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How To Create a Customized Windows 7 Installation Disc With Integrated Updates

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Do you want to save time when installing Windows 7? You can create a customized installation disc and have it perform an installation without asking you questions, integrate updates and drivers, tweak Windows, and remove Windows components.

We’ll be using RT Se7en Lite for this – if you’ve used nLite with Windows XP or vLite with Windows Vista in the past, it works similarly. RT Se7en Lite is a sort of vLite or nLite for Windows 7.

Image Credit: bfishadow on Flickr

What You’ll Need

To do this, you’ll need Windows 7 installed on your computer. You’ll also need to download and install the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7 from Microsoft – RT Se7en Lite is a more user friendly frontend to WAIK.

WAIK is 1.7 GB, so the download may take a while if you have a slow Internet connection. After downloading it, extract it with a file extraction program such as 7-Zip.

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Run the StartCD.exe file, select Windows AIK Setup, and follow the instructions on your screen to install Windows AIK.

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You’ll also need a Windows 7 installation source – either a physical disc or ISO file.

Next, download and install RT Se7en Lite from here – it’s free and donation-supported. Download the appropriate version for your version of Windows — x86 if you’re using a 32-bit version of Windows or x64 if you’re using a 64-bit edition.

Using RT Se7en Lite

First, click the Browse button and provide your Windows 7 files – if you have an ISO file on your hard drive, click Select ISO file and navigate to it. If you have a Windows disc, insert the disk, click Select OS path, and navigate to the disc.

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If you provide an ISO, you’ll have to specify an extraction path where the ISO’s files will be extracted to – you’ll need several gigabytes of space on your hard disk for this.

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The files will be automatically extracted after you provide your ISO.

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After selecting the edition of Windows 7 you’re customizing, RT Se7en Lite will load the image. If you have a Windows 7 disc without Service Pack 1 integrated, click the Slipstream Service Pack option in the “Select an image to configure” window and you’ll be able to integrate SP1.

Click over to the Task pane and select the tasks you want to perform after the image is loaded. You can manually check the check boxes or select a preset. Selecting one of the check boxes will activate the corresponding configuration pane at the left side of the window.

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The integration pane allows you to integrate Windows updates, drivers, language packs, and even third-party applications into your installation disc. To integrate updates, you’ll have to download their installer files and load them into RT Seven Lite with the Add button.

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On the Features Removal or Components tab, you can permanently remove components from your Windows installation disc and control which Windows features are installed by default. For example, you can remove the included games from your Windows installer disc, or force Windows to install the IIS web server by default.

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The Tweaks tab allows you to customize the default settings for the Windows Control Panel, Desktop, Explorer, and a variety of other Windows components. You can even add custom registry settings to tweak other settings that aren’t present in the list.

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The Unattended section allows you to create an unattended installation disc – you provide answers to installation questions beforehand and Windows will install without asking you these questions during the installation process.

For example, you can enter your product key ahead of time so Windows won’t ask you for it. The other tabs allow you to control other settings – for example, selecting the hard disks that Windows will install on. If you complete enough of these settings, Windows will install automatically without asking you any questions during the installation, allowing you to perform an unattended Windows installation.

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The Customization pane allows you to add custom screensavers, wallpapers, themes, documents, and even logon screens to your Windows 7 disc.

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On the ISO Bootable pane, you can create a ISO image from your customized installation disc. You can also burn it to a DVD or copy it to a bootable USB drive.

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RT Se7en Lite’s developers recommend booting your custom Windows 7 image in a virtual machine and installing it in the virtual machine before you use it on a physical computer, just to make sure everything is working properly.

You can use VirtualBox or VMware Player to do this – both are free.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 09/14/12

Comments (65)

  1. Quinn

    is it legal?

  2. D

    Yes, it is.

  3. michel

    It looks like a lot more trouble than just using your Win7 disk and lettting it update by itself.

