by June 2, 2003 0 comments

You recently purchased 200 new machines for your organization and have decided to install Windows XP on all of them. Installing the OS on each machine individually is very time consuming. You have to boot from the XP CD, enter the same details like serial number, computer name, date, etc during the installation process. And then add to that the installation of all the patches and updates after the OS installation. Thankfully in XP you don’t have to be present throughout the entire installation process. It creates a bootable CD of XP that will automatically install everything, including the various post installation settings like proxy server configuration and alike. This article will take you through the step by step process of doing this. 

OS Installation


Creating answer file for
unattended Win XP installation

Create an empty distribution folder. Give it any name; say XP, on your local hard drive (c:\XP), and copy all content from your Win XP installation CD to this folder.


Go to this folder and look for a file called deploy.CAB in the SUPPORT\TOOLS sub-directory. Double-click on the file, which will open an explore window containing a few files. Here you will find a compressed file called setupmgr. Double click on it to extract the Windows setup manager program and save it to any location on your hard drive as shown in screenshot below.


The wizard for filling
up pre-installation information (serial number)

After extracting, you will get a file setupmgr.EXE. Run this file and the Windows Setup Wizard will be launched. Click on the next button, and the wizard will ask you to create an answer file. This contains all the pre-installation information like the serial number, computer name, date and time. Select ‘Create new answer file’ and click next.


Here the wizard will ask you the type of installation you want to create (Unattended installation, Sysprep Install, Remote Installation service). Select Unattended Installation and click next. In this section, you need to select the Windows version for which you are creating an installation CD. The list contains Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, and Windows 2000. Select Windows XP Professional and
click next.


Here’s how to create a bootable CD

Now you will be asked to set the automated level of user interaction during Windows Setup. Select ‘fully automated’ and click next. The wizard will now prompt you to create a distribution folder you had created already in step one, select ‘yes create or modify a distribution folder’ option and click next. Now, place the Windows Installation CD in the CD-Drive and click next. Here the wizard will ask you to create or modify the distribution folder name. Select ‘Modify an existing distribution folder’ radio button and specify the distribution folder name you created in step 1, and also give any share name to the ‘share’ text box and click next.


Select the license agreement and click next. It will take you through the preinstall settings and ask you to fill the preinstall Windows settings such as your name, organization name, display settings, time zone, and product key, network setting (computer and domain name). This process is the same as the first phase of windows installation. Fill all the necessary information and Windows settings in the wizard. You can also specify advanced settings like proxy settings for the browser and printer installation.


After filling in the pre-installation settings, click the finish button. Here the wizard will prompt you to save the settings in an answer file. Give the file name winnt.sif and click “ok”. This will create two files winnt.bat and winnt.sif. The Windows setup manager will copy all the files from the CD to the distribution folder. After this, close the Windows 
setup manager. 


Copy these two files created in step 8 to the \i386 folder, found under the distribution folder created in step 1. 
With this, the first phase is complete.

Patch Windows XP with SP 1
No installation is complete without putting in all the patches and updates. So if you want to patch the XP installation with service pack 1, copy the service pack to the distribution directory, and rename it as XP-SP1.EXE. Extract it by issuing the following command from Start >Run: 

XP-SP1.exe /U /Xc:\xp\XP-SP1

This will create a folder named XP-SP in the distribution folder. 

To integrate it with the Windows XP, issue this command from Start>Run:

XP-SP1\update\update.exe /S:c:\xp

After applying the service pack, you can delete the xp-sp1.Exe file from the distribution folder.

Now to create a bootable Windows XP installation CD from the distribution folder you need a BootSector file. This file called boot.ZIP is available on this month’s DVD. Extract boot.BIN from this zip file in a separate folder and then move this folder to the distribution folder. 

Burn a bootable CD 
We used Nero to burn the bootable CD. Start Nero and click on File>New from the menu. This will run the Nero burning wizard. Close this wizard and select CD-ROM (boot) option from the left panel. On the right panel, you will find the settings for selected CD-Rom (boot) option. Now, from the right panel, click on boot tab and select the image file (boot.bin) from the distribution folder. Select the check box ‘Enable Expert settings’, keep the kind of emulation to No emulation, and set the number of loaded sectors to 4. 

Next move to ISO tab, set character set to ISO 9660 and Joliet. Then go to the burn tab, select the ‘finalizing CD’ check box and select ‘Disk at Once’ from write method list box.

Finally, click on write button; this will open a window to select the content that you need to burn on the CD. Select all files and folders from the distribution folder and drag it to the ISO compilation window, and then click on the write CD button. 

After burning the CD, your unattended Windows XP installation CD is ready to use. Simply pop it in the PC and boot off it.

The remaining installation is automatic. You can further automate this by placing the content of this CD on a Windows 2000 Server and running the Remote Installation Services. Then you just need a client with
a PXE boot ROM, which will boot 
of the Win2k Server and the remaining XP installation will be automatic. 

Sanjay Majumder

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