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VMware: Windows could not parse or process the unattend answer file for pass [specialize]

Today I deployed my new created Citrix XenDesktop 7.6 base image with Windows 8.1 u1 template and Customization file, during the customization process I received this error message:

Windows could not parse or process the unattend 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].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.


This issue can have multiple causes. Some common causes include, but are not limited to:

  • Bad Product Key
  • Invalid Device Drivers
  • Invalid Computer Names
  • Issue with the Admin Account being used
  • An installed application breaks the unattended install process


This resolution is based on the source of the error, to troubleshoot this issue, review the Microsoft Setup log setupact.log file.

Note: The Microsoft Setup log file is located at c:\Windows\Panther\unattendGC\setupact.log.

To view the log file from a computer currently displaying the error, press Shift + F10 to open a command prompt and run this command: notepad c:\windows\panther\unattendGC\setupact.log

In my case I configured in the Customization Wizard a Windows 8.1 MAK license key, the configured template OS was an VLK edition…


Sander Daems is founder and author of this blog and working as a Lead (Sr.) Consultant by UNICA ICT Solutions. Sander has over 15 years experience in IT, primary focus: virtualization and modern worksplace.

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  1. JAck
    October 28th, 2015  (Quote) at 15:10  (Quote) | #1

    As soon as the error appears, Hit Shift+F10 to get a cmd prompt
    then open up regedit

    Look for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> Setup ->Status -> ChildCompletion

    Now look in the right hand pane for setup.exe, if the REG_DWORD value data is set at 1 then change it to 3

    Reboot and hopefully the OS installation will pick up as normal.

  2. Andy
    November 3rd, 2015  (Quote) at 16:14  (Quote) | #2

    Thanks! It was the wrong license key for me.

  3. Everett
    November 23rd, 2015  (Quote) at 04:10  (Quote) | #3

    cool, thanks was looking for this

  4. Dan
    March 20th, 2017  (Quote) at 12:42  (Quote) | #4

    Thanks, it was my computer name that had too many characters

  5. Maximus
    June 21st, 2017  (Quote) at 17:05  (Quote) | #5

    Many thanks for your post. In my case it was a wrong license key!

    Best regards!

  6. satsun
    January 30th, 2018  (Quote) at 22:17  (Quote) | #6

    >notepad c:\windows\panther\unattendGC\setupact.log

    That’s what I needed! Had a wrong character in the product key.

  7. Ed Ward
    May 15th, 2018  (Quote) at 14:13  (Quote) | #7


    Changing that setting in the registry worked but, why? I can’t do that with every deployment.

  1. at | #1