  4. polferis

    Hello! Why do I need WAIK? I tried such a customization, it works. But what am I going to do with WAIK? You don’t explaine here why we need it. So…

  5. Loser

    Why the first picture shows a Chinese DVD?
    中文版 专业版……

  6. Liquidfork

    @polferis, The main reason for using WAIK is for enterprise level roll outs. Its much easier to spend a few hours getting your image just right and deploying that image 1,000 times than to have to configure and update 1,000 computers after installing from the stock win7 disk.

  7. thegeekkid

    You forgot one important step. Go to the files it extracted, in the sources folder, delete the ei.cfg file. This will allow you to access a hidden menu in the W7 installation that allows you to choose any version of W7 to install (pro, home, starter, etc.) This is extremely useful when working on a client computer and you need to re-install the OS for some reason. If you don’t have the install disc for their version, rather than giving them one of your product keys, you can just install the same version that they had, and use the product key stuck to the bottom of their computer! :)

  8. r

    yup, I have to agree with michel. I’ve made streamlined Win install disks before & they are only good until you need newer updates, drivers, service-packs, etc…
    Microsoft automatically provides the most current updates as part of the installation process.

  9. Chemical

    A much easier solution is to download an updated Windows 7 installation cd from a torrent website. Every month a new, fully updated copy is uploaded. Be sure to look for a non-cracked / virgin copy. It cuts down turn around time with clients because you don’t need to download several gigabytes each time you re-install Windows. As a side note* Windows XP is regularly released every month with the new updates on torrent websites. Look for Maher, he integrates the new updates without touching the installation files.

  10. Sel

    @Chemical

    Or you can buy a Win 7 cd. Like that you don’t have to worry about viruses, illegal copies & being such a burden on society.

  11. cityboy1961

    Well almost all laptops and desktop have a recovery partition and you just leave the computer on all night to update and there you go. This just sound like to much work for just to reinstall windows. Maybe its just me

  12. Liq

    @chemical: I really hope you’re not using torrented copies of windows for your client’s machines. That is an extremely reckless business practice.

  13. Sel

    …yes it’s a good way to lose clients & your reputation

  14. r

    totally agreed, businesses can pay a heavy fine if caught by an inspector

  15. Jimrx7

    I used N-lite for windows XP a few times to create baseline images. The time I spent configuring the image with software and drivers and updates all saved me days and days of work in the future. I had created one image specifically for 250 Panasonic Toughbooks, having to install XP individually and then wait to download and install all updates would have taken 4-6 hours per laptop. With N-lite each laptop took less than 1 1/2 hours to complete.

  16. r

    @ Jimrx7 : This is all fine for personal or casual use, but clients pay some of us by the hour for standard installations, setups, updates & maintenance. Yes, the average time is between 3 to 6 hrs per workstation, depending & that’s clearly understood by my clients. Do the math and then ask yourself which method would be more profitable for you, if you were trying to run a business.

  17. shinigamibob

    Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure that torrenting a disc image of Windows isn’t illegal. Using a cracked/pirated IS definitely illegal. There’s no difference from a disc you download via a torrent and an image you’ve made yourself from a store bought copy.

  18. Fer1

    @ shinigamibob: it’s not the disk image that’s important, it’s the license –the product ID for legally activating the OS to use it and get regular updates & service.

  19. Jimrx7

    @ R, I thoroughly understand what you are saying and what your point of view is, I was merely giving an example of just 1 of the many uses for this software. I also understand that you cannot possibly have on hand an image of every possible Laptop/Desktop that comes to you for repairs and also cover all possible configurations. The example I gave was to expedite the deployment of Field Technician laptops and to standardize the images on all of them to make troubleshooting simpler for me.

  20. shinigamibob

    @Fer1 Exactly – activating a downloaded copy of Windows with a legally obtained key should be fine.

    And I just realized that there was typo in my last comment. It should’ve read “Using a cracked/pirated SERIAL is definitely illegal”. Guess I decided to drop a word… the most important word too.

