Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!

by Jawwad in Guides, Software, Windows | 12 comments


ultimate customization guide | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!

A while back I posted a guide on how to integrate Windows XP Service Pack 3(SP3) in to Windows XP installation source. It was a simple step-by-step guide to achieve a specific task. Now I have decided to bring you a more general and comprehensive guide on how to build your own custom Windows XP installation CD with a number of extremely useful features that you will not find in default Windows XP installation disk. I have spent a lot of time to compile this large guide and hopefully you will find it useful. Here are some of the objectives that this guide will accomplish:

  • Create a fully automated/unattended Windows XP installation disk so that you don’t need to enter things like product-key, usernames, passwords etc each time you reinstall Windows.
  • Reduce the fat by cutting the Windows installer size by about 40% that will help in faster installation, faster performance and smaller memory footprint after installation.
  • Integrate all the must have applications that you always install after the fresh installation of Windows so that now they are automatically installed with Windows.
  • Integrate some stylish themes so they are automatically installed with Windows.
  • Integrate any drivers for a special computer device that you want to be pre-installed with Windows.
  • Integrate/Slipstream latest SP3 RC2 released by Microsoft in the installation disk.
  • Integrate some patches and tweaks to allow optimized performance of Windows after installation without requiring any effort by the user.
  • And in the end burning our completely customized and optimized Windows XP CD using a CD burner.

First of all download and install the following software before we move to the actual process:

  1. Install .NET Framework 2.0 if it is not already installed . You can download it here.
  2. Download and install the nLite from the following website.
  3. Download the Windows XP SP3 RC2 from Microsoft here.
  4. Download and install all the themes that you want to integrate in your XP installation CD (optional step)
  5. Download some essential applications such as mentioned below(later we will integrate them in our XP installation disk)(optional step):
    1. Foobar2000 v0.9.5 Beta 5  – A light-weight audio player with a lot of advanced features
    2. µTorrent v1.7.5 build 4602 – Best bit-torrent downloader FULL STOP 
    3. Irfanview v4.10 – Great speedy image viewer
    4. Free Download Manager v2.5 Build 731  – Full Featured free download manager
    5. Firefox v2.0.0.11 - No need to comment!
    6. CCleaner v2.03.532  – System tweaking, cleaning , optimizing utility
    7. AVG AntiVirus Free v7.5.503a1205  – Famous free antivirus software
    8. 7-Zip v4.56 Beta – A Great open-source archives handler (zip,rar,iso etc.)
    9. Skype v3.6.216 – Famous Internet telephony application
    10. You can find a lot of other free nLite addons for example for Internet Explorer 7.0 and Windows Media Player 11.0 here.

