Title: Windows Setup Body: Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file [C:windowsPantherunattend.xml] for pass [specialize]. The answer file is invalid.

MDT Tutorial Part 11: Troubleshooting Part 2: Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file [C:\windows\Panther\unattend.xml] for pass [specialize].  The answer file is invalid.

Living Table of Contents

 

What These Guides Are:
A guide to help give you some insight into the troubleshooting process in general.

What These Guides Are Not:
A guide to fix all issues you’re going to encounter.

We’re going to role-play a bunch of scenarios and try to work through them.  Remember in math where you had to show your work?  Well, what follows is like that which is why this post is [more than] a [little] lengthy.

Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file [C:\windows\Panther\unattend.xml] for pass [specialize].  The answer file is invalid.

You boot your special VM, click the ‘Run the Deployment Wizard to install a new Operating System‘ button and it immediately starts.  Excellent!  It applies the OS, reboots and you’re faced with this error:

Title: Windows Setup Body: Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file [C:\windows\Panther\unattend.xml] for pass [specialize].  The answer file is invalid.

Windows could not parse or process unattend answer file [C:\windows\Panther\unattend.xml] for pass [specialize]. The answer file is invalid.

Well this is strange, because you didn’t touch the unattend.xml so what gives?
Fortunately, this dialog provides some meaningful insight:

    • The unattend file is C:\Windows\Panther\unattend.xml
    • The specific area is the specialize pass

Press SHIFT+F10 here to open a command prompt and then open C:\Windows\Panther\unattend.xml with notepad

Troubleshoot-005

You search for ‘specialize’ and after taking a very close look see that your computer name is incorrect.  It should be some two or three character prefix not %OfficeCode%.

Troubleshoot-006

Since that is set via the CS.INI, you run the CustomSettings.ini test again and now you see what was missed before:

Troubleshoot-007.PNG

You review the CS.INI and find your problems

  1. You didn’t define the OfficeCode property: Wasn’t added to the Properties line
  2. You didn’t set a value for OfficeCode.

With that fixed, you run the test again, the variable is populated and as you reimage the machine, you see it is named correctly in the logs.

Copypasta Closing

Hopefully these examples will help give you an idea of the overall troubleshooting process.  Most of the time the problems you’ll encounter will be caused by a typso, order of operations or a ‘known issue’ that requires a specific process to be followed.

As you make changes to your environment, here’s what I recommend:

  • Be diligent about keeping a change log so you can easily backtrack
  • Backup your CS.INI or Bootstrap.ini before you make any changes
  • Backup your ts.xml or unattend.xml (in DeploymentShare\Control\TaskSequenceID) before you make any changes
  • Introduce small changes at time with set checkpoints in between and set milestones markers where you backup core files (e.g cs.ini bootstrap.ini ts.xml unattend.xml etc) to help minimize frustration troubleshooting.

And if when you do run into some turbulence, upload relevant logs (at least smsts.log but be prepared to submit others depending on the issue) to a file sharing service like OneDrive, post on TechNet then give a shout to your resources on Twitter.

Good Providence to you!

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