Put Vista on a Diet with vLite

Marcus_Soperus

First XP, Now Vista's on a Diet

Computerworld reports that Dino Nuhagic, the college student behind nLite , the program that helps you remove unnecessary components in Windows XP (and Windows 2000), has done it again with vLite , his customization utility for Windows Vista.

Getting Started with vLite

vLite 1.1 is a 1.55MB installer, using 4.9MB of disk space when installed. It requires administrator privileges.

After installation, you are prompted to install a DVD reader utility. After it's installed, you are prompted to select the folder containing your Vista installation files. Insert your Windows Vista DVD and Browse to the root folder. Next, choose an empty folder (or create one) for the installation files. vLite immediately begins copying your Vista DVD's installation files to the folder. The copy process takes a few minutes. After the copy process is over, choose the version of Windows Vista you want to configure, including non-US versions such as HomeBasicN, BusinessN, and Starter. Click Next when prompted to continue. You can select from five optional pages, including

  • Integration (integrates hotfixes, drivers, and language packs)
  • Components (select this option if you want to put Vista on a diet by removing components you don't use)
  • Tweaks (tweak the Vista configuration to save time after installation)
  • Unattended setup (automates setup to make it even faster)
  • Bootable ISO (creates a bootable ISO or burns it to CD or DVD)

I selected all of them. Read on to find out what you can do with vLite.

Build a More Up-to-Date Vista with the Integration Menu

The Integration menu has three tabs.

  • Click Hotfixes to add hotfixes you have already downloaded
  • Click Drivers to integrate already-extracted drivers
  • Click Language to add languages

If you've been in the habit of running, rather than downloading hotfixes and drivers for installation later, vLite gives you a really good reason to mend your ways.

Customize (and Shrink!) Vista with Components

When you select the Components category, the Compatibility Features dialog opens first. Select the components you want in the optimized image. Click each option to see which features are included. Because some components have feature overlap with others, you may be able to skip installing some features without losing functionality you need.

Click the Compatibility Applications tab to select support for Halo 2, Paint.NET, and other popular Vista programs.

Next, the main Components menu opens. Unlike the pop-up compatibility window, the Components menu is used to remove components in the following categories:

  • Accessories
  • Drivers
  • Games
  • Hardware Support
  • Languages (Asian)
  • Multimedia
  • Network Services
  • System

As you make selections, keep an eye on the right pane, which lists the size of each component, what it's used for, and when to keep it. Items listed in Red can cause problems if they are removed. I removed 60 components, including the entire Printers category (I prefer to download customized drivers, and I just don't need dozens of old drivers for printers I'll never see cluttering up my system). As you will see later, it makes a difference in the size of the install image.

Save Time After Installation with Tweaks

The Tweaks menu lets you preconfigure options in four areas:

  • Security (UAC and others)
  • System (AutoPlay, power button behavior, and others)
  • Explorer settings (showing hidden files and others)
  • Internet Explorer (phishing settings)

Walk Away and Let Vista Install Itself - Completely

The Unattended dialog provides options for inserting your product key, accepting the EULA, providing your user name, configuring the Welcome Center, and selecting regional settings such as currency and time zone.

Apply Your Changes and Watch Vista Shrink

After making changes on these menus, click Apply, and choose what changes you want to make to the image. To create the smallest image, select the version you specified when you started the process. At the end of the process, you will have an optimized image ready to create an ISO image or bootable disc.

Creating the ISO - How Small Can You Go?

The ISO menu provides options for creating the image, burning it directly to a disc, splitting it across multiple discs, and configuring advanced options. My (rather modest) changes reduced the size of the Vista image to 1.8GB, down from 2.6GB. If you target a less-feature rich version of Vista and strip out more components, you can create a much smaller image. The Computerworld story I cited at the beginning of this article reports that one user crunched Vista Home Basic down to a 525MB ISO file (small enough to fit on a CD) that created a 1.3GB installation! See this forum thread for various user reports.

Vista SP1 and vLite

Before you perform your next (or first) Vista installation, take a look at vLite. Keep in mind, though, that a vLite-customized version of Vista isn't compatible with SP1. However, once SP1 starts showing up in DVD form, you'll be able to use vLite to customize and reduce it in size as much (or as little) as you want.

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