Performing an Attended Installation of Windows 2000 Server


Welcome to the first article published on this website, “Performing an Attended Installation of Windows 2000 Server.” This is my first attempt at writing a technical article as a way to share with others what I have learned on my road to the MCSE. Please note that all the graphics in this article can be clicked on for a larger view. And now, without further ado, let’s begin!

Before Installing

There are two ways to install Windows 2000 Server: attended and unattended. In this guide, we will focus on the easier of the two, attended installation. If you have ever installed a Microsoft operating system, then you will find that installing Win2k Server is just as simple. Before installation, however, let us verify the system requirements of the OS:

  • Pentium 133 or higher CPU
  • 256 megabytes of RAM minimally recommended (128 MB minimum supported)
  • 2 gigabyte hard disk with at least 1.0 GB free space (More if installing from a network)

These requirements are taken off of the Microsoft site. To view the most recently updated requirements, browse to (2010 update: link now forwards to TechNet)

In addition, it would benefit you to check if your hardware is on Microsoft’s Hardware Compatibility List. Personally, I have not encountered any problems with non-certified hardware, but if you are in a corporate or mission-critical setting, it is crucial to go with certified hardware. Microsoft also will not provide support for non-certified hardware, so keep that in mind when purchasing hardware for a new server. The URL for the HCL is (2010 update: link no longer works)

Once we have verified the hardware requirements, we must decide on how we want to proceed with attended installation. There are three different scenarios that we have to deal with: clean-install, dual-booting, and upgrading.


Clean-install is an installation of an OS to a computer that does not have an existing OS on it. This is the simplest form of installation, since you do not have to worry about overwriting or needing to back up existing files. In this scenario you just start Win2k setup and let it take care of the rest.


In this situation, you already have an OS such as Windows 98 installed on the computer, and you want to add Windows 2000 Server in addition to Windows 98. Normally, you would not want to dual-boot between your server operating system and another, but this situation works well for those who are doing testing or for those like me who are trying to get their MCSE certification.


Upgrading entails installing W2k Server on top of an existing operating system. Unless you are upgrading a server with Windows NT Server 4.0 on it, you normally would not use this option, nor would you be able to, since NT Server 4.0 is the only operating system that can be upgraded to Win2k Server. An example of when to use upgrade is a corporation migrating NT 4.0 systems to 2000.

In this guide we will focus on the clean-install aspect of installing Win2k Server. Once you know how to do a clean-install, setting up a system for dual-booting or upgrading will be much easier. Now, let us proceed with installing Win2k Server.

Booting and Beginning the Setup Process

We will be installing Windows 2000 Server on the following system:

AMD Duron 800 MHz Processor
ASUS A7V133 Motherboard w/ Promise FastTrak RAID Controller
256 MB Generic PC133 RAM
13 GB Western Digital ATA66 HD
2 GB Seagate HD
40X Generic CDROM Drive
RealTek 10/100 NIC

There are three ways to boot your computer to start Win2k setup. The first and most straightforward method is to boot your computer with the Win2k setup CD. Your computer boots and starts Win2k setup automatically. The second is to boot with Win2k setup floppies, and the third is to use a boot disk from an older operating system such as Windows 95 or 98. The third option naturally requires that you have another computer with which to create the boot disks. Windows 2000 ships with the setup floppies, but if you do not have them, you can create them from another computer by following these steps:

  1. Insert the Windows 2000 Server setup CD into your CDROM drive
  2. In Windows 9x, click on Start, Run, and type (with x being the CD drive letter) x:\bootdisk\makebt32, then follow the screen prompts
  3. In DOS, first navigate to your CDROM drive by typing x:, then to the bootdisk directory by typing cd\bootdisk. Then type makeboot and follow the prompts.

Once you have the Windows 2000 setup disks, boot with them and they will start setup automatically. If you are booting with an older operating system’s boot disk, type x:\i386\winnt (again, where x is the letter of your CDROM drive) to start setup. I will use the Windows 2000 setup disks to boot our test setup.

