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Unattended Install Question...

Trying to create an unattended install CD.  I want to be able to put the CD in, boot, and then run a pre-configured install using an answer file without any user input.

What works:

1) CD boots great
2) If I boot into the OS and then run the winnt.bat (with associated winnt.sif), it runs the answer file correctly.  

What doesn't work:

1) When I boot to the CD, it runs the regular (attended) install - ignoring my .sif file.  What am I doing wrong?

Additional info:
The winnt.exe on the CD file is at:

Contents of the winnt.bat:
set AnswerFile=\ENGLISH\WIN2003_VLP\ENT\i386\winnt.sif
set SetupFiles=\ENGLISH\WIN2003_VLP\ENT\i386

\ENGLISH\WIN2003_VLP\ENT\i386\winnt32 /s:%SetupFiles% /unattend:%AnswerFile% /copysource:lang

What am I missing?
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1 Solution
Refer here:


The only file you should need is Winnt.sif.  That is how i set mine up.

kalliopiAuthor Commented:
I've got that though, and it's being ignored...
I am not sure you can do that. I always had to create an unattended floppy. I'm not sure you can get away just by using the CD. I also modified the io.sys so I get the 'press any key to boot from floppy..." this way I can leave the floppy in during the whole install process. You can get it from www.nu2.nu

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when you create an answer file, it gives you a file called unattend.txt

you need to rename that file to winnt.sif

this file gets placed in the I386 folder of the XP cd.

if your answer file was created correctly, this will work. if it is not working, you did not create your winnt.sif file correctly and you need to see the information <A HREF="http://unattended.msfn.org/xp/winnt_sif.htm">here</A>.
Here is the example of the winnt.sif I have placed in the I386 directory:

; My Winnt.SIF

      MsDosInitiated = 0
      UnattendedInstall = Yes

      UnattendMode = FullUnattended
      UnattendSwitch = Yes
      OemPreinstall = Yes
      OemSkipEula = Yes
      FileSystem = *
      WaitForReboot = No
      TargetPath = "\Windows"
      DriverSigningPolicy = Ignore
      NonDriverSigningPolicy = Ignore
      Hibernation = No

      SFCQuota = 0

      MaximumDataStorePercentOfDisk = 10

      EncryptedAdminPassword = No
      AdminPassword = "password"
      AutoLogon = Yes
      TimeZone = 35
      OEMSkipRegional = 1
      OemSkipWelcome = 1

        FullName = "ComputerName"
      OrgName = "OrgName"

      Language = 0409

      JoinWorkgroup = MSHOME

The winnt.sif commands:


LIke DVation said, winnt.sif will work if correctly configured.  
You do not need the winnt.bat placed in the I386 directory in order for the unattended installation to work, BTW.  As long as the winnt.sif is placed in there, you should be good to go!

The key here is the answer file - check the format of your answerfile. Something about it is what is cauing this error for you. Do you have multiple licenses? that can cause issues sometimes?

(Reusing the same product key )
kalliopiAuthor Commented:
Okay - first of all, thanks for all the feedback.  Unfortunately, I'm still out of luck.

1) I'm making this disk for Windows Server 2003 - not XP

2) I know the answer file works (and has the right info in it), because like I said, if I run the winnt.bat file manually (from the OS that's currently on the laptop)- the unattended install works exactly as I intend for it too.  It's only when I boot from the CD that I have a problem.

3) I REALLY hope that I don't have to boot from a floppy, since the computer I want to use this on is a laptop that doesn't have a floppy.  Since I can boot from the CD, I'm hoping that I can put anything that I need to right on the CD...

4) The answer file is already called winnt.sif and it's already in the i386 directory (along with a batch file called winnt.bat and another (just to see if it helps) called winnt32.bat), both of which are at the top of this post.

5) One thing I'm unclear on is which piece of this puzzle specifically calls winnt.exe (or winnt32.exe) with the specific parameters?


Joseph NyaemaIT ConsultantCommented:
Try chaning your batch file to

set AnswerFile=winnt.sif
set SetupFiles=\ENGLISH\WIN2003_VLP\ENT\i386

CD %SetupFiles%

winnt /s:%SetupFiles% /unattend:winnt.sif /copysource:lang
Joseph NyaemaIT ConsultantCommented:
According to Microsoft...
The winnt.sif file has to be copied to a floppy drive
UnattendInstal should be set to yes in the answer file.

I gues once the GUI section of setup starts
drive mappings change..
and also, when your boot from CD
Floppy drive emulation is used.
So the Cd is actually drive A:

I think the Winnt.sif should be in the root of the floppy.

