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Reference for WinNT.SIF (unattend) values?

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#1
JohnKaufmann

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The tutorial page on WINNT.SIF was a helpful introduction, but incomplete, and at the end notes:

"You can check ref.chm in the Deployment Tools for many other values you might want to use that isn't covered on this page. "


But the tutorial page includes values like
ProgramFilesDir
and
CommonProgramFilesDir
that are not included in ref.chm (which is the same for SP3 and for SP2). So how do we know about variables like those? Is there some super-reference containing all of these values (preferably correlated with their respective registry keys and values)?

One practical reason for asking: Are there other such variables related to registry values like
AppData
,
AllUsersProfile
,
DefaultUserProfile
, which govern where files are stored?


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#2
bphlpt

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I'm not clear what you are asking. The WINNT.SIF page says:

ProgramFilesDir="C:\My Program Files"

You can change the default location of Program Files using this entry. Replace the drive letter and folder name as appropriate.

CommonProgramFilesDir="C:\My Program Files\My Common Files"

You can change the default location of Common Files in Program Files using this entry. Replace the drive letter and folder names as appropriate.


What else did you need to know?

Many of those items you are mentioning are environment variables. If you are wondering what their normal default values are you could look here.

Cheers and Regards

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#3
tomasz86

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There are also many undocumented settings...
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#4
JohnKaufmann

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[rp

I'm not clear what you are asking. The WINNT.SIF page says:

ProgramFilesDir="C:\My Program Files"

You can change the default location of Program Files using this entry. Replace the drive letter and folder name as appropriate.
...
What else did you need to know?

Thanks for your reply, but of course that's exactly what I said. My question was: How do we know about such variables, which are not mentioned in ref.chm? The question was whether there is some super-reference of which ref.chm is a subset. Do you know of one? If so, i would like to check it for other variables which I know are not documented in ref.chm, but for which I don't have names. For that matter, i would also like to check such a reference for detailed usage notes missing from ref.chm, which does not provide information about which settings must have a drive spec, and which are accepted without a drive spec,such as:
ProgramFilesDir = "\Apps"


Many of those items you are mentioning are environment variables. If you are wondering what their normal default values are you could look here.

Thanks, but I'm also familiar with environment variables, as well as their Windows defaults - though in a related post I ask about how to track the relationship from the installation settings to the registry to the environment variables. To take, for example, the installation settings with which I began this thread (which are undocumented in ref.chm),

1) Installation setting "ProgramFilesDir" becomes "ProgramFiles" in the registry, which is passed to "ProgramFiles" in the environment. (Within the registry, "ProgramFiles" is also passed to "ProgramFilesDir" and "ProgramPath", neither of which is passed to the environment.)

2) Installation setting ""CommonProgramFilesDir" becomes "CommonProgramFiles" in the registry, which is then passed to "CommonFilesDir" in the registry, which is passed to "CommonProgramFiles" in the environment.

Setting aside the fact that each train of names seems ridiculously convoluted [would it hurt to use a consistent name throughout? - to say nothing of having a consistent naming scheme? :} But I digress...], each of these trains begins with an apparently undocumented installation setting. My question was about where to find such documentation. I' m beginning to fear that, as tomasz86 says,

There are also many undocumented settings...

- at least outside of MS developers. :( Reminds me why we like open-source ...

Thanks for the replies. I hope this follow-up may get us a bit closer to answers,
John

#5
tomasz86

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Check this: http://www.sudhian.c...php?topic=95156
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#6
JohnKaufmann

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Check this: http://www.sudhian.c...php?topic=95156

That was so informative that - after following links to many levels deep - I almost forgot to come back and say thank you! For my current purposes, mostly I learned about more undocumented settings -- like floppylessbootpath, dospath, etc. -- but the introduction to the the structure of how the system is organized on disk was useful.

By the way, do you happen to know what character encoding is used on sudhian.com? Firefox does not pick it up automatically because it is declared in the page source as ISO-8859-1, which apparently it is not, and of course that makes reading difficult. [The post is over five years old, but I understand that's the nature of XP questions.]

I am increasingly inclined to give up looking for a good reference, because one theme of these explorations is that there is no such super-reference as I had assumed would exist. Maybe one only learns about these things by hexdumps on DLLs and experimenting with those discoveries. Life is too short for that.

