Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Vista Re-installation - A long journey

This past week was a hectic one. I'm finally finished reinstalling Windows Vista on my computer. I initially had a not-so-legit version of Vista running on my computer, and with that version, I would not be able to install Service Pack 1. I decided that a reformat was long overdue (I usually format every 6 months and it's been over a year since the last one), and I was gonna take the plunge.

My journey started with obtaining a Dell version of Windows Vista Ultimate so that once installed, my copy of Windows would be legit. The thing was I only had a Dell Vista Home Premium CD. That problem was quickly fixed by my friend (Thanks P), by replacing the pid.txt file in the \SOURCES directory with a Dell Vista Ultimate pid.txt file we found. Ok, so now I had a Dell Ultimate CD, but it's annoying to install Vista and then install SP1 on top of it. I wanted to slipstream SP1 into a DVD that I could have for the future. Here came the second problem...Microsoft does not allow slipstreaming SP1 into the Vista installation media. And here's where Google comes into the clutch - as usual. I found a very nice guide describing how to reverse engineer SP1 into a Vista installation. Excellent. Now that that was done, I tested it and it worked beautifully.

But as we all know, Vista comes with a ton of programs, services, and system utilities that I don't need - and I especially hate the number of things running in the background constantly. A few things I can think of off the top of my head are: UAC, Security Center, System Restore, Superfetch etc. Lucky for me, I found vLite which helped me create an installation of Vista which was much smaller and lightweight than the original. I ended up getting my Vista installation files down to 966MB, a drop too big to fit on a CD, so I started wondering if I could install Vista from a USB key. Of course, if there's a will there's a way, and I found this guide describing the very simple steps how to accomplish this.

Once my installation was on the USB key, I rebooted and simply selected "Removable Device" from my boot menu, and I was instantly in the Windows Vista Setup screen. The installation took about 16 minutes from start to finish, which is awesome considering with the full version of Vista it takes MUCH longer.

After installing the drivers for my system, and my essential programs (AVG, Mozy, SpyBot S&D, AvantBrowser, Foxit PDF, RoboForm, TeamViewer, uTorrent and WinRAR) along with Office 2007, I was very surprised to see that my computer was running much more efficient. On my old Vista installation I had constant HD activity, and on the new installation there was almost none. I would attribute that to the removal of SuperFetch from the Vista installation. But in general, thanks to vLite, my computer is running much faster.

It took a long time, and many test installations in a Virtual Machine, but in the end, it was worth it to have a quick-booting, quick-running version of Windows.

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