10 tools for creating custom Windows installation discs

WSUS Offline Update
Simply want a fast way to reinstall updates post-install? WSUS Offline Update has the answers

If you've got a Windows XP, Vista or 7 installation disc, you probably know how much work needs to be done post-installation.

Much of this work – slipstreaming Service Packs, reinstalling drivers and getting your PC back up to date – is repetitive and annoying.

That's why you want to pay close attention to this feature, because we're going to arm you with the tools you need to chop hours off the time of future reinstalls.

Core tools

1. RT Se7en Lite

Download RT Se7en Lite

Want a customised or streamlined Windows 7 installation disc? RT Se7en Lite is the tool you need: integrate updates, drivers and language packs, plus remove unwanted components and set up an unattended installation.

RT sev7en lite


2. vLite

Download vLite

This inspired Se7en Lite, so it's no surprise that vLite offers the same features for Vista users. You can also slipstream Service Pack 1 - get the full 435MB package – into your Vista install disc, but sadly it doesn't work with SP2. You'll also need the Windows Automated Installation Kit – a whopping 990MB download.



3. nLite

Download nLite

XP users will need nLite to really go to town on your customised installation. Use it to slipstream SP3, integrate post-SP3 updates (see below), add additional components and programs, configure an unattended setup and then – after you've investigated DriverPacks (below) – burn your perfect disc.



4. WSUS Offline Update

Download WSUS Offline Update

If you'd rather simply burn a disc that can quickly bring your PC bang up to date post-reinstall, WSUS Offline Update is the tool for you. Just tick the boxes, let it download and compile the disc. After reinstalling Windows, pop the disc in the drive and double-click UpdateInstaller.exe, tick the boxes, click Start and let it do the rest.

WSUS offline update


5. AutoPatcher

Download AutoPatcher

AutoPatcher is WSUS Offline Update on steroids: install it on your data partition or drive, then download all the updates you need plus additional components and useful programs such as the .NET Framework Packs, Adobe Reader 9 and Java Runtime. Post-reinstall, you can restore the lot in one go.


Drivers, updates and tools

6. DriverPacks

Download DriverPacks

Slipstreaming drivers into your customised installation disc is easy thanks to DriverPacks: just download the BasePack file, plus any driver packs you wish to incorporate into your disc, saving you time post-install. Both XP and Vista users are catered, with Windows 7 to follow soon.



7. Windows Updates Downloader

Download Windows Updates Downloader

Simplify the task of integrating updates and key Windows technologies into your customised installation disc by using Windows Updates Downloader. It uses scripts for different versions of Windows – Vista and XP are covered at the main site, but Windows 7 users should get for the latest scripts – free registration is required to download them.

Windows updates downloader


8. Silent installers

Download Silent installers

The only way to slipstream applications into your disc using vLite or Se7en Lite is by configuring unattended program installations. It's not an easy subject: this Sourceforge page offers a basic grounding, and while Se7en Lite allows you to add the silent installer via the Updates portion of the program, Vista users must get this more complicated guide.

Silent installers


9. winAddOns.com

Download winAddOns.com

Compared to Vista and Windows 7, integrating apps into your XP disc via nLite is a walk in the park, with dozens of pre-configured packages ready for download from winAddOns. The only major omissions are the .NET Frameworks – get versions 1.1 and 2.0 from RyanVM.net.



10. Vistalizator

Download Vistalizator

Who says you need the Ultimate version of Vista or Windows 7 to switch installed languages? Vistalizator extends this functionality to lesser versions too. The link above reveals how you can incorporate Vistalizator's functionality into your installation disc to save you the bother of setting it up on each subsequent reinstall.



Liked this? Then check out Tips and tricks to make Windows 7 more awesome.