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I need to configure few Windows 7 machines (with a wide variety of tasks - from setting up screensaver, disabling services, adding task schedule entries to setting up IPsec/firewall rules).

Since it's going to be a few machines, it makes much more sense to do automate it instead of doing everything by hand.

Ideally, I would like to end with two files: one with script and the other one being f.e. xml holding variables for particular settings.

My question is - Which scripting environment will be best suited for the task?

I haven't done any serious Windows scripting in past, so this is essentially a question "Which scripting environment I should learn?"

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Powershell is the most powerful environment and is where all the mind share has been around Windows scripting for 2-3 years. Powershell can execute any command-line tool, plus has a lot of built in functionality that might replace most of them. No question it is the way to got.

That said, much of what you describe can be done through group policy if you are using Active Directory. It will be much easier to start there rather than script anything.

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I don't think that there is any question that powershell is the way to go. It was designed specifically for this, and the newer OS'es. Also, it will clearly be around for years since Microsoft has thrown itself behind this technology across many product lines.

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Without a doubt, powershell is where you should be focusing your attention for learning. From Server 2008 onwards, everything you can do in the GUI, you can do via PowerShell. It takes a little to get started, but there are plenty of resources to help you on your way:

  • IRC: #powershell on freenode
  • - repository of various powershell scripts
  • Powershell usergroups
  • Books, etc

For your XML challenge, I'd look specifically at this (Codeproject) to see how easily Powershell & XML can interact.

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