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Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 : Systems Management Server Installer Tools & Creating Installation Scripts

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3/15/2012 3:19:47 PM

Systems Management Server Installer Tools

Before we go into the details of actually using the SMS Installer utility, let’s look at the tools that SMS Installer uses to create and customize the SMS Installer executable files. To create and customize the installation scripts, SMS Installer uses two interfaces: the Installation Expert and Script Editor.

Installation Expert

The Installation Expert automatically creates a basic installation script using the reference computer’s configuration. The installation script contains commands that perform the actions necessary to carry out the installation. 

Once the basic script has been created, you can use Script Editor (discussed in the next section) to customize the installation script for specific user functions. However, you’ll find it much easier to generate the installation script using the Installation Expert. This technique allows you to create a basic installation script and switch between the Installation Expert and Script Editor to perform modifications. This approach also prevents potential loss of data that can occur if you initially create the installation script using Script Editor and then switch to the Installation Expert. The Installation Expert provides two methods for packaging script files: the Repackage Installation Wizard and the Watch Application Wizard. The application for which you’re creating the script file will determine which of these wizards you’ll use. The Installation Expert also provides several other tools to test and compile the installation script and to run the installation package. We’ll look at each tool in the following sections.

Repackage Installation Wizard

If the application you’re attempting to install currently contains a setup file, you might need to repackage the setup file along with the source files and any other support files for distribution to the target clients. You use the Repackage Installation Wizard to accomplish this task. In a single-computer environment, installation of an application typically requires running a setup program. More often than not, during the installation you’ll be asked for specific input concerning the setup. For a single workstation setup, this situation is fine. When we talk about distributing these applications to hundreds of users and we want to have control over the input selection, however, we need to provide the input to the setup by some other means. The repackaging process allows us to provide the answers to installation questions and set specific configurations that will apply to all our client machines. When we run the Repackage Installation Wizard, the reference computer is monitored for changes and a script file is generated from the changes made during setup.

Watch Application Wizard

You can use the Watch Application Wizard to create a customized installation file for those applications that don’t have their own setup programs by “watching” the files used while the application is run and creating a script from them. In many cases, such as with custom or proprietary applications, a setup file hasn’t been created for the application, and we’re faced with the problem of how to successfully distribute the application to the clients. The Watch Application Wizard creates an SMS Installer–generated executable file that’s used to install the program and all its supporting components, such as DLLs. The wizard runs the existing application on the reference computer and tracks the files being used by the application. Using this list of files, an installation script is created for the application.

The Watch Application Wizard is also useful for applications that make calls for Microsoft Visual Basic support files or run-time files. The repackaging process will catch all the application files, but not necessarily those called from outside the application directory. In this case you can use the Watch Application Wizard to look for these files and add them to the installation script for the application.


The SMS Installer compiler is used to create the self-extracting installation file. After you have created your installation script and made all the necessary modifications to the installation attributes, the script file is compiled into an executable file. This SMS Installer–generated file contains the script and all the necessary application files. It’s the final file that’s distributed throughout your organization.

Files created at compile time include the following (Testapp represents the file name you provided):

  • Testapp.exe The installation executable, including the script and all necessary application files in a compressed format.

  • Testapp.pdf and Testapp.sms The standard SMS package definition file used to distribute the SMS Installer–generated file to the target computers through SMS package distribution. Two versions of this file are created: one with the old .PDF extension used with earlier versions of SMS and supported in SMS 2.0 and one with the new, preferred .SMS extension adopted by Microsoft to avoid confusion with other market applications that use the .PDF extension.


    These files are created only if the Create Package Definition File option is selected in the SMS tab of the Installation Interface dialog box. 

  • Testapp.ipf Text version of the installation script used when making modifications to the script through the SMS Installer utility.

  • Testapp.wsm Additional working file used by the installation script to maintain changes made to the script before it gets compiled.


You use the Test tool to test the installation executable file without actually installing it. By running Test from the Installation Expert, you can preview how your setup script will actually run. Are the correct menus presented? Does the installation run unattended? These are the things we can test locally before distributing the installation package.

Keep in mind that Test doesn’t really install the application and run it. Test simply copies needed files such as help files and DLL files to the \Temp directory. As always, it’s good practice to select a pilot test group for testing the installation before distributing the package to your entire organization.


The Run tool lets you run the installation program on the reference computer. Run will test the SMS Installer–generated file exactly as it will run on the target computers. Run will install the application and make any changes to the system that are required, including registry modifications.


If you plan to run the installation on the reference computer, you’ll need to remove the application (along with any registry settings that were created or modified) that was installed during the repackaging process. Otherwise, the installation might fail when it attempts to create or write to directories needed for the installation.

Script Editor

You use Script Editor to edit the basic installation script generated by the Installation Expert or to create or modify your own installation script. Script Editor allows you to tune the installation script for customization and optimization. You can also modify such items as file locations, registry settings, and user prompts. You can also add many of the functions that can be manually configured through Script Editor to the script by configuring them in the Installation Expert. You can add some functions only through the Script Editor window. For example, you can configure uninstall support using either method, but you can configure support for rollback (which enables you to remove patches rather than uninstalling the application outright) only through Script Editor. 

