The Art of OEM - nLite & OEM Preinstallation

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  1. 2. Would you like for Windows Designer Studio to perform most of the operations described in this guide?

    • Yes, and I want more features too!
    • Yes
    • No, I'd rather stick with the plain old Windows Setup routine.
    • No, it's just a waste of time; nLite/vLite will always be enough for my needs.
  2. 3. Now that this guide is complete, are you happy with its contents?

    • Yes, it's a great idea!
    • Somewhat, I used some of the things described here.
    • Probably, but it is too complex for me to handle.
    • No
  3. 4. Which of these should benefit you the most and you'd like to see first in Windows Designer Studio? (more details soon)

    • Windows Setup SDK (Panther Engine) - WIM capture, Setup customization and ISO making, like in Parts 3 and 4
    • VKEY Explorer - an advanced tool to design the registry of the OS you are designing
    • Package Designer - a set of diff and compression tools to allow you to author/create/add/remove windows components and preinstalled apps
    • VM Workbench - an extension for the free VMware Player product to test the results of your work before finalizing

Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

141 posts in this topic


HTML Version, PDF Version

- Part 1 covers the creation of your base install. In it you will learn how to create a lab environment, personalize Windows with nLite and test it in a controlled environment.

- Part 2 covers Microsoft Sysprep and resealing the nLited OS to make it ready for the end-user.

- Part 3 covers my research concerning imaging and V2P (virtual-to-physical) migration and imaging, the reverse process for VMware P2V.

- Part 4 covers various means of deploying the customized OS.

- Part 5 is a quick guide for workstations, covering concepts detailed in parts 1 and 2.

- Part 6 (latest) "Heroes Happen Here"

Edited by dexter.inside

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Part 1 - The Base Install

Featured: Windows 2003 Small Business Server

I will be using in this tutorial my own copy of Windows 2003 Small Business Server Edition, which is the most complex scenario that I could think of. Doing the same with Windows XP is much simpler. I chose SBS and, subsequently, WHS because they fit best the purpose of this 4-part guide. First, it involves many components that cannot be slipstreamed through unattended install. Second, it is one of the most undocumented SKUs of NT 5.2 up-to-date. Third, I want to demonstrate how to integrate a service pack, R2, Media Center 2005 (codenamed Freestyle), and Home Server (codenamed Quattro) on your installation media with minimal or no installation time penalties.

1.1. A few things you should know before starting

For Part 1, I have used the following:

- Windows 2003 Small Business Server Edition, build 3790.0, 3 CDs

- Windows 2003 R2 for SBS

- Windows 2003 Service Pack 2, standalone update pack (build 3790.3959)

- VMware Workstation 6

- nLite

- Business Desktop Deployment 2007 v3.0.141.0

- Total Commander 7

Also, I use these terms:

- technician's computer, the computer you are

using to modify the OS.

- distribution share, the folder (shared over intranet or not) that contains the OS files and folders. In this example, I:\temp\SBS

- lab, the computer that is used to test the OS, either physical or virtual.

- host, a physical machine that hosts one or more virtual machines. In my case, the technician's computer.

- guest, a virtual machine that is hosted by the host computer. In my case, the same as the lab computer.

It is a common OEM practice to use more than one computer for doing this. Because I know most of you do not have a domain server / home server or at least 2-3 computers available, this tutorial was done on only one computer.

Please remember that Windows Deployment Services through PXE boot, and not removable media, is the quickest solution in most of real scenarios.

1.2. The Distribution Share

Make sure you have enough space on the partition you are using. For this scenario, you will need 3 Gb of free space. I am doing the entire tutorial in a folder named I:\temp, which is physically a dynamic spanned partition with striping. RAID is by far the best choice. If your hard drive is slow, the operations described here will take a long time. Remember, snacks are good for you only with moderation.

First, you will have to add the files and folders from all the media in your distribution share. Mine is named I:\temp\SBS.


Picture 1 - Windows 2003 SBS CD1


Picture 2 - required from Windows 2003 SBS CD2


Picture 3 - required from Windows 2003 SBS CD3

Afterwards, also add R2. It is a common mistake to presume that R2 is SKU-independent. Each Server 2003 edition has its own R2. For example, in Picture 3 you can see the R2 for Enterprise Edition. You cannot use it with SBS.


Picture 4 - Windows 2003 R2

Note that it contains a file called WIN52IA.R2, "ia" meaning Enterprise Edition. You can see the SKU in SLIPSTREAM.INF. The correct R2 for SBS should contain "il", like in Picture 5.


Picture 5 - SLIPSTREAM.INF, for SBS

This is the resulting distribution share.