Insert Disk
Setup will prompt for each disk
Loading Drivers
Setup loading the necessary drivers

First, insert the disk labeled “Windows 2000 setup boot disk” into your floppy drive, and start the computer. If nothing happens, make sure you have set your computer to boot from the floppy in the BIOS. Setup should start automatically if your computer is configured to boot from the floppy.

Once setup starts, you will see a blue screen titled “Windows 2000 Setup.” This portion of setup is known as textmode setup, and it is in this portion that you will specify how you want the hard disk partitioned and where you want Windows to be installed. If you have a hard drive controller that Windows does not recognize, this is also where you will specify the location of the drivers for that controller. If you do not specify drivers, Setup will terminate (see “Tips” below). Insert the corresponding setup disk when prompted.

Windows Setup – Textmode Phase

Welcome to Setup
The Welcome to Setup Screen

After setup loads the necessary drivers, you will see the Welcome screen. You will be given the option to set up Windows, repair Windows, or quit. Press enter to continue with setup.

The drive partitioning screen
Deletion Warning
Partition deletion warning

The all-too-familiar EULA screen appears next. Hit F8 if you agree, or ESC to quit. If you hit F8, you will be taken to the drive partitioning screen. Here, you will see the partition configuration of your hard drives. In my case, I FDISKed my drives before starting setup, so setup calls my C: partition “Unformatted or damaged.” To correct this, I simply hit D to delete the partition. Setup will prompt you a couple more times to confirm partition deletion. Just follow the prompts to delete. So now, I have two drives with unpartitioned space. I can manually configure my partitions or I can let Windows handle it and install itself on one giant partition. If you have a larger hard drive, you may not want to choose this option. I will create a couple of partitions just to show you how it is done. If I had chosen to skip this step, I could just hit enter and let setup take care of partitioning.

Partition Sizing
Choosing a partition size

To create a new partition, hit C at the drive partitioning screen. You will then see the partition size screen. Choose your partition size, and hit enter to create the partition. Repeat this step for every partition you want to create. Once back at the partitioning screen, press enter on whichever partition you want Windows installed on. You will then be asked whether you want to format that partition using the NTFS or FAT file system. Unless you are dual-booting and want to share files between operating systems, I recommend using NTFS. Even if you are dual-booting, however, it would be desirable to keep different boot partitions from seeing each other. Thus, NTFS is the preferred choice here.


After selecting what type of file system you want to use, Setup proceeds with the format. When the format is complete, Setup will copy the files it needs to begin the graphical portion of setup. Go grab yourself a drink or a snack, because the formatting and copying process will take a little while. When it is complete, Setup will reboot the computer and begin the graphical portion of setup.

Windows Setup – Graphical Phase

Loading Windows
Loading Windows
Starting Up
Starting up for the first time
Setup Wizard
The Windows 2000 Setup Wizard

If everything during the textmode portion of Setup ran smoothly, you will see the “Welcome to the Windows 2000 Setup Wizard” screen upon the completion of reboot. You can either click Next or wait for Windows to automatically proceed after a few seconds. Setup will then detect and install your hardware devices. This process also takes a little while, and once it is finished you will be greeted with the Regional Settings screen. Here, you can choose your language and keyboard settings. Click on Next to accept the default of United States.

You will then be prompted for your Name and Organization. You must enter a name, but you may skip inputting an organization if you wish. Enter your information and click Next.

Installing Devices
Installing devices
Regional Settings
Choosing regional settings
User Information
Entering user information

On the next screen you will enter your product key. Click Next when you are finished.

Product Key
Entering the 25-Character Product Key

Next, you will choose your licensing mode. Depending on your requirements, choose Per Server or Per Seat. Basically, Per Server works well when you have one server and many clients connecting to it. In this case, you would buy a license with a number of connections equal to the number of clients you have. Per Seat would be preferred if you have clients that access more than one server, so that you would only pay once for each client access license. For example, if you had 10 clients accessing only 1 server, you would only have to pay for 10 connections under Per Server mode. Supposedly, paying for 10 connections is cheaper than paying for 10 seats. If you have 2 servers, however, paying for 10 seats is cheaper than paying for 20 connections, which you would have to under Per Server mode for both servers. In our example, we will choose the default, which is 5 concurrent connections.