Thanks again,
John

#7
jaclaz

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I am increasingly inclined to give up looking for a good reference, because one theme of these explorations is that there is no such super-reference as I had assumed would exist. Maybe one only learns about these things by hexdumps on DLLs and experimenting with those discoveries. Life is too short for that.

Maybe relevant info is nearer than you might think:
http://gosh.msfn.org/
sure the info is "here and there" and you will need to dig a bit in the past.
Possibly useful (though not what you asked for) txtsetup.sif related:
http://www.msfn.org/...crets-revealed/
http://www.msfn.org/...in-txtsetupsif/
http://www.msfn.org/...tinf-reference/
http://www.msfn.org/...etupsif-syntax/

Some (interesting?) related findings are "here and there" in the "Install windows form USB" section:
http://www.msfn.org/...ndows-from-usb/
http://www.msfn.org/...-from-hd-media/
http://www.msfn.org/...ut-extra-tools/
http://www.msfn.org/...can-be-omitted/

jaclaz

#8
JohnKaufmann

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Maybe relevant info is nearer than you might think:
http://gosh.msfn.org/
sure the info is "here and there" and you will need to dig a bit in the past.
Possibly useful (though not what you asked for) txtsetup.sif related:
http://www.msfn.org/...crets-revealed/
http://www.msfn.org/...in-txtsetupsif/
http://www.msfn.org/...tinf-reference/
http://www.msfn.org/...etupsif-syntax/

Some (interesting?) related findings are "here and there" in the "Install windows form USB" section:
http://www.msfn.org/...ndows-from-usb/
http://www.msfn.org/...-from-hd-media/
http://www.msfn.org/...ut-extra-tools/
http://www.msfn.org/...can-be-omitted/


jaclaz, thanks for a thoughtful and mostly responsive reply. It took a while to digest all the links, and their links, but the time was well spent -- mostly for gosh.msfn.org and for the introduction to Link Shell Extension <http://schinagl.priv...kshellext.html>, which was a secondary link from one of your links (and will be very useful for other purposes) -- but all of your links were, in one way or another, interesting.

However, I began this thread by noting that the msfn.org home page has a tutorial on Windows XP deployment which concludes by referring the reader to MS Deployment Tools ref.chm for more info -- but a look at ref.chm shows that it does not even include all of the settings that are cited in the MSFN tutorial. So I asked if there were some collected super-reference, essentially a documented deployment API. Even with the helpful responses, what I have learned is that ref.chm is the closest thing to a deployment API, and it is incomplete -- so you and many others spend years not only developing deployment processes that improve on what MS provided, but also discovering deployment information that MS should have provided. While I am grateful that you and others do that [and I would, too, if I were regularly engaged in Windows support], it's not a substitute for complete, adequate deployment documentation.

My concern is to make a clean installation with alternatives to the directory names MS has chosen. I was prompted to do this after (yet again) downloading a driver archive file which -- after expanding to to an installation directory many levels deep -- broke the installation process because a complete filepath\filename is so long (C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\Downloads\ ...\...\...\...\...) that Windows chokes on it (because the length exceeds the character limit for a file handle). I understand that the path length limit is a Windows problem, but there are times when I need to support Windows. My usual response is to copy the whole subdirectory to root and restart the installation, but I hate wasting time and energy on work-arounds like that. Since I have always found that, when the path limit breaks, it has never exceeded the limit by more than a dozen characters or so, one simple approach would be to reduce the MS default path length by a couple dozen characters with simple directory name changes [that would also, in my view, be more appropriate anyway]. That's how a search led me to msfn.org. It is also why my question focused on settings for directory names -- and why your links, though helpful in other ways, are mostly unresponsive to that initial concern. [Frankly, I was surprised to find that this kind of simple solution to a common nuisance seems so rare and undocumented.]

As I asked, if ProgramFilesDir and CommonProgramFilesDir, with corresponding (though differently named) registry values, are not included in ref.chm, what other directory and path settings exist that are not documented in ref.chm? There are many similar directory settings in the registry (like AppData, AllUsersPath, DefaultUsersPath, HomeDrive, HomePath, MediaPath, ProgramFilesPath, ...) that presumably have deployment antecedents, but the for most part I have not found those antecedents. That's the kind of reference I was seeking. Though I have learned a lot of good stuff, I have to conclude that the reference I just described does not exist.

