"Windows could not parse or process the unattended answer file for pass [specialize]..." upon first boot after restoring Windows Vista/7/2008 R2 system with Symantec System Recovery

Article:TECH128352  |  Created: 2010-01-02  |  Updated: 2014-10-14  |  Article URL http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH128352
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Article Type
Technical Solution




After restoring a Windows Vista/7/2008 R2 system image using either the Backup Exec System Recovery (BESR) or  Symantec System Recovery (SSR) where "Restore Anywhere Option" was enabled, below error occurs upon first boot; rebooting the restored system continues to generate the error:


Windows could not parse or process the unattended answer file for pass [specialize]. The settings specified in the answer file cannot be applied. The error was detected while processing settings for component [Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup].

If you click on OK System goes in to reboot loop with below error: 

The computer restarted unexpectedly or encountered an unexpected error. windows installation cannot proceed. To install Windows click "OK"to restart the computer, and then restart the installation 


Windows Vista/7/2008 R2 based system re targeting restores.


By Default, restoring a Windows Vista/7/2008R2 system partition where the 'Use Restore Anywhere' option was enabled, BESR/SSR configures the Windows mini-setup to run upon first boot after the restore. More specifically, an unattend.xml file is created and Windows is directed to process that unattend file during the initial reboot. In most cases, this should work. However, in cases where this error occurs, Windows cannot process some portion of the unattend.xml file.


Solution 1:

During the restore wizard process, hold down the Ctrl key on your keybaord and click Use Restore Anywhere option. Take the checkmark out ot Run Windows Mini Setup. If this fails, you can also put a check in Delete existing drivers. It is typically not advised to check Prompt for drivers at this stage unless advise by Symantec Technical support.

Solution 2:

Restore without selecting the Use Restore Anywhere option if the Windows Vista/7/2008R2 images will be restored to the original system from where they came from, and if the original system has not undergone a system board or mass storage controller change.

Solution 3:

Use this step only if the other solutions fail.Download the attached unattend.xml file.  

  • Download the attached unattend.xml file (see below). Save this file to a USB drive.  This generic file will be used in place of the file created by the Windows Mini Setup.
  • Restore the image file with the Restore Anywhere Option selected in the wizard. At the last screen, remove the check from Reboot when finished.
  • When the restore is complete, DO NOT REBOOT. Plug into the computer the USB drive from the first step that contains the unattend.xml from the first step.
  • At the main Recovery Disk screen, click analyze, then click  open a command prompt
  • At the command prompt, navigate to the C:\Windows\Panther folder (where C: is the system drive letter)
  • Delete the existing unattend.xml file and copy the unattend.xml file from the USB disk to this folder. Type dir and press enter to verify this file did indeed copy. 
  • Reboot the computer. The restored operating system should boot correctly after a lengthy hardware detection process and one or more reboots.
  • Once in the operating system, X out of the System Preparation Tool that pops up on the screen. DO NOT select any of the options. 
  • Open the Windows registry editor. Expand HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > System > Setup. In the setup folder, change all of the REG_DWORD values to 0. Delete any value in the CmdLine key. It should very similar to this:


  • Exit out of the system registry
  • Open the Windows Computer Management console and ensure the ADMINISTRATOR account (and any other user accounts you choose) are enabled, as the setup process may have set the administrator account to disabled.
  • Reboot the computer and log in normally.


Symantec Corporation has acknowledged that the above-mentioned issue is present in the current version(s) listed under the Product(s) Section of this article. Symantec Corporation is committed to product quality and satisfied customers.

This issue is currently under investigation by Symantec Corporation. Pending the outcome of the investigation, this issue may be resolved by way of a patch or hotfix in current or future revisions of the software. However, this particular issue is not currently scheduled for any release.  If you feel this issue has a direct business impact for you and your continued use of the product, please contact your Symantec Sales representative or the Symantec Sales group to discuss these concerns.  For information on how to contact Symantec Sales, please see  http://www.symantec.com Please be sure to refer back to this document periodically as any changes to the status of the issue will be reflected here.

NOTE: Customers experiencing this issue are encouraged to contact Symantec Technical Support as data is still being collected to assist in resolving this issue.


Generic Unattended XML file...
unattend.xml (2 kBytes)

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Article URL http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH128352

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