Windows Server 2012 Essentials Unattended Installation (using unattended.xml)

Posted by Paul Braren on Jul 22 2012 in
  • HomeServer
  • HowTo
  • Windows
  • windows-server-2012-essentials-unattended-installation


    Interested in learning some of the steps to being an OEM custom PC builder, or Windows Deployment automation sysadmin? If so, read onward.

    I've used WinPE building tools in the past, to create DVD ISO images that allowed me to boot Windows, and/or use backup and restore utilities from that customized-for-server boot environment.

    Recently, I became interested in getting Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials to install without asking me a lot of questions.  See also and Video: Domain Complexity can be Entirely Hidden in WS2012e.

    The manual questions I'm trying to avoid are shown here under Hyper-V and here under ESXi 5. Given the license key of M4YNK-GV7CR-GPDCP-4KKJX-2YPP2 for this beta is public, I cannot think of any reason to not go ahead and publish the fully functional autounattend.xml file I created (see below), given I've done all the hard work already, and got it to work just fine.


    I got started with this article:
    Saturday, July 7, 2012, Derek Seaman's Blog, Windows Server 2012 Unattended Installation

    which told me to kick off the download of the required  Windows ADK (Assessment and Deployment Kit) from here. Warning, it takes a while, it's huge (2.2GB in my new C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.0 folder, 4.31GB overall).

    While downloading, I watched this video for an approximate idea of what I was about to take on:
    Step 1: Create an Answer File, Windows 7 Walkthroughs

    Then I browsed this Microsoft Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Important Information for Using the Windows Server 2012 Essentials ADK which mentions how cfg.ini works as well.

    I quickly got bored of reading all this stuff, so I rolled up my sleeves and created my own file, and tested that it works without all the up-front basic install questions.


    0) Before using this autounattend.xml, beware:

    • it auto-deletes all disks and partitions, then goes ahead and installs (best for virtual machine use)!
    • it's set to Eastern Standard Time, which you can edit appropriately by using the left column of this Microsoft TimeZone table
    • it contains an admin password of Password which is apparently overwritten with Admin@123 anyway, according to Important Information for Using the Windows Server 2012 Essentials ADK.
    • it contains a Company Name of COMPANY
    • it contains a computer name of WS2012E, which you can change, or remove entirely, for an autogenerated, randomized computer name instead
    • UserLocale is set for en-US, you can change this, but you should probably download and use the full ADK yourself if you wish to make such more-advanced changes, rather than a plain text editor which is error prone
      my path is set to
      for using the ADK for edits, you can ignore that, and that sentence is ignored by the actual install anyway
    • be prepared to perhaps have to make some tweaks once Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials becomes Windows Server 2012 Essentials, although the "InstallFrom" parameter is already "Windows Server 2012 Essentials" so maybe we're all set, as-is, won't know until tested with RTM

    1) Download autounattend.xml from here:

    Right-click, Save As autounattend.xml

    2) Inject autounattend.xml into your install ISO:

    Add the autounattend.xml to the root of your WindowsServer2012Essentials-Beta-English-Install.iso downloaded from Microsoft here, using an ISO editor such as UltraISO, and save the ISO with a new name, such as:

    3) Boot your system with a DVD made from this ISO (blank hard drives), or boot your virtual machine with this ISO mounted:

    sit back and watch it fly, takes all of 5 minutes with a RAID0 of 2 SATA3 SSDs, seen in this video below: