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Mario ZioFlag for Italy

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winnt.sif or unattend.txt ignored during the unattended installation of Windows XP

I'm trying to make the unattended installation of Windows XP booting it from an .iso image file,using the firadisk driver. The goal is to install XP on the same partition where it is already installed Windows 7. My first hard disk (hd0) is partitioned like this :

first partition (hidden + system) = hd(0,0)
second partition (inside this partition there is Windows 7 installed) = hd(0,1)

This is what I did :

1. I created the CD/ROM live image of FreeDOS.

2. When FreeDOS is fully loaded into the RAM memory I run grub4dos to start the installation of Windows Vista/7/ and XP. While I've been able to do the first one,configuring the menu.lst file like this :

title 2) Start the installation of Windows Vista/7 32/64 bit

find --set-root --ignore-floppies --ignore-cd /bootmgr
chainloader /bootmgr

I'm having troubles doing the same with Windows XP. To reach this goal,I've used firadisk to boot Windows XP from the ISO image. These are the steps I've taken :

3. I Used ImDisk to create and mount the floppy disk image firadisk.ima as drive R: with the following command :

imdisk -a -s 1440K -m R: -o fd -f C:\firadisk.ima -p "/fs:fat"

4. I created this file :


d1 = "FiraDisk Installation Disk", \firadisk.sys, \
d1 = "FiraDisk Installation Disk", \firadisk64.sys, \

scsi = firadisk32

firadisk32 = "FiraDisk Virtual Disk Driver x86",firadisk
firadisk64 = "FiraDisk Virtual Disk Driver x64",firadisk

driver = d1,firadisk.sys,firadisk
inf = d1,firadisk.inf

driver = d1,firadisk64.sys,firadisk
inf = d1,firadisk.inf

5. I Copied it with firadisk.inf, firadisk.sys and firadisk64.sys to drive R:

6. I created the iso image of Windows XP

7. I copied firadisk.ima and xp.iso inside hd(0,1)/xp

8. From the CD/ROM I ran grub4dos with this menu.lst file :


title 1) Install Windows XP
find --set-root /xp/xp.iso
map --mem /xp/firadisk.ima (fd1)
map --mem (md)0x6000+800 (fd0)
map --mem /xp/xp.iso (0xff)
map --hook
dd if=(fd1) of=(fd0) count=1
chainloader (0xff)

title 2) Continue installing Windows XP
find --set-root /xp/xp.iso
map --mem /xp/xp.iso (0xff)
map --hook
chainloader (hd0)+1

9. I created this unattend.txt file and :

a) I've injected it inside the iso image file
 I copied it inside the root of the CD/ROM
c) I've renamed it to winnt.sif and I copied it inside the I386 folder,

but it is always not detected by Windows XP :



ProfilesDir="C:\Documents and Settings_new"








as I've already said,the problem is that this file is always ignored. The installation of XP starts as usually.
Avatar of vanillasprinkles

are you trying to install XP x86_64? If that is the case, the winnt.sif needs to be in the AMD64 folder; otherwise it needs to be located in the i386 folder

If it is not loading your WINNT.sif file, there maybe a typ0 in there someplace, and to discover if the winnt.sif is bad, throw together a test winnt.sif (of course backup your fully configured one).

in your test  winnt.sif:


     FullName="test user"
     OrgName="test organization"

This should auto-fill in the user and organization fields for you when the system boots and first enters the GUI in setup; if it does not, then we gotta dig deeper to fix the problem.

Also note, the winnt.sif file should be copied to %systemdrive%\system32\$winnt.sif$
it is still a text file, and should not be formatted the same as winnt.sif...
Avatar of Mario Zio


with this script it is detected :

@echo off
set AnswerFile=%drive%\AutoUnattend_XP.txt
set SetupFiles=%drive%\xp\i386
%setupfiles%\winnt32 /s:%SetupFiles% /unattend:%AnswerFile%

the problem is that I'm using grub4dos,the setup routine is called using the INT 13. With Vista/7 instead,it works in a different way,because If i rename unattend.xml into autounattend.xml and I copy this file into the root of the cd/rom,it is detected by vista/7 as soon as it makes the boot.  
read here :

he says : If there is also a floppy with winnt.sif in the computer, then the unattend.txt file will be ignored.

in my situation :

a) I'm using a floppy disk image that contains the firadisk drivers
b) I'm inside an ISO image and this is like a cd/rom

this could explains because winnt.sif is ignored....
oh yea, good call on the floppy disk part; forgot about that (havent used that in ages now); copying the winnt.sif (and a copy as unattended.sif) to the floppy image didnt trigger the automation?

