Creating a vLite SP1 Install in 32,767 Easy Steps

Don't worry, just kidding about the 32,767, though there are a lot of steps.

Background

First, some background. I purchased a Fujtisu P1620. I chose a solid state disk (SSD) rather than a conventional hard drive (HDD). I chose a SSD because I believe an SSD has longer battery life, faster boot up time, speedier performance and less risk of failure than a HDD. But SSDs are several hundred dollars more expensive than HDDs, and also have a lot less storage. My only SSD option was 32GB. 64GB wasn't even an option on the P1620, though it is on some other tablets.

I also chose Vista over XP Tablet PC edition because I believe Vista has better tablet support. However, Vista takes up gobs of hard drive space. This isn't a big issue with my wife's P1620, which has a 100GB HDD. But with only 32GB, space on the SSD is at a premium. Actually, with the Fujitsu recovery partition, my C drive is only about 28GB.

Vista has a lot of components you don't need. Games (for me) is one. I don't need support for every language on the planet; I have enough trouble with English. I also don't need drivers for every printer on the planet; I can always download the printer drivers I need. Nor do I need sample files, tons of wallpaper, etc. Yes, games, drivers and wallpaper are nice, but with a 32GB SSD they are luxuries I simply can't "afford", space-wise.

You could use Add/Remove Windows Components in Control Panel to remove some components of Vista. However, that applet's ability to remove Vista components is very limited.

That's where vLite comes in. It enables you to create a customized Vista installation DVD that results in a Vista install that takes up much less space on your hard drive (or SSD) yet still has the functionality you (and Vista) need. To get to the bottom line, based on WinDirStat, vLite almost halved my Vista SP1 install from about 10.1GB to about 5.4GB! This saved almost 18% of the available space on the C drive. And I wasn't all that aggressive about slimming Vista down; if I really wanted to, I could have saved even more space.

   

Note: This data was before I ran vsp1cln.exe program that SP1 also installs. vsp1cln.exe removes the system files that SP1 replaces. It saved me about 1.2GB. However, don't run it until you're committed to keeping SP1. You can run vsp1cln.exe with Windows-R->vsp1cln.exe and answer Yes to the prompt.

However, using vLite is not for the faint hearted. Additionally, Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) just became available, so most of the available information on vLite doesn't cover including SP1. But you need to include SP1. If you create a vLite install that doesn't include SP1, you can't add SP1 through Windows Update or manually (or so I've read).

When I did my planning, I found that all of the necessary information is available on the Internet, but not all in one place. This was reminiscent of the task faced by my computer programming students (in addition to having to tolerate my stale, recycled jokes). They have sufficient information on each of the pieces of the puzzle, but they still need to put the puzzle together. So I decided to undertake that task myself. Not to sound corny, but I thought I should "give back" to all those who have helped me. So I hope you find this useful. If you have any comments or corrections, please post a comment on my blog entry that links to this article.

Speaking of all the help on the Internet, I found very helpful the tutorial Fit a Vista install on a single CD! (appropriately on TeamTutorials.com) and will refer frequently to that tutorial in this article. I'd recommend that you print that tutorial out before you start. I was not that aggressive about removing Vista components, so my Vista installation disc had to go on a DVD rather than a CD. Please also note Fit a Vista install on a single CD! is pre-SP1 so doesn't cover slipstreaming.

OK, let's start! Please note that I created the customized Vista installation DVD on a different computer rather than the target P1620.

1.    Back Up Your Product Key

I used the ABR (Activation Backup and Restore) utility to back up my Vista product key on the P1620.

The Vista DVD that accompanied my P1620 did not include a product key sticker on the DVD jacket. You can’t just grab the product key from the registry as in prior OS’s since the key is encrypted. There was a Vista product key on the bottom of my P1620. However, I knew from both reading and from experimenting with my wife's P1620 that the key on the bottom of the P1620 is not the one which was found by third party product key finders. Nor was the key on the bottom of the P1620 the one found by the ABR utility. Why this is so I leave for better minds.

Note: vLite can be used without having first installing the default Vista OS. However, I first installed the default Vista on my P1620. One reason was the P1620 wants to install Vista when you first turn it on, and does so (evidently) from the Fujitsu recovery partition on the SSD (you don't need the DVD). Another reason was I was concerned about using the ability of the ABR utility to read the Vista product key without having Vista installed.

2.    Download and Install vLite

Download and then install vLite. I downloaded 1.1.6 RC, then the most recent version, and one which allowed slipstreaming of SP1 (see step #7 below). When installing vLite, you might see a Dependencies screen, which is shown and explained in Fit a Vista install on a single CD!

3.    Download Vista (Free)

Unlike prior operating systems, consumers can legally download Windows Vista online. Of course, they still need a product key (that they have to buy of course). Of course, I already have a product key, which I backed up in Step #1.

The reason why you want to download Vista even though you already have an OEM Vista DVD is to have a clean Vista DVD, free of any crapware or extras put on by the OEM.

This article has the links to the three Vista files you need to download. These files are exactly the same no matter which edition you purchased or if you purchased a full or upgrade version. Your product key will determine and unlock only what you purchased.

4.    Create the Vista Installation Folder

One of the three Vista files is X13-49120.exe. Run this executable. You'll see the Windows Vista Setup Preparation progress screen:

When setup preparation is finished, you will see the Vista setup screen:

Vista setup screen

Stop! Do not install. Just click the close button.

What happened is that the Windows Vista Setup Preparation created a new subfolder “Vista” under the folder where you saved X13-49120.exe and the other 2 Vista setup files. This Vista folder is populated with all necessary Vista setup files which takes up about 2.5GB disk space.