  21. Chemical

    @Sel
    @Liq

    You didn’t read. “Be sure to look for a non-cracked / virgin copy.” This allows users to enter in a license for Microsoft Windows that has been paid for (I use bulk licensing from MS). Torrents have the added benefit of slip-streamed windows updates and service packs. It doesn’t matter if you download copies from torrents, Amazon, the Microsoft Store, or buy a physical copy at Best Buy…they are all the same; only the licensing matters.

  22. Tamily

    @ Chemical:

    You didn’t read. “…for your client’s machines…is an extremely reckless business practice”
    Most honest businesses don’t care too much for slip-streamed copies from torrent sites. They would rather pay for individual or volume-licensing & know that their software came from a recognized distributor. Also, if you are going to pay for the license anyway, then why not just download it directly at the same place. Like that the business has an official record & receipt.

  23. r

    @ Jimrx7 : sure, why not…makes sense :)

  24. thegeekkid

    You have to remember when downloading something like an OS from an Torrent, although it may not be illegal for you, other people who download it are doing something illegal with it. By downloading it (even if it is a legitimate reason on your behalf), you are supporting illegal activities. Also, as mentioned before, no business should be using torrents in regular practices… it’s a good way to get sued, put in jail, and loose clients (you’re lucky if that’s all that happens).

  25. Chemical

    @Tamily

    You didn’t read. “This allows users to enter in a license for Microsoft Windows that has been paid for.” It is perfectly legal to own burned copies of an operating system whether it be for personal / business use. How you activate the software is another matter. I laughed when I read business don’t care about slipstreamed editions from downloads. You’ve clearly never handled bulk computer contracts. I have downloads directly from Microsoft via their subscription service but they are useless without service packs and windows updates slip-streamed. I personally know two other competitors in my area and they have the same practice. Please research before you make misinformed claims.

  26. Chemical

    @thegeekkid

    From what I just read there are no legal torrents on the internet. Thanks for the laugh this evening.

  27. Qrazydutch

    Eh….symentec ghost? I used to Legally update hundreds of computers by pushing ghosted images over the wire… Make sure your license numbers match you total wan/LAN number…I don’t work for these folks and I am sure there might be equally or better updated imaging sobware (cause it can make you cry if you muck up the masterimage)….

  28. Qrazydutch

    Oops
    Misspelled Symantec…crazy or qrazy

  29. Compstuff

    That’s a seriously outdated tool and you should really check out the currently supported WinToolKit:

    http://www.wincert.net/forum/files/file/5-win-toolkit/

  30. r

    @ Chemical : you obviously don’t realize or accept many things regarding rules & regulations of using licensed software in a public or private company. Businesses are accountable for their physical & intellectual property. Some methods of doing things may be much less time consuming, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Just because others do it doesn’t mean it’s legal, & being defensive doesn’t make you right.

  31. Tamily

    @ Chemical

    No, I didn’t say, “…business don’t care about slipstreamed editions from downloads.” I said, “…businesses don’t care too much for slip-streamed copies from torrent sites”. You’re just trying to avoid what you originally suggested.

  32. Mark

    Is there anyway i can do this without having a dual core processor?

  33. think2x

    For those who are saying that downloading anything in a torrent is illegal, you better have to think twice.

    If you only know, some companies are making use of the capabilities of torrents in order to deliver their content. Example, is the distribution of Ubuntu made by Canonical themselves.

    If direct downloads does not seem to be a good content delivery for you, torrents are always an alternative.

    Just be sure that what you’re downloading is something “untouched” or “virgin” or “crack-free” and in case you want to activate it, activate it properly.

    The only thing that matters in Windows Activation is how you’re going to activate it and activating it.

  34. r

    @think2x :

    most of what you say is just not true. Torrents fall under two main types: public domain & copy-written.

    If one downloads an “untouched”, “virgin” or “crack-free” version of (for example) Windows7 from a torrent website, then you are acquiring copy-written material & seeding it at the same time. If you use this in a business environment then you implicate it too. This is a violation of copyright laws & is pursueable by copy-write owners, state and/or federal enforcement jurisdictions. So, “Windows activation” is not the “only” thing that matters. –make sense now?…good

  35. Chemical

    @Think2x

    Well said. It’s a shame that some people who read this tech website lack a basic understanding of how torrents work.

