You don't need to be a desktop admin to get the benefits of Vista's flexible installation format. vLite lets any user create their own customised install. Now you can finally strip out the Sidebar!
Thanks to the new Windows Image Format (WIM) which forms the basis of Vista installation media, Windows Vista is definitely the most scalable and flexible version of Windows yet from an installation perspective – incredibly easy to modify and deploy.
Most deployment/installation scenarios are really only useful for businesses who need to image up multiple machines on a regular basis. However, the benefits of WIM are available for home users as well.
I don’t know anyone who uses all the Windows defaults, or keeps all the installed programs.
So far with performing many installations of Vista, the first thing I’ve done is disabled the Sidebar and UAC. I’m never going to use them, so why install them?
That’s where vLite comes in. Created by Dino Nuhagic, the creator of nLite, vLite lets you customise Vista pre-installation, and create a bootable DVD with all the modifications in place.
Depending on which version of Vista you are working with and how much content you strip out, vLite will create a Vista install which fits onto a CD-R.
Customising Vista with vLite
Download and install vLite, then run the app. To function properly it needs the File System Filter Manager and WIM Filter installed. The first should already be present on a standard Windows XP SP2 machine, and the second is a driver used to mount/modify WIM images. It’s a lightweight driver and doesn’t require a reboot – install it from the vLite GUI.
Next, select where the Vista installation files are located. Copy the Vista DVD locally and navigate to that folder. When vLite finds the files it will ask which version of Vista you want to configure. Note that on most Vista DVDs you actually have all versions available – it’s your product key which unlocks the correct one. Make sure you choose the correct version – a product key for Home Basic won’t work with Ultimate.
|vLite Vista Components
Hit Next or go to the Components tab. Here’s where you get do the bulk of the configuration. You can strip out drivers, games, media applications, services…all sorts of things really.
Considering that each item represents extra bulk on the DVD and will be installed by default unless you pull it out, the potential for saving space and speeding up installation are considerable.
Pulling out drivers is an interesting option, but if you consider that perhaps you don’t really need support for hundreds of display adaptors when Vista is only going to be installed on one particular type of system, it’s not a bad choice.
Some options have more implications than others, and vLite warns alerts you to these.
Hit Next again or go to the Tweaks tab. There are not many options here just yet – vLite is still a work in progress after all. Here you can do a couple of useful things like disable User Account Control (UAC) or AntiSpyware realtime protection.
|vLite ISO Building
Hit Apply when you’re done and vLite asks how the changes are to be made. It can simply apply the changes and leave the original files unaltered, in which case there’s no space saving, or it can rebuild the installation source.
This strips out all files which aren’t used by the particular version of Vista you’ve chosen, as well as those used by options which you removed in the vLite GUI. Finally, you’ve got the choice to either burn the customised image straight to CD/DVD or to create a bootable ISO.
vLite is a seriously cool little application. Personally, there are quite a few bits and pieces which come with Vista which I’m never, ever going to use, so why lumber my system with them or waste time sorting them out post-install? Much better to cut them out of the equation entirely.
Hopefully future build of vLite will support unattended Vista installs. nLite does so there’s no reason to suspect that it won’t be on the agenda.
In the meantime, you can follow the instructions in a previous article I did on Automated Vista installs made easy.