the distribution folder is much easier when you use the Setup Manager tool. This utility is located on the Windows 2000 installation CD-ROM in the \SUPPORT\TOOLS folder. Setup Manager is in the folder and must be extracted on your management workstation. To unpack the Setup Manager files, right-click on setupmgr and select extract. You will be asked to select the folder to extract the program to. You must also extract setupmgx.dll to the same folder.

After extracting the files, launch Setup Manager and click Next at the initial welcome screen. As shown in Figure A, you can choose to create a new answer file or modify an existing one. The answer file will contain all the answers that you normally make when installing the operating system manually. For example, the Windows installation directory or time zone settings will be included in the answer file. For the purposes of this Daily Drill Down, I selected the default choice of creating a new answer file.

Figure A
The Setup Manager Wizard lets you choose the type of answer file to create.

As shown in Figure B, the setup wizard’s next screen provides you with the opportunity to choose the type of answer file to create. Again, for the purposes of this Daily Drill Down, I selected the default choice of Windows 2000 Unattended Installation.

Figure B
You can select Unattended Installation, Sysprep Install, and Remote Installation Services.

The next screen gives you the opportunity to select the Windows 2000 platform you will use the answer file for. I selected the default choice of Windows 2000 Professional, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
Choose your platform.

To make the unattended installation of Windows 2000 Professional run without any user intervention, I selected Fully Automated, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
Select the level of user interaction.

Because the installation will run without any user intervention, you must accept the terms of the End User License Agreement. To do this, select the box to place a check mark in it, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E
Accept the license agreement.

The following window asks you to enter your name and organization. Because you will probably be configuring the unattended installation for an organization, you might want to use a generic name. Once you have entered the appropriate data for the fields, click Next to continue.

The subsequent screen allows you to enter the computer names for each of the machines that will be configured using the answer file. As shown in Figure F, you can enter the computer name and click Add. If you have a list of computer names stored in a text file, you can import them using the Import button. When all of the computer names have been entered, click Next to continue.

Figure F
Add computer names for your unattended installation.

As shown in Figure G, the next screen asks you to enter and confirm the Administrator password. You might want to refrain from checking the box that will automatically log in Administrator when the computer starts. While some of your users would like this capability, you probably don’t want them to have it.

Figure G
Enter the Administrator password. You probably won’t want to enable automatic login.

As the setup wizard continues, you will be asked to select the display settings for the destination computers. You may have certain standards, such as corporate wallpaper, but for the purposes of this Daily Drill Down, I selected the default settings shown in Figure H.

Figure H
Set your display colors, screen, and refresh rate, or leave the default values.

If you would like to use the default network settings for a Windows installation, you can select the Typical Settings choice. Because most networks have been configured differently, you will probably want to manually configure the settings by choosing the Custom Settings choice, as shown in Figure I.

Figure I
Choose a Typical or Custom network installation.

The first screen of the network portion of the setup wizard asks you to select the number of network adapters that are in the computer. The default choice is one, and I accepted this because it was appropriate for my computer.

The following screen provides you with the opportunity to configure the default components of the network setup, as shown in Figure J. I accepted the default setting for the Client For Microsoft Networks and removed File And Printer Sharing For Microsoft Networks. I also selected the default settings for Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which configures the workstation to use DHCP and DNS services, as shown in Figure K. The Advanced button provides you with the ability to configure the workstation’s IP, DNS, and WINS settings, as shown in Figure L.

Figure J
Configure your networking components.

Figure K
Configure TCP/IP. Most likely, you’ll use DHCP and DNS.

Figure L
Choose the Advanced button to complete network configuration.

After configuring the workstation’s network settings, the setup wizard continues by asking whether the computer will be part of a workgroup or domain. For this example, I selected the default choice of Workgroup, as shown in Figure M.

Figure M
Select a workgroup or domain.

Now that the network configuration has been completed, you are asked to select the time zone. Microsoft has moved away from using Pacific time as the default time zone, so it was a little more difficult to find Central time, which is located near the top of the menu.

At this point, you have created the basic answer file. You can accept this configuration without making additional settings. However, I chose to edit the additional settings, as shown in Figure N.

Figure N
The Setup Manager Wizard allows you to edit additional settings.

The initial screen of Additional Settings provides you with the opportunity to configure the telephony settings for the workstation, as shown in Figure O.

Figure O
Additional settings you can edit include Telephony properties.

