How to make a Custom Windows Install w/ nLite

Most people have things that they remove from a fresh Windows install every time that they install. Such as services, tools, programs, and others. There are many ways to get settings removed before installing so that you do not have to modify it after every install. One of the ways would be to make a custom install for Windows. We are going to use a tool called nLite to make a fully unattended install and to customize many options so that you can have your own Windows “build”. The program(s) used throughout this tutorial can cause damage to your OS and or make your computer not function. Please, do not make changes unless you are sure you know what you are doing. We can not be held responsible for mistakes made to your PC. Also, be warned that there are a TON of options in this program and many of them are awesome. This process could take a couple of hours to complete, but once you are done it is really worth it. Sorry for the length of this tutorial, but I wanted to cover everything necessary to have a successful build.The first step is to get an intro to what nLite is.

nLite is a tool for permanent Windows components removal and pre-installation Windows setup. After removal there is an option to make bootable image ready for burning on cd or testing in virtual machines. With nLite you will be able to have Windows installation which on install doesn’t include, or even contain on cd, unwanted components.”

You can nLite many different Windows operating systems (2000, XP, and 2003, all of which you can do x86 and x64 versions). You can integrate service packs and updates, remove unwanted components, Create an un-attended set-up(including ISO) integrate drivers to be automatically installed, enable hundreds of tweaks in the tool (from all over the internet), and configure services. nLite requires .NET Framework 2.0 to operate, and the most recent version of it is 1.2. I am using the previous stable build which is 1.0.1. You can download all of the pre-mentioned items at nLite modifies what is called an RTM to create your install. You will need to download the RTM that you want from the internet. Just look around, you will be able to find them. You can also use a Windows CD. Just copy the full content from a distribution CD to a directory on your HDD and when it asks for your install source, go to that directory. Now, that you have a basic understanding let’s get started: once you have everything installed and directories created, we can begin the setup process. Keep in mind when setting up your directories, that you can only use the source files once. You can not nLite the same source files several times. Just copy the folder and rename it to something you would want to call your OS.

