Automation / RIS (Remote Installation Services)

Part of what I do for the company I work for is automation of everything. I administer the RIS server as well as all of the images on it. I create SMS, MSI, MST, and other forms of automation packages that require no user interaction at all. I also create batch scripts to automate tasks. I have spent well over the last year researching every automation route available. I would like to share my knowledge with others. I would like to use this thread as a way for others to ask questions about these methods so that I might help them. Please feel free to post any questions about automation, RIS, network installation, unattended installations from CDs, or creation of automated packages for software.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with some of these technologies I will take a second to explain them.

RIS (Remote Installation Services) is a Windows 2000 server that allows you to boot to your network and by answering a series of questions (usually information about authentication, computer name and image) kick off an automated installation of Windows 2000 or Windows XP.

MSI packages are MicroSoft Installer Packages.

SMS packages are packages created by SMS Installer.

MST is MicroSoft Transform files. They are what programs such as Office uses to automate installation.

Alright... Hit me! I will do my best to answer any questions in a prompt manner.
Just wanted to add...

You would be amazed at how much time it saves you to automate things. When I first began with my company we used to build our PCs from scratch, manually installing everything. If you were lucky you could get maybe 3 done in a day, if you did them at the same time. Now, after I have automated everything, we can build 16 PCs at a time (KVM switch has 16 ports, otherwise it would be more) and it takes about an hour for them to complete. You could easily build 100+ in a day.


Folding Team
I could probably ask you alot of questions if I knew what to ask. Can't you just write down everything you know (yeah tricky I know) and make a home page out of it? I can host it if you wish. :)

Well one thing I want to know is how to auto-install XP Home with unique keys on different hardware, possibly with custom drivers and apps. Is it even possible?
Zedric: I am going to work on that, but I am interested in what people want to know. Feel free to shoot off some questions until then. Challenge me! :-D
how to auto-install XP Home
You could use many methods. You could create an unattended disk or you could use RIS (if you have 2000 Server)

unique keys
Not quite sure exactly what you mean.

on different hardware
most definately possible using both an unattended CD install, network install or RIS.

possibly with custom drivers and apps

Is it even possible?
nothing is impossible.
I guess what you really want to hear is not that it is possible, but how to do it, right? I am at work now so I will tackle this later this evening when I get home. Let me know which method you wish to use. CD, network or RIS.


Folding Team
"unique keys" means every computer has it's own (different) Licence key (as in computer shop, not company computer fixing-center).

And I don't have a RIS (just a little Linux can) so network and CD then I guess. :)
Well, being that I am not very versed with Linux, I could help you with an install from a Windows network, but doing so from linux wouldn't be easy for me. I am sure it's possible though.

So, you are wanting an OEM solution then? That's possible as well. I have never done it myself but I do not see why not. I'll give it a look-at and see what I can do.


Folding Team
Yeah I guess it's OEM... (what would the difference be?)

But for network, does the server have to do more than a Windows share (which the Linux can do and does)? Or do you have to net boot off of it?

It's just on Linux on the network btw. The rest are WinXP.

Looks like enough to keep you occupied for a while though. :)
Well.. if you could create a boot disk to map that location then it would work as long as it emulates a windows share, I guess. It would have to be a windows bootdisk however because you have to execute the windows setup program.


Folding Team
Not a problem. :)

I'm using Samba to make Windows shares on the Linux. And it being a Windows floppy feels kinda given. Or even a Windows boot CD, just without the good stuff (for customizability).


Folding Team
On a side note, totally OT: You can even use Samba as a Windows Domain Controller. I just never figured out how... :)


Ya man that would be sweet to make a homepage. I am currently just a desktop support guy at my work but I do create images via Powerquest DeployCenter and Ghost. I used Winbatch + Compiler/Autobot for simple installs. I'm not a programmer at all but would love to automate my tasks! as it gives me more time to browse the internet haha. If you could point out some products or web pages to visit it would be cool.
The info you provided above is also great and someday I hope to get to the point where you are in this gig.




Does anyone have some good URL's for MSI how-to's? Just ordered the new Wise Windows Installer and need to read up on creating MSI's. Thanks