Windows® Setup installs the Windows operating system. Windows Setup uses a technology called Image-based Setup (IBS) that provides a single, unified process with which all customers—including OEMs, corporations, and retail customers—can install Windows. IBS performs clean installations and upgrades of Windows and is used in both client and server installations.
Windows Setup also provides the capability to customize Windows during installation by using unattended Setup settings.
In This Section
- Windows Setup Benefits
- Windows Setup
- Windows Setup
Related to Windows Setup
For a list of supported platforms, see Deployment Tools Supported Platforms.
Windows Setup Benefits
Windows Setup provides a quick and convenient way to install Windows. By reducing deployment and installation time, OEMs can reduce manufacturing costs, and corporations can more easily deploy Windows throughout their organization.
Windows Setup Features
Windows Setup includes several features that facilitate faster and more stable installations.
- Faster installations and upgrades.
Because Windows Setup is image-based, you can install and
upgrade Windows faster and more easily. You can perform a clean
installation by deploying the Windows image to destination
computers. You can also perform quick and easy upgrades by
installing a new image onto an existing Windows installation. The
previous Windows settings are protected during the
- Better stability. Windows Setup
uses Image-based setup technology that improves the stability and
consistency of a Windows installation. It uses a file-based image,
called a Windows image (.wim) container, for installation.
- Improved Windows image management.
Windows images are now stored in a single .wim file. A .wim file
can store multiple instances of the Windows operating system in a
single, compressed file.
- Streamlined installation.
Windows Setup is optimized to enable the manufacturing and
deployment scenarios used by OEMs and corporations. As a result,
installation takes less time, with fewer tasks to finish before
installation is complete.
Common Installation Scenarios
Common installation scenarios include performing clean installations, upgrades, and unattended installations.
The most common scenario for Windows Setup is performing a custom installation. In this scenario, you install Windows onto a computer that does not have an operating system, or has a previous version of Windows. This scenario consists of the following stages:
- Run Setup.exe from your Windows product DVD or network
- Select the Custom installation type.
- If you are installing from a previous installation of Windows,
Windows Setup creates a local boot directory and copies all of
the required Windows Setup files to this directory.
- Windows Setup reboots, installs and configures Windows
components, and, after installation is complete, launches
Custom installations do not migrate any settings or preferences from previously installed versions of Windows. Files from previous Windows versions are copied to a \Windows.old directory. All data from the Windows installation including the Users, Program Files, and Windows directories are saved to this directory
Windows Setup can also perform upgrades from a supported operating system.
This scenario includes the following stages:
- Run Setup.exe on the previous version of Windows.
- Select the Upgrade installation type. Windows Setup
upgrades the system and protects your files, settings, and
preferences during the installation process.
- Windows Setup reboots and restores your protected files,
settings, and preferences. Windows Setup then launches
Upgrades are used to upgrade a single computer to Windows® 7. Windows 7 also supports migrating user data to a new system.
Automated installations enable you to customize a Windows installation and remove the need for a user to interact with Windows Setup. By using Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) or the Component Platform Interface (CPI) APIs, you can create one or more customized Windows installations that can then be deployed across many different hardware configurations.
The automated installation, also called an unattended installation, scenario includes the following stages:
- Use Windows SIM or the CPI APIs to create an unattended
installation answer file, typically called Unattend.xml. This
answer file contains all of the settings that you configure in the
- From Windows PE, a previous version of Windows, or another
preinstallation environment, run Setup.exe with the explicit path
to the answer file. If you do not include the path to the answer
file, Setup.exe searches for a valid answer file in several
specific locations. For more information, see How Windows Setup
- Windows Setup then installs the operating system and
configures all settings listed in the answer file. Additional
applications, device drivers, and updates can also be installed
during Windows Setup. After the operating system is installed,
Setup launches Windows Welcome.
Windows Setup Best Practices
The following section describes some of the best practices to use with Windows Setup.
- Verify that there is enough space for
Windows Setup temporary files. If you install Windows from
a previous version of Windows, such as Windows XP, verify that
there is enough space on the disk for temporary Windows Setup
files. The space required may vary, but it can be up to
500 megabytes (MB).
- Previous Windows installations are moved
to a Windows.old folder. If you install Windows over a previous
Windows installation, all previous Windows files and directories
are moved to a Windows.old folder, including the contents of the
Users, Program Files, and Windows directories. You can access your
data in the Windows.old folder after Windows Setup completes.