    So now lets start the actual process…

  1. Copy all files and folders on your XP installation CD to a folder on your hard disk named WinXP.
  2. Start the nLite software and Welcome to nLite screen will appear. Press next button here.
    nlite welcome thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  3. Now give the path to the XP installation folder that you have created in the 1st step and press Next button.
    nlite windows files path thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  4. Here it will ask that if you want to load a previously saved preset. We do not need to do so, so press Next button.                                                              
    nlite preset thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  5. This is  the main screen where you will select the list of tasks you want to perform to create the customized XP CD.Turn on all the task. Maybe you want to turn off the Drivers integration task incase you don’t want to integrate any special drivers such as for you video card,chipset, SCSI controller etc. Press Next button.
    nlite tasks screen thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  6. On this screen select the Service Pack 3 that you have downloaded from Microsoft to integrate and press Next button.                                                           
    nlite servicepack integration thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  7. After integration wizard will move to the Hot Fixes, Update Packs and Addons screen.Now click the Insert button to add all the installation software we downloaded previously(Foobar 200, Firefox 2.0 etc.) one by one to integrate. You can also drag&drop the installation packages in to the main nLite container from Windows explorer.
    nlite addons integration thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  8. Now press next to move to the Drivers screen(in-case you selected the Drivers integration task previously). Click the insert button to integrate the drivers that you want to be pre-installed with windows. You only need to point to the INF file in your drivers folder for each device driver.
  9. Press Next button to move to the Components removal screen. Here we will remove useless components that are just contributing to bloat and slower installation and performance of windows XP. I suggest that you select the following components for removal:
    1. [Keyboards]
      • All the Keyboards except  the United States International Keyboard or any other keyboard specific to your language
      nlite components removal thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
    2. [Languages]
      • For languages select all the languages for removal as the default languages for the this windows installation will not be shown here and is already protected from removal even if you select all the languages for removal.
    3. [Network]
      • Select FrontPage Extensions for removal
      • And Internet Information Services(IIS)
      • And MSN Explorer for removal
    4. [Operating System]
      • Select .NET Framework for removal
      • And DR Watson
      • And Manual Install and Upgrade
      • And Out of Box Experience (OOBE) - Do not remove it if you are not using a corporate version of windows as it will be required to activate windows after installation
      • And Search Assistant
      • And Service Pack Messages - Remove only if you are using an English version of windows
      • And Tour
    5. [Services]
      • Remove Indexing service
    6. [Directories]
      • Select Directories (all) for removal
  10. Now press Next button and Unattended installation screen will appear. Make sure the following settings are configured:
    1. In the [General] tab:
      • Unattended Mode is set to Hide Pages
      • OEM Install is Enabled
      • Enter your windows key in the Product Key field
      • I suggest that you also turn off pathetic windows firewall, as it is not going to protect you from any intrusion anyway .
      • Turn off the system restoration service as it will reduce overhead by turning off an extra service and free-up some space that is consumed by this service.
      nlite automated installation thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
    2. In the [Users] tab
      • Create all the user accounts that you require and set the relevant settings.
      • I suggest that at the very minimum disable the password expiration and set the auto-logon for the desired user.
      nlite automated users thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
    3. In the [Owner and Network ID] tab
      • Set any workgroup and domain settings if required here.
    4. In the [Regional] tab
      • Set your localization settings and time-zone.
      nlite automated regional thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
    5. In the [Network Settings] tab
      • Set the settings specific to your network card such as IP address, DNS server address, gateway address here incase you want these settings to be automatically setup for your network card on windows installation.
    6. In the [Desktop Themes] tab
      • This tab is only necessary if you want to integrate themes in to your installation disk.
      • Press the button Insert Local to load all the themes installed on your system in the list box. Now you can remove some theme that you don’t want to integrate and all others remaining there will be integrated in your installation disk.
      • You can also set the default theme here that will be activated by-default after Windows installation.
      nlite automated themes thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
    7. In the [Automatic Updates] tab
      • Disable the automatic updates via the drop-down present here.All the latest updates will automatically be installed with the SP3 from Microsoft anyway.
    8. In the [Display] tab
      • I suggest that you keep all the settings at default unless you want to set a specific resolution in the windows after installation.
    9. In the [Components] tab
      • No need to do anything here.
  11. After pressing the Next button Options screen will appear where you can set some general settings relevant to the installation disk that we are building.
    1. In the [General] tab
      • Enable High Compression in the Driver Cabinets section.
      • Make sure that “Press any key…” boot message is enabled in the Misc section.
      • Also enable Remove duplicate files in the Misc section.
      • Enable Black background and Classic Mode in the Setup Look section.
      nlite options general thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
    2. In the [Patches] tab
      • Enable maximum TCP/IP connections to at least 100 for the maximum performance in windows XP if you have a broadband connection.
      • Don’t forget to enable the Unsigned Theme support otherwise themes that we have selected for integration in a previous step may not properly work after XP installation.
      • Also disable SFC(Windows File Protection) as it is more of a source of annoyance than help.
      nlite options patches thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  12. Press Next button and Tweaks screen will appear. There are quite a lot settings in the both tabs(General and Services) that  covers different aspects of the Windows XP behavior but for the sake of this guide I suggest that you leave them alone.  In the very near future I plan to post another article on setting the preferred tweaks precisely present in this section to further tweak the windows settings.
    nlite tweaks thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  13. Now when you press Next it will take some time to process and complete all the tasks that we have selected in the previous steps(software integration, component removal and service pack slipstreaming etc.) after which it will move to the CD burning page.
    nlite building process thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  14. Insert an empty CD in to your CD/DVD writer and select the “Burn Image” mode on this screen. Make sure that the correct burner and burning speed is selected and hit the Burn button to burn the ISO image.Please note that you can also save the ISO image rather than burning on the CD, for later use. To do so simply select the Create Image mode and hit the Make ISO button to create the ISO file to store on the harddisk for later use. After burning is complete press Next button. Also note that at this step if you want to add some other software or any other stuff to the XP installation CD(not for integration) just add the folder of that to the working directory. But make sure that the total size of the working XP installation folder should not exceed 700 MB after the addition of files other-wise you will face difficulty when burning the ISO image built from this installation. As normally core windows installation size will be trimmed to around 350 MB after optimization provided you followed my instruction correctly till this moment, so you have about 300 – 350 MB on disposal for adding your own stuff in the CD.
    nlite burn image thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!
  15. Press the Next button and you are done just press the Finish button to exit the application.
    nlite finished thumb | Ultimate Guide to Create a Fully Customized Windows XP Installation Disk with all the Tweaks & Hacks you can Imagine!