    @r
    @Tamily

    What you actually pay for when you legally purchase a copy of Windows 7 is the product key, sometimes referred to as a CD key or key code, or incorrectly as the serial number. This unique number is required to be able to fully use Windows 7. So even if you did download Windows 7 without paying for it, you would still need a valid Windows 7 product key. Downloading a cracked version of Windows is illegal (common sense). What you fail to comprehend is that a Windows torrent used in conjunction with a paid for (legal) license is just what I said, legal.

  36. think2x

    @r
    Well then, do you know what’s the use of the product key sticker placed at the back of your computer?

    That product key is something you can use to of course, activate Windows in a clean and legal way.

    Acquiring software via torrent becomes illegal IF you are cracking it or circumvent any activation mechanism on it.

    I once downloaded an untouched Windows 7 ISO on the torrent, activated it with the product key that comes with my laptop and verified it via Microsoft site…the result? My installation of Windows is genuine.

    Distributing the ISO alone is not illegal as long as you’re going to activate it the right way.

    If you only know, every time you buy a copy of Windows 7, the only thing you’re buying with it IS the PRODUCT KEY.

    The same goes with any other software that requires a product key to be used properly.

    At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is you have a product key acquired in a legal way because it is something you need to use in order to GET WHAT YOU PAID FOR.

  37. Kim

    You make no sense. Microsoft has very strict channels of distribution for retailers & on-line purchase. You might be able to find a clean copy and download it at some sites, but that doesn’t make it legal.

  38. William Henry

    I have the licenced 32bit version of Windows 7 can I borrow a friends 64bit version disk and use my licence to install (new) on my computer.

  39. LostSoul

    It seems that those people who think that “distributing clean Windows 7 ISOs via torrent is illegal” is totally forgetting something.

    If you only know, those kind people who distribute clean Windows 7 ISOs over the internet are helping Microsoft in a good and hidden way.

    How? Since someone said that torrents are an alternative method of content distribution, let me tell you the advantages of it.First, alternative links can help in lowering the load over the Microsoft servers.

    Remember the first day when Windows 7 SP1 is released? Man, downloading the SP1 from Microsoft during that day was like getting yourself stuck in heavy and inescapable traffic. The load within Microsoft servers were too high due to the countless number of people wanting to get the Service Pack.

    Through alternative methods like torrents, server load can be reduced since people may opt to get their software in a different way.

    And for those who don’t understand @Chemical and @think2x’s post, I’ll stand to their side and explain what they want to say,

    Yes, downloading a clean Windows 7 ISO is illegal according to Microsoft’s terms. But that’s just a part of the story. The whole part of the story is how are you going to make the software work and claim as your own purchase.

    What’s totally illegal in having a software is the license key. If you stole someone’s license key or acquired one through a crack, it’s illegal.

    If you have the license key acquired through purchase, it’s legal.

    Software is all the same no matter how many times you copy it.
    The only thing that cannot be the same is the product or license key.

    Those people who are saying that getting Windows 7 ISOs are illegal simply thinks that a majority of people who do this simply crack the software. They’re completely retarded because the legality of how you have the product lies on the a key, a product key and that’s the actual product – something that you are really paying for.

    P.S. Let’s put this BS into an end.

    Regards,
    The Lost Soul searching for the ISO

  40. maigodakara

    Ang bobobo nyo naman eh. Sabi nga nila, kapag nakuha mo lang yung Windows 7 ISO mula sa torrent, eh parang nakakuha ka lang ng balat ng condom, eh ang tanong nasan ang condom?

    Mag-isip-isip…uno dos tres!

    I-google translate nyo para maintindihan nyo to!

  41. aliendigital

    the write is helpful but its lacking, as in where and how to download the .msu updates you need, that would complete this write and actually make it useful, any chance of that happening or is this article dead?

