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Hide Sensitive Data in an Answer File

Updated: October 20, 2013

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

You can use Windows® System Image Manager (Windows SIM) to hide the password for the administrator account, and for any other user accounts on the local system, in an answer file. Hiding passwords in an answer file prevents users from reading the answer file and identifying passwords for local accounts.

The settings that you can hide include the following:

  • Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup | AutoLogon | Password

  • Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup | UserAccounts | AdministratorPassword

  • Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup | UserAccounts | LocalAccounts | LocalAccount | Password

This option only hides the passwords in an answer file. It does not provide encryption or other security benefits. Consider answer files as sensitive data and be careful about authorizing access to your answer files.

noteNote
You can hide only local account passwords in an answer file. Domain passwords, product keys, and other sensitive data may still be available as clear text in an answer file.

  1. Open Windows SIM.

  2. Open a Windows image. For more information, see Open a Windows Image or Catalog File.

  3. Create or open an answer file. For more information, see Create or Open an Answer File.

  4. Add one of the following password settings to your answer file:

    • Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup | AutoLogon | Password

    • Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup | UserAccounts | AdministratorPassword

    • Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup | UserAccounts | LocalAccounts | LocalAccount | Password

  5. Add a value to one or more of the password settings.

    The component is added to the answer file in the specified configuration pass.

  6. On the Tools menu, click Hide Sensitive Data. This makes sure that when the answer file is saved, the password information will be hidden.

  7. Save the answer file and close Windows SIM. The answer file will resemble the following example.

       <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="x86" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="http://schemas.microsoft.com/WMIConfig/2002/State" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
          <UserAccounts>
             <LocalAccounts>
                <LocalAccount wcm:action="add">
                   <Password>
                      <Value>UABhAHMAcwB3AG8AcgBkADEAMgAzADQANgBQAGEAcwBzAHcAbwByAGQA</Value> 
                      <PlainText>false</PlainText> 
                   </Password>
                   <Description>MyAccountName</Description> 
                   <DisplayName>MyAccountName</DisplayName> 
                   <Group>FabrikamGroup</Group> 
                   <Name>MyAccountName</Name> 
                </LocalAccount>
             </LocalAccounts>
          </UserAccounts>
       </component>
    
    noteNote
    Windows SIM adds the PlainText element to the answer file. This element is used during Windows Setup to indicate whether or not the password is in plain text.

See Also

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