How to Install Device Drivers During Windows 8 Install Unattended

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Windows 8 contains a set of generic drivers that will allow your hardware to work with basic functions, but the drivers from the specific hardware manufacturer are usually required to make those pieces of hardware work properly. Manually installing those drivers after a Windows 8 installation can be a tedious affair, especially when you’re deploying multiple installations. Here is how you can add the drivers to the Windows 8 installation process, allowing them to be installed automatically, without added input with the unattended.xml file.

 

The Windows SIM GUI

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The unattended.xml file, which is also known as an answer file, is a special file that is used during a command line call of Windows setup that gives the install utility some extra parameters to administer during the install process. In our case, these extra parameters are the drivers we want to have the installation utility install automatically so we can perform other duties. In order to create an unattended.xml file, you will need Microsoft’s Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM). Windows SIM allows GUI based interface for the creation of unattended answer file.

How to Create an Unattended.XML File

Step 1: Add Source Files to Distribution Share/Network Share Drives

Create unique folders on the network drive(s) where the device drivers will reside and copy the necessary files and folders over to it.

Step 2: Create a Windows Catalog File (.clg)

The catalog file needs to be created from an existing Windows image. The catalog file is used by Windows SIM in order to display the available packages and components that you can include in your answer or unattended file. Contained in the image file are settings that are configurable that can be changed after the package or component is included in the answer file.

Step 3: Create New Blank Answer File

In file menu of Windows SIM, select “New Answer File.”

Step 4: Add Proper Component to Proper Config Pass

This is where you add the components that allow you to add the paths to the device drivers that you put on the network shares. Locate and expand the “Microsoft-Wndows-PnPCustomizationWinPE” node. From here, click “DevicePaths” and select the option to” Insert New PathAndCredentials.” You will need to add a new PathAndCredentials list item for each location. If adding more than one location, you need to increment the “Key” value for each path.

Step 5: Insert Proper Values

Locate the “Microsoft-Windows-PnPCustomizationWinPE component, insert the proper path to the desired device drivers and the credentials (username, domain, and password) for the network shares that contain the driver files. Repeat this step for each PathAndCredentials item you have.

Save the file, and you’re finished. This method is for adding the device drivers to the Windows PE configuration pass of setup, but it is also possible to add them to the auditSystem pass, and using DPInst.

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  • Jesus

    Hi Jeremy. Thank you for this post. It is very useful.

    I am familiar with creating an answer file but there are others who may not be and you should consider adding information about the install.wim file from the source folder of the installation media which is needed to create the catalog file in step two.

    Also, I have always added my drivers using pnputil so I am curious about the format in which the drivers on the network share need to be in. Most manufacturers provide drivers as self-extracting zip files which give you inf and other various files. I am assuming that the drivers need to be extracted and placed in individual folders on the network share and the paths added using DevicePaths.

    Thanks for your help.

    J.