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Installation and Setup Technologies

Updated: March 28, 2003

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

The Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating system provides several installation and setup technologies. You can use these technologies to perform an interactive setup, which prompts the user for configuration information, or an automated installation, which requires no user input.

Interactive setup technologies are used to install or upgrade an operating system on a single computer. Interactive setup technologies are typically used by small organizations that have few servers, or medium and large organizations that need to install the operating system on servers that have one-of-a-kind configuration settings.

Automated installation technologies are used to install or upgrade operating systems on numerous computers. Automated installation technologies include Remote Installation Services (RIS), the System Preparation (Sysprep) tool, and unattended installation answer files. Automated installation technologies are typically used by medium and large organizations during large-scale rollouts when it would be too slow and costly to have administrators or technicians interactively install the operating system on individual computers.

Installation and Setup Components

The installation and setup technologies include the following components.

Interactive Setup

Interactive setup relies on the Setup program in Windows Server 2003 and provides a method for carrying out an interactive installation or upgrade on a single computer. Interactive setup can be started by running Setup.exe, but also by running Winnt32.exe or Winnt.exe, both of which offer command-line options. The Setup program is also the basis for the automated installation technologies, including RIS, Sysprep, and unattended installation.

Running Setup interactively is a simple way to accomplish a server installation or upgrade. The installation or upgrade can be carried out from the CD drive or across the network (after you copy the installation files that are on the product CD to a shared folder). In addition, interactive setup requires little preparatory work compared to automated installation, and does not require supplemental tools or programs. Also, interactive setup can be used to install an operating system on a computer that is not connected to a network.

Unattended Installation

Unattended installation is an automated installation technology in Windows Server 2003 that you can use to install or upgrade an operating system with minimal user intervention. Unattended installation relies on the Setup program and an answer file to automate the setup process. An answer file is a simple text file that provides details about how to install and configure the operating system. To start an unattended installation, you run Winnt32.exe or Winnt.exe with a command-line parameter that specifies the answer file to use. Then, during the installation process, necessary information is obtained from instructions contained in the answer file instead of your responses to prompts.

Sysprep

Sysprep is an automated installation technology that you can use to install Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Windows XP operating systems. The Sysprep tool is typically used in conjunction with a non-Microsoft disk imaging tool or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Automated Deployment Services (ADS) to perform image-based installations. Image-based installation is a method of copying or cloning preconfigured operating systems (and, optionally, software applications) onto destination computers. After you set up a master installation — an installation with the operating system, software applications, and configuration settings that you want to install onto the destination computers in your organization, Sysprep prepares the master installation so that you can create a disk image; that is, a functionally identical replica of the disk containing the master installation, that can be copied onto multiple computers. Next, you use a disk-imaging program to create the disk image of the master installation. After you copy the disk image onto a destination computer and start the destination computer, a shortened version of the Setup program runs. The shortened version of Setup configures only user-specific and computer-specific settings, such as computer name, domain membership, and regional options. You can automate this last part of the setup process by using an answer file, a simple text file that instructs the Setup program how to configure the various operating system settings.

Remote Installation Services

RIS is an automated installation technology that can be used to install Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Microsoft Windows 2000 operating systems. RIS uses Pre-Boot Execution Environment (PXE) technology to enable client computers without an operating system to start up and connect remotely to a RIS server, which installs a supported operating system.

You can use RIS to perform either CD-based installations or image-based installations. To perform CD-based installations you use the Remote Installation Services Setup (Risetup.exe) tool, which installs an operating system on a destination computer by using an answer file and the installation files that are on the product CD. To perform image-based installations you use the Remote Installation Preparation Wizard (Riprep.exe) tool, which is similar to the Sysprep tool and prepares a master installation for disk imaging.

Installation and Setup Scenarios

Although you can use the installation and setup technologies to create a wide range of interactive and automated deployment solutions, each technology has certain requirements and limitations that make it better suited to a specific deployment solution. The following describes optimum scenarios for each of the installation and setup technologies.

Interactive Setup Scenarios

Interactive setup is the most versatile and robust setup and installation technology. Interactive setup does not require network connectivity and it does not require any supplemental tools or programs. Because interactive setup has no limitations or restrictions, you can use it to install an operating system on any type of server or create any type of server configuration. However, the following installation scenarios are particularly well-suited for interactive setup.

Installation in an organization that requires only a small number of servers

Interactive setup is useful when you are installing a small number of servers, because you do not need to do any preparatory work related to creating answer files or images.

