Have you ever wanted to smoothly automate the Windows installation process?
It is nice not having to press any buttons or type a CD key. In this
article and the following, I will discuss how to automate the installation
of Windows 2000/XP. Due to the size of this topic I am going to break
the content up into several articles. The first installment will consist of compiling
a bootable Windows 2000/XP CD with the latest service pack slipstreamed
in. Combined with a floppy disk, you will be able to automate the installation
of Windows 2000/XP. There are a ton of resources available for this topic
and I will include them at the end of this article. They will apply to
the whole series I have planned on automating the installation of the Windows OS.
(Note: In this example I am using Windows 2000. You can easily substitute the same procedure
for Windows XP Professional. So where you see a reference to anything Windows 2000,
just Change it to Windows XP)
Resources You Will Need
2000 Pro or XP Pro CD
Service Pack (SP 4 for Windows 2000 or SP1a for XP)
tool like WinZip or Winrar
drive space (a gigabyte is sufficient, but more is always better <wink>)
Assumptions: (These are the drives I will reference in the article and
what devices they are)
D:\ = Hard drive
E:\ = CD-rom Drive
To start off, create a directory and name it Win2k_CD. The name of the
directory does not matter except to you. I find it easier to make the directory
names descriptive and to work off the root of the drive. In this example
I will be working from my D:\ drive. Next copy the i386
directory from the
Windows CD to the Win2k_CD directory you created. I find it easier to work
from a command prompt using xcopy. An example would be:
xcopy /E /I e:\i386 d:\win2k_cd\i386
Below is an image of the directories that I created.
Slipstreaming the Service Pack
Next, lets slipstream the Windows service pack into the installation. First
you must download it from Microsoft, if you have not done so already.
Please follow the below links to the service pack you need.
For Windows 2000 SP 4:
For Windows XP Pro SP1a:
After downloading the service pack, extract it to the Win2k_SP4 directory.
Again, this is my naming convention and you can use whatever you like to
make it easier. So now you should see an i386 directory created within the
In order to slipstream the service pack into the Windows 2000 directory,
open a command prompt. Browse to the D:\Win2k_SP4\i386\Update directory.
While in the update directory type the following command (see image below
When the process has finished a notification window will appear with the
statement Integrated install has completed successfully.
Building the CD
Now that we have the service pack slipstreamed into the Windows i386 directory,
we can begin to build the CD. You will need to download the following
zip file (choose the one you need) and extract the contents into the D:\win2k_CD directory.
For Windows 2000, download this file: SP4_BootFiles.zip [2
There are 3 files in the SP4_BootFiles.zip:
- CDROM_IP.5 (tells
the installation that it is a Windows 2000 Professional install)
- cdromsp4.tst (identifier file for service pack 4)
- w2kboot.bin (the boot sector for the cd)
For Windows XP, download this file: XP_BootFiles.zip [2
The XP_BootFiles.zip contains only one file.
Burning the CD
I will cover burning the CD using Ahead’s Nero Burning Rom (www.nero.com). You can also use other burning
applications like Easy CD Creator, but you will have to apply the settings
for the burn process yourself.
Begin by starting Nero and start a new
compilation using the CD-ROM (Boot) option like in the image below.
Next, on the Boot tab, you will need to set the image file
or boot sector. Select the w2kboot.bin file. Check Enable
Expert Settings and set emulation
to“No Emulation. Lastly, set the Number
of Loaded Sectors to 4. See the
image below for the settings.
On the ISO tab, set:
- File/Directorynames length to ISO level 2
- Format to Mode 1
- Character Set to DOS
Finally, make sure Joliet and all options under Relax
ISO Restrictions are checked. You can see the image below for
On the Label tab, you can set your own settings here. I
would set the volume label to something like W2KSP4_EN. All
other fields are optional to set. Now you can click on New as
In order to burn the CD you have to copy everything within the Win2k_CD directory
into the project. Remember to copy everything within the Win2k_CD directory
and not that directory itself! See the image below.
Click on Burn and wait till it is done. You now have a
bootable Windows 2000 CD with service pack 4 already integrated into
it. Slipstreaming the service pack onto the CD only takes us so far.
What we really want is to automate the installation of the operating
system so we can pop in the CD and let it install all on its own. So
next we will have to create a winnt.sif file that will
provide the answers for the installation’s questions.
The Winnt.sif File and Automated Installation
Now that we have the CD ready, let's put together the automation. Microsoft
has made vast improvements regarding automating processes including
the installs of its OS’s. An article you will want to have is the Unattend.doc.
It breaks down the different parts of the answer file and that is all
the winnt.sif file is! All you need to know is the syntax,
which is simple, and know which items you want to automate. I am going
to cover the Windows 2000 answer file. XP is essentially the same, but
has some other features that I will discuss in a later installment.
Creating an answer is easy. First we will need to use Setup Manager (setupmgr.exe)
from the Deploy.cab file located on the Windows
2000 CD. On the Windows 2000
CD, there is a Support\Tools folder with the Deploy.cab in
it. Extract the Deploy.cab file to a temp directory. There are several other
items that were extracted, too, and will be covered in the later sections.
Run Setupmgr.exe and walk through each window. The second
to last window will prompt you to create a distribution folder. We are
not doing that in this instance so select No, this answer file will
be used to install from a CD. The final window determines the output
location of the answer file. The default name is Unattend.txt.
After the file is saved, rename it from Unattend.txt to winnt.sif.
You can then copy this file to a blank formatted diskette.
Let's Start Installing
Now that we have our answer file and CD, we can start the install. With
the CD in the drive, start up the computer. The CD will prompt you to press
any key to boot from CD… Once you hit a key, insert the floppy diskette
into the drive. The installation will now check the floppy drive to see
if there is an answer file for it to use and—Voila!
Most of the time the first automated install will not work as planned. There
will be steps that are not automated that you will want to automate. Check
out the Unattend.doc file that was extracted from the Deploy.cab. In there
you will find all the different parameters for automating the installation.
Next week I will dive into installing from a remote share and adding hot
fixes to the installation as well.
Microsoft Links Regarding Automated Installation
These are all links that I have read through regarding Windows automation. The knowledgebase is
a great source of data and I would encourage you to look over these links provided. I based most
of what I use from them.
25 - Automating Client Installation and Upgrade
- How to Install Multiple Windows Updates or Hotfixes with Only One Reboot
- Hotfixes That Are Listed in the [SetupHotFixesToRun] Section in the Svcpack.inf
File Are Not Installed
- Installing Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows 2000 Hotfixes
- How to Slipstream Hotfixes That Replace Pre-Existing Driver Files
- Slipstreaming Earlier Fixes Into an Integrated Installation Share Breaks
- Using an Answer File for an Unattended Installation
- HOW TO: Perform an Unattended Installation of Windows from a CD-ROM
- HOW TO: Use Sysprep.exe Tool to Automate Successful Deployment of Windows
- Update.exe Command-Line Switches for Windows 2000 Service Packs
- How to Create an El Torito Bootable CD-ROM