How to create an AutoInstall application package for distributing an application

Article:TECH107668  |  Created: 2001-01-20  |  Updated: 2013-10-30  |  Article URL
Article Type
Technical Solution



You want to know how to use Ghost to create an application package so that you can distribute an application to other computers.


Known Issues with Microsoft products:
  • Symantec does not support the creation of AI packages of Microsoft service packs. There are Microsoft files in use and protected storage files that Ghost cannot replace. Also, Symantec does not support distributing a Microsoft hotfix using an AI package. The Microsoft hotfix must be distributed through the hotfix executable.
  • In regards to Office, as of XP, you must stop Office XP from locking to the model computer before cloning. By using Microsoft Office Installer commands, you can prevent the hardware detection and activation process from occurring until Office XP is deployed to the client computers and launched for the first time. Please see the Ghost Implementation Guide for instructions.
  • As of Office 2007, Microsoft has changed completely the way to deploy Office products into a networked machine by using setup.exe instead of a MSI file. They now use by default a local TEMP installation folder comporting all installation files for Office.
Because of these, some Microsoft products can be installed using Symanted AI, however, you will only be able to uninstall them with the AI Package and you will not be able to modify the Microsoft installed products.

Ghost automatically creates an application package of a program by taking a snapshot of the computer before the application program is installed, and then monitoring the changes made by the installation. Ghost compares the differences between the snapshot and the state of the computer immediately after the installation, and then creates an .exe file that, when run, will replicate these differences. The application package is the .exe file.

To create an application package, first install AI Snapshot on a computer that you will use as a model computer. Then create the package at the model computer by launching AI Snapshot, installing the application program, and finishing with AI Snapshot.

To prepare the model computer
  1. Set up the model computer.
    For best results, Symantec recommends that you use a model computer with a "fresh" installation of the operating system. The model computer is a computer that only has the operating system installed, without any application programs or installation utilities. This allows AI Snapshot to make an accurate comparison of the state of the computer before and after installing the application program.
  2. Install AI Snapshot on the model computer.
    1. Insert the Symantec Ghost CD.
    2. In the Symantec Ghost install window, click Install AI Snapshot.
    3. Follow the screen prompts.

To use AI Snapshot to create an application package
  1. Create the initial snapshot:
    1. Launch AI Snapshot:
      1. Click Start, and point to Programs.
      2. Point to Symantec Ghost and click AI Snapshot. This opens the Symantec Ghost AI Snapshot window.
    2. Configure AI Snapshot:
      1. Click Options.
      2. Change the Search Path as appropriate.

        Note: The Search Path box lists each location that AI Snapshot will scan for changes. To change this path or add more locations to be scanned, use the Add and Remove buttons. The scan is performed both before and after performing the application installation. The scan that is done before performing the application installation is called the system scan and results in a snapshot of the system.
      3. Change the Temporary Work Directory as appropriate.
      4. Click OK.
    3. Click Next. The Replicator portion of AI Snapshot now takes a snapshot of the computer. This may take several minutes because the snapshot is a complete inventory of the computer. When done, AI Snapshot displays the "Start your installation" window.
  2. Install the application program:
    1. Launch the installation:
      1. If the program installation runs automatically from the installation CD, click Next and then insert the installation CD.
      2. If you want to install the program manually, type the path and the file name of the program's installation file, Setup.exe, or click the Browse button to locate the program's Setup.exe file. Then click Next.
    2. Follow the screen prompts to complete the installation.
      • When making installation choices, use the same options that you would use if you were installing the application program on the client computers.
      • If the installation requires a restart, restart the computer, complete the installation, and then return to AI Snapshot.

        • If the application requires multiple restarts, restart AI Snapshot before each restart.
        • If installing a Microsoft program, do not restart the computer when requested during the installation. Instead, minimize the window that requests you to restart the computer, press Ctrl+Esc to click the Start menu, and restart AI Snapshot. AI Snapshot will automatically continue monitoring the program installation. Restart the computer only after building the application package (Step 3). After you run the application package at a client computer and restart the computer, the Microsoft program completes the installation, allowing each user to register.
      • When the installation has completed, AI Snapshot displays the "Is software installation complete?" window.
  3. Create the comparison file and application package file:
    1. Type a name in the "Install package name:" box, such as MyProg. This will be the name of the comparison file that stores the differences on the computer before and after the installation. The default file name is Install.cfg. AI Snapshot automatically adds the .CFG extension.
    2. Click Compare. AI Snapshot now runs a scan to compare the snapshot to the current state of the computer, and then saves the differences in the comparison file. This process may take several minutes. When done, AI Snapshot displays the Congratulations window.
    3. Make a note of the location of the comparison file, and then click OK.
    4. Click Build. AI Snapshot now uses the information from the comparison file to create the installation package. The installation package is an .EXE file.
      • If you see a message indicating that a file is in use, decide whether the file is one that can be safely excluded from the package. If not, click Cancel, close all other open applications, and then click Build again.
      • If you click Modify instead of Build, AI Snapshot opens the AI Builder component and displays the contents of the comparison file. To modify the application package, use AI Builder to modify the comparison file, and then click Build to have AI Builder automatically create an application package that includes the changes. AI Builder is intended for system administrators and other technically proficient users.
    5. Make a note of the location of the .EXE file. The name of the .EXE file is the same as the .CFG file. For instance, if the comparison file is named MyProg.cfg, then the application package is named MyProg.exe.
  4. Click Finish, and then click Exit.

The application package has been created. By default, this package is stored in the folder:

Program Files\Symantec\Ghost\Working\OneFile

on the model computer unless you changed that location when you started AI Snapshot. You can leave it on the local computer, move it to a network drive such as the Ghost server, or move it to an HTTP server.

You can run this file at another computer, or use Ghost Console to distribute and run the file at many client computers. When run, the application package does not require user intervention, and does not display any splash screens.

Customizing the application package
To manually create an installation package, or to customize a package that you created with AI Snapshot, use Ghost's AI Builder component. See the Ghost user manual for instructions. For a list of items you can customize, see the document Customizing an application package.

Note: Although it is possible to Create or modify AutoInstall packages through the AI Builder it is not supported other than selecting the Uninstall feature.

Additional information

AutoInstall terminology and files
When to build the installation for applications that require a reboot

Technical Information
For information on how to distribute the application package using Ghost, read the document How to distribute and run application packages with Symantec Ghost.

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