Thanks again for your help,
John

Edited by JohnKaufmann, 24 September 2012 - 02:37 PM.


#9
submix8c

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Why let it "default" to a download location? Make a Directory on the ROOT and opt to download it there. Better yet, use a Downloader (e.g. Flashget). It's NEVER a good idea to download to a "Profile". Most "common" users make this mistake thinking "MS must know best". I recommend to even change the location of Videos, Music, and Pictures (it's in the Options of the Software) to even a different partition or better a different HDD. Want to defrag? Go ahead and defrag a MONSTER 1tb partition - be prepared to wait all night.

Someday the tyrants will be unthroned... Jason "Jay" Chasteen; RIP, bro!

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#10
JohnKaufmann

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Why let it "default" to a download location? Make a Directory on the ROOT and opt to download it there. Better yet, use a Downloader (e.g. Flashget). It's NEVER a good idea to download to a "Profile". Most "common" users make this mistake thinking "MS must know best".

Good point: There is no compelling reason to accept the idea of a "Downloads" folder inside a profile "Documents" folder, and a downloads folder at root eliminates the path length limit problem that prompted me to look for alternative directory names. But:
1) Why are you so emphatic about "NEVER ... download to a 'Profile'"? [As you say, MS thinks it is a good idea.] Is it something more than a path length limit problem?
2) It would still be nice to find a good, complete reference for WinNT.SIF, at least for the directory and path settings.

I recommend to even change the location of Videos, Music, and Pictures (it's in the Options of the Software) to even a different partition or better a different HDD. Want to defrag? Go ahead and defrag a MONSTER 1tb partition - be prepared to wait all night.

I agree about separating the user home partition from the system partition. In fact, that was another one of the reasons to search for answers about ProfilesDir (and its subdirectories, which also have registry values). But:

1) What do you mean about:

"even change the location of Videos, Music, and Pictures"

? Do you just mean to avoid the MS "My Pictures", "My Music", "My ..." silliness?
Or do you mean to separate those media files from other downloads? If so, automatically during download (and, if so, how?) or just by moving files after download?

2) What do you mean by:

"it's in the Options of the Software"

? Do you mean the browser options? If not, what? If so, do you mean something more than the "download directory" option?

Thanks,
John

#11
jaclaz

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You can call me "coward" as you like :w00t: , but what I ALWAYS do and suggest (in the "better be safe" than sorry approach ;)) is (JFYI):
  • NEVER use a path with spaces
  • NEVER use (unless really, really and I mean really) needed any filename that is not conforming toi the good ol' DOS 8+3 convention
  • NEVER use either the "desktop" or an user profile
(talking about drivers/programs, etc. connected with setup)

This may well be overcautious and unneeded in a number of situations, but doing ANY of the above listed NO-NOes is introducing an additional (and unneeded) possibility to let Murphy's Law prove itself right (once again :ph34r: ).

About the ref.chm you will need to learn to live with the fact that the MS originated info is:
  • rarely (please read as "never") complete/exhaustive
  • often (please read as "almost always") deceiving, badly worded or prone to be understood wrongly or only partially
  • sometimes (not often but "it happens") plainly wrong

:(

The good news :) are that if it was not as above described, we would have a lot less fun in finding the omissions, the untold, the (intentionally or not) deceiving.....
... and doing crazy experiments to find what really happens under the hood.... :thumbup

jaclaz

PS: Another couple possibly interesting resources:
http://unattended.so...e.net/index.php
http://itk.samfundet...deployment-ref/

Edited by jaclaz, 25 September 2012 - 05:48 AM.


#12
5eraph

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It's NEVER a good idea to download to a "Profile".

There is no compelling reason to accept the idea of a "Downloads" folder inside a profile "Documents" folder [...]

On a PC with multiple users this keeps user files segregated from each other. There's also an option to make a user's files private. ;)

#13
submix8c

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Why let it "default" to a download location? Make a Directory on the ROOT and opt to download it there. Better yet, use a Downloader (e.g. Flashget). It's NEVER a good idea to download to a "Profile". Most "common" users make this mistake thinking "MS must know best".

