For the purpose of debugging why the first start of Windows 3.1 after the installation crashes DOSBox, I was looking for a way to automate the installation process.

Surprisingly, there is one, the /H switch !

Sets up Windows 3.1 on your system.
setup [/N] [/I] [/O:filespec] [/S:filepath] [/B] [/T] [/C] [/A] [/H:filespec]

 /N           - Sets up a shared copy of Windows from a network server.
 /I           - Ignores hardware detection. During Setup, user will need to
                check accuracy of settings on System Information screen,
                and possibly make corrections.
 /O:filespec  - Specifies the SETUP.INF file.
 /S:filepath  - Specifies a path to the setup disk(s).
 /B           - Sets up Windows with monochrome display attributes.
 /T           - Searches the drive for memory-resident (TSR) programs, and
                notifies you about certain programs. For information about
                using specific programs with Setup or Windows, see SETUP.TXT.
 /C           - Turns off the search for memory-resident (TSR) programs.
 /A           - Administrative setup -- places Windows on a network server.
                Setup expands and copies all files on every disk to a given
                directory, and marks them read-only.
 /H:filespec  - Batch mode setup. Sets up Windows with little or no user
                interaction. "Filespec" is the name of the system settings
                file that contains user's configuration settings. If
                "filespec" is not in the directory from which Windows is
                being set up, the path must be included.

Unfortunately, I can't find any documentation about it on the web ...

Do you know where I can find more information on setting up the feature ?

  • 3
    StackExchange doesn't like answers that are basically just URLs, which is unfortunately what you're asking for. So I won't answer, instead I'll just comment: search for the Windows Resource Kit. You will probably get this as one of the hits: tech-insider.org/windows/research/1992/0221.html
    – Ken Gober
    Sep 2, 2018 at 4:46
  • 1
    What the heck, I'll answer it anyway. I'll just leave out the URL. Then nobody can complain that I'm giving a URL as an answer.
    – Ken Gober
    Sep 2, 2018 at 4:49
  • Just comment for a bit and that'll make a perfectly valid answer !
    – aybe
    Sep 2, 2018 at 4:51
  • @KenGober links can rot any time, and it happens on SE a lot which makes the answer immediately invalid. Therefore at least some summary of the link content must be included: Are answers that just contain links elsewhere really "good answers"?
    – phuclv
    Sep 2, 2021 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


Search for the "Windows 3.1 Resource Kit". The information you want will be in Chapter 1.

  • 6
    At last some proof that useful answers don't really need to go over 3 pages ;)
    – tofro
    Sep 2, 2018 at 9:28

To elaborate on Ken Gober's answer, you want one of the following:

  • Microsoft Windows Resource Kit for Operating System Version 3.1, Pages 75 through 82 (Using Automated Setup: Setup /h) for a quick start and, for more detail, Chapter 2: The Windows Setup Information Files (pages 85 through 133)

  • Microsoft Windows for Workgroups Resource Kit for Operating System Version 3.1, Pages 3-22 through 3-30 (Using Automated Setup: Setup /h) for a quick start and, for more detail, Chapter 5: Windows for Workgroups Setup Information Files (pages 5-1 through 5-74)

(I have no clue what the absolute page numbers would be as you'd find in a PDF. I only have them in their original dead tree form.)

The TL;DR if you don't have a copy of the resource kit handy is:

  1. Make and customize a copy of the example SETUP.SHH file from Windows 3.1 Disk 1 or Windows for Workgroups 3.1 Disk 1.

    (The "Addendum for Operating System Version 3.11" doesn't have a section for this, but I checked my floppies and can confirm the location is unchanged.)

  2. Invoke Windows Setup as setup /h:<path to SHH file>

If you used setup /a to unpack the Windows files to a network server to be depended on by setup /n or setup /h:<path to SHH file> /n (basically, thin client install), then setup.shh will get copied to the network server so you can just customize it in place rather than having to update your network-enabled DOS boot floppy every time your deployment image changes.

The resource kit warns you that parsing of the .SHH file will not be affected by your locale settings and to only use "ANSI characters", but I can't remember whether they mean 7-bit ASCII or are following the vernacular of back in the day and are using it as an incorrect name for the system's default codepage. (Codepage 437 for machines sold in Redmond, WA.)

Combined with the later sections on customizing .ini and .inf files for stuff like preloading custom program groups, PIFs, etc., the detailed information section contains everything you need to turn the Windows 3.1x installer into a full-blown automated deployment solution, but those customizations aren't specific to automated installs and you can learn how to do that by examining a system restore CD which does so.

(For example, the Gateway 2000 System CD version 3.0 (Windows 3.1) or 3.6 (Windows 3.11 for Workgroups).)

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