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Last Updated December 10, 2003

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Unattended, Automated, and Remote Installations of Windows 2000

To save time when deploying hundreds (or thousands) of Windows 2000 machines, Microsoft offers a number of tools that allow you to use "answer files" to automate the installation process. Once configured, setup can be as simple as booting a machine with a special boot disk and walking away for an hour or so. There are some pitfalls, though. Planning and testing is important. Here are some great links to guide you through the process.
Where to Start...

Automating the Deployment of Windows 2000 Professional and Office 2000
The Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system has many more options to automate operating system and application installation. One such tool is the Microsoft System Preparation tool (Sysprep), which allows you to deploy the operating system and applications together through an image method. This guide will assist you in the automation planning process, the installation process, and the deployment phase of Windows 2000 and Microsoft Office 2000.

Automating Setup and Deployment of Windows© 2000 Professional
Windows© 2000 Professional has provided an extension mechanism for ISVs and corporate developers to be able to write migration DLLs that plug into setup to fix application compatibility problems. Source: Microsoft Online Seminars (May 2000)

Automated Deployment Options: An Overview
Microsoft whitepaper which gives an overview of the main options that organizations can choose if they wish to deploy Windows 2000 Professional automatically, and outlines the process of upgrading from prior versions of the Windows operating systems. Source: Microsoft.com (March 15, 2000)

Automated Installs in a Perfect World
A critical look at Windows 2000's improvements in unattended installation by Mark Minasi. Source: Windows 2000 Magazine (June 2000)

How to Automate Windows 2000 Setup and Domain Controller Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 224390 In Microsoft Windows NT, you can automate the installation of a domain controller using unattended Setup, or while performing a normal, attended installation. In Windows 2000, domain controllers are created after setup, even if you are upgrade. 

HOW TO: Use Setup Manager to Create an Answer File in Windows 2000 
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 308662 - This article describes how to install the Windows 2000 Setup Manager Wizard and use it to create an answer file. An answer file (the Unattend.txt file) is used to help automate Windows 2000 installations by providing Windows Setup with the information that it needs during an unattended installation.

How to Perform an Unattended Installation of Windows 2000 from a CD-ROM
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 216258 Describes how to perform an unattended installation of Windows 2000 by starting your Alpha-based or Intel-based computer from a CD-ROM. (updated 12/29/99)

INFO: Creating Network Component .inf File for Unattended Setup 
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 155099 - For a network component (adapters, services, or protocols) to be installed using the Unattended Setup mechanism, its Oemnxxxx.inf file must check certain INF symbols and react accordingly. These symbols (STF_UNATTENDED, STF_GUI_UNATTENDED, and STF_UNATTENDED_SECTION) inform Windows NT Setup whether the installation is being run in unattended mode or not. In order to perform these modifications, you must be familiar with the Windows NT- style INF formats.

Performing Unattended Setups with Answer Files
Explains how to use answer files to automate Windows 2000 deployments. Source: Windows & .NET Magazine (May 2000)

Remotely Deploy Windows 2000 Professional
Learn how RIS works and how to set up and configure this new tool, and you©ll be well on your way to a successful RIS implementation. Source: Windows & .NET Magazine (May 2000) 

Remote Operating System Installation Overview
This white paper provides an overview of the Remote Operating System Installation feature, which performs Change and Configuration Management tasks in Windows© 2000-based networks, and the Remote Installation Services (RIS) technologies it uses. Source: Microsoft.com (Oct 1999)

Remote Operating System Installation
Downloadable Word document, that describes the Windows© 2000 Remote OS Installation feature, that gives administrators the ability to deploy an operating system throughout the enterprise, without the need to physically visit each client computer. Source: Microsoft.com (Sept 28, 1999)

Step by Step Guide to Remote OS Installation 
The Windows© 2000 operating system Remote OS Installation feature was created to deploy an operating system throughout an enterprise network without having to physically attend to each client computer. This document outlines the steps necessary to install, configure, and use RIS. Source: Microsoft.com(Feb 7,2000)

Windows 2000 Professional Automated Deployment Options: An Introduction
This paper introduces the options that organizations can choose to deploy Windows 2000 Professional automatically on hundreds or thousands of computers.

