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SQL Server Scripted Configuration: Part 1

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The deployment and configuration of software can be a real nightmare to standardize; administrators have their own ideas of best practice, even with checklists (or cheat sheets). In this series of articles, Rob Hawthorne discusses the unattended installation of SQL Server and shows you how to write your own scripts to install SQL Server, ensuring a standard and consistent deployment every time!
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In this series of articles, I will discuss the installation and configuration of SQL Server 2000. "Oh wow," I can hear you say, "Another absolutely riveting article on SQL Server configuration."

Yes I'm sorry, my poor overwhelmed reader, but this series of articles is on the installation and configuration of SQL Server, but with a slight twist. It will be totally scripted. That's right, completely hands-off and really easy to implement, extend, and deploy within your or your client's environment.

I'm sure you're now asking, "But why?" How many times have you stood in front of a server (or PC) installing SQL Server (for the hundredth time, especially in development environments) and thought, "There must be a better way!" These articles are for those of you who have ever wondered if there must be a better way. I'm here to tell you that there is!

I will begin with a look at the unattended capabilities of SQL Server, specifically the .iss file. Then we will delve into the batch files (yep, good ol' batch files) that enable us to install and configure SQL Server to the way we want.

SQL Server and the .iss File

As with most of the core products that Microsoft provides (Windows, Exchange, ISA Server, and so on), SQL Server supports the capability to take a configuration file (for SQL, this is a file with an extension of .iss) that has the components that make up a complete SQL Server installation.

This configuration file has all the entries that an administrator would make when they install SQL Server manually.

You should be aware that these configuration files have a lot of parameters, depending on the level of customization that you want to specify for your installation. They can look pretty confusing when you first take a look at them.

What we need to actually do now is create our own .iss file (called setup.iss by default) so that we can begin the lesson on silently installing SQL Server.


We create our own .iss file for SQL Server so that we can use it as a template for later installations.

The easiest way to create the setup.iss file is to do either of the following:

  • Copy the example file(s). There are a few sample setup.iss files on the SQL Server CD. These sample files are for the default type installations of SQL Server, OLAP, and minor customizations of SQL Server.

  • Record our own .iss file. To create our own .iss file, we need the installation media for SQL Server; that is, either a CD or a network share that contains all of the files. This allows us to specify what we want in an installation of SQL Server, not to rely on the "predefined" values from Microsoft.

For my own piece of mind (and yours, of course), I will show you how to record our own .iss file, so you know how to repeat this task when the time comes. By recording our own file, it will ensure that the configuration will be specified for your installation. In other words, SQL Server will be configured as you want it to be.

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