How to create a custom Windows Vista Installation DVD

by Ross McKillop on June 4, 2008

Windows

Using the free software vLite, you can create a completely custom, bootable Windows Vista install DVD. Remove the parts of Vista you don’t want/use, change some of the default settings, include Service Packs and Windows Updates, and more. Keep reading for complete step-by-step instructions on using vLite.

There are a few things I should mention about vLite before you get too far into this guide. First, creating a custom Vista DVD can sometimes cause Windows Update not to function perfectly. For example, if you had installed a custom version of Vista created with vLite prior to the release of Vista Service Pack 1, you would not be able to install SP1 (without creating a new Vista DVD that included SP1, and re-install the entire OS).

This guide doesn’t show you how to include SP1 in your custom Vista, because the version of Vista used already has SP1 installed. But don’t worry, Digital Inspiration will show you how to create a Vista DVD with SP1 included. And I’ll point out the step where you can include SP1, if you want to include it.

  1. First up, download and install vLite. At the end of the installation you’ll be asked if you want to run it. Go for it, but expect an error.
  2. must run vlite as admin

  3. Navigate to the vLite folder (C:\Program Files\vLite), right-click vLite.exe and select Run as administrator from the pop-up menu.
  4. run vlite as administrator
    click to enlarge

  5. Accept the agreement by clicking I agree.
  6. vlite agreement
    click to enlarge

  7. If prompted to install some Dependencies, click the Install button.
  8. install any vlite dependencies

  9. And now vLite will launch. A window will pop up asking where your Windows Vista install disc is located. Select the DVD drive that has your copy of Vista in it. Now click the Browse button.
  10. where to save vista files
    click to enlarge

  11. Click OK on the Copy Files window, and then navigate to the folder you want to save your Windows Vista files in. It’s a good idea to create a new folder to save the files in – I opted for C:\Vista Backup\
  12. the vlite copy files window files

  13. Click OK when you’ve selected the folder.
  14. select a location to save the vista files

  15. Now vLite will copy your Vista disc to your hard drive. This can take some time (but probably not the 20 minutes displayed in the screenshot below).
  16. vlite copying vista to your hard drive

  17. Once vLite has copied all the files to your hard drive, it will analyze them to determine the copy of Vista that you’re running. The info will be displayed right below the Status section of vLite. When you’re ready, click Next.
  18. main vlite interface
    click to enlarge

  19. Now you have to decide what exactly you want to change/add to Vista. You might as well select all of the possibilities – you don’t actually have to make changes in each section. You’ll probably want to leave Enable before apply unchecked.
  20. select which parts of vista you want to alter
    click to enlarge

  21. In the first section, Integration, you can add hotfixes, drivers and language packs to your Vista install disc. This is also the place you can add SP1. If you want to include Hotfixes that you’ve downloaded from Windows Update, you can probably find them in C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download. Click Next when you’re ready to move on.
  22. integration section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  23. The Compatibility window will appear. Select each of the features you want to keep in your custom Vista install disc. If you hover your mouse over each select, you’ll see (at the bottom) what will be affected by not including a particular feature. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you’ll probably want to make sure everything is checked.
  24. compatibility section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  25. On the Applications tab you can select the applications you expect to use in Vista. I know for certain that I won’t be installing Halo 2, so I left that unchecked. When you’re done, click OK.
  26. applications section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  27. In the Components section you can place check marks in the boxes next to the components you do not want included on your Vista install disc. After you’ve reviewed all of the components – and there are a lot of them – click Next to continue.
  28. components section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  29. In the Tweaks section you can enable, disable or leave as default some of the Vista settings. In the Security section of the Tweaks, you can disable AutoPlay (yay!) or change things like Hibernation, Power schemes etc.
  30. security section of the tweaks section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  31. Select System from the Tweaks section, and review the changes you can make. One that I appreciated was to set the Control Panel to Classic View by default.
  32. system section of the tweaks section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  33. If you’re absolutely sure you know what you’re doing, you can take a look at the Explorer section of the Tweaks, but I’d suggest leaving them alone. In the Internet Explorer section you can disable the IE Phishing Filter and/or the IE Phishing Verification Balloon Tips.
  34. internet explorer section of the tweaks section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  35. Once more, click Next. To enable Vista to install while being unattended, fill in all of the required fields. This allows for a fully automated installation – just put in the Vista installer DVD, click start, and you won’t need to interact with the installation at all.
  36. automated install section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  37. Make sure to check the Regional tab if you’d like to specify a default Timezone, Keyboard layout, Time and currency format etc. Click Apply when you’re done.
  38. regional tab of the automation section of vlite
    click to enlarge

  39. Now you’ll be asked how you want to save the changes made to Vista. I’d suggest Rebuild one. Click OK.
  40. options for saving the changes to vista

  41. And now watch as vLite rebuilds your version of Vista.
  42. vlite rebuilding vista
    click to enlarge

  43. It isn’t particularly entertaining.
  44. vlite still rebuilding vista
    click to enlarge

  45. Once the process has completed, click Next.
  46. vlite has finished rebuilding vista
    click to enlarge

  47. From the Make bootable ISO for testing or burner screen, click Make ISO.
  48. burning or saving vista as an iso
    click to enlarge

  49. And select a location to save your new Vista ISO.
  50. select a location to save the new vista iso
    click to enlarge

  51. Watching the ISO being created isn’t much more interesting than watching the “new” version of Vista being built.
  52. vista iso being created
    click to enlarge

  53. Once it’s done, click Exit.
  54. vlite finishing
    click to enlarge

  55. Now burn your ISO to a DVD, and you’ll have your custom, bootable version of Vista ready to install on your PC, the next time the need arises.
  • http://none Sheila Miller

    Thanks for this useful info. I have Vista Home Premium that came on with the new HP computer and not an actual DVD/CD. I did order the HP restore disks from HP. Can I make the Vlite with this type of VISTA?

