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Methods for Running Image Builder (Standard 7 SP1)

7/8/2014

Image Builder can perform Windows Embedded Standard 7 installations by using either interactive or unattended installation methods. The interactive method uses Image Builder Wizard. The unattended method uses an unattended answer file that is created by using Image Configuration Editor.

In this interactive method, you must select where to install Standard 7; read and accept the Microsoft Software License Terms; and apply a product key.

This method is useful for small-scale deployments or individual installations. By using the default image from Microsoft, interactive installation requires no preparatory work, such as creating answer files or capturing Standard 7 images. You can use Image Builder Wizard together with creating and capturing custom Standard 7 images.

You can interactively install Standard 7 by using the Standard 7 product media or from a network location after you store and share the installation files from the Standard 7 product media. Image Builder Wizard requires input from users. This input includes destination drive, user names, and time zones.

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The Windows Embedded Standard 7 setup process performs several verifications, which rely on the date and time settings of the target device. For optimal performance, confirm that the target device is set to the correct date and time.

During an unattended installation, Image Builder works with one or more answer files to automate online installations of Standard 7. Each answer file can contain specific customizations of Standard 7 that are suited to the needs of your end users. The unattended installation method is useful for large-scale deployments and for achieving consistency and precision in the configuration of each computer.

Unattended installation requires creating one or more answer files that contain customizations for an installation. For example, you can change the Internet Explorer configuration, or partition and format hard disks. For information about how to create answer files by using Image Configuration Editor, see Build an Answer File Using Image Configuration Editor.

Image Builder gives you two ways to select an answer file to use: you can explicitly specify an answer file, or you can have Image Builder automatically search for an answer file.

If You Explicitly Specify an Answer File

You can explicitly specify an answer file by using the setup.exe /unattend:filename command.

In this example, filename is the local or UNC path for the answer file. For more information, see Image Builder Command-Line Options.

This answer file is used to configure the Standard 7 installation. Because restarts are required when using Image Builder, a copy of this answer file is cached on the system.

If You Want Image Builder to Automatically Search for an Answer File

If you do not explicitly specify an answer file, Image Builder automatically searches for an answer file in several different locations. The locations include a previously cached answer file, an answer file at the root of a drive, and answer files at other locations. The complete list of valid search paths is listed in the "Implicit Answer File Search Order" section in this topic.

Image Builder searches for an answer file every time a configuration pass starts. It searches by using an order of precedence. If Image Builder finds an answer file in one of the valid locations, the file must include settings for the current configuration pass. If it finds an answer file that has no settings for the current configuration pass, Image Builder ignores that answer file.

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Typically, Image Builder only uses answer files that are named Unattend.xml. However, answer files that contain settings that apply to the windowsPE and offlineServicing configuration passes can include destructive actions, such as disk partitioning. Therefore, you must rename those Unattend.xml file to Autounattend.xml. These passes run when you first run Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) 3.0 or Image Builder. You typically use the Autounattend.xml file when you use the product DVD start method for Windows Embedded Standard 7 and provide an answer file on a USB flash drive (UFD) or floppy disk.

Implicit Answer File Search Order

Image Builder identifies all available answer files and logs them by precedence based on the search order in the following table. The answer file that has the highest search order is used. Image Builder validates the answer file and then caches the file to the computer until the end of the last configuration pass. Valid answer files are cached to the $Windows Embedded Standard 7 BT\Sources\Panther directory during the windowsPE and offlineServicing passes. After the Standard 7 installation is extracted to the hard disk, the answer file is cached to %WINDIR%\Panther.

The following table shows the implicit answer file search order.

Search Order

Location

Description

1

Registry

HKey_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup!UnattendFile

Specifies a pointer in the registry to an answer file. The answer file is not required to be named Unattend.xml.

2

%WINDIR%\Panther\Unattend

The name of the answer file must be Unattend.xml or Autounattend.xml.

3

%WINDIR%\Panther

Image Builder caches answer files to this location.

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Do not overwrite the answer files in these directories.

4

Removable read/write media at the root of the drive and in alphabetical order by drive letter.

Removable read/write media at the root of the drive and in alphabetical order by drive letter.

The name of the answer file must be Unattend.xml or Autounattend.xml, and the answer file must be located at the root of the drive.

5

Removable read-only media at the root of the drive and in alphabetical order by drive letter.

Removable read-only media at the root of the drive and in alphabetical order by drive letter.

The name of the answer file must be Unattend.xml or Autounattend.xml, and the answer file must be located at the root of the drive.

6

For the windowsPE and offlineServicing passes, the location is \Sources directory in a Standard 7 distribution.

For all other passes, the location is %WINDIR%\System32\Sysprep.

In the windowsPE and offlineServicing passes, the name of the answer file must be Autounattend.xml.

For all other configuration passes, the file name must be Unattend.xml.

