Build Custom Windows XP Install Disc
March 15, 2008 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Can I create a custom Windows XP install disc with all of my favorite applications, drivers, windows updates already installed? If so, how do I do it?

I have a tendency to break Windows. I am generally really rough on the operating system. Thus, I like to reformat my drive, and reinstall windows about every year to keep things running smoothly. The worst part about the re installation process is reinstalling all of my drivers, and favorite applications. I would love to be able to create a custom XP installation disc that will, when installed, already have all of my applications on there.

Thanks in advance.
posted by HC Foo to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think your best bet is to use some cloning software like Ghost or, better, Acronis True Image. Make a model install set up the way you want it, all your apps etc, then dump it to an image file. Whenever you like, dump the image file back to your HD and it's as clean as the day the image was made.

Alternatively, merging an XP install disc with the latest drivers is called slipstreaming. I do not think you can include apps this way, but I am not sure.
posted by Brian James at 8:17 AM on March 15, 2008

You can create a customized or preconfigured XP install script, but aside from that, not really. Like Brian said, it's just easier to image your drive once you do a fresh XP install with everything customized to your liking. But then again, you said this is a yearly thing, so whether or not it's actually worth the effort or cost is debatable. As for slipstreaming, because most applications require heavy registry entries, I don't believe that would be feasible as it is with service packs.
posted by cgomez at 8:28 AM on March 15, 2008

When you say that you have a tendency to break Windows, and that you're really rough on operating systems, what exactly do you mean?

If it's because of particular actions you're taking, it might be easier to quit doing that stuff (or to do it inside a virtual machine) than it would be to make a custom install disc.
posted by box at 9:04 AM on March 15, 2008

You can slipstream everything except the applications with nLite. If you're determined to not have to reinstall apps you should just make a Ghost image after you get your system the way you want it.
posted by bertrandom at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2008

3rd, 4th, 5thing images. Acronis is cheap and you can build all kinds of images for various purposes. Works very well and is much, much faster.
posted by tcv at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2008

There are advantages and disadvantages of using disk images. If you create a slipstream, you can use it no matter whether or not you change hardware in the future.

For example let's say you purchase new motherboard--your ghost image won't do much good (and may create hardware layer problems). But creating a ghost image is easier, and especially if you don't plan on touching your hardware, I'd go that route. If you mess with your hardware at all, make a slipstream XP disk--it's easier to tweak later if you need to use different hardware drivers.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 11:09 AM on March 15, 2008

These are the instructions I used to carry out the slipstream previously. All of the Windows post SP2 updates can be downloaded and stored for install from RyanVM's Windows XP Post-SP2 Update Pack
posted by clarkie666 at 11:50 AM on March 15, 2008

Best answer: I like to reformat my drive, and reinstall windows about every year to keep things running smoothly.

HC Foo, I'm very similar in my reinstallation approach and the use of nLite has dramatically improved the entire process.

- Direct integration of service packs and patches into the source files.
= Removes the hours spent on Windows Update after installation.
= Removes the incredible amount of logs, uninstallers, backups and related files that accumulate from the post-install Windows Update process.

- Direct integration of drivers is a massive time-saver and again eliminates the need to lay a new set of files over the default Windows set immediately after installation.

- Integrated tweaks. There was a time where I thought it was fun to take a new Windows install and tweak it to death. With a desktop, laptop and media center machine in my house, I'd rather spend my free time on other pursuits. Also, after 100s of Windows installs over the years, I'm no longer experimenting very much with settings, so having the major tweaks preset in once place is useful to make sure I don't miss anything.

- Integrated application installs mean that the essentials are there immediately. Compression programs, image burning, Notepad2 (which has an custom installer that replaces the regular Notepad), CCleaner, Acrobat (has a "light" installer) and the like.
= I draw the line at more complex applications like Microsoft Office because my use of the application changes from year to year and doing a manual install is easy enough that it's not worth the extra effort. I also like the idea of having a base image that only includes apps that don't demand updates immediately after installation -- a slightly older version of WinRAR or ImgBurn is not as noticeable as a major app that is a service pack or revision behind.

- Ability to set the "Documents and Settings" folder to a different drive. I like to keep my apps separate from my settings for fragmentation, recovery and space reasons. It's comforting to know that if Windows goes south, you can muck up your Windows drive or wipe the whole thing without putting your personal data at risk.

- Use of the $OEM$ folder to drop files like desktop backgrounds, screensavers, backup drivers and manual installers onto the drive automatically during installation.

- Preactivation of Windows!

Once you have your base set of files, it's easy to search for updates when it's time for a new install and you can reload previous nLite configurations to preserve your standard tweaks while just refreshing a package or two.

Links to get you started:
- nLite
- Customized application installers aplenty. (and more)
- $OEM$ folder overview
- Preactivation overview and a script for sucking out the necessary files for preactivation from an existing Windows instllation
posted by VulcanMike at 11:59 AM on March 15, 2008 [5 favorites]

Huge seconding of nLite. It's the gold standard for custom slipstreaming. Absolutely awesome.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:07 PM on March 15, 2008

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