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High-Touch with Retail Media

Applies to: Windows 8.1, Windows 8

In this series:

The High-Touch with Retail Media strategy that Figure 1 depicts is for small organizations that do not have IT staff or have IT staff members without deployment experience. These organizations have fewer than 100 client computers and small, unmanaged networks, possibly with distributed locations.

Typically, small organizations manually install the Windows 8.1 operating system from retail media, manually install applications from their media, and then manually configure the client computer to suit the user’s needs.

Figure 1. High-Touch with Retail Media Strategy

Investing in a totally automated deployment solution is often beyond the means of a small organization because of the technical expertise and time investment required of IT staff. Automating Windows 8.1 installation from retail media can help streamline and create a more reproducible installation process. This strategy works well in small organizations, because it does not require a significant investment to support an infrequent task, which allows business owners time to focus on satisfying customers rather than installing an operating system.

About the strategy

When small organizations order new client computers, their original equipment manufacturers and partners (companies that help organizations adopt and use technology) often build these computers to order. The organization receives the new computers with the operating system already installed. So, deploying Windows 8.1 on new computers is not a process that many small organizations need to perform—they simply unpack the computer, turn it on, and connect it to their network.

Many small organizations do not want to purchase new computers, but they would like to realize the benefits of Windows 8.1. For example, in this scenario, small organizations can easily refresh or upgrade existing computers with Windows 8.1. (Refreshing involves installing a clean copy of the operating system without keeping applications or settings, while upgrading maintains the applications and settings).

To refresh or upgrade a computer with Windows 8.1, the organization’s IT person typically runs the Windows Setup program from the retail media and answers each prompt. This process is repetitive in small offices, in Internet cafés, and when developing and testing software. If this is your current process, you can save time and effort and provide a more reproducible outcome by using an Unattend.xml file with Windows Setup to automate installation.

Windows Setup supports you in automating the installation process as follows:

  • Partitioning the hard disk. You can create and format default partitions or use a custom layout.
  • Installing device drivers. You can add device drivers during installation. Doing so ensures that the computers are ready to use immediately after installing Windows 8.1.
  • Installing applications. Adding applications during installation is simple, and a silent installation helps create a streamlined, reproducible deployment process.
  • Applying updates. Some updates should be installed during deployment to ensure that client computers start with the highest level of security.
  • Configuring settings. You can customize hundreds of settings during deployment—everything from the computer name to the Internet Explorer home page.
  • Enabling or disabling features. You can easily and automatically add or remove Windows features to create a completely custom installation.
  • Suppressing the Setup user interface (UI). Suppressing the UI helps limit users’ interaction with Windows Setup, minimizes user errors, and enables organizations to use less skilled resources to install the operating system.

The answer file is the component that enables small organizations to script the installation of Windows 8.1. Answer files are XML files that contain settings that configure Windows 8.1 during installation. Settings include the computer name, organization name, time zone, and workgroup name. You use the Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) to create answer files, which typically have the file name Unattend.xml. In addition, non-Microsoft websites are available to help you create Unattend.xml files without installing or using Windows SIM.

Strategy requirements

The following elements are required to use the High-Touch with Retail Media strategy:

note iconNote: Several non-Microsoft websites enable you to create an Unattend.xml file without using the Windows ADK, but Microsoft recommends that you not enter confidential information on these sites. Instead, enter placeholders, and then substitute the actual values in the Unattend.xml file after you have downloaded it to your computer. For example, instead of providing your product key to a non-Microsoft website, type XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXX on the site. Then, open a text editor (such as Microsoft Notepad), copy the Unattend.xml file that you downloaded, and substitute your actual product key for the placeholder values.

Strategy limitations

The High-Touch with Retail Media strategy has the following limitations:

  • Deploying too many client computers. Customers who want to deploy Windows 8.1 to many computers, to the same computers repeatedly (common for Internet cafés and developers), or to computers that have radically different configurations should consider using the High-Touch with Standard Image strategy or the Lite-Touch, High-Volume Deployment strategy instead. The techniques that the Lite-Touch, High-Volume Deployment strategy advocate are better suited to deploying numerous configurations by using a single operating system image.
  • Deploying multiple Windows versions. The High-Touch with Retail Media strategy is beneficial for customers with a small number of client computers and a single version of the Windows operating system (e.g., Windows 8.1). Using one Unattend.xml file with multiple Windows versions is not supported, because each Windows version can expose different features and settings. If you are deploying multiple Windows versions, you must create an Unattend.xml file for each version.

Deployment process

Table 1 describes the high-level deployment process for using the High-Touch with Retail Media strategy. The left column describes the step, and the right column contains links to detailed information about completing that step.

Table 1. High-Touch with Retail Media Strategy

StepMore Windows 8.1 information
1. Create an Unattend.xml file for Windows 8.1 by using Windows SIM or a non-Microsoft website.
2. If you used a non-Microsoft website to create the Unattend.xml file, copy it in Notepad, and then edit your private information (e.g., product key or passwords).
  • None
3. Copy the Unattend.xml file to your removable storage device. Windows Setup looks for this file in a variety of locations, but storing it on a USB flash drive is easiest.
4. Insert the removable storage device in the client computer to which you are installing Windows 8.1.
  • None
5. Optionally, if you are refreshing the computer with a new installation, use Windows Easy Transfer to save users’ documents and settings from the computer (you will restore them after refreshing the computer).

6. Perform one of the following tasks:

  • Refresh. Run Windows Setup by starting the computer with the Windows 8.1 retail media inserted in the computer. When prompted, press a key to start the computer, then press the Spacebar.
  • Upgrade. Run Windows Setup by using the currently installed operating system to start the computer, and then run Setup.exe from the Windows 8.1 retail media.
7. Optionally, use Windows Easy Transfer to restore users’ documents and settings to the computer. This step is only necessary if you refreshed the computer with a new installation in the previous step.
8. After installing Windows 8.1 from the retail media, complete deployment by installing applications and configuring the computer as required.
  • None
9. Active Windows 8.1 online or by telephone.
  • None

Additional resources