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Appendix A: Resources for Learning About Automated Installation and Deployment (Windows Server 2003)

Updated: July 31, 2004

Applies To: Windows Server 2003 with SP1

The following appendix provides:

  • An overview of automated installation and deployment

  • Procedures and resources for obtaining more information about automated installation and deployment

Overview: Automated Installation and Deployment

In the enterprise environment, it is often not cost-effective to install products in the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 family using the standard interactive setup on each computer. To greatly lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) and ensure configuration uniformity, you can perform an automated installation of any product in the Windows Server 2003 family on multiple computers. By using an automated installation method, you can ensure that certain components and applications are not available on your organization's computers, or that certain components and applications are preconfigured in such a way that helps prevent unwanted communication over the Internet.

Methods for automating the setup process

There are several options for automating the setup process. Any or all of the following tools can help ensure that all of your servers and clients are configured to appropriately limit communication over the Internet:

  • Unattended setup using Setup (Winnt32.exe)

    Unattended setup enables you to simplify the process of setting up the operating system on multiple computers by running Setup unattended. To do this, you can create and use an answer file, which is a customized script that answers Setup questions automatically. Then you can run Setup (Winnt32.exe) from the command line with the appropriate options for invoking unattended setup.

    Using Winnt32.exe, you can upgrade your previous version of the operating system using all user settings from the previous installation, or you can perform a fresh installation using the answer file that provides Setup with your custom specifications. The latter method is most likely the best option to limit component communication over the Internet, provided you use an appropriate answer file. Details about specific answer file entries are included in the appropriate component sections of this white paper.

  • Remote Installation Services (RIS)

    You can use RIS to create installation images of operating systems or of complete computer configurations, including desktop settings and applications. You can then make these installation images available to users at client computers. You can also specify which RIS server will provide installations to a given client computer, or you can allow any RIS server to provide the installation.

  • Image-based installation using the System Preparation (Sysprep) tool

    Image-based installation is also a good choice if you need to install an identical configuration on multiple computers. On a master computer, you install the operating system and any applications that you want installed on all of the target computers. Then you run Sysprep and a disk imaging utility. Sysprep prepares the hard disk on the master computer so that the disk imaging utility can transfer an image of the hard disk to the other computers. This method decreases deployment time dramatically compared to standard or scripted installations. You can customize the images so that only the files required for a specific configuration appear on the image, such as additional Plug and Play drivers that might be needed on various systems. The image can also be copied to a CD and distributed to remote sites that have slow links.

  • System management software, such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS)

    This type of software assists with the many tasks that are involved when you apply automated procedures to multiple servers and client computers throughout your organization. These tasks include:

    • Selecting computers that are equipped for the operating system and that you are ready to support.

    • Distributing the operating system source files to all sites, including remote sites and sites without technical support staff.

    • Monitoring the distribution to all sites.

    • Providing the appropriate user rights to do the upgrade.

    • Automatically initiating the installation of the software package with the possibility of having the user control the timing.

    • Resolving problems related to the distributions or installations.

    • Reporting on the rate and success of deployment.

Using system management software helps to further ensure that all computers within your organization have received the standardized operating system configuration that helps prevent unwanted communication over the Internet.

Using scripts for configuring computers

In addition to the automated installation methods described here, another common method of controlling Internet connections is to use a script to configure Group Policy on each client computer. The script can be sent to each client computer using a tool such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) and can run remotely using Windows Script Host. Alternatively, Group Policy can be applied to a domain, site, or organizational unit. The policy settings would then automatically be applied to every computer in the domain, site, or organizational unit the first time the computer starts after the operating system is installed. For more information about scripts and Group Policy, see "Related Documentation and Links," at the end of this section.

You can also use scripts to monitor activity on client computers and to take appropriate action if certain restricted activities occur. For example, if a user were to start an unauthorized application, a script could be used to detect this and to immediately stop that application. Similarly, scripts can be used to monitor the setup of each computer in order to, for example, determine which applications are installed and which folders are being shared. Configuring these scripts is beyond the scope of this document; however, you can refer to "Related Documentation and Links," at the end of this section for more information.

Procedures for Accessing Additional Information About Other Automated Setup Tools

Accessing the Windows Server 2003 Help documentation

Products in the Windows Server 2003 family have Help documentation describing unattended installation, RIS, and image-based installation. You can view this documentation from any computer that has Internet access (regardless of the operating system running on that computer), or from any computer running a product in the Windows Server 2003 family. The following procedure gives the details.

To access the Help documentation for a computer running a product in the Windows Server 2003 family

  1. Open Help and Support by doing one of the following:

    • On any computer running a product in the Windows Server 2003 family, click Start, and then click Help and Support.

    • View Help on the Web at:


      On this site, click the link for the appropriate product. You can then view the Help documentation by expanding the appropriate product listed under Product Documentation in the Help navigation pane, on the left.

  2. Locate the specific topics as follows:

    • For unattended installation: Navigate to Getting Started\Installing and upgrading the operating system\Concepts\Planning for unattended Setup

    • For RIS: Navigate to Software Deployment\Remote Installation Services

    • For Winnt32.exe: Navigate to Administration and scripting tools\Command-line reference\Command-line reference A-Z\Winnt32

Related Documentation and Links

You can also find additional information about all of the topics described earlier in this appendix in a variety of other locations:

  • On the CD for any product in the Windows Server 2003 family, you can find additional information about unattended installations in Deploy.chm in Support\Tools\deploy.cab.

  • For extensive information about unattended setup, including information about Systems Management Server, see the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit, especially the book titled Automating and Customizing Installations. The Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit is available on the Web at:


  • For general information about Group Policy, see the resources listed in Appendix B: Resources for Learning About Group Policy (Windows Server 2003).

  • The Help documentation for the Windows Server 2003 family of products included on the CD and on the Web includes information about Windows Script Host. You can find the documentation on the Web at:


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