Other Useful Articles

Advanced Unattended Installs for WinNT
By Mark Minasi, Windows NT Magazine August 1998

Autologon and AutoLogonCount Parameters for Windows 2000 Unattended Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 221477 - Windows 2000 unattended Setup parameters include an option to log on the administrator automatically and the number of times this will occur. These items are specified in the [GuiUnattend] section of the answer file: (updated 12/29/1999)

Automating the Creation of Computer Accounts in Windows 2000
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 222525 Describes how to automate the creation of computer accounts. Two methods are described.

Automating Setup of Windows Professional: Advanced Techniques
Microsoft TechNet Web Seminar TNQ100-02

Automating Windows NT Setup Deployment Guide (Supplement)
Microsoft Windows NT includes many tools and features that can be used to automate the setup process. This supplement further addresses the use of Sysdiff.exe in such a manner as to allow you to install sound, tape, video, and other devices through the use of the Sysdiff Pre-Installation tool as a part of the deployment process. Source: TechNet CD Online (January 1999).

Changes to Windows 2000 Unattended Winnt[32].exe Command Line
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 183245 - This article discusses the differences between unattended winnt[32].exe command line parameters in Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000. (updated 382001)

Deploying Windows 2000 with Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) Modifications
This guide provides information on how to include customized Internet Explorer settings when performing an unattended installation of Windows 2000.

How to Disable the Configure Server Wizard for Unattended Installations
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 220838 - When you first log on to Windows 2000, the Configure Server Wizard may start. This article describes how to disable this wizard for automated or unattended installations. (updated 5/31/2000)

How to Manually Enable the Hibernate Feature During an Unattended Install of Windows 2000 Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 293399 - This article describes a method to enable the Hibernate feature during an unattended installation of Windows 2000.(updated 3/13/2002) 

How to Set the Driver Signing Policy for Windows 2000 Unattended Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 236029 Driver signing is the process of checking the signature of the driver to determine if it has been signed as a known-good driver indicating it has been tested with Windows 2000. (updated 1/13/00)

Specifying Multiple Network Adapters in Unattended Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 229762 Describes how to specify per-adapter settings in the Setup answer file for multiple network adapters during unattended Setup. You can specify separate settings such as static or DHCP IP addresses, WINS or DNS server settings (updated 12/29/99)

Unattended Installs with Windows 2000 Professional
Answer files for unattended installations in Win2K are much more powerful and easier to create than they were in Windows NT 4.0. Source: Windows 2000 Magazine (June 2000)

Unattended Installation of Third Party Mass Storage Drivers in Windows NT and Windows 2000
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 288344 - This article describes how to pre-install third party mass storage drivers on the Microsoft Windows NT and Microsoft Windows 2000 platforms. This article assumes that the drivers that are supplied by the third party are using the Txtsetup.oem method for installation. (updated 3/19/2001)

Unattended Setup May Not Work During Upgrade from Windows NT 4.0 To Windows 2000 
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 257814 - You may receive the following error message when you automate the upgrade of a Windows NT 4.0-based computer to Windows 2000:(updated 4/13/2000)

Windows 2000 Terminal Services Unattended Setup Settings
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 230597 - You can use the settings listed below to install and configure Terminal Server services during Windows 2000 unattended installation. Note that Terminal Server can be installed only on Windows 2000 Server versions. (updated 10/20/2000) 

Sysdiff / Windiff
Cloning NT with Sysdiff
By Clayton Johnson, Windows NT Magazine, August 1997.

Err Msg: A Snapshot or Diff File Specified on the Command Line Was Created with a Different User and Cannot Be Used Now
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 221566 - When you attempt to apply a snapshot taken with the Sysdiff tool, you may receive the following error message: A snapshot or diff file specified on the command line was created with a different user and can not be used now This error message occurs when you are logged on as a user other than the user who created the Sysdiff snapshot when you attempt to apply the snapshot to a computer. (updated 10/20/2000)

General Sysdiff Troubleshooting Tips
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 165533 The information in this article supplements the document "Automating Microsoft Windows NT Setup Deployment Guide," available on the World Wide Web (updated 2/10/1999)

How to Troubleshoot the Sysdiff Tool in Windows NT
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 157576 This article describes how to troubleshoot the Sysdiff tool included in Windows NT 4.0.(updated 9/10/1999)

Sysdiff /m Does Not Apply Changes to the Default User Profile
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 252465 -  When you use the Sysdiff tool to apply software and settings to Windows 2000-based computers, (updated 2/24/2000)

Unattend.txt and answer files
Computer Account Organizational Unit May Be Specified Using the Unattend.txt Utility
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 226315 - When you automate the installation of Windows 2000 using the unattended installation method, you may specify the Organizational Unit (OU) where the computer account should be placed. 

