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What Does the .iss File Mean?

You can open setup.iss in any text editor (for example, in Notepad), and you will see a script similar to the following (note that this is a cut-down version of the actual file):

Listing 2—Sections Defined within the .iss File

[InstallShield Silent]
Version=v5.00.000
File=Response File

[File Transfer]
OverwriteReadOnly=NoToAll

[DlgOrder]
Dlg0=SdWelcome-0
Count=15
Dlg1=DlgMachine-0
Dlg2=DlgInstallMode-0
...
Dlg8=SetupTypeSQL-0
...
Dlg13=SdStartCopy-0
Dlg14=SdFinish-0

[SdWelcome-0]
Result=1
...

[SetupTypeSQL-0]
szDir=C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server
Result=301
szDataDir=C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server

As you can see from this small sample, there are a number of screens involved with the installation of SQL Server. In fact, with the customized installation of SQL Server 2000 that I performed (as shown here), there are 15!

Let's take a look at some of the meaning behind the information within this sample setup.iss file.

  • Main section [DlgOrder]. Each of the items under the [DlgOrder] section is a screen within the wizard; that is, Dlg0=SdWelcome-0, which means the first screen in the wizard (Dlg0). This calls the section marked [SdWelcome0] within the .iss file.

  • Items within the subsections [SDWelcome-0]. Each of the item(s) listed under the [SdWelcome-0] section is the response that the file needs to pass back to the installation program to progress through the setup. If you take a look at the section marked [SetupTypeSQL-0], there are a number of other parameters specified. These parameters (szDir and szDataDir) refer to the installation paths of SQL files, such as the data and transaction log files (szDataDir) as well as the program files (szDir). These values actually indicate where the files will be placed on disk.

As you have probably deduced by now, because each section heading listed within the DlgOrder section represents a section within the .iss file, it also corresponds to an actual screen within the Installation Wizard. For example, the section marked as Dlg0=SdWelcome-0 maps to the Welcome screen in the wizard (shown in Figure 5).

Figure 5 Figure 5 Welcome screen from the Installation Wizard.


The options you selected when you performed the .iss file recording directly relate to the number of screens (and sections) that you have defined within your .iss file; that is, see the "Count=x" in the DlgOrder section. As I was moving through the wizard in my example, I selected the capability to specify where the program and data files would be stored, as well as what components to install; this is why I have 15 screens (Count=15) defined within my .iss file.

Each section also contains parameters that affect the installation of SQL Server (as previously mentioned), such as the domain account that SQL Server is to run under. However, the Result parameter is always present in each section (that is, Result=1), and it is generally similar to the user clicking Next in the installation wizard. However, if you look in Listing 1 in the SetupTypeSQL-0 section, you will see that the Result parameter equals 301 (that is, Result=301). This tells SQL Server that the path specified for the installation of the data and program files is the typical path. By specifying different paths, we change the result parameter and identify to SQL Server that we are installing to different locations.

Although we will take a look at more of the .iss file in later articles, this has given you a brief look at the .iss file and how it relates to a silent installation of SQL Server.

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