Specify .Net Framework 3.5 Installation Files Source Location using GPO

While working with server management using ConfigMgr we tend to spend some time on OS deployment as well. I would argue that using MDT to create your ref-images and then to deploy that ref-image to a VHD using ConfigMgr and to deploy that VHD to VMM would be the best approach but that is a different story. Today a customer of mine struggled with how they were going to deploy server images including .Net Framework 3.5 (3.5.1) with their images or not. Also, if they were to distribute the images with .Net Framework, should it be installed, “installed” so that the bits were there or should the just copy over the bits to a specific location on the VHD/disk? As you can see in the image below I have .Net Framework 4.5 (not the first one as it is for the IIS feature, not show that great here) Installed, Windows Biometric Framework is Available and lastly .Net Framework 3.5 is ‘Removed’.


.Net Framework 3.5 has ‘Install State’ at value ‘Removed’

What this means is that in order to install .Net Framework 3.5 one must have access to the installation source files (like the ISO file) or access to Microsoft Update. Not all servers in an enterprise environment has any of those two options. Therefore one can specify where to find those files during installation of .Net Framework. If one does not specify the path to the source files one will get the error shown below.


Error message displayed when trying to install .Net Framework 3.5 without specifying path for source files.

So we have three options:

  • Have .Net Framework 3.5 pre-installed on all servers
  • Have .Net Framework 3.5 set to “Available” on all servers
  • Copy the bits to a specific location on each server and instruct server administrators to specify that location each time

All of these options aren’t really feasible since each and one of the point out a problem such as having more servers require hotfixes where they actually don’t need them since they don’t need .Net Framework 3.5 in the first place.

So what can you do instead? Because, of course there is a solution to this.

By using a GPO we can pre-specify the location where the operating system should look for the bits in order to install .Net Framework.


‘Specify settings for optional component installation and component repair’ is found beneath ‘System’ and ‘Administrative Templates’.

Using the Group Policy to set ‘Specify settings for optional component installation and component repair’ we can specify a UNC path where we have copied the entire content of the Source\SxS folder from the installation ISO.


The ‘Alternative source file path’ can be both a directory path as well as a path to a WIM file including it’s image index.

Finally, remember to use WMI filter on this Group Policy  since different OS versions require different source files.




About The Author

Tim Nilimaa is a consultant with Lumagate in Sweden. He has been working with Configuration Manager for 8 years. His knowledge has been selected as a speaker at many events among them Microsoft Management Summit.

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