Otherwise create the folder structure \ENGLISH\WIN2003_VLP\ENT\i386 on the floppy
and place it there.
kalliopiAuthor Commented:
BOth good suggestions, but again, I _can't_ use a floppy disk because the laptop doesn't have one.  Also, I tried the suggestion about changes to the batch file, and it didn't help.  I don't think the batch file is even executing because apart from the fact that it isn't using the sif file, I added an echo and pause and neither were triggered (that I could see anyway)...

Any other suggestions?
I think what Nyaema means is that your need to rebuild your BOOT FLOPPY and reburn your bootable cd.  Sounds like its looking in the wrong place for the SIF file, so is going into standard install.  When you boot from CD, it takes over as drive "A".  The rest of the data is interpreted as being on (for example, drive E) the mounted CD-Drive.  If your SIF is located there, just change the Boot files - OR - add:

path=E (your mounted CD) or %CD%

Hope this helps.
yeah this sounds like a driveletter issue...the easiest way to fix it would be to put the files on the boot floppy and point to a:\answerfile...use this solution if you have enough space on the bootfloppy.
If not you'll need a workaround, identify the drive-letter assigned to the cd-rom (and selecting the right drive when using more than one). I mean, you would like your  unattended cd to run when the assigned driveletter changes (with repatitioning) or when using it in another system. Although this can be done in batch with 4dos, I use Bart Lagerweij's utility findcd.com ( http://www.nu2.nu/download.php?sFile=findcd.zip ) myself in bootable dos cd's.
If you need it I can post my lenghty .bat file that I use to determine drive letters of cd-drives and identifying the right one...

Blue Rishi
Joseph NyaemaIT ConsultantCommented:
Batch file has to be working, otherwise setup would not run...
Trying changing the drive letter to d: for the sif file or to the drive letter used of the CD used during GUI install

@Echo off
set AnswerFile=winnt.sif
set SetupFiles=\ENGLISH\WIN2003_VLP\ENT\i386

CD %SetupFiles%

Rem Echo  About to start setup.  Press any key to continue...
winnt /s:%SetupFiles% /unattend:winnt.sif /copysource:lang

After setup starts the batch file is ignored.

You can get your copy of the bootdisk from http://www.bootdisk.com

If that does not work... Try this

Why not create an envrionment you can control.
I mean Win98...
Create a 650MB partition formated with Fat
make sure the Windows98 systems files are on it and that the partition is bootable
Place the contents of the emergency boot disk created for win98 in the root
together with our version of autoexec.bat
make sure mscdex.exe is in the root too (found in ebd.cab)
Put then contents of i386 on the 2003CD on i386 on our partition

Modify autoexec.bat to look like this

lh mscdex.exe /d:mscd001 /l:%CDROM%
cd i386
winnt /s:%CDROM%\i386 /unattend:winnt.sif /copysource:lang

Burn the image
Hi kalliopi

It seems quite obvious to me. the SIF file is intended for  floppy boots. If you are booting from a CD with the install files on the CD, just call the file unattend.txt not winnt.sif.

Also make sure that the drive letters are static so the paths can be absolute. This is easy if you tell your CDROM driver to use a specific drive letter.
kalliopiAuthor Commented:
What I really need to know is this:

1) Is it possible to have the batch file run when it boots directly from the CD rom

2) Another way of saying that is, when it boots from the CD, what file is executed: winnt.exe, winn32.exe or winnt.bat?

3) Is it possible to force one of those specific files to be called?

4) If the batch file DOESN'T run, does it EVER look for a .sif file and if so, what filename does it look for?

5) If the batch file DOES run, and I have a "pause" command in there, will it actually pause?  (can I use pause, or is there a BETTER to tell which file is being run (see question 2)).

I think that the answers to even a couple of these relatively basic questions should help me to trouble shoot this problem.  I *don't have* a floppy disk in the computers that are going to need this, so any solution that involves a floppy disk is not going to work.  I also have no control over the presetups of the partitions on these laptops, so unfortunately that's not really an option either.  My END goal is that I can put in the CD, and have the setup partition, then install and finish - without me having to touch the computer...  My IMMEDIATE goal is just to get the setup (wihtout my help, and without a flloppy) to recognize the batch and/or the .sif file...


OK Kalliopi

You need to remember that booting into a Windows NT or 2000+ installation from  floppy or native CD loads an NT type OS, not DOS. Usually when we do unattended installations we build a floppy or CD that loads DOS and calls WINNT.exe. WINNT32.EXE is intended to be run from an existing installation for upgrade purposes.