  • Dany

    Dittoing on Sheila’s question. Would love to make my own DVD sans bloatware.

  • http://www.simplehelp.net Ross McKillop

    @Sheila Miller and Dany:

    I’ve just done a scan through the FAQs, forums etc, and my short answer is – I’m not sure. I suspect if there’s a folder on your HP/PC called “Backup” or “System Backup” you could try pointing vLite at that folder, and if it “finds” a version of Vista (step #5 in the tutorial) it would work. But (for some HP models) the “System Backup” folder doesn’t actually contain Vista, rather a restoration version (?).

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  • http://none Sheila Miller

    I do have that partition on my computer to restore it. It takes up more than half of my hard drive. I got the cds from HP that I think are the same as the restore partition. I guess I should check with them to find out if I only have a “restore” version. I havent put SP1 Vista update on this yet as I was hoping to do a clean install without all the crapware it came with and most has expired. Otherwise I havent had problems with the puter or Vista, though I have hungon to my XP machine…the verdict is still out on VISTA as far as I am concerned. Thanks

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  • Victor

    A tip for those wanting to install without HP’s bloatware: follow this post exactly, and you will get exactly what you need. It worked great for me! Don’t erase your current installation without backing up your activation first.

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=120228

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  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/windowsvista Weber Ress

    Hi !

    Great article ! I sent to Windows Vista Independed Group.

    Best !

    Weber Ress

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  • black2

    where can i find WIM filter installation?
    because i dont wanna donwload the 1Gb+ file from microsoft.

  • m.o

    Thanks I love youuuuu thanks for this help i was looking everywhere

  • Jerry

    I followed these directions from top to bottom twice, but when I boot from the disk it starts to boot but quits cause it’s saying it cannot find the english.ini file and quits setup. I have the english and neutral language packs included but obviously I’m missing something or taking something out. Can you make a suggestion on this. Many thanks.

  • L

    can you repair your computer using this newly made disc

  • david tan

    It is very helpful and useful.Appreciate

  • http://br.youtube.com/tgtbds Thiago

    bom pessoal preciso de uma ajuda ai eu tenho o DVD de instalaçao do windows vista ultimate so que no meu pc esta instalado o windows sever (7) e naum quero fazer o downlaod do arquivo do vlite que pede inicialmente naum tem como eu copia os arquivos do DVD pra funciona normalmente sem ter que fazer o downlaod….resposta no meu e-mail tg_tbds@hotmail.com

  • neander

    eu fiz o download do arquivo q pediu a instalaçao ele e 1.34gb so q mesmo asim o vlite não fuciona !!!o vlite fuciona no xp?????

  • http://asd mocoleris

    my friend has a disc that he says install every single version but it scans your license key for which you bought

    if true, then can i still use this on vLite? thx

  • TO SHEILA MILLER

    I figured this one out. if your hp laptop/computer gets messed up, vista has this special screen that you select at boot up. (sorry i forgot what it was called.)it lets you select what to do if your computer isn’t working. hp products come with two hard drives, and one has a restore file. hp recovery tools lets you use that file and restore everything back to manufacture settings. or i should say it formats your drive, and then restores everything back with the file on the other hard drive. no need to the cd’s anymore. it also doesn’t take up your hard drive space

  • Mark

    is it possible to use vlite when you don’t have the installation disk
    but only the preinstalled vista on the hard drive and a recovery partition.
    I have an HP Pavilion dv4 laptop that I purchased recently.
    HP didn’t provide any cds

  • gunther

    hi=) just finished installing and setting up my newly configured Vista OS. Thanks for the website! It helped out alot. Take care.

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  • http://www.davvo.webs.com David

    can you add stuff if you like had a 5gb disc and it took only 3gb it needs to put on disc is there a features or some at to add stuff to install like programs etcs?

  • Jack

    Can you use vLite to set the default directory for the ‘Users’ folder from ‘C:’ to ‘D:’ to have all user data separated on a different disk?

    I was able to do this with XP but can’t see where to do it with Vista.

  • ziv

    can I include applications like anti virus/firefox and etc. in the cd?

  • Dennis

    Cannot get past the WIM Filter install screen … downloaded, created the DVD, and saw the filter get installed, but the wimgapi.dll file does not “appear” in the root folder. I’m trying to create a bootable Vista DVD to reinstall vista on a new hard drive replaced when the OEM drive crashed and couldn’t be repaired. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Andrew

    A friend’s laptop (HP Pavillion dv2000) is apparently messed up with virus or hardware problems (doesn’t turn on after she presses the on/off button, etc). I suggested rebooting from an installation disc and then formatting the whole HD. Will this custom Win Vista Installation DVD help with that or I need to look elsewhere?
    Thank you

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