Ah! at last we are at the end if this loooong… article. Congratulations! you have created and burned your heavily customized Windows XP CD with SP3 with all the customizations and tweaks that I stated in the start of the article. Now you can freely use this CD to install Windows on your system that will be updated, faster, safer, less space consuming and fully automated that is no user intervention needed during installation. Also it should install in much less time as compared to an average un-moded XP installation CD and as a further bonus pre-installed with all the essential software!

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  • mokmok

    i have read it and help me in alot of ways but i feel it came up short cos many components are still a puzzle to me and i want to create a small xp installer without sacrificing the different functionalities that i need especially regarding the network and sharing of databases… pls kindly help me more…

    thank you…

  • Jeremy

    I really wanted to try this. But, the link to XP SP3 is broken. So, I downloaded SP 3 elsewhere. But, NLite kept giving me an error. It kept telling me to insert the XP install CD.

    Do I need the SP3 installer or the CD ISO Image?

  • Ethan

    Annoying that the first thing I see is an invitation to subscribe to your rss feed, trust me if after reading what you have to say I like it, I will look for your feed myself without you sticking it in my face.

  • Guillermo

    what if I wanna create my own nLite addons? how can I do that? the large list of currently available nLite addons is not good enough for me, that’s why I ask. thanks in advance.

  • http://blackjacksecretsuncovered.com Ryan G

    Thanks for this. I have all sorts of problems getting N-Lite to do what I want. I’ll try this out.

  • santanu

    cant get the welcome screen after installation

  • Rocky

    Thanks for this very useful tricks. But i want to add my own setup screen and my own logon/welcome screen. please provide help. thanks in advance.

  • Neil brady

    not a bad nlite tutorial. however major item left out!! download the latest update pack from xable.net and add it onto the Hot Fixes, Update Packs and Addons section in nlite. this has the MS updates after sp3 (churrent release came out 25 jan). so after you slipstream sp3 into nlite and apply this update pack. you will have fully updated xp build

  • waqar

    i want to replace shell32.dll file ,in xp cd ,there is shell32.dl .If i replace it with my own file what happen?
    tell how to save setting like boot screen .wall papers sounds
    and other settings .??

  • http://www.supanut5.wordpress.com Nut

    Me too! I’m planning my Windows XP Ultimate project, and would like to know how to intigrate custom logon, boot screen and explorer mods;I tried with boot screen and explorer but my hacks wasn’t visible. I think I have to put them in $OEM$\$$\System32 dir, but I’m not sure.

  • http://www.git.edu Basavaraj

    Dear Sir,

    as per your instructions or tutorial, I have done unattended XP without adding any Drivers, Hot-fixes, WinAddons Update Patch and Service Pack 2,Extra… . Now,my question is when i go for adding drivers, Hot-fixes, Winaddonsand service Pack 2 During the making of unattended XP. it is giving a problem ( At step 7, i.e TASK SELECTION). Whether Drivers should be there in the form of ZIP file or as normal folder like FOLDER NAME=SATA DRIVER. Please kindly help me in details

  • Ateeb

    how to remove addons integrated to customized xp…..
    plz suggest me……….

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