Is it an option, switch, or argument?


Silent intalls – Option, Switch, or Argument?

When you install software from the command line you can usually install it silently by including some special “options” to tell the program to install without interrupting the user with a GUI. These “options” are also called “arguments” or “switches”.

That’s how far we are from a standard. The industry still can’t decide on one word to describe these “options”. Since I have a Unix background, I usually refer to them as “arguments”.

It’s kind of funny, actually. There isn’t even a standard on calling arguments. Some software use a forward slash (/), others a backslash (\), while still others prefer a dash (-). Some even use tags like AUTOACCEPT=YES.

Having worked with software deployment for the last ten years, I have learned the trick, which I will now share with you.


If calling the .exe or .msi on the command line with a /? isn’t giving you the arguments list, then it’s time to do a search on the software vendor’s web site. If the vendor is serious about allowing people to rapidly deploy their software, then you should be able to determine the arguments as Adam wrote about in his post My Install is Hanging.

Even with the same vendor, you’ll see various switches. Let’s take Microsoft for example.

For security patches the silent argument is:

/quiet /norestart

For Microsoft Office 2003 patches:


For Microsoft Office 2007:


Lesson learned? Research and TEST before deploying. Better to be safe than to force reboot all of your computers without your users’ knowledge.

Such a mistake is what is referred to in our industry as “career limiting”.