Picture 6 - My Distribution Share

1.3. nLite the Distribution Share (1)

Even if there are other methods of slipstreaming a service pack, doing

it with nLite certainly looks better. In case your edition is not

already slipsteamed, use this:


Picture 7 - Service Pack 2

So, here goes:


Picture 8 - nLite Welcome Screen

Select your distribution share in nLite:


Picture 9 - Windows Installation Location

You will need nLite twice, first with these 2 options.


Picture 11 - Task selection

Edited by dexter.inside

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Here you select the location of the Service Pack


Picture 12 - Service Pack

Which will produce a warning, because there are some leftovers on the SBS I used.


Picture 13 - Warning


Picture 14 - Location of Service Pack


Picture 15 - Extracting files


Picture 16 - Update share


Picture 17 - Finished

The slipstream process has updated the distribution share. Service Pack 2 covers all the hotfixes for Server 2003. Besides it, you may need Terminal Services Client 6.0 and Internet Explorer 7.

You must slipstream SP2 in a non-trial edition of Server 2003 (either gold or SP1). The process will not work if the trial 360-day timebomb is present. Also, you have to do the slipstreaming before adding any other hotfixes / add-ons.

You can see here the build version for Service Pack 2 - v3959, information updated in nLite after slipstream. Windows Server 2003 is NT 5.2 build 3790.


Picture 18 - Status in nLite

You can now continue with other stuff.


Picture 19 - Add-ons


Picture 20 - Choose the add-on

In this tutorial, I've added just IE7. Remember, adding stuff this way will increase setup time. In Part 2 of this tutorial, I will describe a more efficient way to add stuff to your OEM image, with little or no install-time penalty, even for dozens of programs. The "vanilla" unattended method used by nLite was introduced several years ago when there were no other alternatives available.


Picture 21 - Internet Explorer 7

Edited by dexter.inside

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Picture 22 - Advanced Options


Picture 23 - Perform Operations


Picture 24 - Finished


Picture 25 - The Result

At this point I also add extra stuff:


Picture 26 - Extra Stuff

1.4. Slipstreaming XPize


Picture 27 - XPize Welcome Screen


Picture 28 - Create ISO


Picture 29 - Select Distribution Share


Picture 30 - Patching

Edited by dexter.inside

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Picture 31 - Finished

1.5. nLite the Distribution Share (2)

This time I will use nLite to remove unneeded stuff in my distribution share.


Picture 32 - Distribution Share


Picture 33 - Task Selection

Business Desktop Deployment 2007 is the most efficient way to manage your drivers today. It has a workbench that quickly adds/removes drivers from it's own distribution share. Sorting, efficient renaming and detailed info makes it a must-have for windows reinstallation geeks out

there. Note that you will also need a copy of Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), preferably the one for Vista RTM.

In this case, I only have loaded Mass Storage PnP drivers. If you intend to try out Part 2 of this tutorial, don't add non-PnP drivers at this stage. BDD Workbench stores these drivers in \Distribution\Out-of-Box Drivers.


Picture 35 - Driver Pane

You will need to add to nLite hdc, SCSIAdapter and System driver collections from BDD Workbench. Due to the fact that I only have this folders loaded in this tutorial, I add the entire Out-of-Box Drivers folder.


Picture 36 - Multiple Driver Folder

You should not add 64-bit Mass Storage drivers in 32-bit editions of windows. Most likely you'd get UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME BSoD.


Picture 37 - Drivers to integrate

So, this is my final list of Mass Storage drivers I will add:


Picture 38 - Final list of drivers

To be able to perform Part 2 of this tutorial, you will need to keep Windows Update, Sysprep and OOBE compatibility.


Picture 39 - Compatiblity Removal

Here you remove what you don't want in your base install image.


Picture 40 - Components

Edited by dexter.inside

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As you are not yet performing OEM preinstallation in this part of the tutorial, you should keep it Disabled. Loading extra non-PnP drivers when booting may be needed in certain scenarios.

In order to perform Part 2, you will need either 32-bit ACPI hardware abstraction layer (HAL) for 32-bit windows, or 64-bit ACPI for 64-bit windows (like Windows XP SP2 x64). I will be using a method that relies on this HAL in Part 2, to make your windows device-independent, like it happens when you install Vista.

My SBS R2 license key covers 50 CALs (client access licenses). You should choose what's most suitable for your standalone server/domain controller/test scenario.


Picture 41 - Unattended General

Add here whatever cleanup / registry operations you want to perform with elevated privileges.


Picture 42 - RunOnce


Picture 43 - Users

I added the Media Center 2006 theme Royale Noir here.


Picture 44 - Desktop Themes


Picture 45 - Automatic Updates


Picture 46 - Display

I am configuring IIS and SCW after installation. To save install time, I've disabled them.