The subsequent screen asks you to select the regional settings for the workstation. Most of you living in the United States can accept the default settings, which I did. The next screen allows you to select an additional language group. I did not elect to use an additional language group, so I clicked Next to continue the installation.

The setup wizard continues by asking you to configure your Internet Explorer settings. I chose to use the default settings, but you might want to make some special settings that are appropriate for your network. Figure P illustrates some of the options available to you.

Figure P
Browser And Shell Settings contains options you can choose for configuring Internet Explorer.

You have the ability to specify the folder where Windows will be installed. I elected to use the default folder of WINNT to eliminate confusion and to be consistent with other Windows installations.

The following screen gives you the opportunity to install a printer on the workstation that will allow the user to print the first time they log in. If you work in a smaller organization or support only a small department or area in an organization, you may want to take advantage of this ability. However, if customers in many departments will use this configuration, manually installing printers on each computer may be less confusing. Figure Q shows you this screen. After entering the printer name, you can click Add. If you want to remove a printer, you can highlight the printer and click Remove.

Figure Q
Enter the printers you wish to install.

If you have a batch file or other program that must be run the first time a user logs in, the Run Once screen shown in Figure R will take care of this for you. Again, whether you use this or not depends on your environment.

Figure R
The Setup Manager Wizard even gives you the opportunity to set programs that run once.

As I mentioned above, the Setup Manager can create the distribution folder that will be used for the installation. As shown in Figure S, you can opt to use this capability or not. For this example, I elected to use this option. As shown in Figure T, I will create a new distribution file and store it on a file server to make it available for network use.

Figure S
Set up a distribution folder on your network containing all the source files and additional drivers and files you specify.

Figure T
Name your distribution folder and set shares, if you choose.

The following screen allows you to specify mass storage device drivers for the workstation, if required. The next screen allows you to change the default hardware abstraction layer (HAL), which is a low-level hardware driver that can be used for such things as controlling a system bus. I did not make any modifications to either of these drivers in this example.

As shown in Figure U, you have the ability to add commands that will be executed after the Windows 2000 installation has completed. This can be useful for performing functions that may be unique to your network or for launching an application setup program. I chose not to add anything for this example.

Figure U
You can enter additional commands to run, provided they don’t require login.

If you work for an OEM or would like to customize the Windows 2000 setup, you may elect to modify the logo or wallpaper, as shown in Figure V.

Figure V
Modify the OEM Branding through custom logos and wallpapers.

You have the ability with the unattended installation to specify additional files or folders that will be copied during the installation to a location that you specify, as illustrated in Figure W.

Figure W
Specify additional files and folders to install.

The next screen allows you to select the location and name of the answer file that you are creating. I used the default name of unattend.txt, which will be stored in the network folder that I selected earlier.

As I neared the end of the answer file configuration, the setup wizard asked me where the Windows 2000 files were located. I selected the default choice of the Windows 2000 CD-ROM. After specifying the location and clicking Next, the Setup Manager builds a list of files to copy and then copies them to the appropriate location in the distribution folder.

When the file copy is complete, you can click Finish to end the Setup Manager Wizard.

You may be wondering about one piece of information that has not been entered into the answer file—the product key. You must manually edit the answer file to include the product key. As shown in Figure X, you must enter the ProductID field in the unattend.txt file.

Figure X
You won’t be able to install Windows 2000 unless you enter the product key into your answer file.

Performing the unattended installation
Now that you have created an answer file, you might be chomping at the bit for a chance to try it out. As tedious as the answer file creation might have been for you, using it is very straightforward.

Once you have established a network connection with the file server that is storing the answer file, you should be ready to run the Windows 2000 Setup program, indicating that you are performing an unattended installation. Windows 2000 has two commands that can be used to initiate an installation. You can use Winnt.exe to set up Windows 2000 on MS-DOS and Windows 3.x workstations. You can use Winnt32.exe to set up Windows 2000 on Windows 95, 98, or NT Workstation 4.0.

The command syntax that is used for initiating an unattended Windows 2000 installation is:
WINNT /UNATTEND [:answer file path] /s:source path
WINNT32 /UNATTEND [seconds] [:answer file path] /s:source path

You would only use the seconds option when upgrading from Windows NT 4.0 to specify a delay after the Setup program completes copying the files and when the system setup begins.

The /s is used to specify the location of the Windows 2000 source files.

Creating the answer file can be a tedious chore, but once it has been created, you will enjoy the easiest method of installing Windows 2000, especially when you install the operating system on a computer located in a remote location. The time that you save will more than outweigh the time spent configuring the unattended installation.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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