Good point: There is no compelling reason to accept the idea of a "Downloads" folder inside a profile "Documents" folder, and a downloads folder at root eliminates the path length limit problem that prompted me to look for alternative directory names. But:
1) Why are you so emphatic about "NEVER ... download to a 'Profile'"? [As you say, MS thinks it is a good idea.] Is it something more than a path length limit problem?
2) It would still be nice to find a good, complete reference for WinNT.SIF, at least for the directory and path settings.

1) IMHO... I consider mine a "junk" work area, kind of like the IE folders - "to be deleted occasionally" (contents of "MY whatever")...
2) See jaclaz comment...

I recommend to even change the location of Videos, Music, and Pictures (it's in the Options of the Software) to even a different partition or better a different HDD. Want to defrag? Go ahead and defrag a MONSTER 1tb partition - be prepared to wait all night.

I agree about separating the user home partition from the system partition. In fact, that was another one of the reasons to search for answers about ProfilesDir (and its subdirectories, which also have registry values). But:
1) What do you mean about:

"even change the location of Videos, Music, and Pictures"

? Do you just mean to avoid the MS "My Pictures", "My Music", "My ..." silliness?
Or do you mean to separate those media files from other downloads? If so, automatically during download (and, if so, how?) or just by moving files after download?

IMHO, Separate, separate, separate... "Organize"! (see next part...)

2) What do you mean by:

"it's in the Options of the Software"

? Do you mean the browser options? If not, what? If so, do you mean something more than the "download directory" option?

Thanks,
John

In Browser Options, for downloads, set the option to "Let Me Choose". OR use a (any good Downloader, depending on WHAT you download, e.g. general "File Downloader", "Video Downloader", etc.) and set THAT one to "let me choose"/"my default folder".

Example:
1)Create a "Music" folder/Partition (preferably) elsewhere
2)Within it, create "Joe", "Mary", etc..
3)Protect each one's "modify" (whatever) for JUST "Joe" (same as "My Documents/My Music") - "Read" can be applied for "sharing" with "Mary" (and vice-versa)
4)Within the given Application (MediaPlayer) for "Joe", set the Folders to "Joe" and "Mary"
5)Each User (Joe/Mary) creates their own personalized "playlists" to their tastes - NO DUPLICATES WILL EXIST
6)The same could be done with "My Pictures" (etc) and even PREVENT access to ANOTHER sub-folder "Picture\Nunya" (Joe doesn't want Mary to see his pr0n and vice-versa ;))

As well as creating "Drivers" and sub-dividing into TYPES of drivers. "Organize" - and note that you don't have "spaces" AND the Depth of Folders/Files will be as shallow as possible (see jaclaz comment)

I presented such a layout to my Brother (who records his band's live gigs) and he...
Example:
1)"loads" from cassette into Partition "x:\JAMSIN\gigname.wav"
2)"edits" "x:\JAMSIN\gigA.wav" to "x:\JAMSOUT\gigAtune1.wav", "x:\JAMSOUT\gigAtune2.wav", etc.
3)"burns" files "x:\JAMSOUT\gigA*.wav" to CD (for travel, distribution, whatever) -AND- "converts them to MP3 to place into his "Joe" folder (see previous example)
4)"backs up" "x:\JAMSIN" to CD/DVD
5)deletes JAMSIN and JAMSOUT Contents (burned, remember?)
6)Defrags the Partition (prevents "stutters" for next "gig round")

Remember that any given application has "options" for JUST THAT USER therefore don't intermingle (just like the "My Documents") since each one is "personalized".

Yes, this sounds "complicated" BUT everything is highly organized and minimal partition sizes are used to reduce defrag time - enough "space" to allow for "work" or "storage". What you want is easily found as well. Only the "initial setup" is the pain in the axx. Not for the faint-hearted...

(I almost wish I hadn't suggested it now...) You may keep it "basic" for e.g. your Drivers and leave other stuff alone (as 5eraph suggests). You'd choke if you seen my HDD layouts BUT I have everything organized and (almost) easily found/manipulated.

submix8c - outta this! (I am a complex piece of human meat)

Edited by submix8c, 25 September 2012 - 08:44 AM.

