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Automating Windows 7 Installation : Using Windows System Image Manager (part 3) - Creating an Unattended Answer File

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4. Creating an Unattended Answer File

This section shows you how to create an unattended answer file on a technician's computer that can be used for unattended installation. These steps are divided into five major areas:

  • Adding an image to WSIM

  • Adding components to the answer file

  • Configuring the components in the answer file

  • Testing and saving the answer file

  • Viewing sample answer files

The following steps show how to create an unattended answer file on a technician's computer that can be used to boot a system into the Sysprep Audit mode without user invention. They require a copy of a WIM file on the computer's hard drive. If desired, you can copy the install .wim file from the sources folder of the installation DVD onto the hard drive or copy an image that you have captured. You can also copy the associated CLG file so that WSIM doesn't have to re-create it since this process can take quite a while.

4.1. Adding an Image to WSIM

The first step is to add an image to WSIM. These steps assume you have copied an image file onto your system's hard drive. The available components reflect what is available in the image.

  1. Launch WSIM with administrative permissions by clicking Start => All Programs => Microsoft Windows AIK, right-clicking Windows System Image Manager, and selecting Run As Administrator.

  2. Select File => Select Windows Image. Browse to the location of the WIM file you want to use. Select the file and click Open. If the file has multiple images, you'll be given a choice similar to Figure 7. Select the desired image and click OK.

    Figure 7. Selecting an image in WSIM
  3. If you didn't copy a catalog file with the image, you'll see a prompt indicating that a catalog file isn't available. A prompt similar to Figure 8 will appear, prompting you to create one. Click Yes to create the catalog file. Remember that this process will fail if you're running WSIM on a 64-bit computer but trying to create a catalog for an x86 image.

  4. Select File => New Answer File. You'll see the Windows Image pane become populated with components. You can add these components to your answer file.

    Figure 8. Prompt to create a catalog file

At this point, you have the shell of your answer file, but it doesn't have any content. Next you'll learn how to add components to the answer file and configure settings.

4.2. Adding Components to the Answer File

Once you have created the shell of your answer file, you can begin to add components. The following steps lead you through the process of adding components for basic disk configuration and Windows Welcome settings:

  1. Expand the Components section in the Windows Image pane of WSIM.

  2. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Dep1oyment\Resea1 component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 7 oobeSystem.

  3. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Internationa1-Core-WinPE\SetupUILanguage component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 1 windowsPE.

  4. Use the following steps to add settings to create the first partition:

    1. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\ CreatePartitions\CreatePartition component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 1 windowsPE.

    2. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\ModifyPartitions\ModifyPartition component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 1 windowsPE.

  5. Use the following steps to add settings to create a second partition:

    1. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\CreatePartitions\CreatePartition component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 1 windowsPE.

    2. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\ModifyPartitions\ModifyPartition component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 1 windowsPE.

  6. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\ImageInsta11\OSImage\Insta11To component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 1 windowsPE.

  7. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\UserData component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 1 windowsPE.

  8. Browse to the Microsoft-Windows-She11-Setup\OOBE component. Right-click it and select Add Setting To Pass 7 oobeSystem.

At this point, the minimal components are added to the answer file and your display will look similar to Figure 9.

Figure 9. Answer file in WSIM

The next section shows how to configure the properties of the components that you have added to the answer file.

4.3. Configuring the Components in the Answer File

You can use the following steps to configure the properties of the components of an answer file. These steps assume you have added the components to the answer file in the previous section.

  1. If necessary, expand the 1 windowsPE section in the Answer File pane.

  2. Select the Windows-International-Core component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    InputLocale: en-US
    SystemLocale: en-US
    UILanguage: en-US
    UserLocale: en-US
  3. Select SetupUILanguage within the Windows-International-Core component. Enter the following value:

    UILanguage: en-US

  4. If necessary, expand the Windows-Setup section. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration component. Select OnError for the WillShowUI setting.

  5. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    DiskID: 0

    WillWipeDisk: true

  6. Use the following steps to configure the first partition. Select any of the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\CreatePartitions\CreatePartition components. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    Extend: false

    Order: 1

    Size: 200

    Type: Primary

  7. Use the following steps to configure the second partition. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\CreatePartitions\CreatePartition component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    Extend: true

    Order: 2

    Size: <blank>

    Type: Primary

  8. Modify the first partition with the following steps. Select any of the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\ModifyPartitions\ModifyPartition components. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    Active: true

    Format: NTFS

    Label: System

    Order: 1

    PartitionID: 1

  9. Modify the second partition with the following steps. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\DiskConfiguration\Disk\ModifyPartitions\ModifyPartition component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    Active: false

    Format: NTFS

    Label: Windows

    Order: 2

    PartitionID: 2

    At this point, your display will look similar to Figure 10.

    Figure 10. Creating and modifying partitions in an answer file
  10. If necessary, expand the ImageInstall section in the 1 windowsPE section. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\ImageInsta11\OSImage component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    InstallToAvailablePartition: false

    WillShowUI: OnError

  11. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\ImageInsta11\OSImage\Insta11To component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    DiskID: 0

    PartitionID: 2

  12. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\UserData component. Enter true for the AcceptEula setting.

  13. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\UserData\ProductKey component. Enter the following settings:

    Key: <Enter your product key here>

    WillShowUI: OnError

  14. If necessary, expand the 7 oobeSystem section. Select the Microsoft-Windows-Dep1oyment\Resea1 component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    ForceShutdownNow: false

    Mode: Audit

    The Audit mode is most commonly used by OEMs. It allows you to boot skip the Welcome phase on the next boot and add additional drivers or applications.

  15. Select the Microsoft-Windows-She11-Setup\OOBE component. Enter the following values in the settings section:

    HideEULAPage: true

    ProtectYourPC: 3

At this point, the answer file is configured. However, it's possible that some of the settings were missed or misconfigured. You can validate the answer file before saving it to identify any possible problems. The following section shows these steps.

4.4. Testing and Saving the Answer File

The validation step within WSIM can be used to test the answer file. If you followed the previous steps to create the answer file, you can use these steps to validate it. After it's validated, you can save the file for later use.

  1. Select Tools => Validate Answer File. You should see a message indicating that no warnings or errors were discovered, as shown in Figure 11.

    Figure 11. Validating the answer file

    If you have any errors, double-click the error to navigate to the setting and correct the problem. After correcting the problem, validate the answer file again until you no longer have any warnings or errors.

  2. Select File => Save Answer File. Browse to a location on your system and save the file as Autounattend.xml.

You now have a basic answer file you can use to automate Windows Setup. If you copy it to a USB flash drive and boot to the installation DVD, the autoattend.xml file will automatically be used for the installation.

4.5. Viewing Sample Answer Files

The WAIK does include some sample answer files that show more of the components and settings that may interest you.

The following steps show how to add the sample answer files to the WSIM so that you can browse them to see additional settings.  If you still have WSIM open from the previous series of steps, click File => Close Answer File first.

  1. Click File => Open Answer File.

  2. Browse to C:\Program Fi1es\Windows AIK\Samp1es.

  3. Select one of the sample XML files such as autounattend_samp1e.xm1 or Corp_autounattend_samp1e.xm1. Click Open.

  4. You will be prompted to associate the answer file with the image within WSIM. Click Yes.

  5. Expand the different elements to view them. Notice that the validation shows a problem with the key. If you double-click it, it will bring you right to the error, as shown in Figure 12. This sample doesn't include a product key, but it does show you where you need to enter your product key.

Figure 12. Viewing the sample answer file

If desired, you can open additional sample answer files and view their settings.

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