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Unattended 2008 Install

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Am I correct in believing that the tried and true methods discussed here for an automated XP installation (which I've also used for Server 2003) no longer work for Server 2008 installations? Are we forced to use the Windows Automated Installation Kit now for building Automated/Unattended Server 2008 Deployments?
If I've missed something...Can somebody point me at a getting started guide for Unattended Server 2008 deployments for dummies guide?

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Some what! You are not actually forced to use WAIK, it is just a tool to figure out the peices of the puzzel and it gives you a copy of WinPE you will need to boot the system you are deploying.

Winnt32.exe was replaced by Setup.exe in the Vista / Server 2008 / 7 set of OS versions. The unattend.txt file format was replaced by Unattend.xml xml style format, Windows Text mode setup was eliminated and Windows setup morphed into 7 setup passes that setup goes through during OS installation to build the OS. In addition, the deployment of the OS is image based, and you can modify that image to include whatever you need, merging in drivers, service packs etc..., you can make multple images and use different ones to install different setups. Like I said, you Can do all that, we don't!

If you already very familiar with scripted unattended builds on OS versions pre Vista, then once you become familiar enough with the new technologies you will find a lot it is unnessary and overly complicated.

Currently we use a single WIM image for all OS builds for a particluar OS version (e.g one WIM image for 2008 Web / Standard / Ent / data), we dynamically create the unattend.xml file based on the input from the end user and launch Setup.exe with the unattend.xml from a UNC network share location. We do not maintain different images for differnent hardware and the image we use is the default once that comes from Microsoft in the OS media. For drivers we use a distribution share and the unattend.xml file has the location and credentials to obtain all needed drivers from this location during Setup. We do use WinPE as a boot disk, however we have used this since the first version.

I would start with downloading WAIK, work through the documentation included on how to produce a customized WinPE boot environment (note for WinPE 3.0 in the latest version of WAIK, the DISM command is case sensitive, slow and the WinPE image includes a copy of Setup.exe that autoruns when WinPE boots - we needed to delete the copy of Setup.exe that autoruns so that WinPE would do what we wanted). Once you have your WinPE customized iso produced, you can use Windows System Image Manager to load up the install.wim from Windows Server 2008 media, pick the catalogue file for the edition of the OS you would plan to install and from there create an unattend.xml file.

Technically at that point you could boot WinPE on a system, run setup.exe /unattend with your unattend.xml file and let setup install windows for you based on the contents of the unattend.xml file. As I previously said, we dynamically create the unattend.xml file using vbscripts so that we have a custom file every time we run a build.

While this is a gross over simplification, if is essentially one way of doing this. You can Windows deployment services, I have heard of n-lite and v-lite that others have put together to try to make this a simpler process, but have not tried them.

Good luck.



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Hi Leen2 - this is a fantastic explanation! And I'm in the process of developing a deployment for 2003 exactly along your lines. I am curious, do you open up the install.wim for any modifications (hotfixes and the like)? And how you handle the default user profile settings? I'd love to see your vbs script for making the unattend.xml - but I understand if you don't want to share it.

I boot WinPE using PXE boot (DHCP and TFTP run on Linux) and call the setup from there - I haven't even tried the convoluted mess that is WDS. I create the WinPE 3.0 image manually from the just the WAIK (injecting my own startnet.cmd) - when it starts up the BCD asks you if you want to load the 32 or 64 bit version of WinPE. The way you do WinPE is new to me, does it handle both 32 and 64 bit OS installations?



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Moving to appropriate unattended section.
MCTS Windows Internals, MCITP Server 2008 EA, MCTS MDT/BDD, MCSE/MCSA Server 2003, Server 2012, Windows 8
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Thanks leen2, this is a huge help in getting me pointed in the right direction!

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