ComputerName Key and Unattended Upgrades to Windows 2000 Professional  
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 248125 - When you perform an unattended upgrade from Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, or Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 to Windows 2000, the ComputerName key in the [UserData] section of the Unattend.txt file can produce different results, depending on which operating system you are upgrading and how it is used in your deployment strategy. 

How to Disable Network Bindings Using the [Netbindings] Section
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 263241 - Windows 2000 unattended Setup has a new section in the answer file that allows you to disable network bindings on the network card during an unattended Setup. However, after using this section in the unattended Setup file, the bindings appear to be unaffected and still enabled. This is due to incorrect parameters specified in the [Netbindings] section. The Unattend.doc has incorrect information on the format of the [Netbindings] entries. There should not be any commas (,) between the entries, and not all bindings paths follow the example listed in the Unattend.doc. 

Protecting Passwords in Answer Files
Jerry Honeycutt's series on Windows 2000 deployment continues to examine how answer files can be used as a form of crib sheets to automate the Win2K setup process. In this installment we learn how to answer prompts for passwords without leaving any security holes. Source: EarthWeb (March 2001)

Script the Installation with Answer Files
Take the guesswork out of users' hands by automating the Windows 2000 setup process with a crib sheet -- otherwise known as an answer file. Source: EarthWeb (Feb 2001)

Unattended Setup Parameters for Unattend.txt file
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 155197 - Unattended Setup is the method by which original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), corporations, and other users install Windows NT in unattended mode.

Use of the [SetupParams] Section in an Unattended Answer File
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 216518 - You can use a command-line switch with Winnt32.exe or Winnt.exe to specify a command to run when Setup is finished. The command-line switches are: 

OemPNPDriversPath Value Limited to 99 Characters in Winnt.exe
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 276278 - If you specify an OemPNPDriversPath value with more than 99 characters in your unattended installation file, only the folders that are specified in the first 99 characters are used to locate additional drivers when you use the unattended installation file with Winnt.exe 

Troubleshooting
Administrator Password Set Incorrectly After Unattended Installation
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 257442 - When you install Windows 2000 with an unattended Setup script and you specify a default administrator password by using the AdminPassword key in the [GuiUnattended] section of the answer file, the password may not be set as you typed it. 

Autolfn.exe May Build Sound Files with Damaged File Names in Windows 2000 
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 318136 - If you use the Winnt.exe program to perform an unattended installation of Windows 2000 with the "OEMPreinstall=Yes" entry in the answer file, sound files on your computer may have damaged file names. Because of this, system sounds may not play as you expect. This problem is most likely to occur with non-English versions of Windows 2000 that use extended characters in the localized file names 

Cannot Obtain Access to $oem$ Folder During Unattended Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 234536 - You can run Windows 2000 Setup in unattended mode when you start your computer from the installation CD-ROM. However, by using this method, options such as Cmdlines.txt or use of the $oem$ folder structure cannot be used even if you create your own bootable CD-ROM with these structures on the media. 

CreateComputerAccount Value Not Valid for Windows 2000 Unattended Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 232128 - The CreateComputerAccount unattended Setup parameter is not supported in Windows 2000. 

DhcpClassId Value Not Used During Unattended Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 285352 - Windows 2000-based Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) clients support DHCP Class ID options. You can configure this feature by using Ipconfig.exe command-line switches or by specifying a DhcpClassId value in your unattended installation. 

Documents and Settings Folder Permissions Are Set Improperly When OemPreinstall=Yes Exists in the Answer File
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 256569 - When you perform an unattended installation of Windows 2000 and the OemPreinstall=Yes parameter is in the answer file, the NTFS permissions are not set properly on the Documents and Settings folder. When Setup is finished, the folders (Documents and Settings and All Users and Default Users) have the permissions set to Everyone: FC (Full Control).