Script Editor provides a much higher level of control over the action of the script. Learning to use this tool effectively takes a long time. It also requires an intimate understanding of how the application’s installation routine works—including what files and directories are modified, what registry entries are added or configured, what external DLL support is required, whether a restart is required, and what happens as a result.

Now that you have a working knowledge of the SMS Installer tools, let’s look at how to use SMS Installer to create the installation script.

Creating Installation Scripts

To begin the process of creating an installation script, start SMS Installer to launch the Installation Expert interface, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Installation Expert interface.

We’ll begin the process of creating an SMS Installer–generated executable by running the Repackage Installation Wizard. In this example we’ll create the Microsoft TechNet installation executable.

To create the installation executable, follow these steps:

In the Installation Expert interface, click Repackage to launch the Repackage Installation Wizard, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Repackage Installation Wizard page.

On the Repackage Installation Wizard page, you configure the name and path of the setup program used by the application for installation. You might also need to add any other command-line arguments that the setup program might need.

In the Directory list, configure any directories you want to be included in the list of directories to be scanned during the installation process. To add a drive or directory, click Change to open the Repackage Advanced Settings dialog box, shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. The Repackage Advanced Settings dialog box.

In the Directories To Scan section of the Files/Directories tab, click Add to display the Select Directory dialog box, shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. The Select Directory dialog box.

In the Select Directory dialog box, we can select the root directory or we can select only the specific subdirectories we want to scan. Narrowing the scan can save significant time during the repackaging process. As a general rule, you don’t want to scan every directory if you know some directories won’t be affected during the installation.

When you have added all the directories you want to scan, click OK. The directories are added to the Directory list.

Next, we’ll configure the directories and files we want to ignore during the scan process. Again, being selective here can improve the performance of the installation process. In the Files To Ignore section of the Files/Directories tab, click Add to display the Open dialog box, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. The Open dialog box.

For this example, the C:\junk directory won’t contain any files pertaining to our installation of Microsoft TechNet, so we can ignore this entire directory. Select the C:\junk directory by double-clicking on it, and then enter *.* in the File Name text box to include all files in this directory. If you wanted to exclude a specific file in a folder, select that file.

Click Open to add the directory, or files, to the File Name list, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. The modified File Name list.

You can also specify whether to ignore scanning of any temporary files during the installation process. To scan temporary files, select the Scan Temp Files check box.

To specify the registry keys and values to scan or ignore during the installation process, select the Registry Keys tab, shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. The Registry Keys tab.


Selecting registry keys to scan or ignore can be a tricky business. Be especially careful not to overlook or choose to ignore a key that’s altered during the setup process—doing so would invariably render your installation script worthless. On the other hand, the installation can change something such as a DHCP address setting by releasing and renewing an IP setting during a system restart, which is unrelated to the installation itself and shouldn’t be included in the installation script. Your best bet is to get to know the keys that your installation will affect and once you have created the final script, test, test, test!

The Registry Keys tab contains four panes. The top two panes represent the current registry settings read from the reference computer. The lower two panes represent the registry settings that are to be ignored. In the top-left pane, under My Computer, select the registry trees or values you want to ignore. To add the registry subtree to the list of subtrees to ignore, click Add Tree. To add a key you want to ignore, select the key in the upper-right pane, and then click Add Value. The lower-left pane shows where the selected keys are located on the reference computer; the lower-right pane lists their values. Select Scan All Selected Registry Keys to scan for hardware registry entries to ignore. Select Convert Registry To Other Script Items to convert ODBC changes and installation of services to the Install ODBC Driver, Configure ODBC Data Source, and Create Service script items.

Click OK to return to the Repackage Installation page, and then click Next to begin the scanning and installation process of our application, as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. The Repackage Installation page showing the scanning process.

During the installation phase, the Repackage Installation Wizard will run Setup.exe with any switches you provided in the initial configuration of the wizard The setup will run exactly as it normally does. Remember that you’re providing the installation options that will be used during the actual setup of the application on the target computers.

After the Repackage Installation Wizard has completed the setup of the application, click Next to rescan the directories and registry settings, as shown in Figure 9. The wizard will compare the system image before and after the installation of the software.

Figure 9. The Repackage Installation page showing the rescanning process.


You might also want to add application setups during this repackaging process—for example, you might want to distribute several applications within one silent installation process. To accomplish this, click Run Setup to run the next setup and add the additional software. Keep in mind the size of these packages as we begin to install larger, more complex applications or multiple applications in a single SMS Installer–generated executable.

When the rescan of the directories and registry keys is complete, click Finish to complete the repackaging process.

At this point, clicking Compile in the Installation Expert interface will generate a basic script that, while perhaps not very elegant, might certainly be adequate for distribution. You could use the Installation Expert to verify the installation configuration that was created during the repackaging process and then modify and customize the script to meet the particular needs of your users and organization.


If the setup routine for the application you’re repackaging requires a system restart, SMS Installer won’t automatically restart the repackaging process. You’ll need to restart SMS Installer and the repackaging process and then continue repackaging.

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