Microsoft

Automate custom Vista installs with vLite

Dino Nuhagic's vLite version 1.2, used in conjunction with Microsoft's Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), is a powerful software tool that allows you to create a customized Windows Vista installation disc(s).

Dino Nuhagic's vLite version 1.2, used in conjunction with Microsoft's Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), is a powerful software tool that allows you to create a customized Windows Vista installation disc.

Editor's note: This review was originally scheduled for the Product Spotlight Blog, but Dino Nuhagic has specifically stated that vLite is not to be used for commercial purposes.

Specifications

Developer: Dino Nuhagic File size: 1.6MB Prerequisites: Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), 1.34GB hard drive space, .NET Framework 2.0 (included with standard Vista installation) Hardware Requirements: Windows Vista capable system Disk Space Requirements:
  • WAIK SP1 setup file 1.34GB
  • vLite setup file 1.6MB
  • vLite temporary files 3.6GB+ (x86), 6GB+ (x64) (SP1 integration)
  • Vista install files 2.52GB (x86), 3.56GB (x64)
  • SP1 setup file 434MB (x86), 726MB (x64) plus disk space needed to install WAIK and vLite
Operating systems: Windows Vista x86 or x64 (with or without SP1) Price: Free More Info: vLite Home Page

Check out the vLite TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

vLite is targeted toward those people and entities who want to want to create an unattended Microsoft Windows Vista install; trim unneeded or unwanted features; integrate service packs, hot fixes, language packs or drivers; and otherwise personalize the final Windows Vista installation. However, vLite is not for the inexperienced or new computer user.

What problem does it solve?

Licensed Windows Vista owners can create a bootable Windows Vista installation disc if they did not receive one or if the original DVD is lost or damaged. vLite allows you to shrink the Windows Vista footprint if you have limited disk space and greatly speed up the Windows Vista installation and reinstallation process. This is useful when you need to reinstall Windows Vista for more than one user or more than a few times per year.

Standout features

  • Well designed and organized The main screen organizes the slipstreaming process in a step-by-step format. You also have the option to simply click the Next button to move to the next process.
  • Highly configurable — The large number of options allows you to create a highly customized Windows Vista install by using the Slipstream, Integration, Components, Tweaks, and Unattended options.
    • Slipstream Slipstream a service pack into the installation.
    • Integration — Integrate RAID and other drivers, hot patches, and language packs.
    • Components Remove components like IE and defrag. (Service packs after SP1 can not be applied if components are removed.)
    • Tweaks — Tweak and personalize Windows Vista before installation.
    • Unattended Allows you to start the Windows Vista installation and leave.
  • Detailed Documentation — The right pane of the Components screens details the function of each component in Windows Vista to help you decide if you really want to remove it. Important instructions and status information are displayed when appropriate.
  • Freeware — Absolutely free for personal use.
  • Multi-disc support You can easily create a Windows Vista installation that spans more than one disc.
  • ISO and disc burning options — The option to create an ISO file for future burning is available or you can burn directly to a disc without additional disc burning software.

What's wrong?

  • SP2 integration not supported — Version 1.2 does not support SP2 slipstreaming, and according to Dino Nuhagic, there are no plans to support SP2 integration in future releases of vLite. Dino recommends using the Reverse Integration method for slipstreaming SP2.
  • Removing components breaks future SP installs — If you remove components, Windows Update will be disabled from downloading service packs released after SP1. Manually downloading and installing a service pack will also fail if the installer finds expected components missing.
  • Fix needed for WIM Filter — If you get a pop-up window asking you to install the WIM Filter and you have already installed the WAIK, find the x86 version of the wimgapi.dll file in the folder where you installed it and copy it to the vLite root folder. The x86 version is required even if you are running the 64-bit version of Windows Vista. This error may occur when the WAIK is installed on a non-system logical drive.
  • Applying mods may cause some devices to fail — During one test, I tried each task that modified the install — Integration, Components, Tweaks, and Unattended. After installing the modified version of Windows Vista x64, my USB wired keyboard failed to work, possibly due to one or more of the components that I chose to remove. I did not see this problem when only slipstreaming SP1 and adding a RAID driver.
  • High resource requirements — More than 3.6GB (3,865,470,566 Bytes) is required for the temporary file space when slipstreaming Windows Vista x86 SP1. A minimum of 6GB (6,442,450,944 Bytes) is required for temporary file space when integrating SP1 into Windows Vista x64.
  • Long dedicated computer time required — Integrating SP1 can take more than one hour and fifteen minutes for the 32-bit version and three hours or more for the 64-bit version of Windows Vista.
  • Large file download required — At the core of vLite are components that are part of the Windows AIK distribution. This prerequisite WAIK ISO is a very large 1.34GB file and will take a long time to download without a fast Internet connection.
  • Original Windows Vista disc/files required — Preinstalled versions of Vista cannot be used as source files by vLite. You will need an original Windows Vista DVD or all of the Vista installation files for the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Vista that you want to slipstream.
  • Personal use only — The vLite Web site states that vLite is not for commercial use. A fee-based version of the program for commercial use is currently unavailable.

Competitive products

There are no competitive slipstreaming software products available at this time. There are several imaging products that can create a Windows Vista installation disc, though, without the component removal capability:

Bottom line for business

Until a commercial version is available, businesses will have to rely on alternative tools like system imaging or a process known as Reverse Integration for service pack integration.

Bottom line for personal use

vLite does a very good job of making the complex tasks of slipstreaming Windows Vista as simple as possible.

With the release of SP2, vLite will be less useful for service pack integration. However, vLite is an excellent tool that you can still use to integrate SP1 and customize your Windows Vista bootable installation DVD.

The up-front time spent to create a vLite customized installation disc is lengthy but well worth the effort for most Windows Vista users. You will save time during your next reinstall of Vista and for every reinstall thereafter.

Reviewer's note

I would like to thank Dino Nuhagic for the information he supplied regarding vLite and SP2 support and Microsoft for their feedback.

I would also like to thank TechRepublic members anachron@... and Richard Potts for the inspiration for this review.

About Alan Norton

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

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