When you first launch the nLite.exe you will see the following screen:
At this screen just hit next after you select the language that you would like to use. The following screen will then appear:
This is where you pick where your source files are. Click on browse and go to where you placed your source files. The directory must contain the entire i386 folder and the setup files. Once you select the folder containing these files the bottom half of this windows will populate with the version, language, path, total size, and free space on current drive. As mentioned before, make sure that you copy the contents of your source folder if you plan on doing this more than once. (Most people do, it takes more than one try to get it exactly how you want it. Once you have selected your source folder, click next. The following screen will then appear.
This screen shows your last sessions. The will automatically make all the settings in the following steps be what you had them set to in a previous nLite. This can be helpful if you build an install and one thing isn’t perfect. You can change just that one thing and build it again without repeating the whole process. Select your session and click load to import the settings. If you are not using one or this is your first time just click next.
This screen allows you to modify what option you will be able to set in the following steps. For the sake of the tutorial, we will do them all except integrate a service pack, because the RTM that I am using has SP2 included.
This windows is where you can integrate hot fixes, add-ons, and updates packs directly into the install. The top one that I have listed on this screen is the RyanVM Update Pack, which can be downloaded from This is the most well known update pack and contains all updates to windows XP since SP2. I have also included NET Framework, and CCleaner. These will all install without ANY user intervention. On this window click Advanced and Enable remove catalog files. This will make setup a lot faster. There is a setting that must be set later in order for this to work but I will cover that when the time comes. Once you are done adding your updates, click next.
This window allows you to integrate the drivers for your particular machine into the install so that you do not have to install them manually after the install has completed. Click on insert and select the inf file for the driver that you wish to install. It could be names oemsetup.inf. If there are more than one, you only need to select the first on. It will then pull the other one automatically. After you are done adding drivers, click next.
This window allows you to pick features that you are going to use on your PC. This is a way to ensure that you don’t accidentally remove something that you will need. For example, If I want to be able to install cameras and camcorders, I would check that box and the program would then remove all of the features needed from the following screen so that I can’t mistakenly remove it. If you want everything to be removable don’t check anything.
This is where you can remove almost ANYTHING from the install. For a custom made – complete break down of what services requires others. Please check out this Excel sheet made by Brian Orange.Ensure that you fully understand what you are removing before you do. There are things that are highlighted in red text. These are features that nLite recommends keeping. Any box you check will be removed. The unchecked boxes will be installed. Once you have gone through all available options, click next.
This box has numerous tabs. On the first tab you want to change the mode to Full Unattended. Uncheck the OEM box only if you install SATA or RAID drivers from a floppy disc.
On this tab Put in the name of the Administrator and Organization and password. You can check blank password if you do not want to PW protect your machine. You can enable your machine to auto-login so that you don’t have to click on anything as well.
This tab is where you pick your computer type. Recommended is Automatic. Insert your product key for your installation, and select theme options. You can also turn System Restore on and off and modify its settings. If you are concerned with speed you should turn DEP Always Off. DEP is a feature that checks memory so it prevents malicious code running from there.
This is where you select your keyboard layout and language options ad well as your time zone. This is the last tab you NEED to set in order to have an unattended install. The other tabs have features that we are not going to cover in this tutorial because they are pretty much self explanatory. Once you are finished with all of these settings, click next.
This box gives you some more options. For example you can get rid of user profile in the temp folder if you are the only person using the PC and want the temp folder with easier access. Also, at the bottom of this page there are two settings under setup look. You can change both of them to enabled to MAYBE speed the install up a slight little bit. The other tab is the services tab. You can disable services from there. Once you are done click next.
This window has 4 pretty powerful settings in it. The first settings is how many simultaneous connections can be made through your Ethernet card at once. Making this number 16777215 will drastically increase your bandwidth capabilities when surfing the web. USB port frequency is how often the USB port checks for a status change of the device connected to it. The theme support will allow you to use ANY theme downloaded from the web even if it is not signed. The final setting, SFC needs to be disabled. This is the settings that I mentioned earlier that we have to set in order to remove catalog files.
After you pick your options on these settings click next.
This is where you can add or remove options from Windows. These are Tweaks that are usually done manually or with a patch from the web. nLite has compiled some of the most frequently used and powerful tweaks around. Go through these tweaks and enable the ones that you want. If you do not want to take a chance at removing something that you might need, uncheck the advanced check box at the bottom of the screen. Once you are done picking your settings, click next. You will get the following prompt. Click yes to start ripping apart the source files and compiling the new install for you.
It will go through the process. It may take several minutes. At any time if you need to complete another task on your pc you can change the Priority on the fly to make nLite not use all of the system resources.
Once the process is completed, it will tell you how much you have reduced the total size of the install by, and mow much of that space is used for drivers and such. Click next.
Now you can name your ISO anything that you want. Once you have selected a name you can click on Make ISO. If you would like to add additional files to your CD, just add them to your working directory before clicking on Make ISO. When you click Make ISO it will prompt you where to put it. Just save it where you would like and it will the go through the process.
Once the ISO has completed and you click Next, you will get this screen. nLite is donation based software so if you can, make a small donation to them. Thank-you for viewing this tutorial.

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  • I will definitely have to try this one out.

  • ant

    woow it’s coo; i’ll try it…

  • manhhieu

    Thanhk!!! I love you man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gambit2Rebel

    Thank you so much I was stuck not being able to install XP on a ml350 server and this way worked like a charm!!!

    Thank’s again

  • Nemesis

    this is really kool but if it was having information on installing softwares which one have have to install after fresh instalation it would be of great help e.g how to integrate messngers, office , and other softwares !!!

    i would say if these things were also told it would be perfect!

  • Rakesh K Das

    Plz inform how to add 3rd party Sw like office, firefox etc ..

    • try using sfxmaker
      and remember use often
      /s , /s /ncrc
      etc. commands

  • stasallon

    Thank you so much I
    I am deadly put fase of tanle, traing start up my HP ML150
    It is dosent work whit is oun driver from CD (on CD rescue programm).
    I’m dounload floppy boot arhive fron website HP.
    It is does not work, then I trying make iso whit this programm.
    It is work perfect.
    Thanks so much.

  • By the way since you didn’t mention that here is the site with a lot of addos for nLite:
    Integrate them as a normal hotfix and get all your favorite software installed during Windows Setup 😉

  • pandor’a box a greek myth – tale of genji murasaki shikibu

  • naisioxerloro

    Good design, who make it?

  • Brenda

    What a awesome tutorial! This will help so many people including myself.

    Thanks Mike for taking the time to go through this like you did, that’s what most don’t do and it leaves unanswered questions at the end.

    Thanks again!

  • CK Wong

    I am fascinated by your excellent tutorial. Definitely want to try it.

    If I am building a new PC with a blank harddisc AND a XP installation disc with SP2 to start with, how would I proceed?

    Of course, I have a PC currently in use. Do I prepare the nLite ISO on the current machine; and then burn the ISO to a CD and then use the CD to install on my new PC?

    Thank you for your attention.

