SQL Server configuration files


Problem: You require the ability to perform a repeatable standardised installation of multiple instances of SQL Server or the ability to create as-built documentation of an installation.

Solution: I’ve made a few attempts at documenting a SQL Server install, and all the various options that were chosen at each step, with mixed success. And ultimately following documentation is pretty susceptible to human error. While investigating something else entirely I came across the SQL Server configuration file – and I was sold.

How it works: When running through the SQL Server installation wizard, behind the scenes a configuration file is being created. This file is saved into the C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Setup Bootstrap\Log\<date_time_stamp>\ folder. (YMMV – this location depends on SQL version and whether you install to the default path). The file is created just before the final step to install SQL Server. You have the option of exiting the setup program at this point and using the configuration file, letting the install proceed and use the setup file for further installs, or even copying a configuration file from another extant installation.


Here is what my config file looks like for a named instance called CONFIG (with a little data scrubbing):

;SQL Server 2012 Configuration File
; Specifies a Setup work flow, like INSTALL, UNINSTALL, or UPGRADE. This is a required parameter. 
; Detailed help for command line argument ENU has not been defined yet. 
; Parameter that controls the user interface behavior. Valid values are Normal for the full UI,AutoAdvance for a simplied UI, and EnableUIOnServerCore for bypassing Server Core setup GUI block. 
; Setup will not display any user interface. 
; Setup will display progress only, without any user interaction. 
; Specify whether SQL Server Setup should discover and include product updates. The valid values are True and False or 1 and 0. By default SQL Server Setup will include updates that are found. 
; Specifies features to install, uninstall, or upgrade. The list of top-level features include SQL, AS, RS, IS, MDS, and Tools. The SQL feature will install the Database Engine, Replication, Full-Text, and Data Quality Services (DQS) server. The Tools feature will install Management Tools, Books online components, SQL Server Data Tools, and other shared components. 
; Specify the location where SQL Server Setup will obtain product updates. The valid values are "MU" to search Microsoft Update, a valid folder path, a relative path such as .\MyUpdates or a UNC share. By default SQL Server Setup will search Microsoft Update or a Windows Update service through the Window Server Update Services. 
; Displays the command line parameters usage 
; Specifies that the detailed Setup log should be piped to the console. 
; Specifies that Setup should install into WOW64. This command line argument is not supported on an IA64 or a 32-bit system. 
; Specify the root installation directory for shared components.  This directory remains unchanged after shared components are already installed. 
INSTALLSHAREDDIR="C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server"
; Specify the root installation directory for the WOW64 shared components.  This directory remains unchanged after WOW64 shared components are already installed. 
INSTALLSHAREDWOWDIR="C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server"
; Specify a default or named instance. MSSQLSERVER is the default instance for non-Express editions and SQLExpress for Express editions. This parameter is required when installing the SQL Server Database Engine (SQL), Analysis Services (AS), or Reporting Services (RS). 
; Specify the Instance ID for the SQL Server features you have specified. SQL Server directory structure, registry structure, and service names will incorporate the instance ID of the SQL Server instance. 
; Specify that SQL Server feature usage data can be collected and sent to Microsoft. Specify 1 or True to enable and 0 or False to disable this feature. 
; Specify if errors can be reported to Microsoft to improve future SQL Server releases. Specify 1 or True to enable and 0 or False to disable this feature. 
; Specify the installation directory. 
INSTANCEDIR="C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server"
; Agent account name 
; Auto-start service after installation.  
; CM brick TCP communication port 
; How matrix will use private networks 
; How inter brick communication will be protected 
; TCP port used by the CM brick 
; Startup type for the SQL Server service. 
; Level to enable FILESTREAM feature at (0, 1, 2 or 3). 
; Set to "1" to enable RANU for SQL Server Express. 
; Specifies a Windows collation or an SQL collation to use for the Database Engine. 
; Account for SQL Server service: Domain\User or system account. 
; Windows account(s) to provision as SQL Server system administrators. 
; The default is Windows Authentication. Use "SQL" for Mixed Mode Authentication. 
; Provision current user as a Database Engine system administrator for SQL Server 2012 Express. 
; Specify 0 to disable or 1 to enable the TCP/IP protocol. 
; Specify 0 to disable or 1 to enable the Named Pipes protocol. 
; Startup type for Browser Service. 

Essentially this is a list of the various parameters and the options chosen for the installation. I won’t go through all the parameters, SQL Server installations are well documented elsewhere. I encourage you to seek out the config files of any SQL installations and scan through them to get a feel for the options.

Installing SQL Server using the configuration file: To use the configuration file for a SQL Server installation requires you to use the setup.exe command from the command line. One of the options for the command is /ConfigurationFile, which accepts a filepath/filename argument.

No passwords are stored in the configuration files (and you wouldn’t want that would you?) so these will need to be passed in at the command line.

If you want an unattended install you can also pass in the /Q or /QS switches. /Q is Quiet mode and surpresses the user interface, /QS is QuietSimple and displays the user interface but does not require any user input. These parameters are also specified in the configuration file and can be set there. Any parameters passed in to the command line will override parameters in the file.

You will have to accept the license terms – you can do this via the command line by supplying the /IACCEPTSQLSERVERLICENSETERMS option.

Here is a (scrubbed) example of a command line install.

Setup.exe /SQLSVCPASSWORD="password" /AGTSVCPASSWORD="password" 
/SAPWD="password" /ConfigurationFile=C:\Temp\ConfigurationFile.ini 

Conclusion: Whether you are looking for a way to standardise multiple SQL Server instances, automate SQL Server installations or to document or audit existing installation configuration files might be what you are looking for.