Choosing a licensing type

After the licensing screen comes the computer identification screen. Actually, I find Microsoft’s advice on this screen to be silly, because why would a non-administrator install Windows 2000 Server on his computer anyway? The suggested name is also cryptic. Choose your own computer name and then type in an Administrator password, and keep a copy in a safe place. If you lose this password, you will not be able to use your computer.

Computer Name
Naming the computer

The next screen allows you to choose what components to install. I will just keep the defaults here and proceed to the next screen. If I decide I want to install Certificate Services later, for example, I can do it from the Control Panel.

Choose components to install

Next, we will set the date and time.

Date & Time
Configure Date/Time Settings

Setup will then install networking components. When it is finished, you will be prompted to accept typical settings, or manually configure your own. For now, we will stick with typical settings. I have a DHCP server on my network so I can skip TCP/IP configuration. If you do not have a DHCP server, then you will need to configure TCP/IP manually.

Installing networking components
Configuring Network
Configuring the network
Join Domain
Joining a workgroup or domain

The next screen allows you to join a workgroup or a domain. There must be a domain controller on your network if you are to join a domain. Usually, you will join a domain in a corporate environment. For smaller networks, a workgroup is typical. For this guide, I will leave the default setting, which will cause my computer to join a workgroup named WORKGROUP.

Installing Components
Copying component files…
Final Tasks
Performing final tasks
Finishing setup

After configuring networking, Setup will copy and install the necessary files for the components we have selected, and then it will proceed with the final phase of installing Windows by performing a set of final tasks. After this long process, Setup will inform you that it is complete, and prompt you to restart you computer. When your computer finishes restarting this time, you will be prompted with the logon screen.

Final Words and Setup Tips

Congratulations! You have completed an attended clean-install of Windows 2000 server. Now that you have mastered the clean-install, setting up a machine for dual-booting or upgrading will be a snap, because you will be asked the exact same questions that were asked during the clean-install. The only difference will be starting Setup and configuring another partition if you are dual-booting. To start setup for dual-boot or an upgrade, click on Start, Run, and type x:\i386\winnt32. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of Windows NT 4.0 Server, so I will not be able to demonstrate how to upgrade, but I am considering doing another guide on dual-booting. Also, if you are in a corporate environment, you would most likely be installing Windows 2000 Server as a domain controller. I will probably do another guide for that as well. For now, I hope you enjoyed reading my first technical guide on Windows 2000!

Tips for a Successful Installation

  • If you are starting Setup after booting from an older Windows version’s bootdisk, make sure to run smartdrv.exe to speed up the file-copy process. SmartDrive is the disk caching program for DOS that is also included with Windows 9x.
  • If you are performing an upgrade from Windows NT 4.0 Server in a mission-critical environment, make sure you back up important files in case the upgrade goes awry.

    Missing Drivers
    No hard drives found
  • If you see the above screen during textmode setup, follow these steps to correct the problem:
    1. Restart Windows 2000 Server Setup, and pay close attention to the status bar as Setup loads. You will see a message that says “Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver” (as shown below). Hit F6 when you see this message.
    2. When the “Specify Additional Device” screen appears, press S to specify a driver.
    3. The “Insert Disk” screen appears. Insert the floppy disk on which your hard drive controller’s drivers are located, and hit enter.
    4. Setup will then ask you to choose the correct driver from a list. Choose your driver and hit enter.
    5. You will then be taken back to the “Specify Additional Device” screen, but this time Setup notifies you that it will load drivers for your device. If necessary, you can also load additional drivers.
    6. Continue installing from this section of the guide.
Load Drivers
Hit F6 when this screen appears…
…then hit S when this screen appears
Driver Loaded
Driver loaded
Insert Driver Disk
Insert driver disk and press enter

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