How often do you re-install Windows? Every month? Every other month? Have you memorized your Windows XP CD key? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need a little application called nLite. It allows you to slipstream a Windows install. I.E.: You can integrate Windows updates, drivers, and service packs into your Windows install disc so that you don’t have to manually install them. It also allows the creation of an unattended installation disc.
nLite has a few requirements: .NET framework 2.0 needs to be installed; if it isn’t, you will be asked to do so upon startup. You will also obviously need your Windows install disc for the installation files.
To start, create a folder somewhere on your hard drive. Copy all the files from the Windows CD to this folder, then start up nLite.
Choose your language then click ‘next’, and browse to the folder that you copied your windows files to. The version of Windows you’re using will show up; click ‘next’, then ‘next’ once more. Now you choose the options that you’ll be using. I decided to integrate Service Pack 3 and graphics card drivers, and enabled the unattended and bootable ISO options. After clicking ‘next’ you will have to browse to where the service pack is saved on your PC. Once nLite has integrated the service pack, you will have the option to install updates (KB) if you enabled that option.
Once you have chosen all the updates, click next. The following page is for drivers. Click ‘insert’. You need the .INF files only. If your drivers are .EXEs, you can use a program like 7-Zip to unzip them. Don’t worry if you don’t know which files you need exactly: when you browse to the folder, only the correct files will show up in nLite. Drivers that aren’t WHQL certified might bring up errors. Next, you will get the “remove components” page if you elected to do so. If you are unsure of what you can safely remove, do not remove anything in red. You can also click on the + sign for a brief description of what each component does.
Next we have the unattended setup options. These allow you to provide an answer ahead of time to all the questions that Windows typically asks during setup, such as your CD key and time zone. I chose the fully unattended setup. There are varying options, which may come in handy in other situations besides a home user. Each option is explained by clicking on the relevant question mark.
You will then have the option to create an image or to make a bootable disc. I required a DVD as my installation files where larger than 700MB. I pulled out an extra hard drive to test the disc I just created. What followed was the most painless and probably quickest XP install I’ve ever done. Service Pack 3 and my WHQL certified 182.08 Forceware drivers where installed without a hitch.
There is a version of the program for Vista called vLite.