  • CK Wong, Making the ISO on your current machine would be perfect. Thanks to nLite’s awesome features, you can integrate all your drivers for your new machine right into your install. I hope the tutorial helps you through it. Good luck.

  • P.T.

    Just one question: .NET packages (2.0) are known not to work with nlite when slipstreamed in a regular way (with other hotfixes – as you did) so where did you get that package? Your own creation:>? Feel like sharing it?


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  • This walk-through has saved me several times after I initially used the slipstream process. Adding in the extra stuff from RyanVM’s site can also add a lot of functionality to a standard Windows installation.

  • nauman

    hi there i just checked ur tutorial and tried it but it gave me a error when i add my own softwares like msn messanger 8.5 or wmp11.exe setup files….during installation it gave me an error {please put the installed.exe in c:\programs\nlite folder} what should i put there……. i have tried to put the exe file and extracted exe file but it gives error again n again what should i do? plz tell me……[email protected]

    [email protected]
    or [email protected]

    ……..thanks in advance………..

  • @nauman:
    You have to use switchless installers. You can not simply put an EXE in there and epect it to install. They have to be made specifically for this. I am working on a tutorial that will show you how to make these installers.

  • Thank You…..

  • BT

    I’m hoping to install Windows XP (SP2) on my new MacBook using Mac’s BootCamp utility. It only supports SP2 and before I jump off the cliff, I’d like to get some feedback on anyone’s experience doing is from a CD made with nLite (and any other input).

    Why Windows on the Macbook? Because the system fonts are too small to read and not changeable (Yes, I’ve tried 3rd party utilities – they don’t work, Also reduced the screen resolution – that helps but I like my Windows setup).

  • Alan

    Hi i have used nlite and works great. But after i was done i don’t have support for pcmcia/wifi card anymore. xp just won’t recognize it. do you know by chance what component controls that so i don’t remove it again? thank you

  • Ash

    You don’t need to be sorry Mike, this tutorial is awesome!

  • scott

    Thank you for your tutorial.

    Would it be possible to expand your tutorial to give detailed & clear instructions for how to use the nLite Run Once feature? That one is a bit mysterious to many of us, and looks potentially very useful.

  • saleemmalikshaik

    ya ihave used it its abetter toll ilike nlit
    any one can use it
    who has a little bit knowledge of an os

  • ben

    how do you install your OS with a .ISO file? I burnt the ISO into a CD already and made it bootable, restart and boot from CD-ROM and prompt me the A:\ I cd into the cd-drive…
    What is the ms-dos command to invoke the installation? Thanks for any help.


    .ISO’s are bootable, Did you think you needed to add a boot switch or did some burningware give you wrong advice?

    Just re burn your .ISO with a simple prog like
    BURNCDCC.EXE , Google for it.

    Use Killdisk for all HDD’s but WD’s for WD HDD’s get Diag504fCD.iso 2.10 MB

    Burn the Diag504fCD.iso, weather you have an OS on your HDD or not.

    Get into your BISO and set “Boot” to CDR .
    Pop in The Diag504fCD CD , Hit the F-10 key Tap enter , tap the ECS key to get out of the lic Page. Use up-down arrows, Pic Write Zeros Quick unless you have a small HDD , Full takes about 10 min’s per G.[ I do full but start at the end of the day ]
    When done take the Diag504fCD CD out and Put in you XP CD , The TURN “OFF” YOUR BOX!!!
    Wait 15 sec’s or so and Start Your Computer.
    You Will Boot to and start the Install of XP or any other OS if you made the CD properly.

    Have Fun
    Bill aka DRVTACH

  • emulators

    ben said. if you dont know how to burn iso. then burn your modded xp direcly on cd. dont create iso:)

    bdw, any news about RunOnce tutorial? please post a link.

    sory for muy bad english.

  • ali

    i have used nlite b4 but now i can’t use it i get an error message sayinh” nlite.exe-application error ‘ the application failed to initialize properly (0x000007b).click OK to terminate the application)
    I have tried to install net.framework as required to run “NLITE”…I nEED urgent HELp

  • Sam

    Hi, I was just wondering if nLite is any use now that ive already installed windows xp on my netbook.. id like to use it to make my windows smaller and faster ofcourse

    would really appreciate everyones help.. thanks.

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  • Colin

    How can I incorporate XP SP3 into nLite?

  • Rohn

    I have a Toshiba Portege P3500 with a hard drive which was reformatted. This machine has no cd Rom. I have downloads all the drivers from toshiba website but I don’t have any recovery cd’s nor installation cd’s. I have read from the internet that these machines are not bootable via cd Rom but via floppy. It also has no floppy drive. They are not made with neither cd Rom nor floppy disk drives. Can someone tell me how do I get to use nLite in my situation?


