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If you’ve ever had to reinstall a Windows operating system (OS) you are probably familiar with how time-consuming it can be. Once the OS is installed one typically has to visit the Microsoft website to update the installation by downloading required Service Packs (SPs) or security hotfixes. This is tedious enough for an end-user, nevermind for network techs. Slipstreaming solves this problem and drastically reduces the time it takes to install an OS and have it up and running.
Slipstreaming is a process that incorporates all necessary Service Packs and hotfixes into a customized bootable Windows CD that also contains the complete, original installation files. Use the slipstreamed CD to install Windows and the OS will be fully updated and ready to go, saving significant time. You can even slipstream drivers into the CD.
To prepare for slipstreaming, an original Windows CD is required. All files from the CD must be copied to a folder on the computer’s hard drive, such as C:\XP Files. If the CD does not include the latest Service Pack, it can be downloaded as a file from the Microsoft website. Applicable hotfixes or patches should also be downloaded, along with any required device drivers that might not be present on the original Windows CD. These files can be saved in a separate folder such as C:\XP Updates.
The slipstreaming process will combine the contents of these two folders into a single ISO (.iso) image. The ISO format can be burned to CD to create a new bootable disk that contains all of the original files plus the updates. One of the most popular ways to do this is to use the freeware slipstreaming application, nLite by Dino Nuhagic.
nLite is an excellent slipstreaming program that allows the user to point and click their way through the disk creation process. The program can create an ISO image or burn slipstreamed files directly to CD. In addition nLite offers a vast array of tweaking options. For example, the ability to include theme files, set the default theme, set folder options, desktop options, resolution and countless other preferences. The OS installs with preferences pre-enabled, eliminating the need to tweak the desktop after installation.
Though it can take some time to gather hotfixes and other desired files to create a slipstreamed CD, it can be well worth the effort, particularly for network administrators. Microsoft incorporated slipstreaming ability into Windows 2000, 2003, XP and Vista operating systems.