One-of-a-kind server configuration

Interactive setup is useful if you are installing an operating system on a server that requires unique configuration settings or contains unique hardware. For example, you might use interactive setup to create a file server that contains special redundant array of independent disks (RAID) hardware and therefore requires you to install special device drivers, or a bastion server or proxy server that requires special security settings.

Master installations for image-based deployment technologies

You can use interactive setup to create master installations for image-based installation technologies, such as image-based installation with Sysprep, or RIS when it is being used for image-based installation. For example, to use Sysprep, you need to create a master installation from which you create a disk image. You can create the master installation manually by running Setup.exe, and then manually configuring operating system settings and installing software.

Upgrades

You can use interactive setup to upgrade a Windows server operating system to Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition; Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition; or Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Web Edition operating systems. An upgrade is useful if you want to retain existing server settings (for example, user rights, groups, and permissions settings) and you do not want to reinstall applications and files.

Unattended Installation Scenarios

Unattended installation is the most versatile and robust automated installation technology, and can be used to roll out any type of server or any server configuration. However, the following installation scenarios are particularly well suited for unattended installation.

Heterogeneous hardware

Unattended installation is ideal if you are installing the same server configuration on computers that have dissimilar or heterogeneous hardware. In addition, unattended installation is equally adept at handling other hardware differences, including differences among network adapters, media devices (CD drives), and video adapter cards. In large part, this is because unattended installation is just an automated process that uses the standard Setup program. Therefore, whatever device Setup can detect or install, unattended installation can also detect or install.

Upgrades

You can use unattended installation to automate the upgrade of a Windows server operating system to Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition; Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition; or Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Web Edition operating systems. No other automated installation technology can perform upgrades. Unattended upgrade installations are useful if you want to retain existing server settings (for example, user rights, groups, and permissions settings) and you do not want to reinstall applications and files.

Special server configurations

Unattended installation is an ideal automated installation technology for deploying domain controllers, and member servers that run Certificate Services and Cluster service. Although you can use other automated installation technologies to deploy these types of servers, those technologies require you to use scripts or supplemental answer files after the automated installation is finished. With unattended installation, the answer file contains all of the necessary settings for installing these types of servers.

Master installations for image-based deployment technologies

You can use unattended installation to create master installations for image-based installation technologies, such as the Sysprep tool, or RIS when it is being used for image-based installation. For example, to use Sysprep, you need to create a master installation from which you create a disk image. You can create the master installation by performing an unattended installation on the master computer.

Sysprep Scenarios

Image-based installation with Sysprep can only be used to perform clean installations of an operating system. Image-based installation with Sysprep also requires a disk imaging program and usually requires high-speed network connectivity among the destination computers you are deploying. Given these requirements, several installation scenarios are particularly well suited for image-based installations with Sysprep.

Homogeneous hardware configurations

If you are installing the same server configuration on computers that have similar or homogeneous hardware, you can customize hardware configurations on the disk image, thereby avoiding many post-installation configuration and installation tasks. For example, you can use image-based installation with Sysprep to rapidly roll out the same file server configuration to a group of computers that have similar processor configurations and similar storage configurations.

Rapid rollouts

If you need to install the operating system as rapidly as possible, you can copy a preconfigured disk image onto a destination computer much faster than you can perform an unattended installation or a Remote Installation Services (RIS) installation. For example, you can use image-based installation with Sysprep to quickly deploy critical servers in your organization or quickly reinstall an operating system on member servers after a hard disk failure or some other catastrophic event.

Application deployment

If you want to roll out applications at the same time that you roll out the operating system, you can include the applications on the disk image. For example, if your organization’s standard computer configuration includes an antivirus program, an e-mail program, and an office suite, you can install and configure these programs on the master installation so that the disk image includes these programs.

RIS Scenarios

Like Sysprep, RIS can be used only to perform clean installations of an operating system. RIS also requires PXE-enabled network adapters and high-speed network connectivity among the destination computers you are deploying. In addition, RIS can be used as a CD-based or image-based deployment solution. Given these requirements and options, several installation scenarios are particularly well suited for RIS installation.

Minimize user interaction

You can configure RIS so that minimal user interaction is necessary to configure and install an operating system. In this scenario users can initiate a RIS installation on a destination computer by pressing the F12 key. After pressing the F12 key, all configuration and installation tasks are automated and cannot be altered.

Application deployment

Because you can use RIS as an image-based deployment solution, you can deploy preinstalled and preconfigured applications with the operating system. For example, if your organization’s standard computer configuration includes an antivirus program, an e-mail program, and an office suite, you can install and configure these programs on the master installation so that the disk image includes these programs.

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