CIW Design Background

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

The CIW is a text-based tool that guides the user through the remote operating system installation process. The CIW is the first user interface that displays on the client computer after the user installing the operating system begins the remote boot process.

After a RIS client successfully connects to a RIS server for remote installation of an operating system, a startup boot file downloads from the RIS server to the client. In most cases, this is the default startup file When the default startup file downloads, it prompts the user performing the installation to press the F12 key, at which time the CIW downloads to the client via TFTP. However, the RIS client can also download startrom.n12 or startrom.n12 renamed to for an automated installation, if you appropriately configure the RIS client and RIS server. For more information about the remote boot and installation setup processes, see "Process for Deploying RIS" earlier in this chapter.

The CIW displays whether you configure the user to receive an interactive installation (initiated by pressing the F12 key) or an automated installation. However, in fully automated installations, you typically do not provide any setup or other installation options to the user, which minimizes the number of default CIW screens that are presented.


  • You must not remove the Welcome, Logon, or Summary screens from the CIW configuration, and you must have at least one screen that has the <meta server action=dnreset> tag.

CIW Default Configuration

The default configuration of the CIW process provides basic guidance for installing an operating system by using RIS. You can use the default configuration or you can modify it to accommodate your unique requirements. The following is a brief summary of processes that occur in the default CIW configuration.

When the CIW first downloads to the client computer, the Welcome screen displays. After the user responds to the welcome, the CIW displays the Logon screen which prompts the user to log on to the network with credentials that include the user account, password, and logon domain. After Active Directory validates the user’s logon credentials, RIS checks certain Group Policy options to verify the installation configuration for the user. The CIW then presents the specific setup options the user is configured to receive.

After the user specifies the appropriate information for setup options, the CIW displays operating system choices, which can include selections for both Risetup and Riprep images. Following selection of an operating system image and display of the Caution and CIW Summary screens, the installation process begins.

CIW Default Screens and User Interaction

When you install RIS and run Risetup.exe, a default set of CIW screens is installed on your RIS server. These screens guide RIS clients through the part of setup that requires user interaction. Use job aid "The CIW Process" (ACIRIS_11.doc) on the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit companion CD (or see "The CIW Process" on the Web at You can use this information as a reference when considering the details of your CIW design process.

CIW Screen Functions

The CIW screens that install with your RIS server consist of text files with an .osc extension. These screens consist of a default set of files and several example files that show how to enhance CIW functionality. The examples include files that display a multilanguage Welcome screen and a screen that prompts the user for the administrator password.

The default CIW screens provide the basic functionality you need to perform remote operating system installations on client computers in your organization. You can choose to use the default screens or you can build your own customized screens. This section describes the functionality provided by the CIW screens and various modifications you can make to them.

Welcome screen

The Welcome screen is a file named Welcome.osc. This screen is the first to display to the user installing the operating system by using RIS. You can modify this screen to include the following:

  • Custom information, such as a company-specific message or other preinstallation guidance, which you can add using OSChooser Markup Language (OSCML) tags.

  • Custom language options.

For an example of a multilanguage Welcome screen, see the file Multilng.osc in the following directory path on your RIS server:


For more information about defining a multilanguage CIW process, see "CIW Design Tasks" later in this chapter.

Logon screen

The Logon screen is a file named Login.osc. This screen requires the user to log on to the network with valid user credentials consisting of user name, password, and domain name. After the user successfully logs on to the network, RIS uses the user credentials and the Group Policy options applied to the user to determine which setup options the user is configured to receive. If the logon attempt is unsuccessful, the CIW prompts the user to log on again.

You can modify this file to cause a new screen to display that prompts the user to enter the administrator password. For an example of how you can do this, see the file Logined.osc in the following directory path on your RIS server:



  • If you customize Login.osc, be careful not to modify any of the values within the following OSML tags:


  • <INPUT NAME="ServerUTCFileTime" VALUE=%ServerUTCFileTime% MAXLENGTH=255 type=VARIABLE>

  • Changing any of these values causes you to lose NTLM v2 support.

Setup options screen

The Setup Options screen is a file named Choice.osc. This screen displays setup options to the user based on the Group Policy configuration applied to the user. You configure Group Policy setup options by accessing the Group Policy Object Editor from the Active Directory extension on your RIS server. Setup options consist of Automatic Setup, Custom Setup, Restart Setup, and Tools. For more information about Group Policy configurations and defining CIW setup options in Group Policy, see "CIW Design Tasks" later in this chapter.

Error screen

The Error screen is a file named Dupauto.osc. This screen displays to the user if RIS finds a duplicate UUID for the client computer in Active Directory. The screen instructs the user to contact the network administrator.

Operating system choice screen

The Operating System Choice screen is a file named Oschoice.osc. This screen displays a list of operating system images on the RIS server that are available to the logged-on user. If there is only one possible operating system image that the user is configured to install, then that image is selected and the user does not see this screen.

You can add operating system image choices to this screen by setting permissions on the answer files associated with the images you want to add. This causes additional operating system choices to automatically display to the users who have permission to install them, providing that the users are also configured to be serviced by the RIS server that hosts the images.


  • To make operating system images available to RIS clients, you must also configure Read permissions for the image folder on your RIS server.

You can choose to automate the operating system installation choice or you can provide a selection of images to the user.

Caution screen

The Caution screen is a file named Warning.osc. This screen displays a warning message to users indicating that an operating system will be installed on their computers. The message also indicates that this action causes the hard disk to be repartitioned and formatted and that all existing data will be lost.

Summary screen

The Summary screen is a file named Install.osc. This screen displays information gathered by the CIW, including the following:

  • Computer name

  • Computer UUID

  • RIS server hosting the installation

By this point in the process, the RIS server has created a computer account object in Active Directory for the client computer. RIS can now readily identify this computer and its associated installation settings, should an operating system need to be reinstalled. The installation now begins if the user presses any key on the keyboard.

Other error screens

There are additional screens in the \OSChooser subdirectory on your RIS server that can display when an error occurs. For example, an error might occur if the user enters an incorrect user name or password. When RIS encounters an error, it retrieves the error code (such as 20008 for a login error) and changes it to its hexadecimal equivalent value (00004e28) and appends .osc to the result to derive an error screen file name such as 00004e28.osc. RIS then checks the language directory in use for a screen file with that name. If RIS finds an error screen with a matching name, that screen displays. If RIS cannot find a matching error screen name, an internally generated error message displays. You cannot customize this internally generated error message, however, you can customize the CIW error screens using OSCML tags, just as you can for other CIW screens.

Custom screens

You can customize existing screens or create new screens for the CIW using OSCML tags. For new and existing screens, you can use OSC variables to capture user input. For more information about OSC variables, see the discussion about defining new CIW screens and OSC variables later in this section, and see job aid "Reserved OSC Variables" (ACIRIS_12.doc) on the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit companion CD (or see "Reserved OSC Variables" on the Web at For more information about OSCML tags, see job aid "OSCML and Client Installation Wizard Variables" (ACIRIS_13.doc) on the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit companion CD (or see "OSCML and Client Installation Wizard Variables" on the Web at