Error Message: Cannot Create a Temporary Unattended Setup Answer File
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 231410 - When you use the Remote Installation service (RIS) to install clients, or if you run out of disk space on the RIS volume, you may receive the following error message: The server Servername cannot create a temporary unattended Setup Answer File. Contact your administrator. 

Err Msg: Line <nnnn> of the Inf Is Corrupt or Invalid...
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 210888 - During an unattended upgrade from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000, you may receive the following error message: Line nnnn of the Inf is corrupt or invalid. Setup cannot continue. where nnnn is the number of the damaged or invalid line. 

GUI-Mode Settings Ignored in Windows 2000 Unattend.txt File
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 243286 - When you are using an Unattend.txt file to automate the installation of Windows 2000, settings in your Unattend.txt file for the GUI-mode portion of Setup may be ignored and you may be prompted for information during GUI-mode Setup. 

"OemPreInstall=Yes" Gives Incorrect NTFS Permissions on "Documents and Settings" Folders
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 276542 - If you perform an unattended installation from a network installation point that contains an integrated version of Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and the "OemPreInstall=Yes" setting is specified in the answer file, the NTFS permissions on folders that are subordinate to the Documents and Settings folder are incorrect as compared to a manual installation, or to an unattended installation with the "OemPreInstall=No" setting. Also, the Default User folder is not marked as hidden. 

Prompted for User Name and Password in Unattended Installation
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 224284 - When you run an unattended installation of Windows 2000, you may be prompted to provide a user name and password to join a domain, and this may occur even if the machine account is already created. 

Static IP Address Is Not Retained During Windows 2000 Unattended Installation
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 262688 - During an unattended installation of Windows 2000, an answer file (Unattend.txt) may be configured with static Internet Protocol (IP) address information. After the operating system installation is finished and all networking components 

"/tempdrive:Drive_Letter" Switch Halts Unattended Setup
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 222968 - The "/tempdrive:Drive_Letter" unattended installation switch should direct the temporary files to the drive specified by the switch. Although the switch does work, it stops the unattended installation process to prompt you to select a drive 

The InstallDefaultComponents Key in the Networking Section Always Defaults to Yes
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 247952 - When you use an Answer file to install Windows 2000, the InstallDefaultComponents entry in the [Networking] section always defaults to "Yes" regardless of the value set in the Answer file.

Unattended Install prompts for install partition
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 196288 - Steps to Reproduce the Behavior:

Unattended Installation Stops and Displays Warning Message
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 228244 - After you perform a low-level format on a hard disk, and then run an unattended installation of Windows, you may receive the following warning message: Windows 2000 Server Setup. Setup has determined that your computer's startup hard disk is new or has been erased, or that an operating system is installed on your computer with which windows 2000 cannot coexist. If such an operating system is installed on your computer, continuing Setup may damage or destroy it. If the hard disk is new or has been erased, or you want to discard its current contents, you can choose to continue setup.  

Unattended Setup from CD-ROM Prompts for Installation Partition
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 220853 - When you are performing an unattended Setup after booting from a CD-ROM, text-mode Setup may stop and prompt you for the partition to install to. After the partition is selected, Setup continues in unattended mode. (updated 9/14/2000) 

Unattended Setup May Not Work During Upgrade from Windows NT 4.0 To Windows 2000
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 257814 - You may receive the following error message when you automate the upgrade of a Windows NT 4.0-based computer to Windows 2000:

Unattended Setup Restarts Computer During the Network Configuration
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 272335 - When you run an unattended installation, the computer may restart during the "Network Configuration" portion of Setup. 

Unattended Setup Stops at Regional Settings Page
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 226557 - When you are performing an unattended Setup, Setup may stop at the Regional Settings page and wait for user input. If you click Next, Setup continues installing in unattended mode. 

User Must Click 'Finish' to Reboot the Computer When Unattended Installation Is Complete
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 275206 - If a user receives any prompts during an unattended installation, the user must click Finish in the last dialog box to reboot the computer. 

"WINNT32 /CHECKUPGRADEONLY /UNATTEND" Is Not Fully Automated
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 272308 - If you use the /checkupgradeonly and /unattend:c:\unattend.txt parameters with Winnt32.exe and you use the following settings in the Unattended.txt file, users must click Finish to complete the process after the upgrade report is generated and saved.

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