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Now that we’ve imported an application we should adjust it’s Parameters to allow for an Automated install.   If you working on a Microsoft Office Product, skip this section.   An automated Office install takes a special explanation unto it’s own.  It’s not difficult but I’d rather focus on it all by itself.

Let’s choose an application we’ve imported (in this example I imported the “Adobe Flash Player”) by Right clicking on it and choosing properties to see what the configuration looks like

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This will pull up a screen with three tabs.  “General", “Details” and “Dependencies”.  We’re going to focus on the “Details” in this section since it contains the part we’re truly interested in, the “Quiet Install Command” line.

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Now a word of warning for those of you who just got your hopes up.  Just by putting something there does not make MDT yell out “SHAZAAM” and make a silent install magically happen.  You will have to find what to replace this with to make this executable run in either a “SILENT”, “AUTOMATIC”, “PASSIVE” or whatever wording you think is appropriate for “Run this darn thing with no user interaction required”

For the most part we can break into five groups.

  • An Executable with a documented parameter
  • MSIEXEC.EXE based applications (.MSI file)
  • An Executable that HAS a parameter but not well documented
  • An Executable that HAS no parameter but happens to be a wrapper for an MSI file
  • Applications that must be captured on a reference workstation

The cool part is there really ISN’T too many other scenarios and once you get the knack you can easily repeat these with almost ANY application. 

Well except Microsoft BOB.  I couldn’t find the Silent install for that.

In my experience for the most part I have managed to hit the first two with great success.  Those are the easy ones.  The latter two occasionally.  The fifth situation calls for using an Application like “Wininstall LE” (or various other application packaging software solutions) to capture the application AS it installs.

If you get into this scenario you will need what is known as a  “reference workstation”.  It is ideally a physical or virtual version of a typical workstation in your environment that you can rollback.  With Virtualization this is now a very cost effective reality to most IT people.

What these particular applications really do (to over simplify it) is record where the application dumps the files, what registry changes they make and anything DLL’s that they register.   This recording is generally turned into an MSI file which now allows it to fall into the first two categories.

The advantage of a solution such as this, is it allows automated deployment of applications which were not designed for it.  The drawback (at least in my experience) is it generally does NOT cross operating systems well unless they are very close cousins (Vista/Windows 7) (2000/Windows XP)

Most executables designed to install will have some nice simple command line parameters such as /silent /quiet /install or (haven’t seen this one yet) /doitrealquietsotheuserdontwakeup

In many cases you can find out quickly be (believe it or not) running the application with a /? or /help or even just /jibberish to cause it to crash and complain you didn’t supply parameter /x /y or /z

Most of the bigger vendors will have their stuff well documented.  But in some cases they don’t.  Hey it happens.  But often I’ve found the ones that don’t document it turn out to be just running the EXE as a wrapper that extracts  an MSI file at any rate.   Most of the time taking a quick look in your personal %TEMP% folder while the application is installing for NEW folders created just about the time you started the install. 

Most of you will (just by sheer co-incidence and often a bit of luck) find the ACTUAL folder the application extracted to including it’s MSI file.  Grab all those goodies before the application finishes the install, releases you’re watching it and cleans up it’s mess.    Having that version of the installer I find makes deploying the application far easier

With an MSI file it’s actually usually quite easy to install

Simply keying in

MSIEXEC /?

will show you all the wonderful parameters available to you.   But rather than getting a dizzy spell I’ll give you the “Coles Notes” version.

MSIEXEC.EXE /I FILENAME.MSI /Q /PASSIVE

This is the most basic line you can pass to launch a MSI file called FILENAME.MSI that will generate a non interactive session with a simple progress bar as it installs.  Is some situations you will need to pass parameters to the MSI file to have it default certain options (Like the name of a server or IP address it should point to).   If you get to this level and have support with the vendor, save time and ASK.

If you don’t grab an application like “InstEdit” or any cheap MSI editor, make a copy of the MSI and browse the contents to see the variable names.    This is a bit of an art unto itself but if you find the MSI file has an entry called WEBSERVER that has a NULL value and should the name of the Webserver your application should point to you can assign it a value externally by keying in (on the same line)

MSIEXEC.EXE /I FILENAME.MSI /Q /PASSIVE WEBSERVER=192.168.1.42

Of course if you don’t have that particular property available you’ll probably trip an error, cause the application to stare you down and wag a digital finger at you.

Now here is the easy part.  ONCE you have figured out what command line to run to make your application just putt along? You need only edit one line in the configuration for your application in MDT.  Go back to that details Window and replace the line within “Quiet Install Command” with the executable line you’ve figured out.

In the case of the Adobe Flash Player 10 it was particularly stubborn.  It wouldn’t tell me anything of use but I got my answer easily doing a Bing on “Adobe Flash Player silent install” and got the results from the best resource.  Real people who use the software. 

This is the other thing you’ll find out.  JUST BING IT!  You’ll probably find you don’t need to re-invent the wheel to make it happen and others may have solve the problem for you.

So it turns out the parameter was pretty simple.  Add a “-install” to the end of the application.

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And voila.  This application (Adobe Flash Player 10) is now an available resource to MDT to be used as a silent install.

Next time we’ll look at Customizing various Office products for an Automated install

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