This walkthrough describes how to build an answer file that includes basic Windows Setup configuration, minimum Windows Welcome customizations, a device driver, and an application. In this example, you build a distribution share, which is an optional storage folder for third-party drivers, applications, and packages issued by Microsoft, such as security bulletins. Once you build your answer file, you create a configuration set, which is a smaller version of a distribution share. It is more easily copied to removable media or a network share. A configuration set is a collection of files converted to binary form. These files are a self-contained alternative to referencing a distribution share.


To complete this walkthrough, you need the following:

  • Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) installed on a technician computer.

    For more information, see Building a Technician Computer

  • An authorized copy of a Windows Vista® product DVD.

  • One or more custom device driver .inf files.

  • One or more third-party or custom applications.

  • Access to a network share or removable media with sufficient storage space.

Step 1: Create a Simple Answer File

In this step, you define basic disk configuration and other settings that are required for an unattended installation.

  • Create your answer file according to the instructions provided in Walkthrough: Build an Answer File for BIOS-based Computers.


    When you run the sysprep /generalize command, out-of-box device drivers are removed from the Windows image. If you add out-of-box device drivers during installation and you intend to capture the Windows image, to persist out-of-box device drivers, in the answer file, in Microsoft-Windows-PnpSysprep, set PersistAllDeviceInstalls to True. When you do this, Sysprep does not remove the detected device drivers. For more information, see the Unattended Windows Setup Reference.

Step 2: Create a Distribution Share

In this step, you create a distribution-share folder on your technician computer. The distribution share will store out-of-box drivers, applications, and any resource files needed for your custom installation.

  1. In Windows SIM, in the Distribution Share pane, click Select a Distribution Share.

  2. Right-click to select Create Distribution Share.

    The Create a Distribution Share dialog box appears.

  3. Click New Folder, and then type a name for the folder. For example,

  4. Click Open.

    In the Distribution Share pane, the distribution share folder opens. Windows SIM automatically creates the following folder structure.

    C:\MyDistributionShare\$OEM$ Folders
    C:\MyDistributionShare\Out-of-Box Drivers

Step 3: Add Drivers and Applications to Distribution Share

There are three types of driver installations supported through an answer file: In-box, out-of-box (.inf), and out-of-box (.exe or .msi). In this step, you add an out-of-box (.inf) driver and an application to your new distribution share under the out-of-box driver and $OEM$ folders, respectively.

To learn more about distribution shares see Understanding Distribution Shares and Configuration Sets.

  1. In Windows SIM, on the Tools menu, select Explore Distribution Share.

    The Distribution Share window opens.

  2. Copy your device driver files (.inf) to the Out-of-Box Drivers folder.

    • Create subdirectories for each driver. For example, create directories Driver1 and Driver2 in the Out-of-Box Drivers folder.

      If you have multiple drivers to add to this directory, it is recommended that you create subdirectories for each driver or driver category. This ensures that there are no conflicts for drivers with the same file name.

  3. Copy your application to the $OEM$ folder or move them to the folder by using a drag-and-drop operation.

    • Create subdirectories for each application. For example, create directories Application1 and Application2 in the $OEM$ folder.

      If you have multiple applications to add to this directory, it is recommended that you create subdirectories for each application or application category. This ensures that there are no conflicts for applications with the same file name.

  4. Close the distribution share folder.

Step 4: Add a Device Driver to the Answer File

In this step, you add an out-of-box drivers (.inf) path to your answer file.

  1. In Windows SIM, on the Insert menu, click Driver Path, and then click Pass 1 windowsPE.

    The Browse for Folder dialog box appears.


    You can also add drivers to the auditSystem configuration pass, which will be processed during audit mode only. For information about using audit mode, see Customize Windows in Audit Mode.

  2. Select the driver path to add to the answer file, and then click OK. For example,

    C:\MyDistributionShare\Out-of-Box Drivers\Driver1

    C:\MyDistributionShare\Out-of-Box Drivers\Driver2
    The driver path that you selected is added to the answer file under the configuration pass that you selected. Depending on the configuration pass, the driver path is included as a list item to one of the following components:

    • Microsoft-Windows-PnpCustomizationsWinPE for windowsPE

    • Microsoft-Windows-PnpCustomizationsNonWinPE for the auditSystem configuration pass

Only .inf files are added to the driver store during installation. To run an .exe or .msi driver package, you must add a custom command to install the driver package. For more information, see Add a Custom Command to an Answer File.

Step 5: Add a Third-Party Application

In this step, you add a custom command to your answer file to install an application after the operating system is installed.

  1. In Windows SIM, on the Insert menu, point to Synchronous Command, and then click Pass 7 oobeSystem.

    The Create Synchronous Command dialog box opens.

  2. In the Enter command line text box, enter the command to install the application that you placed in $OEM$. For example,

    C:\MyDistributionShare\$OEM$ Folders\Application1\setup.exe
    C:\MyDistributionShare\$OEM$ Folders\Application2\start.exe
  3. If you have more than one command to run, enter a number in the Order field to specify in what order multiple commands should run. Enter 1 for the first command, 2 for the second command, and so on.

  4. Click OK.

    The command is added to the answer file in the selected configuration pass.

Step 6: Validate the Answer File

In this step, you validate the settings in your answer file and then save them to a file.

  1. In Windows SIM, click Tools, and then click Validate Answer File.

    The setting values in the answer file are compared with the available settings in the Windows image.


    This sample answer file contains a blank administrator password. Blank administrator passwords are potential security risks.

  2. If the answer file validates successfully, a "success" message appears in the Messages pane; otherwise, error messages appear in the same location.

  3. If an error occurs, in the Messages pane, double-click the error to navigate to the incorrect setting. Change the setting to fix the error, and then revalidate the answer file.

  4. On the File menu, click Save Answer File. Save the file as Unattend.xml.

Step 7: Create a Configuration Set

In this step, you create a configuration set that will gather all of the resource files that you specified in your answer file into one location.

  1. In Windows SIM, on the Tools menu, select Create Configuration Set.

    The Create Configuration Set window opens.

  2. Specify a destination location where you intend to publish the configuration set.

  3. Select the location of the $OEM$ folder you created, and then click OK.

Next Step

The next step is to build a master installation by using Windows Setup and your configuration set. The configuration set can be stored on a removable media, such as a USB flash drive (UFD), or placed on a network share. For more information, see Walkthrough: Deploy Windows by Using a Configuration Set.

See Also