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Tell Me More About Using Answer Files

Updated: August 21, 2008

Applies To: Windows SBS 2008

An answer file serves the following purposes when you are installing the Windows® Small Business Server 2008 server software (Windows SBS 2008):

  • Provides information that is automatically entered into the Windows SBS 2008 installation pages. You can use an answer for either a new installation or a migration to Windows SBS 2008.

  • Helps value-add professionals build new servers before taking them to the customer site for final configuration.

    noteNote
    If you are migrating from an existing server to Windows SBS 2008, you must perform all of the installation steps at the customer’s site.

    noteNote
    The Getting Started tasks must be completed at the customer site.

  • Triggers the migration process during Windows SBS 2008 installation.

    noteNote
    You must use an answer file when you are migrating to Windows SBS 2008. You can also use an answer file for an unattended installation.

The Answer File Tool performs limited validation on the data in the answer file. Follow the instructions in this document to complete each field and to help the installation finish without validation errors.

An answer file automates the configuration of the Windows SBS 2008 installation in either attended or unattended mode for both a new installation and a migration to Windows SBS 2008.

  • In a fully unattended installation, the user or technician interacts with the installation only if there is an error in the answer file.

  • In an attended installation, the answer file is used to populate the fields on each configuration page, and then the user or technician verifies the information and can change any field before clicking Next.

ImportantImportant
To fully automate the installation on a server that has a preinstalled operating system, you must also use the OOBE.xml answer file for the operating system phase of the installation. To fully automate a clean installation on a server, you must use the autounattend.xml answer file. When you use autounattend.xml, you cannot specify a drive letter other than the C drive. Windows SBS 2008 can be installed successfully only on the C drive. For information about creating an answer file using the Automated Installation Kit (AIK), see “Automated Installation Kit (AIK) for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008” at the Microsoft Web site (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=115680).

To create an answer file, complete the following steps:

  1. Collect the information for the answer file (for either an installation or a migration).

  2. Run the Answer File Tool.

  3. Copy the answer file to the root of a drive on the new server or any removable media.

Step 1A. Collect the information for an automated installation answer file

If you are installing Windows SBS 2008 on multiple servers for different customers in your office before taking the servers to the customer sites, ensure that the DNS name is unique on your local network or that each server is connected to a separate network during the installation. You must also choose names that are unique to the customer site.

The following tables explain the information that you need to enter in the Answer File Tool for a new installation.

Clock and time zone settings

Information to provide Description

Clock and time zone settings

If you choose to manually set the clock and time zone, the unattended installation stops, and then it prompts you to set the clock and time zone.

If you choose to automatically set the time zone, you must manually set the clock in the server BIOS to the correct time. The system clock cannot be set automatically using the answer file.

Server Information

Information to provide Description

Server name

The name of your new server. This must be a unique name on the local network.

ImportantImportant
You cannot change this name after the installation finishes.

Internal domain name

The NetBIOS name of the internal domain—for example, contoso.

This must be a unique name on the local network. The domain name and the server name cannot be the same.

ImportantImportant
You cannot change this name after the installation finishes.

Full DNS name

The DNS name of the internal (local) domain.

You must provide at least two labels for the full DNS name. For example, you can use contoso.local, but contoso alone is not valid.

It is recommended that you do not use a public top level domain name, such as .com, as the last label in the full DNS name. This is the DNS name of the internal domain.

If you use Apple Macintosh client computers that are running Macintosh OS X 10.2.x or later on your network, see the Microsoft Web site (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=121090) for more information.

ImportantImportant
You cannot change this name after the installation finishes.

Company Information

Information to provide Description

Company information (optional)

The name and address of the business. This information is used for settings on your server and is not sent to Microsoft®.

You can edit the company information later. To edit it, in the Windows SBS Console, click the Help list menu, and then click Edit Company Information.

Certificate authority name (optional)

The name of the certificate authority that you want to use. If you leave this field blank, Windows SBS 2008 uses the internal domain name and the server name (syntax <DomainName>-<ServerName>) to generate a self-signed certificate (for example, Contoso-Server1-CA). This is the name in the Issued By field when you view the certificate from the Internet.

ImportantImportant
Do not use the domain name as the certificate authority name.

