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Reviewing methods of automatically installing Windows and a set of software
Alex AbramovskiyNobody likes to install and configure software, everyone likes to use it, work with it, install all kinds of add-ons, plug-ins, skins. That is, customize software, make it suit their tastes and preferences. This process is routine, uninteresting, takes time and effort and so there are very few people who like to do it again and again. But sometimes you have to do it, for example, after your operating system crashes or you have a hard disk failure. Everything starts from the beginning: operating system installation, driver installation, service pack installation, software installation, then comes tuning the operating system, software configuration and localization, entering registration data (in commercial software)... It is okay if you have all software at hand on disks and you have to install it only on one computer. But then you will have to do the entire configuration manually anyway. And what if you have no distribution packages or your registration keys are lost? You will have to contact the developer's support service. That is when you are in for some nervous work involving searching for the necessary software and restoring the working environment you had before. The following question emerges: how to automate it? In practice, there are only three ways to solve the problem of automatic Windows and software installation.

Use the standard automatic installation features for each program separately (silent installation keys)
  1. Write a script for automatic installation.
  2. Create a bootable disk for installing Windows and other software.
  3. Let us take each method and tools implementing it in detail.

1. Standard software tools. Using silent installation keys (silent keys).

A lot of installers allow you to automatically install software using special keys (command line parameters). The user does not need to do anything in this case. All values will be set to their defaults. Every installer has its own set of such keys.


InstallShield: /s setup.exe /s
Windows Installer: /qn REBOOT=ReallySuppress setup.msi "/qn REBOOT=ReallySuppress"
Inno Setup: /VERYSILENT setup.exe /VERYSILENT

+ high installation speed without user attendance

- the user has to know for sure which installer and key are used during the software installation.
some installers do not support silent installation.

2. Writing a script for automatic installation.

Special programming languages (scripting languages) are used to write scripts. The most popular is AutoIt. Its main purpose is automating work with the Windows graphical interface.

AutoIt can:

  • Run Windows and DOS programs
  • Simulate keystrokes and their combinations
  • Simulate mouse moves and clicks
  • Move, resize windows and control their parameters
  • Directly interact with window control elements (get/modify a caption, move, disable windows and so on)
  • Work with the clipboard controlling its text contents
  • Read, modify and create registry keys and values
  • AutoIt includes a script interpreter and compiler. If you write and debug your own script, you can easily convert it into a regular exe file that already runs as a standalone file.

+ writing flexible scripts
+ creating a standalone exe file
- having to learn the scripting language and the Windows operating system.

3. Creating an automatic Windows and software installation disk.

There are special program for creating an automatic Windows and software installation disk. The most well-known is MultiSet.

MultiSet. The program can create a bootable disk with the following operating systems: Windows 2000/XP/2003. It also allows you to integrate some service packs and, if necessary, remove some components from the operating system (Media Player, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, MSN Explorer, Messenger, etc.). As a result, you get the ISO image of a bootable disk with Windows.

MultiSet – the program for creating bootable disks for the automatic installation of Windows and sets of software. As a result, you get bootable disks of three types:

  • Automatic Windows installation
  • Automatic software installation
  • Automatic Windows and software installation. Since MultiSet can run disks of any types with parameters, the two above methods can be easily integrated in it (using silent keys and executing a written script from AutoIt).

Advantage MultiSet:

The Academy of Modern Information Technologies has created a special course dealing with unattended Windows and software installation. The aim of the course is to provide students with theoretical and practical skills allowing them to create a bootable Windows distribution package that will be automatically installed on a PC with maximum number of drivers and software without the user's attendance. The MultiSet software is studied within this course. This program is a leader in the field of automating unattended software installation. Upon completing the course, students will get enough knowledge to create a completely automatic Windows distribution package that will be installed on a personal computer without a single mouse click and then automatically install all drivers (these drivers work for 95% of personal computers) and automatically install all software necessary for this or that computer. MultiSet became the de facto standard in this field long ago that is why educational institutions choose this product.
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