is there no alternative to having a floppy image with the firadisk drivers, i'd try to bail from that method if you can, i know there's gotta be a way
lemme understand better what I have to do : Should I rename winnt.sif to unattended.sif ? where should I copy this file ?
it should be named as  winnt.sif   on your floppy -  after the setup cd boots, it will check and use if on the floppy

the unattended.sif (or whatever variance of unattended) i believe is for sysprep (somebody correct me if i'm wrong)

I've formatted the whole hard disk and I've reinstalled XP on a single partition (before I had two partitions) and then I copied winnt.sif inside the floppy disk image. Nothing,the automatic installation does not start. Can you give me the tool to check if winnt.sif is well written ? 10x
I did another experiment. I've created a new XP installation cd and I've copied the file winnt.sif inside the I386 folder and I tried to boot it. Nothing. I think that my winnt.sif file is damaged....
my latest winnt.sif is a cross between setupmgr.exe (from windows cd's and a website:

can also get setupmgr.exe from here:

you might also try your XP Setup cd/Iso inside a virtual machine ( is free); so that you do not waste CD's).
Since Windows Vista and Seven detects the autounattend.xml file if I put it into the root of FreeDos CD/ROM,I think that XP does the same,but in some way it is unabled to find it.
I found the reason : If I do AutoPartition=1 then Windows Setup will install the OS on any FREE partition that is available ; since I want to install Windows XP over a NOT empty partition,its clear that the reason why winnt.sif is not detected is not because it's not in the right place,but because the setup routine detects that there is no FREE partition available. Any workaround ?
errata corrige :

If I do AutoPartition=1 then Windows XP Setup will install XP *automatically,without ask which partition to use* on any FREE partition that is available.
Avatar of vanillasprinkles

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I know where to install Windows,but I'm creating a Windows System Repair for my customers and they are totally unexperienced. Some time ago I did :

\I386\winnt32 /s:c:\ /unattend:unattend.txt

and If I remember right,this way the setup routine is able to autoinstall XP even if there is an old installation of Windows on the disk. So the last idea could be to be able to run the winnt executable. To do it,I need to make a bootable floppy disk image with the Live version of FreeDOS. When it is loaded into the RAM memory,I could be able to launch the winnt executable,giving to it the unattended parameters. What do you think ?
Do you want it to format the previous partition of XP as well or just install over it? And I'm sortof confused, will the target pc have 1 partition, and 1 system on it, or will it have 2 partitions and have XP and Vista/Win7 on it?
If the target box has 1 partition and XP on it, and you want to format it and have it auto-install XP, the task should be really easy
I want to install XP automatically on the first partition of the disk *without formatting*,even if there is an old installation of Windows in that place.
This is for Vista...
according to this page (i recommend you check it out too):

"You can make a dos bat file that will run winnt32.exe from your cd. This will force it to install/setup to that location. You can also specify your answer file on the command line too. This will be automated.

This will create an install on D: Change this to your requirements.

The CD is the source where your setup files are coming from in this case E:

Make a dos batch file. and include the below.

E:\I386\winnt32.exe /syspart:D: /tempdrive:D: /unattend:E:\I386\winnt.sif /s:E:\I386"

i'm not quite sure how grub4dos's INT 13 will affect you, i dont think there should be a problem

I am still trying to locate some other bootup utilities that might be useful, instead of grub4dos, seems they've been lost over time, but i will continue looking
You are a good technician,but I've already tried the way you suggest,by making these experiments :

This is the partition scheme of my disk :

C: NTFS partition n. 1 (XP installed)
D: NTFS partition n. 2 (empty)
E: CD/ROM n. 1
F: CD/ROM n. 2

and this is what I did:

1) Copied the Windows XP files in C:\xp and rebooted

2) Booted Hxxxxx's xxxx,loaded the NTFS4Dos driver and issued this command : (C: is the Hxxxxx's xxxx, D: and E: are the NTFS partitions)


it asks for the Windows XP files path,I give D:\xp\I386 and then it says that it is reading the INF file dosnet.inf. After long time nothing happened and I rebooted.

3) Booted Hxxxxx's xxxx,loaded the NTFS4Dos driver,changed the Hxxxxx's xxxx CD with the Windows XP CD and issued this command : (C: is the Windows XP CD,D: and E: are the NTFS partitions)

C:\I386\winnt.exe /tempdrive:D: /unattend:C:\I386\winnt.sif /s:C:\I386

but the switch /tempdrive is not supported by winnt.exe

4) Booted Hxxxxx's xxxx,*without loading* the NTFS4Dos driver,changed the Hxxxxx's xxxx CD with the Windows XP CD and issued this command : (C: is the Windows XP CD)


it says that it can't allocate the swapping file. Can't continue the installation. Press ENTER to exit.

So that the way you said that could be good,it seems to be like a dead road.