Network administrator account

Information to provide Description

Network administrator account

This is the new administrator account name that is created when you install Windows SBS 2008. For a new installation, after the server restarts for the final time, you are logged on using this administrator account and password.

  • First name

First name of the administrator.

  • Last name

Last name of the administrator.

  • Administrator user name

User name or alias for the new network administrator account. The user name must consist of the following:

  • Can contain only valid characters: A-Z, a-z, 0-9, and the symbols _ # $ % & ’ - ^ { } ~ !

  • Cannot begin or end with a period

  • Cannot contain two periods in a row

  • Cannot be a reserved name (for example, Administrator)

  • Cannot be the same name as the computer or server name

  • Administrator password

Password for the new network administrator account.

The password that you provide must be complex. If you do not provide a complex password, the unattended installation stops so you can provide the complex password. A complex password is at least 8 characters long and contains at least three of the following:

  • Upper case letters

  • Lower case letters

  • Numbers

  • Symbols

noteNote

For a new installation, you can either specify the network settings or allow the installation wizard to configure them for you. If you are installing Windows SBS 2008 on multiple servers in your office before taking them to the customer sites, consider the following:

  • If you specify network settings that are specific to the customer’s network configuration, you may not be able to access the Internet during installation to get updates from your own network.

  • If you specify settings appropriate to your own network, you may need to change them when you deliver the server to the customer site.

If you want to specify the network settings, you need the following information.

Network Settings

Information to provide Description

IP address (optional)

The IP address that you want to assign to your server. Ensure that the IP address is in the same subnet range as the IP address of the local area connection (LAN) on your router and that the IP address is not currently used on the network. If you select the Manually choose the network settings option and do not specify the IP address, the answer file cannot be saved.

Default gateway (optional)

The IP address that is assigned to the local area connection on your router.

Try Forefront Security for Exchange Server

Information to provide Description

Forefront Security for Exchange Server

You can choose to install a trial version of Forefront Security for Exchange Server. Forefront Security for Exchange Server provides a virus protection service for e-mail. The trial version is a complete, fully functional version of Forefront Security for Exchange Server with a 120-day trial period that begins after you complete the installation wizard.

For more information about Forefront Security for Exchange Server, see the Forefront Security for Exchange Server home page at the Microsoft Web site (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=121103).

Step 1B. Collect the information for the migration answer file

The following tables list the migration settings that you must define in the Answer File Tool.

Clock and time zone settings

Information to provide Description

Clock and time zone settings

If you choose to manually set the clock and time zone, the migration stops, and then it prompts you to set the clock and time zone.

If you choose to automatically set the time zone, you must manually set the clock in the server BIOS to the correct time. The system clock cannot be set automatically using the answer file.

Company Information

Information to provide Description

Company information (optional)

The name and address of the business. This information is used for settings on your server and is not sent to Microsoft.

You can edit the company information later. To edit it, in the Windows SBS Console, click the Help list menu, and then click Edit Company Information.

Certificate authority name (optional)

The name of the certificate authority that you want to use. If you leave this field blank, Windows SBS 2008 uses the internal domain name and server name (syntax <InternalDomainName>-<Windows SBS 2008ServerName>) to generate a self-signed certificate (for example, Contoso-NewServer-CA). This is the name in the Issued By field when you view the certificate from the Internet.

ImportantImportant
Do not use the domain name as the certificate authority name.

Source (Existing) Server Information

Information to provide Description

Domain administrator account name

The user account name of a domain administrator in the existing domain.

noteNote
This account must be a member of the Domain Admins, Enterprise Admins, and Schema Admins groups. When the first phase of the migration finishes, the server restarts and automatically logs on using this administrator account.

Password

The password that corresponds to the domain administrator account name.

noteNote
The domain administrator account password cannot be blank. If it is, you must either change it for migration or create a new domain administrator account that has a password.

noteNote
It is recommended that you create a new domain administrator account on the Source Server instead of using the built-in Administrator account.

Source Server name

The name of the server from which you are migrating settings and data.

Source domain name

The full DNS name of your organization's internal domain—for example, contoso.local.

Default gateway

The IP address that is assigned to the router on your network.

Source Server IP address

The IP address that is assigned to the Source Server.

