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SQL Server 2008 Express R2 Unattended Install

Back in March 2009 I wrote an article called "SQL Server 2008 Express Unattended Install"  It turned out to be one of the most popular articles on Digital Formula (and still is) so, since SQL Server 2008 R2 Express has been released, I figured I’d write an article refresh on how to do the same thing as the original article, but with the latest version.

To make the change easy, I’ll explain the main things that have changed between 2008 and 2008 R2 from an unattended install perspective.


  • You’ve already downloaded SQL Server 2008 R2 Express. This article will assume you’re installing the 32-bit (x86) version although I see no reason why the steps below won’t work with the 64-bit (x64) version.
  • Your system meets the requirements for installing SQL Server 2008 R2 Express.  Note that this includes installing the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, Windows Installer 4.5 and Windows Powershell.
  • You are installing from C:InstallSQL2008 (you can change this as necessary but please make sure you update the paths in the examples below).
  • You’ll save your configuration file as C:Installsql-2008-express.ini

Extracting installation files

To get the extracted installation files, run the following command and follow the wizard – easy.  Note that I’ve extracted mine to C:InstallSQL2008Extracted.

C:InstallSQL2008SQLEXPRWT_x86_ENU.exe /x

Getting the default configuration file

This is the key difference between the previous version (2008) and this one (2008 R2).  Run the following command either from the command prompt or from the Start » Run dialog and then follow the steps below carefully – you’ll see that we don’t actually want to complete the install right now.


This will start the installation with all parts of the installation visible.  If you just ran the executable, you wouldn’t see the screen that shows where the default configuration file is.

From here, follow the wizard, do a new install and configure the options as per your requirements, making sure that the steps on the left include the item "Ready to Install".  Note that this will only present if you ran the command above to set the UIMODE and ACTION parameters.

Ready to install option available
Ready to install option available