Picture 47 - Components

I am merging SP2.CAB and DRIVER.CAB without high compression. The resulting DRIVER.CAB is ~120 Mb. Also, the Classic setup theme is a bit faster (I don't like the billboards from XP setup).


Picture 48 - General Options

You will need to disable SFC in this tutorial. If you do not, it may corrupt many of the advanced modifications I'm doing later on.


Picture 49 - Patches

Personalize here the desktop experience you need.


Picture 50 - General Tweaks

At this point, changes you do here will have no effect, because OEM Preinstall is turned off. What you change here will be enforced by what you will do in Part 3, during the virtual-to-physical (V2P) migration.

Edited by dexter.inside

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Picture 51 - Services


Picture 52 - Processing


Picture 53 - Finished

Don't create the ISO just yet if you want to add other tweaks like 2003 server-to-workstation or any Transformation Pack.


Picture 54 - Bootable ISO

1.6. Slipstreaming Vista Transformation


Remember that OEM Preinstall is disabled, so themes will not be properly loaded on Server 2003 just yet. (the service will stay disabled).


Picture 55 - Vista Transformation Pack


Picture 56 - Transform setup files


Picture 57 - Resolution and DPI


Picture 58 - Distribution Share


Picture 59 - Apply transformation


Picture 60 - General system UI

Edited by dexter.inside

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Picture 61 - Application UI


Picture 62 - Interface


Picture 63 - Toolbar


Picture 64 - Copying


Picture 65 - Updating resources


Picture 66 - Finished

You can see here some of the files that were added by VTP6.


Picture 67 - Files were added

1.7. Build the Base Install ISO

As the distribution share is ready, it is time to create the ISO:


Picture 68 - ISO Location


Picture 69 - Preparing

If you are not happy with the ISO creation feature in nLite for some reason, you can try OSCDIMG from Windows AIK.


Picture 70 - Writing

Edited by dexter.inside

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Wow Dexter GREAT guide. I've seen your name on a few builds online. I wont say where but awesome builds. We need more brain power in this forum. A lot of the masters dont seem to be around here anymore. The ones that are dont seem to care to much.

This guide is so detailed, hope you finish it soon. Amazing stuff, I have a few questions.

Edited by Madhits45

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Picture 71 - Finished

1.8. Lab Configuration

In this tutorial I am using VMware Workstation 6.

If you get freaky because of fragmentation levels on your beautiful partitions, remember that this operation causes a lot of fragmentation. In order to maximize disk I/O in VMware you should either defragment at this point, or use contig.exe from Sysinternals to keep your VMDKs contiguous. I use Diskeeper 2007 Server Enterprise.


Picture 72 - Massive fragmentation

Here's my edition of VMware. If you are using a Debug (checked) release, you should swap the contents between the bin and bin-debug folders in your VMware installation, otherwise performance will be very poor.


Picture 73 - About VMware

This is how VMware Workstation looks like when there are no virtual machines configured.


Picture 74 - VMware

I have detailed below the best practice for creating a suitable lab for testing the image you built in this part of the tutorial.


Picture 75 - New Virtual Machine Wizard


Picture 76 - Custom VM


Picture 77 - Workstation 6

Windows Home Server is also built on the Small Business platform.


Picture 78 - Guest OS


Picture 79 - Name


Picture 80 - Memory

Edited by dexter.inside

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Picture 81 - Network


Picture 82 - Disk Controller


Picture 83 - New Disk


Picture 84 - LSI Logic Ultra320 SCSI


Picture 85 - Disk Size


Picture 86 - Disk Location


Picture 87 - Initial Config


Picture 88 - Settings

Use the ISO you made to boot.


Picture 89 - Options


Picture 90 - Final VM Config

Edited by dexter.inside

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1.9. Lab Deployment

The initial deployment is done with removable media in this tutorial.


Picture 91 - BIOS


Picture 92 - Boot


Picture 93 - Text-mode Setup


Picture 94 - Copying files


Picture 95 - Windows Logo

1.10. Windows Setup


Picture 96 - Installing Devices


Picture 97 - Name and Organization


Picture 98 - Product Key


Picture 99 - Computer


Picture 100 - Date and Time

Edited by dexter.inside

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Please continue! I had no idea that BDD2007 offered updated drivers for Windows installations, let alone a way to edit Windows installation sources. I really should have known this, what with being an OEM and all :) Very Cool guide.


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I had no idea that BDD2007 offered updated drivers for Windows installations

Actually BDD2007 does not offer any drivers, those are my drivers from my collection, which I manage with BDD.

I will continue when I have the necessary screenshots, this is intended to be a visual-oriented guide.


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