Windows Setup Installation Process

Windows® Setup is the program that installs Windows or upgrades an existing Windows installation. It is also the basis for the following installation and upgrade methods:

  • Interactive Setup

  • Automated installation

  • Windows Deployment Services

In this topic:

Windows Setup Installation Types

Windows Setup can perform both clean and upgrade installations. However, it does not perform computer-to-computer migrations. Instead, you must use Windows Easy Transfer, the User State Migration Tool (USMT), or another migration tool to move data from a previous installation to the new operating system.

  • Custom installations. Windows Setup can perform a custom installation, also known as a clean installation, which saves your previous Windows installation but does not migrate your settings. The previous Windows installation will not boot after a clean installation.

  • Upgrade installations. Windows Setup can perform an installation that retains your settings and preferences while upgrading your operating system.

Windows Setup Process

The Windows Setup program starts and restarts the computer, gathers information, copies files, and creates or adjusts configuration settings. The following table shows the overall process for Windows Setup:

Windows Setup phase Setup actions

Downlevel (for custom installations and upgrades)

- or -

Windows PE (for booting the Windows DVD or booting a custom Windows PE image)

  1. Specify Windows Setup configurations by using either the Windows Setup dialog boxes (interactive) or an answer file (unattended), or a combination of the two. Windows Setup configurations include adding a product key and configuring a disk.

  2. Apply answer file settings in the windowsPE configuration pass to configure the installation behavior and user experience.

  3. Configure the disk.

  4. Copy the Windows image to the disk.

  5. Prepare boot information.

  6. Process answer file settings in the offlineServicing configuration pass. The settings are applied to the Windows image before that Windows image boots. When the computer first boots, any optional components, drivers, updates, or language packs are processed.

Online configuration

Create specific configurations, making the Windows installation unique.

Windows Welcome

  1. Apply answer file settings in the oobeSystem configuration pass.

  2. Apply content file settings from the Oobe.xml file.

  3. Start Windows Welcome.

Related topics

Windows Setup Technical Reference

Automate Windows Setup

Settings for Automating OOBE

Windows Setup Scenarios and Best Practices

Windows Setup Automation Overview

Audit Mode Overview

Windows Setup Configuration Passes

Windows Setup Supported Platforms and Cross-Platform Deployments