How to Slipstream Windows XP Service Pack 3 Installation
Re-imaging / Re-ghosting your machine for a fresh install of Windows XP is an epic, many hours long ordeal. Even after your installation is completed, you still have to load all the service packs, updates, drivers, and any software you rely on for day to day tasks. Even if you have a Windows XP disk that is just the base install package without service packs, there is a tool you can use to do what is called "Slipstreaming". This is the process of building an ISO or burn to disk, an image that installs Windows WITH all service packs, updates, drivers, and software. All in a single, streamlined install.
NOTE: This tutorial also works for Windows 2000 (Pro or Server), Windows 2003 as well as Windows XP (Home or Pro).
The software I use to do this is called nLite. It is totally FREE which is amazing because it is really useful. You can download the version for Windows XP here:
nLite provides an easy interface that let's you include updates, service packs, drivers in the image but it goes even further by allowing you to choose specific windows features that you want to exclude/include. So you can actually make the base Windows footprint on your disk smaller. This is very useful if you have a small hard drive and need as much space as possible (you can avoid some of that built-in "windows bloat").
Install nLite and run the application. The first screen asks you to choose a language:
Insert your Windows XP disk and use the Browse button to navigate to the disk to point nLite to the install files.
Now you must tell nLite where to save the installation files while it does the slipstream. Point to a folder on your drive that has at least 1 GB of space.
I created a new folder on my desktop to store these files called "xp_slipstream". Click OK and then Next.
nLite will begin copying the Windows installation files. Wait for the progress bar to complete.
Now point the path where the files were copied to by using the Browse button. (It should auto-populate this for you). Click Next.
If you've already run an nLite session before, you can check the box below to automatically load the last session next time you run nLite. Click Next.
Choose the types of items that you want to slipstream into your windows installation. A green circle next to an item means that you will be prompted to point to those components in the wizard. Click Next.
I downloaded Windows XP Service Pack 3 from the links at the bottom of this dialog. Notice the links at the bottom of this wizard window that allow you to download the full redistributable version of the service packs for the windows version you are installing. Once you click the Select button to point to this file, it will begin extracting the service pack automatically once you click Next.
Once slipstreaming of the service pack is completed, click Next.
For ad-ons and update packs, click Insert and point to each file to slipstream in or just click Next to skip this step.
For drivers, point to the file INF files for your drivers. If you have drivers that are EXE's, extract them to a directory somewhere and then look for the INF file in the directory that it was extracted to. For instance, Dell drivers work this way. Click Next once you've added the drivers you want.
Choose the windows components you want to have installed or not installed. What you choose on this Compatibility screen will help you later to not accidently disable a critical Windows component that you might need. Click OK.
What you chose in the previous dialog will select what is checked here. You have more granular control on exactly the components to install.
This is a really nice feature. Instead of having to babysit your windows installation, you can select the presets and settings here. Put in your CD key, your disk space, etc. nLite will auto-select this items so your windows install doesn't stop and just sit there waiting for you. Click Next.
Here you can set more options for your install image and add patches. Click Next.
You will be asked if you are ready to create the final install image. Click Yes.
A final summary is presented with exactly what features will be slipstreamed. Click Next.
You can create this image as an ISO or write it directly to a CD/DVD so you can have a full installation disk. Choose your settings and click Next.
I chose to create this image as an ISO so it prompted me where to save the final ISO that will be written. Click Save.
Watch the progress bar create your slipstreamed image.
Once the image is created successfully, you should see a message like this at the bottom of the dialog. Click Next.
Click finish to close nLite.
Now you can install this disk like a normal Windows install and you won't have to spend hours loading service packs, drivers, patches, etc.
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