You could use this Vista subfolder to create an ISO and burn a Vista install DVD. But this would be full-blown Vista, not a "lite" version of Vista. It also wouldn't include SP1.

5.    Download Vista SP1

Service Pack 1 comes in a standalone file that you can download. The file, Windows6.0-KB936330-X86-wave0.exe, is a whopping 434.5 MB. You can put it wherever you want, it doesn't have to be in or near the Vista subfolder.

6.    Start vLite

Start up vLite. Here's the startup screen:

Click the Browse button and choose wherever the Vista folder is located. You'll next be asked to pick the Vista version for which you have a product key.

Chose Vista Version

As discussed in Step #3, the Vista files are exactly the same no matter which edition you purchased or if you purchased a full or upgrade version, your product key determining and unlocking only what you purchased. After you've picked your version, click OK to close the dialog. The application indicates it is processing. The information under Status changes:

Cick the Next button to display the Task selection screen:

7.    Slipstreaming SP1

Eventually we'll do most of the tasks. However, the order in which you do the tasks is important. You want to slipstream SP1 into the default Vista install before you tweak that install.

Accordingly, check only the Service Pack Slipstream option. This enables the Slipstream button on the left.  Choose it.

Choose SP1 file

Choose Select. This displays a dialog from this you can choose the Windows6.0-KB936330-X86-wave0.exe file you downloaded in Step #5.

Choose the SP1 file and click Open. The dialog will close, and the prior screen will indicate "Preparing", then "Integrating." This will take a while, perhaps hours. After it's finished, you can click Tasks to go back to the window shown at the end of Step #6 where previously you chose only the Service Pack Slipstream option.

8.     Remaining Tasks

This time you'll choose Integration, Components, Tweaks, Unattended Setup and Bootable ISO. Then click Next.

Remaining Tasks

9.    Integration

Here's the Integration screen. As it indicates, it enables you to integrate hot fixes, drivers and language packs into your Vista SP1 install.

Integration Screen

I didn't do anything on this screen and just clicked Next. I figured SP1 took care of any hot fixes, my Fujitsu came with a drivers DVD, and I didn't need any language packs. However, YMMV, so if you want to incorporate drivers or hot fixes (or language packs) into your DVD, here's where you do it.

10.    Removing Components

Next is Components, where we put Vista on a diet. But first you'll see a Compatibility window with two tabs, Features and Applications, shown below. As explained in Fit a Vista install on a single CD!: "This box allows you to check things that you want to be functional after this build. By checking these boxes, vLite will remove selections from the next screen so that you can not accidentally remove something that will make these features not function properly."

Compatibility - Features tabCompatibility - Applications tab  

When finished, click OK to show the main Removal window. 

Remove Components - Main Screen

For illustration, I clicked the expanded for Hardware Support, which shows its components.

Remove Hardware Support Expanded

Note that Floppy Disk Support is in red rather than black font. That doesn't mean that vLite regards Floppy Disk Support as Communist. (Now you understand the bad jokes my students have to endure). Rather, vLite is recommending that you don't remove that component. That doesn't mean removing that component will result in a non-functional Vista. You can remove some components in red. However, only do so with great care.

Again for illustration, I clicked Smartcards. Note on the right there is some description of the component you will remove, and at the bottom the size of the components you have selected for removal.

I'm not going to address here what to remove and what not remove. I felt safe in removing Games (I have better games), Languages (I have enough trouble with English to worry about Croatian or Greek), and printer drivers (I can download what I need). Let's just say this is the step where you really take your time and do your research. Remove too little, and you've defeated the purpose of vLite. Remove too much, and you get to reinstall Vista (and all your applications).

When done, click Next.  

11.    Tweaks

Tweaks

The Display, Security and System options are well-explained in Fit a Vista install on a single CD! Internet Explorer has to do with the Phishing option. When done, click Next.

12.    Unattended

Next is the Unattended screen. I left the defaults as I will enter the product key and adctive manually with the ABR utility discussed in Step #1.

When done, click Next.

13.    Create ISO

The Create ISO window next displays.

Create ISO

Click the Make ISO button. This displays a dialog for you to name and locate the ISO file.

ISO Dialog

Name the ISO file and locate it where you wish. Then click Save. The ISO creation starts:

ISO Creation

Mission accomplished!

ISO Finished

Well, not quite.

14.    Finishing Up vLite

Click Apply. This displays the Apply method dialog. Help explains the differences.

I chose Rebuild One. Processing starts.

Finished!

Finished!

You can now choose Exit to close vLite.

15.    Burning the DVD

You now have a slimmed down Vista SP1 install. But its on your hard drive as an ISO file. You can't boot off that! So you burn the ISO file to a DVD.

I use vLite just to create the ISO, not to burn it to a DVD, though you could do that in vLite too. I used ImgBurn but there are plenty of alternatives.

I ran into a surprising amount of trouble on this step. Basically, a DVD I created on my desktop's internal burner couldn't be read by the external DVD drive I would use to boot my P1620. My solution ultimately was to use the same external DVD drive to burn the DVD that I would use to boot my P1620.

16.    Installing Vista on the P1620

Not much to say here. I booted off the DVD in the external DVD drive, chose to format the C drive where my existing Vista install resided, and then installed Vista.

I did not enter a product key in this step. When finished, I followed the steps in the ABR  utility by running activation_restore.exe. Done!

Remember, if you have any comments or corrections, please post a comment on my blog entry that links to this article.