MDT 2010: Managing Answer Files

Microsoft Windows installation can be automated by the use of answer files. In previous editions, there was a Unattend.txt. These days the answer files are all xml based so you will need to author an Unattend.xml file.

MDT takes the headache out of this because it generates an answer file each time you create a new task sequence. You can customise this answer file using Windows System Image Manager

Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM) creates and edits the Setup answer files. Each answer file is configured to a specific WIM image. Windows SIM will generate an index of the image into a catalog file with a .clg file extension. This shows what components exist in the associated wim file so you can configure the image specific settings. (Note: An x64 machine cannot generate an x86 catalog file.)

To make sense of Windows answer files, you will need an understanding of deployment Configuration Passes. Configuration Passes describe each of the phases that Windows takes when performing an installation. Not all passes are performed during a setup some Configuration Passes will only run after a Sysprep operation. You could also create an unattend.xml to configure the WindowsPE environment.

Configuration Passes

To edit an answer file

Right-Click the Task Sequence and select properties.


Select the OS Info tab and click the Edit Unattend.xml button.


From there you are in Windows SIM and can edit the Unattend.xml file. Many settings in the file are overwritten by MDT during a deployment by using the propertys in the customsettings.ini. I would check to see if there is a setting first before making a change. I have blogged extensively on this topic here. Another great reference is the Unattended Windows Setup Reference on Technet.

About Andrew Barnes

A Scripting and Deployment Specialist.
This entry was posted in MDT 2010 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to MDT 2010: Managing Answer Files

  1. Ben says:

    is there anyway to replace this unattended file with one that has been pre made?


    • The answer files are stored under D:\DeploymentShare\Control\WIN7-X86 where “WIN7-X86” is the name of the task sequence. There will be a separate answer file for every Operating System install task sequence.

      I would not recommend replacing the entire answer file as MDT has settings in the one it creates. So it just wont work to replace it.

      What exactly do you want to change? (I may have a quick way)


      • TofuCrew says:

        Wow, I’ve been looking everywhere for this answer!
        I have a Win2008R2x64 server deploying an x86 image and haven’t been able to find where that “edit unattend.xml” button points to! I’ve created a x86 VM, saved the catalog file, and imported it to my server so I can edit my unattend.xml

        I have a question. How would I set up power config options (monitor/timeout/ac – never, standby/timeout/ac – never) and make my deployed image autologon to “user1” after deployment?
        Right now I have a powershell script setting up powercfg options in a postinstall MDT task which is working. I also have a script that adds the autologon option to the registry but this is not working(Works if I manually add it).
        Any Help would be appreciated. Great Blog, is a lifesaver!


      • The methods you’ve chosen there are fine. The problem with the autoadminlogon is that MDT restores this after it finishes using it itself so you may be in trouble there. Perhaps if you put your reg key step at the very end you may have some success.


  2. TofuCrew says:

    I’ve tried 2 different approaches- both I put as the last step in the “State Restore” group.
    first I created a powershell script:

    Set-Location “HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\Currentversion\WinLogon”
    New-ItemProperty -Path $pwd.Path -Name “AutoAdminLogon” -Value 1 -PropertyType “String” -Force
    New-ItemProperty -Path $pwd.Path -Name “DefaultUserName” -Value “user1” -PropertyType “String” -Force
    New-ItemProperty -Path $pwd.Path -Name “DefaultPassword” -Value “” -PropertyType “String” -Force

    This doesn’t work!

    Then I exported the correct registry keys to an AutoLogon.reg file and made a “Run Command Line” task with the command line “reg import %SCRIPTROOT%\AutoLogon.reg”
    This also doesn’t work for me


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