Right here and now we will be showing you how to bypass all this hair-tearing, yawn-inducing effort by creating your very own slip-streamed Windows disc, chock full of the updates, drivers and patches that are generally cluttered around your desktop, file system and on about seventeen different discs that have gone missing at some stage. This can all be configured to automatically install upon your next format, negating most of the effort that comes with cleaning out the grime on your system. To top it all off, we'll be showing you how to manage this for both Vista and the aging XP OS, adding in the latest service packs for both.
In order to pull off this impressive stunt, you'll need to pick the right tool for the job. A couple of free downloads should take care of business, nLite for the XP fans (www. nliteos.com) and vLite for the Vista aficionados. Once you have the relevant tool in hand, we can get started in earnest.
XP Disc Setup
Making sure that you've got nLite on hand, you need to follow the prompts to show the program where the XP installation files are. This is most definitely not where your XP is installed on your computer. Rather, insert the disc that you'd normally install XP from into your optical drive, and show nLite where the files are living there. Once the program picks up the file locations, it'll ask you to specify where you want it to store the installation files that you'll be modifying, prior to them being burnt to disc. Making sure that you'll be able to find this folder later is recommended, so make a new folder on the desktop perhaps.
nLite will automatically copy the installation files into the newly-created folder. Pushing 'Next' will steer you over to the Settings portion of our show. If you've customized your Windows install before, the tweaks you made will show up here. Loading the changes and additions and hitting the 'Next' button repeatedly will eventually bring you to a 'burn disc' option, which indicates that you are now finished.
In this case we're starting from the very beginning so ignore the Settings option and select 'Next' once. Here is where we can get our hands into the bits we want to hang onto and turf respectively. To keep things simple and protect us from liability, we are going to go with the default settings (All) but as you get more used to the program you can choose which sections you want to alter or leave alone. Simply deselecting the bits you want to leave intact is enough to leave them unmolested.
Hitting 'Next' moves onto the next section where you can add in the Service Pack 3 install for XP. First, download SP3's installation file (it can be found at Microsoft's download page) and then show nLite where you've placed the installer. Pick the EXE file for SP3's install and choose 'Next' once more to finish off the Service Pack 3 install disc.
Tweaks and things - XP
Having come this far, it should be a fairly simple matter to add in hotfixes and other updates. This is done in much the same way as we included the Service Pack 3 installer above. The really hard part is knowing what you need to include. You already have a slipstreamed disc with a lot of the major stuff included. After installing from the newly created disc, a good idea would be to watch what Windows Update pulls down, jot it somewhere and download the installers later from Microsoft for inclusion on a newer version of your slipstreamed disc. This will eliminate much redundant installations.
Moving onto the Drivers tab lets you include the drivers for your system right on the disc. In the case of a GPU driver, getting hold of the most recent compatible drivers is your first priority. Once these are secured, extracting the files to a folder somewhere on your HDD and letting nLite know where they reside is a simple matter. nLite will let you know which files in the directory are drivers, letting you select it and move on. The same applies for motherboard and sound drivers so drop those into their own folders and repeat until satisfied. Getting the most recent working drivers will save a little grief later on.
Once you've moved on with the inevitable 'Next' button, you arrive at the Components section. This area lets you remove unwanted bits of the Operating System. Almost anything and everything can be tweaked and altered here so a careful hand is needed to make sure that your install will still work once you're done. It may be an idea to hit the Compatibility tab and select the parts you know your computer will not be very pleased about losing. Losing some of the preinstalled applications that XP will install is a plan since you likely won't miss them. Pretty much everything else is up for grabs so remove what you won't need. One important note though: if you don't recognize something assume it's important. Leave it alone.
The next screen facing you is the Unattended one. A ton more changes can be made here, this time to the installation and setup process of XP. Options include pre-entering your XP Product Key, turning off System Restore or leaving it active and altering User information.
On the User tab, one can set up the accounts in advance as well as set access for them. The computers Workgroup and Name can also be sorted out here as well as the Domain settings. Altering the default resolution and settings for Windows Automatic Updates can be sorted here as well. The great 'Next' key comes into play once again.
This will bring up an Options menu that we elected to leave untouched since it alters system options. Another 'Next' later and the final screen shows up. This allows edits of the bits that are typically the first thing that someone does after a fresh install is completed. You can remove desktop icons and set your Explorer preferences and little bits like that. This is all entirely up to you how you'd like the bits structured and once you've finished playing the disc burning options are just a click away. You guessed it, click 'Next' choose whether you'd like a disc or ISO and enjoy your new slipstreamed Windows disc.
Vista Disc Setup
Due to the similarities between nLite and vLite (the Vista version), setting up a Vista version of your slipstream disc should present little fuss. Same as the XP installation, jam that Vista disc into your optical drive and show vLite where to find all the important goodies. It'll copy across the relevant files onto your specified folder for this little operation and once it is done, you can move onto the next section.
Adding Service Pack 1 for Vista must be done now. If you bypass this step, there is no such thing as heading back to do it later; you'll be forced to start from scratch. Once you've downloaded SPl from Microsoft's site, hit the wonderful 'Next' button in vLite, show it where the EXE for SPl is residing and let it automatically assimilate the update information into your install files. Head out for coffee or watch a DVD since this can take around an hour and a half. Make some lunch.
What you are left with once this process completes is a Windows install disc with SPl fully integrated. It is now safe to use vLite to tweak and modify all the juicy bits you've been aching to get your hands on. Moving onto the Tasks tab allows you to select which of the five tweaking pages you'll be playing with. Take all of them, just in case.
'Next' moves you onto the Integration page which, once again is pretty much the same deal as XP/nLite's equivalent. Tabs include Hotfixes, Drivers and the Language Pack page lets you add extra languages into the Vista install. Unless you surf a lot of dodgy Japanese websites that won't display correctly without the correct add-on, it's likely that you won't use that last option. Add your extras in the same manner that we did for the XP install and you should be right as rain in no time.
The Components window follows, letting you set which options you know you will be using with Vista and helping to prevent any nasty mishaps like deleting the installers for USB or sound by accident later on. Again, vLite mirrors the processes used by its XP-modding cousin.
Then you are free to yank out the little or never used options in Vista. This may be the default web access for all the Firefox disciples out there, Accessibility, the games and optional apps or even the media players. Next!
The Tweaks page appears. Here you can edit some of Vista's features. We turned off Vista's UAC option and convinced the power scheme to default to high performance. You could also set the Explorer options to your favorite configuration. We left the Services tab well alone. If you are feeling cocky you can have a bash at it yourself but we won't be held responsible for any damage incurred. Make whatever edits you feel are needed and then move on.
The Unattended page appears here as well. Product Key can be inserted here, you can pre-accept the EULA and get all of your naming and workgroup assigning out of the way at the same time.
Then, oh joy of joys, we are complete. Select your burning option ('Burn' or 'ISO') and then pick your Rebuild setting. Rebuild One tends to save disc space since it only burns the OS you edited. Rebuild All will burn the entire thing, tweaked and untweaked alike to disc for you. After choosing the option that is best for you, you may burn and go. Slipstreaming done.