If you have additional folders not in the Users, Program Files, or
Windows directories, those folders are not moved. For example, if
you have a folder called C:\Drivers, that folder will not be moved
to the Windows.old folder. As a best practice, you should back up
your data before you upgrade.
- Review the Windows log files. If you
experience problems during Windows Setup, review the log files
in %WINDIR%\panther. You will be able to identify and troubleshoot
many issues by reviewing the installation log files. For more
information, see Windows Setup
Windows Setup Limitations
The following sections describe some of the limitations of Windows Setup. Review this section before running Windows Setup.
- Enable EFI mode to install to an EFI-based
computer. If you are installing Windows to an EFI-based
computer, you must enable EFI mode in the computer's firmware in
both attended and unattended installations. You must boot to 64-bit
EFI-mode preinstallation media (64-bit Windows PE in EFI mode,
or 64-bit Windows Setup in EFI mode). You cannot install
Windows to UEFI-based computers in BIOS mode.
- Applications might require a consistent
drive letter. If you install custom applications to your
Windows image, we recommend that you install Windows to the same
drive letter on the destination computer because some applications
require a consistent drive letter. Uninstallation, servicing, and
repair scenarios might not function appropriately if the drive
letter of the system does not match the drive letter specified in
the application. This limitation applies to both the ImageX tool
and Windows Setup.
- Deploying multiple images to multiple
partitions. If you capture and deploy multiple images on
multiple partitions, the following requirements must be
- The partition structure, bus location, and
number of disks must be identical on the reference and destination
- The partition types (primary, extended, or
logical) must match. The active partition on the reference computer
must match that of the destination computer.
- The partition structure, bus location, and number of disks must be identical on the reference and destination computers.
- Installing Custom .wim files requires a
description value in the .wim file. When you create a custom
.wim file, Windows Setup requires that you always include a
description value . If a .wim file does not include a description
value, the image may not install properly. You can provide a
description value when you use the imagex command with the
/capture option. If you install a .wim file that does not
have a description value, recapture the image and provide a valid
description value. For more information, see the ImageX Technical
Technologies Related to Windows Setup
Windows System Image Manager
With Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM), you can customize Windows images and their settings. You can select the settings you want to configure and then create an answer file to automate your installations. This answer file is used during Windows Setup to apply your configurations to Windows. In the answer file, you can specify changes to default operating system components and add software such as drivers or product updates. For more information, see Windows System Image Manager Technical Reference.
System Preparation Tool (Sysprep)
The Sysprep tool prepares a Windows installation for disk imaging, system testing, or delivery to a customer. Sysprep can be used to remove system-specific data from a Windows image, such as the security identifier (SID). After removing unique system information from an image, you can capture that Windows image by using a separate utility, such as the ImageX tool, and use it to deploy on multiple computers. In addition, the Sysprep tool can configure the Windows image to boot to audit mode or Windows Welcome. Audit mode enables you to test the integrity of the operating system and to install additional applications and device drivers. Windows Welcome is the first user experience that enables end users to customize Windows. For more information, see Sysprep Technical Reference.
Unattended Installation Answer File
An answer file is an .xml file that you can create by using Windows SIM. The answer file enables configuration of initial Windows settings as well as the addition of drivers, software updates, and other applications. The answer file enables you to customize Windows Setup parameters, such as specifying disk configurations, and language settings. Answer files are also used to customize the Windows operating system configurations. For example you can change the default values in Internet Explorer®, add device drivers, and configure Windows Firewall settings.
For Windows Vista®, Windows 7, Windows Server® 2008 and Windows Server® 2008 R2, the single answer file replaces all answer files that Windows XP used: Unattend.txt, Winbom.ini, Oobeinfo.ini, and Sysprep.inf. In addition, the Oobe.xml content file is used to configure Windows Welcome.
Windows Deployment Services
Windows Deployment Services is a network-based installation server that enables corporations to remotely administer and to deploy the latest operating system by using Windows PE and Windows Deployment Services server. This deployment scenario can be fully automated and is customizable and scalable. For more information, see Deploy Windows Using Windows Deployment Services.
Windows Preinstallation Environment
Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) is a minimal Win32® deployment environment. You use Windows PE to boot a computer without an operating system. By default, Windows PE runs in RAM. For more information, see Windows PE Technical Reference.
ImageX is a command-line tool that enables the capture, modification, and application of file-based Windows images (.wim) for deployment. For more information, see ImageX Technical Reference.