7

%SYSTEMDRIVE%

The answer file name must be Unattend.xml or Autounattend.xml

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Because answer files are cached to the computer, your answer files persist on the computer between restarts. Before you deliver the computer to a customer, you must delete the cached answer file from the %WINDIR%\Panther directory. However, if you have unprocessed settings in the oobeSystem configuration pass that you intend to run when an end user starts the computer, do not delete the cached answer file.

Sensitive Data in Answer Files

Image Builder removes sensitive data from the cached answer file at the end of the current configuration pass. However, if an answer file is embedded in a location that has higher precedence than the cached answer file, the cached answer may be overwritten at the beginning of each successive configuration pass if the embedded answer file matches the implicit search criteria. For example, if an answer file is embedded at %WINDIR%\Panther\Unattend\Unattend.xml, the embedded answer file replaces the cached answer file at the beginning of each configuration pass.

In addition, if the embedded answer file specifies both the specialize and oobeSystem passes, the embedded answer file is discovered during the specialize pass, where it is cached and processed. At the end of the specialize pass, the sensitive data is cleared. However, the embedded answer file is discovered again during the oobeSystem pass and cached again. Therefore, the sensitive data for the specialize pass is no longer cleared. Sensitive data for previously processed passes are not cleared again. Unless the cached answer file must be overridden, we recommend that answer files be embedded at a lower precedence location.

We recommend that you delete all the answer files on a Windows Embedded Standard 7 installation before delivering the computer to a customer. Delete any embedded answer files, and also delete the cached answer file. However, if you have unprocessed settings in the oobeSystem configuration pass that you want to run when an end user starts the computer, do not delete the cached answer file.

You can add a command to the Setupcomplete.cmd command script that deletes any cached or embedded answer files on the computer. For more information, see Add Custom Scripts and Registry Keys to an Answer File.

Image Builder Annotates Configuration Passes in an Answer File

After a configuration pass is processed, Image Builder annotates the cached answer file to indicate that the pass was processed. If the configuration pass is entered again and the cached answer file has not been replaced or updated in the interim, the answer file settings are not processed again. Instead, Image Builder searches for implicit Unattend.xml files that are at a lower precedence location than the cached Unattend.xml file.

For example, you can install Standard 7 with an answer file that contains RunSynchronous commands in the specialize pass. During installation, the specialize pass runs and the RunSynchronous commands execute. After installation, run the sysprep /generalize command. If Image Builder finds no answer file in a higher precedence than the cached answer file or if an answer file was not explicitly passed to Sysprep, Image Builder runs the specialize pass the next time that the computer starts. Because the cached answer file contains an annotation that the settings for that pass were already applied, the RunSynchronous commands do not run.

Implicit Answer File Search Examples

The following examples help describe the behavior of implicit answer file searches.

Answer files named Autounattend.xml are automatically discovered by Image Builder

  1. Create an answer file that is named Autounattend.xml that includes settings in the windowsPE pass.
  2. Copy Autounattend.xml to removable media.
  3. Configure the BIOS of your computer to start from a CD or DVD.
  4. Start the Windows Embedded Standard 7 product DVD that is appropriate to the device.
  5. Insert the floppy disk while Standard 7 is starting.
    Image Builder starts and automatically identifies Autounattend.xml as a valid answer file. Because the answer file uses a valid file name (Autounattend.xml), is located in one of the valid search paths (the root of A:\), and includes valid settings for the current configuration pass (windowsPE), this answer file is used.
    The answer file is cached to the computer. If Image Builder discovers no additional answer files in later passes, the cached answer file is used throughout.

Answer files are discovered in order of precedence in predefined search paths

  1. Install Standard 7 by using an answer file and by following the steps in the previous example. The answer file that is used to install Standard 7 is cached to the system in the %WINDIR%\Panther directory.
  2. Copy an Unattend.xml file to the %WINDIR%\System32\Sysprep directory.
    This answer file has settings in the generalize pass.
  3. Run the sysprep /generalize command to create a reference image.
    Because the %WINDIR%\System32\Sysprep directory is in the implicit search paths, Image Builder finds the answer file and copies it to this directory. However, an answer file that was used to install Standard 7 is still cached on the computer and contains settings for the generalize pass. Because this cached answer file has a higher precedence than the one that is copied to the Sysprep directory, Image Builder uses the cached answer file.
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    You can run Sysprep as a command-line tool or as a GUI tool. If you run Sysprep as a GUI tool, you can select the Generalize check box.

To use the new answer file, copy it to a directory that has a higher precedence than the cached answer file, or you can specify the answer file by using the /unattend option.

Answer files must include a valid configuration pass

  1. Copy an Unattend.xml file to a floppy disk.
    The Unattend.xml file has settings only for the auditSystem and auditUser configuration passes.
  2. On an installed Standard 7 operating system, run the sysprep /generalize /oobe command.
    Although the answer file is available in one of the implicit search paths, Image Builder ignores the Unattend.xml file because the file does not contain a valid pass for the generalize configuration pass.
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