My unattended installations are all on CD, which uses a floppy image to boot. This is actually a 'virtual' floppy which the BIOS uses, and the existing floppy, if any is assigned to B:. The image loads from A: and includes CDROM drivers which assign a drive letter to the CD. In effect, this is no different from booting off a floppy with a driver being loaded to use the CDROM, but it is still DOS.

I am currently doing these for IBM servers, and IBM have kindly assisted in this process by creating an unattended installation for you. I take the files that are created by IBM and modify them to better suite my needs. The process they use is the same that you are asking about, so I'll take you through it:

First, it creates a FAT32 partition, creates the directories for the IBM drivers, builds the initial unatteded.txt file and copies the installation files and drivers to the partition.
The computer reboots, loading DOS from the FAT32 partition. It runs some IBM DOS utilities to detect hardware which it adds to the unattended.txt file and reboots again.
At this point, the disk is a DOS bootable disk and has a typical autoexec.bat file. When it boots, it runs a winnt.bat file which in turn runs winnt.exe with the appropriate switches.

From there on it installs as expected. It's important to note that winnt.bat is simply used to add hardware specific components to the unattended.txt file.
The actual call to winnt.exe is:
\WinInst\i386\WinNT.exe /S:\WinInst\i386 /U:\WinInst\Unattend.txt /RX:lang

This is called from a DOS boot and could be in the autoexec.bat

This IBM method actually uses the hard disk in the same way you need to use your CD, so the hard disk is both the source and the destination. In your case the source is the CD and the destination is the hard disk.

WINNT.EXE should then create a  partition on your hard disk, copy the installation files to the new partition and reboot.
kalliopiAuthor Commented:
First of all LittleRed1 - thanks for the help.  Unfortunately, I'm still totally lost.  I'm not stupid, but I'm still lost.  Maybe I should have put this in my original post, but I'm using these two articles to create my CDs.




These talk about how to create the unattended file, and where to copy it.  The problem is that it doesn't seem to be working, and one of the reasons that I'm having no luck troubleshooting it is that I don't really understand what it's doing when it boots from the CD.  What does the boot image actually do, and what files does it "call" after it has loaded whatever OS and drivers that it needs?  For that matter, what OS is loaded?  I'm sorry that I'm not getting this, but it seems like it shouldn't be this complicated...

Above, you talk about "it creates a FAT32 partition... etc..."  WHAT creates a FAT32 partition?  What I'm confused about is this.  

I have a faw formatted disk in the drive, and I put the CD in, it boots from the CD - WHAT HAPPENS NOW?  What loads?  Where are these files?  Where do they come from?  What's the boot image?  I'm just confused and so I'm having a hard time troubleshooting why it's not working as it should?


OK, I see where you're comming from.

I've personally never been able to get this to work properly. I stopped trying because it's just to hard. You have little or no control over the installation process.

I have installed every version of Windows hundreds if not thousands of times, and one thing is common across all of them - the installation process is pathetic. I've never quite understood why a development company the size of Microsoft has never been able to do what the Linux community has done with their installations, load from CD - copy files - boot once - done!

The thing is, it doesn't matter how you boot into the installation or what you specify as the partition type, it always creates a FAT (or FAT32) partition. As such, I couldn't be bothered with an NT bootable CD, I just don't see the point. The installation converts it to NTFS later on, but it's still using DOS for the first part.

I always use DOS to boot. The structure of the CD is the same. What happens when you call WINNT.EXE is the same. What I do get is the ability to give choices or build some intelligence into it, like having a utility to determine what the model of the mechine is, enabling me to use alternative unattended files for diffferent machines from a single CD. There really is a lot that I can do just by having the DOS shell to play with before calling WINNT.EXE

So to answer you question, the only way I know of doing this with the method you're using is by having the SIF file on a floppy disk, to be inserted when the machine boots from CD.

Personally, I would recommend you use a DOS bootable CD, it's a whole lot less pain.
kalliopiAuthor Commented:
This didn't actually work, and I still don't have a solution, but the answer I chose was the closest to what I'm doing.  For some reason, when I create a DOS bootable CD, I can start the winnt.exe setup program, but it copies over files and then hangs.  I'm not sure if it finishes that process, or what, but it gets about 5 minutes into the process and then just sits.  Not sure what's happening, but I'm moving in the right direction.

Thanks for all of your help.  If anyone has experienced this before, let me know.

BTW - I'm using an MSDN Install disk as the source...  Thanks

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