  • Wow!….. Nice Tutorial

  • Very nice article.
    Can I share this tutorial as pdf with my blog readers?
    I’ll be mentioning your link too.

  • josh

    I slipped xphome with sp3 onto my dell os cd. Is their a way in nlite to exclude all of dell’s proprietary info onto my new disk so it’s just like an xp home disk from Microsoft.

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  • david


    Simply put, you don’t. You don’t have a copy of the o/s, you don’t have a copy of the recovery media, you don’t even have a drive to open a disc burned with nlite and no software or o/s to mount an image of nlite.

  • Ravi

    This tutorial is very useful in creating custom made windows xp cd. If you can tell how to add programs will be much easier for us.

  • George Rugero

    I have successfully installed xp sp 2 on my computer previously embedded with vista. This tool is useful and the tutorial is super comprehensive…

    Good Job

  • sunny

    hi, there is some problem when we try to put softwares like yahoo,antivirus,firefox plz clear these steps

  • Incredibly thorough guide. Thanks Mike!!!

    @Rohn, even though you posted several months ago, maybe you still check in from time to time. You may wanna look into a USB installation. Buy an Xp or 2000 cd. Use another computer to do your build. Write the iso to a stick. Tell your NB’s BIOS to boot first device USB. Could have to update for this functionality. May be worth a shot. If the stick fails, you could try an external DVD-ROM drive (PA3246) that’s available as an optional external drive. May do the trick.

    Let me know if this helps!?

    Greets, Joby

  • So how can we incorporate XP SP3 into nLite?

    • You need to download the SP3 Download from Microsoft and when you get to the part to install service packs, just browse to the download and select it. nLite should do the rest for you.

  • Manu

    I read somewehere that integrating softwares like firefox,etc is not recommended becoz when u try to uninstall them, they will get installed again when you re-boot coz they are integrated into the installation.
    Is that so??

  • Byte

    Hi, I’ve just followed the tutorial, so easy thanks, But I still get the god damn BSOD when trying to install XP x86 on my Vaio WGN-FW260J/H.
    I’ve installed the latest driver from Intel. extracted and been chosen as integrated driver, Image burned as usual, success booting for XP setup. I can see the setup copying the integrated ICH9e/m driver :), but yet I get that same damn BSOD oO.
    I’m totally confused, and don’t know what to do further.
    appreciate helping 🙂


  • Byte

    Solved. The Problem may occur when you read the tutorial and apply to newer version. As I can see it’s posted in early 2007, and now it’s late 2009.
    the tut says:
    “you only need to select the first on. It will then pull the other one automatically”
    Now, it’s an clear what “select the first one” refers to !!!!!
    is it about the INFs or the driver within?
    cuse in the new version after pressing Insert, it gives you two choices. Single driver ( referring to single INF file not the drivers within it) or multiple driver (referring to all INFs contained in a folder). right after that you have to choose the drivers withing that INF ( in my case I have two INFs which contain “7” drivers. But choosing only the first one is not enough you have to choose the needed one cuse it will NOT add the others automatically!!!
    great tutorial!!!!! 😀 I’m just trying to explain to those who may get confused like me. that’s all.

    BTW: if you have windows 7 installed, the setup of XP will make Win 7 partition unrecognized. It will be shown as RAW format. so be careful. I’ve lost mine :S, all files have gone, so I’m gonna see what can I do to get it back to work.

    wish me luck


  • Travis

    Just wondering if you made that tutorial on creating the installers to add programs to the installation using the hotfix section of nLite?

    I could really use it… I think I saw a program on creating the hotfix files to slipstream programs such as Nero and Firefox into the ISO. Can someone direct me to that?


  • CopyCat

    This is an AWESOME program and tutorial.

    Seems to be a high interest and demand on how to integrate all your preinstalled programs.

    Personally I would like to make a bootable ISO with all my favorite programs including Adobe CS4. Takes a long time to install!

    How would that work if the image goes above the size of one DVD? The CS4 program alone is about 8GB.

    We are all jumping up and down for the Part II of this tutoral – PLEASE SHOW US HOW TO INTEGRATE 3RD PARTY PROGRAMS ! : )


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  • Roger

    Hi, Can any one help – I have a new toshiba sattelite pro with Vista Business pre-loaded. I have created a backup image as instructed, but all the set up files are on a dedicated partition on the hard drive. I have now got my windows 7 upgrade CD, but it looks as if I will have to install all the bloatware all over again. Can I use N-lite with only the backup cds and windows 7 cd’s. or do hope in vain.


