Third Party Drivers in Remote Windows Installation

There is this great software for doing remote unattended Windows installs called, well, Unattended. It allows you to boot/install different windows versions without any intervention which is great if you are doing a number of Windows installs. This is a bit different than MSFN’s Unattended install which mainly is done off of CD media. MSFN’s site is still a great source of information on these types of installs but we are focusing on the network Unattended software since we are too lazy to have to/want to physically be at the datacenter to do the installs!

If the windows included does not include your drivers, then once unattended (I’ll refer to the sourceforge network version of unattended from now on) installs windows, you will not be able to use the network card to access the PC any more. Therefore, you need a way to install 3rd party drivers directly into the install I386 directory on your server. This article explains the process from a CD standpoint. But let me clarify for our network Unattended install.

First you need to locate the driver that the hardware needs to be usable on this system. Once you are positive which driver the system needs, place the files into


Where INSTALLDIR is the name of the windows version you are installing (w2k3 for example) and DRIVERNAME is a unique name for the driver.

Now, according to the previous article you may think that you need to modify the WINNT.SIF file in the I386 directory. However for our remote unattended install server, this file is not used. You need to modify the /usr/local/unattended/install/site/unattend.txt file.

In the [Unattended] section, add the following lines if you do not have them:

OemPreinstall = "Yes"
OemPnpDriversPath= "Drivers\DRIVERNAME;Drivers\SOMEOTHERDRIVER"
DriverSigningPolicy = Ignore

Add each driver using this syntax, separate them using the semi-colon. During the install, it will copy the files in the $OEM$\$1\Drivers directory to C:\Drivers, and because we placed the above lines in unattend.txt, Windows knows to use these drivers during the PNP phase of the install.

Also to clarify the driver types, there are 2 different kinds of drivers during the windows install. The TEXT (TXT) mode drivers are used in the initial phase of the install (like where you hit F6 to install 3rd party drivers), and then there are Plug-and-Play (PNP) mode drivers. The PNP drivers are loaded later in the install process once the system goes to set up the network configuration.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this!