WDS really is quite an unfriendly system. Clunky, fiddly, and prone ot failure without helpful error information. After updating some of my unattended files I was no longer able to carry out unattended installations, but have eventually solved the series of misleading errors
I had at least 3 different errors, all of which seem to be related. I am using my WDS server without a domain, but as I want to use multiple images (windows 7 and windows 10) and I want them to be unattended, I need multiple unattend files.
There is an unattend file for the PXE boot stage which sets things like partitions, and where I select which image I want to install. This is linked to the WDS server to make it work with the PXE boot. There have been no problems with this part. This file gets named autounattend.xml after you have linked it to the server
Then each image has an unattend file which gets renamed to ImageUnattend.xml and gets put inside the appropriate image folder. This is where I hit problems.
Several key things before you start which will help reduce problems.
1. Do not edit the files in the locations the server puts them. keep a copy somewhere else, edit that copy, and then relink them to the server through the WDS interface
2. Restart the WDS server after relinking the unattend files
3. Think about the permissions on the RemoteInstall share — by default these may not work for non-domain systems. I had to change mine
Despite having done all of these things I still got a couple of errors. The first was that my second unattend file just seemed to be completely ignored! I looked in the log files and found an error
Failed to process client unattend variables. Error code [0x8007000D]. I assumed this was caused by a misconfiguration somewhere, but after generating a new unattend file with Windows Answer File Generator (an online service) I then got a new error that setup couldn’t continue due to a problem with the answer file. So despite the error logs indicating that my unattend file couldn’t be accessed at all, it in fact could be accessed, so the fault must have been with the contents of the file.
So I now had 2 files, neither worked, but both had different errors!
I went back to my original file and remove some of the content and tried again. It worked! A copy of that file is at the bottom of this post.
I now had to figure out what the problem was with my original 2 files…
The easiest of the 2 was the file generated by the online service. This included a product key, but the product key must be a trial key for a retail or oem version of windows 7, and the version I have uses a MAK key. Make sure you change the product key if you use an answer file from the online generator
The issue with my original file were some comments that had been put in it. I don’t know how or when they got there but once removed it worked as expected so make sure you don’t have any comments in your file.
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