Installing SQL Express 2008 Silently

Filed under Installations, SQL

I was recently upgrading an app from shipping SQL Express 2005 to 2008 and ran into a few surprises.

First, the command lines for the two installers are about as different as you can get.

The good news: The command line to extract files from the Self Extracting archive remains the same.

So, for SQL 2005 Express, you use this:

SQLEXPR32.EXE /Q /X:”{path to extract all SQL Installer files to}”

and for 2008 you use this

SQLEXPR_x86_ENU.EXE /Q /X:”{path to extract all SQL Installer files to}”

Typically, your install will drop the SQLEXPR32.EXE or SQLEXPR_x86_ENU.EXE files somewhere during the install, and then execute the above command line to extract all the necessary files to install SQL Express.

Then, you’ll use the command line discussed below to actually install SQL Express.

And finally, you’ll clean things up by deleting the EXE file above and all the extracted files used for the install.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, once you get the installation extracted, the command line to actually perform the installation is completely different.

For 2008, there are a huge number of command line parameters. Luckily, not all of them need to be specified to perform an unattended, nested install (ie an install of SQL Express 2008 from your own install). See here for a complete list of all the command line parameters available.

Obviously, your needs are going to dictate what options you have to specify. In my case, I needed a very bare bones installation, no fulltext search, reporting services, etc, and definitely no network support; this instance of SQL Express is intended to be accessed ONLY from the machine onto which it’s installed.

Given that, the command line is (all on one line):

{path to the SQL installation fileset you extracted above}setup.exe

Now, granted, that’s one gargantuan command line! Remember, the whole thing is executed as a single command. I’ve just put line breaks in so it’s readable. Also, keep in mind that you CAN specify all these parameters in a “response file” and then just pass it to the Setup.exe via the /CONFIGURATIONFILE parameter, like this:


But, that requires creating a separate text file, and potentially deleting or dealing with it afterward, so the command line route tends to work better for nested installations.

The key parameters to be concerned with are:

ACTION This has to be install.

INDICATEPROGRESS If the console window is shown during the install, this will cause a very verbose log of what is happening to be echoed to the console window as well as the install log file. If you hid the console window, this parameter doesn’t appear to have any effect.

QS This stands for Quiet Simple. In other words, the install will show a progress box but no other ui to the user. And no prompting.

FEATURES Determines what elements of SQL Express you want installed. Review the help page above for options, but the main thing to install is SQLENGINE.

HIDECONSOLE Very important. Without this switch, you’ll see a DOS box console window open up during the install. Very disconcerting and not even remotely appropriate for a user facing installation.

INSTANCEID and INSTANCENAME Usually, this should be SQLEXPRESS, though you may want to use a non-standard instance name in some cases.

SECURITYMODE and SAPWD You must provide a System Admin Password (the SAPWD) if you set SECURITYMODE to SQL. Also, keep in my that there may be group security policies in place on the machine that regulate the strength of the password (in other words, the SA password you choose, or that you allow your installer to choose, may need to be a certain length, contains numbers AND letters, etc).

TCPENABLED and NPENABLED These options enable or disable support network connections (TCP or Named Pipes). A 0 disables them, which is generally a good idea unless you have a reason to allow network connections into this SQL Express instance. In those cases, it’s usually best to require the installer to install SQL separately.

ADDCURRENTUSERASSQLADMIN This may or may not be appropriate depending on who is likely to be installing your package.

SQLSVCACCOUNT Actually all of the *SVCACCOUNT” options. These control the domain credentials to use for the various SQL Express services that are installed. You would either need to use the local SYSTEM account, as my example shows, or you’d need to prompt the user during the install to get the required domain login name and password. From a simplicity standpoint, using the local SYSTEM account is the most straightforward. But how you assign service account credentials will really depend on the app you’re installing.

So there you have it. Not hard, but not the same as SQL 2005 either.

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