DHCP is running on the Source Server

Select this box if the DHCP service is running on the Source Server. It is recommended that the DHCP service run on the Destination Server. If you are running the DHCP service on the Source Server, it is moved for you during Windows SBS 2008 migration. If the DHCP service is running on another server or device, you must manually disable it on that server or device.

noteNote
The domain administrator user name and password that you supply in the answer file are also set as the Directory Services Restore Mode (DSRM) password. If for any reason you need to log on to the server in DSRM, you must use the same user name and password that you specified during migration. These passwords do not synchronize automatically, so if you change the password for your administrator account on Windows SBS 2008, you must continue to use the old password to log on to the server in DSRM.

Destination Server Information

Information to provide Description

Destination Server name

The name of the server to which you are migrating. You will install Windows SBS 2008 on this server. This must be a unique name on the local network. The Destination Server name cannot be the same as the domain name. Also, the Source Server name and the Destination Server name cannot be the same.

Destination Server IP address

The IP address that you want to assign to the Destination Server.

Try Forefront Security for Exchange Server

Information to provide Description

Forefront Security for Exchange Server

You can choose to install a trial version of Microsoft Forefront™ Security for Exchange Server. Forefront Security for Exchange Server provides a virus protection service for e-mail. The trial version is a complete, fully functional version of Forefront Security for Exchange Server with a 120-day trial period that begins after you complete the installation wizard.

For more information about Forefront Security for Exchange Server, see the Forefront Security for Exchange Server home page at the Microsoft Web site (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=121103).

Step 2. Run the Answer File Generator

noteNote
To run the Answer File Generator, you must have the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or later installed on the computer that you are using to create the answer file. To install .NET Framework 2.0, see the Microsoft Web site (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=81886).

To create an answer file for an automated installation
  1. On a client computer or a server, insert the first Windows SBS 2008 DVD, navigate to the Tools folder, and then double-click SBSAfg.exe. The Answer File Generator opens.

  2. Click New installation.

  3. Type the information that you collected in Step 1A.

  4. Save the answer file as sbsanswerfile.xml.

To create a migration answer file
  1. On a client computer or a server, insert the first Windows SBS 2008 DVD, navigate to the Tools folder, and then double-click SBSAfg.exe. The Answer File Generator opens.

  2. Click Migration from existing server (Join existing domain).

  3. Type the information that you collected in Step 1B.

  4. Save the answer file as sbsanswerfile.xml.

Step 3. Copy the answer file

Copy the answer file to the root of either a USB flash drive or a USB external hard drive. Connect the USB drive to the new server, or copy the answer file from the USB drive to the root of any drive on the new server. Then start either installing or migrating to Windows SBS 2008. If the Windows SBS 2008 installation wizard detects a migration answer file, the migration process starts automatically.

WarningWarning
The answer file contains logon and password information that can be used to gain access to your server. To help protect your server, when you finish installing Windows SBS 2008, delete the answer file.

Troubleshooting the answer file

When running an installation (either new or migration) using the Windows SBS 2008 Answer File, you might encounter an error if the server cannot read information in the answer file. This can occur under the following circumstances:

  • The Windows SBS 2008 Answer File Tool is not formatted correctly.

  • The answer file contains corrupt data.

If you encounter an error when running the answer file, take the following steps to verify the contents of the answer file:

  1. If possible, using the Windows SBS 2008 Answer File Tool, open the answer file.

  2. Review the installation information, and then save the file.

    noteNote
    If you receive an error that the file cannot save, close the file, and then recreate a new answer file with the same information.

  3. Click Retry. If you did not continue past the Continuing Installation page, you can restart your server to try and read the answer file again.

ImportantImportant
You should not open the answer file and edit it directly. Doing so can introduce errors in the file format.

Other general troubleshooting tips

If you cannot start the installation with the Windows SBS 2008 Answer File, check the following:

  • Make sure that the removable media that contains the answer file is plugged into and is recognized by the server. If the server does not recognize the removable media, try using different removable media.

  • Make sure that the answer file is saved with the file name sbsanswerfile.xml. If an error exists in the file name, rename the file to correct the error, and then restart the server.

  • Make sure that the file sbsanswerfile.xml is located in the root of the removable media that you are using. If it is not, move or copy the file to that location and then restart the installation.

Copyright

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Microsoft, Forefront, Windows Live, Windows Server, Windows Vista, and Windows are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.

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