Creating an answer file

An answer file gives you the control to perform an unattended installation, that is, the installation process is provided with the answers in a script file instead of having someone attending to it! You can for example, configure passwords, set default Internet Explorer settings, accepting a EULA, etc… The answer file should contain all the settings (answers) required during an installation.

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To create an answer file, you use the Windows SIM utility found in Windows AIK by following these steps:

  1. Install Windows AIK on a reference computer
  2. Create a temp folder on the reference computer for example - c:\temp
  3. From your Windows 7 installation DVD media copy \Sources\install.wim to c:\temp for example copy \sources\install.wim c:\temp
  4. Click Windows System Image Manager from Start\All Programs\Windows AIK menu – this opens Windows SIM
  5. On the Windows SIM file menu, click Select A Windows Image and navigate to the c:\temp, select install.wim and click OpenSIM window 
  6. Select the image you want in the Select an Image window and click ok
  7. When prompted to create a catalog file, click Yes – this part may take some time, allow it to finish generating catalog
    If the generating a catalog process fails try opening a ready made catalog file instead of an image as explained in step 8, otherwise go to step 10
    Sometimes Windows SIM cannot create catalog files, however, if the result of step 7 was ok then continue at step 10
  8. From the Windows 7 installation DVD media copy \Sources\install_product.clg to c:\temp, for example copy \sources\install_Windows 7 ULTIMATE.clg c:\temp
  9. On the Windows SIM file menu, click Select A Windows Image and navigate to the c:\temp, select the CLG file and click Open
  10. On the File menu, choose New Answer file. An empty (untitled) answer file appears in the middle pane
  11. In the Windows Image pane, expand the components node to start adding features:features values
  12. On the expanded list of features, select the following configuration passes:
    Right-click x86_Microsoft-Windows-International-Core-WinPE_6.1.<build>_neutral  – click Add Setting to Pass 7 oobeSystem
    Right-click x86_Microsoft-Windows-Setup_6.1.<build>_neutral  – click Add Setting to Pass 1 windowsPE
    Right-click x86_Microsoft-Windows-Deployment_6.1.<build>_neutral  – click Add Setting to Pass 1 windowsPE
    Right-click x86_Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup_61.<build>_neutral  – click Add Setting to Pass 7 oobeSystem
  13. Under Setting in the right-hand side pane, enter the appropriate values for each feature in our new answer file: -> place features values image
    The x86_Microsoft-Windows-Deployment_6.1.<build>_neutral feature sets a default value of x86_Microsoft-Windows-Deployment__neutral_<guid>_nonSxS
    Set the other features as shown in the following images:
    SetuplanguageShell Setup
  14. Click Tools in Windows SIM and then choose Validate Answer file – warnings that state that default settings have not been changed will not prevent the file from being saved however, if an error occurs double-click the error message and change the setting to fix the error — save the file, re-open it and validate again to confirm that no errors exist
  15. On the file menu, choose Save Answer File – Save the answer file as Autounattend.xml
  16. Copy the Autounattend.xml file to the root directory of a removable storage device such as, UFD device – During an installation from the Windows 7 product media, windows setup searches the root directory of all removable media for an answer file called Autounattend.xml
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