Someday the tyrants will be unthroned... Jason "Jay" Chasteen; RIP, bro!

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#14
JohnKaufmann

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submix8c, thanks for responding to Seraph as well as to my questions. Terrific answer! - you and jaclaz are so good at what you do, I love the combination of intelligence and irony in your comments. Though I have not found the "final solution" that I had hoped for, this thread has been an education in ways that I did not anticipate. I still have to follow up on the final links from jaclaz, which I'm sure will be as worthwhile as the others -- but want to thank you both, as well as tomasz86, for great thoughts about system deployment and management. And thanks to Seraph, also, for the reminder about Microsoft's design objective (however poorly-realized). This has cost so much more time than I had bargained for, and has been more than worth the time spent.

Thanks to all,
John

#15
jaclaz

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This has cost so much more time than I had bargained for, and has been more than worth the time spent.

Good :).

Choosing the RED pill has traditionally been more interesting.....;) but rabbit holes are deeep :ph34r:
http://www.msfn.org/...or-xp-from-usb/

jaclaz

#16
JohnKaufmann

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Yeah. Rabbit holes are deep. :).

Isn't there another choice besides red pills and blue pills? :wacko:

Thanks for that final present,
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Edited by JohnKaufmann, 25 September 2012 - 11:55 PM.


#17
JohnKaufmann

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... what I ALWAYS do and suggest ... is (JFYI):

  • NEVER use a path with spaces
  • NEVER use (unless really, really and I mean really) needed any filename that is not conforming toi the good ol' DOS 8+3 convention
...

As I was assembling a PE, I thought about this comment and wondered if you have a solution for subdirectory names like "Application Data" and "Local Settings" -- for which (as noted earlier in the thread) there are corresponding registry values, but which apparently have no corresponding WinNT.SIF (or other PE) setting.

Likewise, do you remove settings like "Personalized" and "PersonalizedName" from the desktop.ini files? -- or just remove desktop.ini files altogether? Is there a way to control this from the PE?

John

Edited by JohnKaufmann, 27 September 2012 - 12:40 AM.


#18
jaclaz

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You can call me "coward" as you like :w00t: , but what I ALWAYS do and suggest (in the "better be safe" than sorry approach ;)) is (JFYI):

  • NEVER use a path with spaces
  • NEVER use (unless really, really and I mean really) needed any filename that is not conforming toi the good ol' DOS 8+3 convention
  • NEVER use either the "desktop" or an user profile
(talking about drivers/programs, etc. connected with setup)

Of course whatever is already in the "standard" setup is tested and works OK "as is" (no need to change it) BUT, if you want to make changes/additions, if you follow the given advice you have less risks of having a "botched" install or to find later issues when using the program or burning a CD or
Example (obviously exaggerated), if you install (unattended or attended) a program, if it is in:

C:\Programs\myprogram

and the executable is called

nice_app.exe

you have a "safer" approach than having it in:

C:\Program Files\my semselessly long name for a directory\another senselessly named sub-directory\this is the actual directory when the program is\here I am a very smart and modern program that foos and bars really nicely.exe

Possibly everything will work OK nonetheless :), but is there a real reason to risk it?

jaclaz

#19
JohnKaufmann

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You can call me "coward" as you like :w00t: ...

No. I'd call you a teacher. :)

Thanks again for the quick reply.

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#20
jaclaz

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There are many similar directory settings in the registry (like AppData, AllUsersPath, DefaultUsersPath, HomeDrive, HomePath, MediaPath, ProgramFilesPath, ...) that presumably have deployment antecedents, but the for most part I have not found those antecedents. That's the kind of reference I was seeking. Though I have learned a lot of good stuff, I have to conclude that the reference I just described does not exist.

JFYI:
http://www.msfn.org/...alid-parameter/
http://www.msfn.org/...ost__p__1013624

jaclaz

#21
tomasz86

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Thanks jaclaz for quoting me :w00t:

I haven't tested it yet but I think that it should be possible to set all variables in HIVEDEF.INF including %programfiles%, etc.

Edited by tomasz86, 03 October 2012 - 10:59 AM.

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