Building an Answer File
The first step in creating a custom installation is to build an answer file. An answer file stores the custom settings that are applied during Windows Setup. The primary tool for creating an answer file is Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM). The following diagram illustrates the basic process of building an answer file.
From your technician computer, the process includes:
Create a catalog (.clg) file from a Windows Image.
Add application and driver source files to your distribution share.
Create a new answer file.
Add settings to your answer file.
Customize the settings in your answer file.
Validate and save your answer file.
For an example of building an answer file, see Walkthrough: Build a Simple Answer File.
An answer file is an XML-based file that contains setting definitions and values to use during Windows Setup. In an answer file, you specify various setup options, including how to partition disks, the location of the Windows image to install, and the product key to apply. You can also specify values that apply to the Windows installation, such as names of user accounts, display settings, and Internet Explorer favorites. The answer file for Setup is typically called Unattend.xml.
In addition to Unattend.xml, there is Oobe.xml, a content file that is used to customize Windows Welcome, Welcome Center, and ISP Sign-up. For more information on Oobe.xml, see the Oobe.xml Technical Reference.