Perform unattended installations of Windows XP

Installing Windows XP on new desktop computers can be a monotonous job for systems administrators. They can automate the task via the Setup Manager utility.

System administrators often have to do the monotonous job of installing XP for new desktop machines for their fellow employees. However, they can automate the unattended deployment of XP by using the Setup Manager utility.

To create an image using the unattended installation process, follow these steps:

  1. Log on to the Windows XP Professional workstation using an account with Administrator access.
  2. To find setupmgr.exe, insert the Windows XP CD, browse to the support folder, and locate the Deploy.CAB file. Extract all the files, one of which is setupmgr.exe. Then double-click the setupmgr.exe utility to start the process.
  3. When setupmgr.exe opens, click Next on the welcome screen.
  4. Select the option to create a new answer file and click Next to continue.
  5. Select the option to create a Windows unattended installation and click Next.
  6. Choose the correct operating system in the Platform section and click Next.
  7. Choose the user interaction level, which asks how much the user will be able to configure during the installation. For most deployments, choose Provide Defaults or Hide Pages Often. These options either show all the installation settings but the values that are already populated, or installation pages that are completely configured are hidden from the system installation process.
  8. Click Next to continue and then click Next again to create a new distribution folder.
  9. On the next page, you specify whether the installation files will be copied from CD or from the network. Select the appropriate location and click Next when ready.
  10. Select the local path indicating where to store the installation files and what the share name will be. Click Next to continue.
  11. On the following screens, answer the appropriate installation questions and click Next until you have answered or skipped all the settings.
  12. After you've either skipped or configured all the settings, click Finish.
  13. On the next window, specify the location of unattend.txt, which will be used to transfer the information you just copied when an installation is started.
  14. Click OK to save unattend.txt and copy the files to the specified storage location.

About the author: Rahul Shah currently works at a software firm in India, where he is a systems administrator maintaining Windows servers. He has also worked for various software firms in testing and analytics, and also has experiences deploying client/server applications in different Windows configurations.

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This was first published in May 2007
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