A+: Vista's Install Log Files

For Windows Vista matters become more complicated when it comes to log files. The Vista installation is broken down into four phases:
Downlevel phase— This is the phase that is run from within the previous operating system, meaning when you start the installation from the DVD, in Windows XP for example.
Windows Preinstallation Environment phase— Also known as Windows PE, this phase occurs after the restart at the end of the downlevel phase. If installing to a new hard drive, this phase occurs when you first boot the computer to the Windows Vista DVD.
Online configuration phase— The online configuration phase starts when a user receives the following message: “Please wait a moment while Windows prepares to start for the first time.” Hardware support is installed during this phase.
Windows Welcome phase— During this phase, a computer name is selected for the computer, and the Windows System Assessment Tool (Winsat.exe) checks the performance of the computer. This is the final phase before the user first logs on.
There are log files for each phase; they are pretty much the same log files but in different locations. However, we are most concerned with the last two phases. For the most part in these two phases, the log files are in the same location.

  C:\Windows\Panther\Setuperr.log records errors (if any) in installation; check first if installs fail. A zero-byte file shows no install errors.

  C:\Windows\Panther\Setupact.log stores install action data.

  C:\Windows\Panther\miglog.xml has the user directory structure data, including SIDs (security identifiers).

  C:\Windows\inf\Setupapi.dev.log has Plug and Play devices and driver install data.

  C:\Windows\inf\Setupapi.app.log has app install data.

  C:\Windows\Panther\PostGatherPnPlist.log has device data captured after online configuraiton.

  C:\Windows\Panther\PreGatherPnPList.log has device data captured during the online configuration phase.

  C:\Windows\Performance\Winsat\Winsat.log has Windows System Assessment Tool performance testing results from the Windows Welcome phase.

For a list of all log files within all phases of the Windows Vista installation, visit http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927521.

You’ll notice that Vista doesn’t have a setuplog.txt file like XP does. This is because there is no text portion to the installation of Windows Vista.

How can you view these files if your system will not start? If Windows XP/2000 is installed on an NTFS drive, you can use the Windows boot disks or CD to start the system, launch the Recovery Console, and view the files with the More command. For example, use the command More setuplog.txt to display the contents of the Setuplog.txt file. Windows Vista does not use the Recovery Console any longer; instead you can boot to the DVD to the System Recovery Options menu and open a command prompt session.