Perform An Unattended Install of MSDE

Monday Sep 18th 2000 by Danny Lesandrini

Danny Lesandrini presents an article with instructions for perfoming an unattended (or silent) installation of MSDE.

What is involved?

About 6 months ago I received the Visual Studio Plus Pack, which included the Windows 2000 Developer's Readiness Kit and MSDE for Visual Studio. One of the most interesting links was to the article with instructions for perfoming an unattended (or silent) installation of MSDE. Although never having perfomed such an installation before, with the help of the article, I had prepared and executed a script within the hour.

Now, that's not to say that there's nothing to it. As I was preparing this article, I returned to MSDN to collect information about performing an unattended install. I was quickly overwhelmed by the amount of information and the seemingly endless options and command line switches. (Links to some of the more helpful pages are provided at the end of this article.) Rather than trying to exlain every possible install option, I'll simply describe the steps I took to create my first silent install of MSDE.

The first step is to locate and, if desired, edit the iss file that will describe all of the installation options you wish to apply. The file Unattend.iss automates a typical install of MSDE and is located in the same folder as the MSDEx86 executable. A complete explanation of each option is beyond the scope of this article, but you can read about them in the MSDN article, Customizing SQL/MSDE Unattended Installation Files Assuming we wish to accept all the default options, we can proceed to the command line switches required to execute the setup routine.

Command Line to Execute Unattended Install

The following syntax is used to install MSDE using all of the default installation settings. You must always indicate the fully qualified path to the .iss file on the command line. The following text was used to install MSDE on my laptop:

	E:\MSDE\MSDEx86.exe -s -a -f1 "E:\MSDE\unattend.iss"
As stated before, there are numerous command line switches that may be applied to the installation, but only these three were used. Notice the explanation for these as provided by MSDN:

-s Silent Mode (required for unattended installations, suppresses any installation-related windows or dialogs)
-a Append (passes any subsequent parameters to installation executable after it is unpackaged)
-fl Setup Initialization File (used to pass the path and file name of a setup initialization file)

How to Determine When Unattended SQL 7.0/MSDE 1.0 Setup is Complete

An unattended installation of SQL Server 7.0 or MSDE 1.0 does not provide any graphical feedback of installation progress or of success or failure. If you want to determine when an unattended setup has completed or get additional information about the cause of a failed install you can use the files Sqlstp.log and Setup.log, which are automatically created in the Windows directory during the setup.


My original idea for this article was to explain the details of the unattended or silent instalation of MSDE. After examining the fine articles at MSDN, I realized that I would be doing nothing more than reinventing the wheel, and probably not doing as good a job.

The purpose of this article evolved into that of
    1) showing the reader how simple it is to prepare a simplified installation of MSDE on the client machine
    2) providing resources to customize that installation to meet your particular needs.

Although perhaps not a comprehensive explanation, I hope the above has been helpful.

MSDN Links regarding Unattended Install of MSDE

Technical FAQ - Deploying MSDE Solutions
Technical FAQ - Installing MSDE
PRB: MSDE Unattended Installation Needs Full Path Name of the .iss File
INF: Customizing SQL/MSDE Unattended Installation Files
Deploying Database Solutions
Appendix B: SQL Server 7.0 and MSDE 1.0 System Requirements
Appendix D: Setup-Related Files
Appendix E: Installation Executable Command-Line Parameters
Appendix G: Known Issues Related to Setup and Unattended Installations

See All Articles by Columnist Danny Lesandrini

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