  • GTR

    I used win2flash in a situation similar to yours once. It will only work if your OS has support to boot from USB. An update may help as jobywan mentioned. Otherwise external cd drive/floppy is the other option.

    Please show us how to integrate 3rd party apps! Thanks

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  • Gold

    My nLite says ‘ failed to initialize….’

    Please I need urgent help.

    I’ve to install OS asap.

    I’ve important work to do.

    Please… Your Help will be much appreciated.

  • wormsy


    I would like to make an unattended nLite OEM XP, with other 3rd party softwares. How can I make it? I try it, but the 3rd party programs are not unattended. I made a .bat file from the 3rd party software, what was made some silent install, but this I couldn’t take into the nlite.
    My 3rd party software was OpenOffice, Lotus Notes 7, etc.
    Please help!

    Thank you!

    • If u find any solution for third party software integration with nlite software
      Plz tell me

  • Pete

    Can an unattended install be performed from a bench computer, with the destination system drive connected as drive E?

    • nLite does not allow those kinds of things to happen. You would have to use a more advanced tool such as Norton Ghost to do “sys-prepping” of drivers outside the primary drive.

  • hunter_hunted

    dudes i am tryin to make unattended windows xp n want to add some initial softwares such as office 2007, alcohol , klm, etc but nothng is going well even during installation of so called “unattended” its saying enter product key of xp which i have inserted while using wizard …..
    i need help urgent , and when i add some updates,hotfixes it shows me some errors while processing before making bootable iso

    dudes help me if any 1 have an idea (In simple words ) this is my email id
    [email protected]
    i will appreciate ur help

  • hunter_hunted,
    If your key is invalid or you entered it incorrectly, it will prompt you for your CD key when the time comes as Windows XP will not install without a valid product key (as Vista and Windows 7). Validate that your product key is valid and entered correctly.
    Can you give me an example of an error you get when trying to build the ISO so I can try to see what is going on with it?

  • Hi i’m a 16 year old kid.. I just wanna know how 2 integrate 3rd party softwares in2 the xp installation..

  • hi,
    have u found any software for inserting a third party software in unattended xp?

    • chongfuilin

      you must make a add-ons first…& then make a holder for them.
      In nLite ,you can see hotfixs,Add-ons and update packs..tick INSERT and go to find the Add-ons holder.
      then ok

  • Ty Sovanmony

    Oh! How to include some software like Microsoft office 2007?

    • sathish

      using the nlite software put the ms office or any software make a iso. write the iso cd or dvd install os automatically install the ms office2007

  • abhagi

    how do i put drive pack by nlite please tell me

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  • aronno

    i’m unable to attach another application such as: firefox, office, winamp and so on. can u help me pls.
    how i can create a customize cd of xp3.

  • Manish Tiwari

    Ooh….. Do the Easy customize of windows xp with the help of n-lite software

  • Nut

    How can I intigrate progs like Jaws for Windows, AVG, Office, The Sims 2, or VMware Workstation?
    I know I have to make an unattended installation, but I don’t think Jaws, AVG, The Sims 2, and VMware Workstation has switches for unattended installation, Plus AVG’s installation requires internet connection.
    I know I can let them install during the run once section, but Jaws, AVG, and VMware requires restart, especially Jaws.

  • sathya

    nice one!!!! what about the universal driver?? from where can i get that?

  • StankoLaf

    This is really nice software !!!

  • Ashok
  • Boomblue

    Who can help me? Please give me the detail. I want to know how to integrate Microsoft Office 2007 into Window XP Service Pack 3. We have .ISO file of XP Pack 3 and we want to integrate Office 2007 with XP Pack 3 by using nlite tool and then when we install Window XP Service Pack 3 cd will automatically have Microsoft Office 2007.

    • nel

      i tried it already. but it doesn’t work,
      i will try it again using other software.

  • nel

    Is it possible to integrate microsoft office or any software??

    well it’s very nice software thanks.

  • arrow

    I have a problem with nLite on second page (locate windows)render me all entry except size entry.
    what to do.

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  • chirag

    It’s Very nice..

  • very intresting
    i will difenetly try it

  • John

    Can nlite be used to integrate drivers into a Bart PE installation CD????????

  • Ken

    What an excellent article! I can make my Custom Disk, I did want to know, I want to integrate a hard disk controller for a HD103UJ SATA drive. I found a controller, but its file extension ends ‘.pdf’. Will it load and install it? When I tried to paste it into the integrate frame, it wants a ‘.inf’ file extension. Will this xtroller work? Samsung sez it is good for all windows types. Any Advice??

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