How to create a custom Windows Vista Installation DVD

Using the free software vLite NTLite, 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.

Please note: This guide was published back in 2008 and is now considered out of date. vLite has been replaced by NTLite and the steps in this guide do not apply to NTLite (it has a lot more features etc). We’re leaving this guide online for archival sake, but have asked Google to remove it from their search index.

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. 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
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  5. Accept the agreement by clicking I agree.
  6. vlite agreement
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  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
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  43. It isn’t particularly entertaining.
  44. vlite still rebuilding vista
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  45. Once the process has completed, click Next.
  46. vlite has finished rebuilding vista
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  47. From the Make bootable ISO for testing or burner screen, click Make ISO.
  48. burning or saving vista as an iso
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  49. And select a location to save your new Vista ISO.
  50. select a location to save the new vista iso
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  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
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  53. Once it’s done, click Exit.
  54. vlite finishing
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  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.

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2 thoughts on “How to create a custom Windows Vista Installation DVD”

  1. 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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