Create an Answer File for Windows XP in Setup Manager

Before you start

Objectives: Learn how to create an answer file for unattended setup by using Setup Manager in Windows XP.

Prerequisites: you have to know the basics of automated Windows installation.

Key terms: file, create, setup, windows, answer, option, user, choose, case, screen, manager, option

Setup Manager

We can find Setup Manager on the Windows XP installation CD. We have to unpack it from the “” file which is located in the “SUPPORT\TOOLS” folder. In our case our CD-ROM is on the D: drive.


When we open the file, among other files we will see a “setupmgr.exe” file. This is our Setup Manager application, and now we need to extract it to some folder on our computer. Simply right click it, and select the Extract option. In our case we will extract it to our Desktop. Now we can run the Setup Manager by opening the setupmgr.exe file. When we first run it, the wizard will automatically run. It will ask us if we want to create a new answer file or modify an existing one. In our case we will create a new file.

 New File

Create New File

On the next screen we have to choose the type of answer file that we want to create. We can create a “Unattend.txt” file, “Sysprep.inf” file or a .sif file. If we want to create an unattended setup, we can create an unattend.txt file or Winnt.sif file (Winnt.sif is used for CD-based installations). For Sysprep setup we will create Sysprep.inf file, and we can create a .sif file if we will use Remote Installation Services. In our case we will choose an Unattended setup option.

 Type Of File

Type Of File

On the next screen we can choose the Windows version for which we will create an answer file. In our case we will choose the Windows XP Professional.

 Windows Version

Windows Version

Now we have to select the type of user interaction we want. “User controlled” option provides default options and the end user can change them during the installation. “Fully automated” option requires no user interaction at all. In this case we will specify all values in the answer file. With “Hidden pages” option we provide answers for certain setup pages, and those pages are then hidden from the end user. “Read only” option makes all answers visible, but the user can’t change them. In “GUI attended” option the GUI portion of the setup runs normally, while the text portion of the setup is automated.

In our case we will select the “Hidden pages” option. This way we will set only some options, while the user will have to enter all the options that we didn’t enter in our answer file.

 User Interaction

User Interaction Level

On the next screen we can choose to create a new distribution share, modify existing one or select to set up Windows from a CD. The thing is, Setup Manager can create a distribution share on our network with the required Windows source files. After that we can also add files to that share to further customize our installation. In our case we will select the “Set up from a CD” option. That means that we will take Windows installation CD to each workstation and start the installation with the CD-ROM.

 Distribution Share

Distribution Share Option

After this we will see a menu with many different options that we can customize. On the left we can choose different configuration screens that we want to edit for Windows setup. On the right we have to provide the information for the particular screen. For example, for the first screen we will enter the organization “Utilize Windows”. We will leave the Name box empty, which means that the name will have to be entered during the installation by the end user.

 Name and Organization

Name And Organization

When we click Next, we will move to the next screen on which we can enter configuration for our answer file. The next interesting screen is “Computer Names”. If we will install many computers which will reside on the same network, they have to have unique names. On this screen we can choose a text file which contains computer names, or we can choose to automatically generate computer names based on organization name.

 Computer Names

Computer Names

We should also configure default administrator password, so that administrators can always log on to all computers that will be installed. Notice that we can encrypt that password in an answer file. We can also choose to join all computers to the domain. When we join a domain, we can also create a computer account in that particular domain, and for that we will need a user account that has permissions to add a computer to the domain.

Other options that we can configure are dialing options, regional settings, languages, browser and shell settings, installation folder, network printers, etc. In the end, when we click Finish, we will have to save our unattend.txt file.

Save File

Save File

Remember that if we plan to use our answer file with a CD-base installations, we have to name it “Winnt.sif”. Winnt.sif than has to be copied to a Floppy disk, so that it can be used with a CD-ROM when we install Windows XP.