Windows 2000 Automated Installations

Before we get started, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Robert McIntosh, the new Windows 2000 Ready columnist. As a consultant and trainer with Covenant Solutions, I have focused on Windows 2000 almost exclusively since the third quarter 1998. With these projects, I have had the opportunity to provide consulting to several early adopters and deliver training to leading technology companies, including Microsoft. I'm excited about writing the column, and look forward to hearing from you about the topics you'd like me to address. You can reach me at [email protected] Let's begin by looking at methods for automating Win2K deployment.

No matter what stage of deployment you're in—evaluation, testing, planning, or implementing—you eventually have to face the challenge of installing and configuring Win2K Server or Win2K Pro on your machines in the most efficient manner, with as little downtime as possible. In all likelihood, you'll have to use some form of automated deployment. Thankfully, Microsoft has incorporated several technologies into Win2K that let you automate the setup process. In the next few Windows 2000 Ready columns, I’ll discuss four of these technologies: unattended setup, Sysprep, Syspart, and remote OS installation services. In particular, I’ll show you how and when you can use each to automate your deployment.

Before you begin the installation process, you need to decide whether you're going to perform an upgrade or a clean install. You must consider several factors as you make your decisions, starting with the hardware and software on your network. If, during the testing and planning stages, you determine that you need new hardware and software, then a clean install is your logical choice. However, if most of what you have is Win2K compatible, you’ll probably find that upgrading is less daunting for you and less disruptive for your users. But if you are looking at your Win2K rollout as an opportunity to clean up your network and move to a standard configuration, it makes sense to perform fresh installs so that you'll have a clean slate—even though it might require more work on the front end. (To determine whether your systems are Win2K compatible, check out the Windows 2000 Magazine Compatibility List ).

Table 1 shows the various installation methods available and under what circumstances you can employ them.

Remote OS installation uses Win2K Server’s Remote Installation Services to let you install Win2K Pro over a network on machines with Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) network adapter cards. Unattended setup is a technology that uses answer files to answer the Win2K Setup questions. With an unattended setup, you can install Win2K over a network or using a bootable CD-ROM. You can use these files with the other technologies to completely automate installations. Sysprep and Syspart let Win2K take advantage of imaging technologies. If you use these technologies, you'll probably have to use a third-party imaging software product when you install.

Over the next few weeks, we'll look at these technologies more closely and discuss using each in your deployment. As Table 1 shows, an unattended setup using answer files is the only method that lets you automate both clean installs and upgrades, although other methods also employ answer files to completely automate installation. Next week, I’ll show you how to create and use answer files to perform unattended setups.

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