  42. Sol13

    Distributing Windows 7 ISOs via torrent is illegal and Microsoft doesn’t want their help.You might not be sympathetic but software, movies and music companies lose millions over this. Yes, you need to purchase a product ID, but you also need to get the software from a source that Microsoft permits to transmit their copyright content. You can find software by other means and probably never pay a penalty, but that doesn’t make it correct or legal.

  43. YaYa

    I too didn’t see any real need or reason to download and install the Windows 7 WAIK. In fact, I recall needing only a certain .dll file or two from previous WAIK’s and nView or vLite. With those previous slipstreaming tools I didn’t like downloading the 1.5GB+ WAIK file just for a couple of 1K .dll files. Talk about mountains and mole hills! And now we’re told to not only download the WAIK for Windows 7 but now install it? WHY? About all I might want to do is what I suspect most people want which is to add in the SP1 as well as a few other large updates/drivers. So is WIAK really even necessary for RT Se7en Lite? (And is there a “heavy” version that might not require this?)

    Oh! And I don’t know who it is that is downloading Windows install images from a torrent… I hope you enjoy the viruses, spyware and other malware you probably don’t even know you have yet. You should know that unless you know where your software comes from that torrents are a lot like being a horny sailor in a whore house without condoms. It’s just a matter of time before you’re infected! (My guess is that you probably haven’t been in business very long and probably won’t be with such recklessness.)

  44. r

    @ think2x

    I don’t have a Win product key on the back of any of my computers. I don’t buy any software or hardware at any retail stores. I custom order & buy all my workstations (mobile & desktop) directly from the manufacturer, and so I only use OEM editions of Microsoft OS.
    Most IT techs that have worked for a while do this because they can order exactly the type of system they want & personally install everything from scratch without having to deal with uninstalling bloatware & useless programs sold with retail packages. In fact, you won’t find the best systems at the common retail level of distribution. They have to be ordered directly from the manufacturer.

    …you would think that a tech-savvy person like yourself would have already known that.

  45. Terac

    For retail software it is only legal to make copyrighted works available over BitTorrent with the copyright owner’s permission or consent. It’s not more complicated than that. How much do you want to bet that Microsoft has never given this permission?

  46. Bret

    And I quote :

    “…let’s be clear: the technology is legal. BitTorrent is legal. Torrents are legal. But using bitTorrent or any other technology to download copyrighted material that you don’t have the right to is not.

    downloading copyrighted files without permission is illegal. And it doesn’t matter what technology you happen to use to do it: bitTorrent, FTP, web downloads, email or getting a CD in the mail. If the material is copyrighted and you didn’t pay for or otherwise get the legal right or license to receive those files, those are all copyright violations…”

  47. Tellim12

    Distributing retail software is illegal without the permission of the copywrite owner.
    Makes very good sense and is not too difficult to understand why either.

  48. Bereta

    @ LostSoul > This isn’t about how nice bit torrent is or if they actually help out Microsoft. Distributing (clean) Win 7 ISOs via torrent is illegal without their permission. This is true for all copywritten software. And yes, you have to have a legally-received key to use it, but that’s another issue entirely.

  49. bflat

    @ LostSoul : You talk in incoherent sentences and periodically contradict yourself in logic. I think that Chemical and think2x are doing bad enough without your help.

  50. Everen

    Ya,it’s funny. The more these pro-torrent people speak, the more stupid they sound.

  51. toucan

    @ everyone whos bitchin’ about torrents

    the main issue here is that installing a version of Windows downloaded from a torrent may be good that it contains all the latest updates, the person who made the image put them on. BUT it will likely contain a bunch of viruses and malware, as the person who made the image probably put them on!!

  52. alf

    man if someone could just make safemode work again on windows 7, i would be a happy bunny!
    msconfig setting doesnt work
    f8 mode on startup doesnt work
    constant reboot loop at login on either of those
    hav done in place upgrade to no avail
    reinstalled several times to no avail
    with or without sp1, win 7 it says noooooooo!

  53. keltari

    I dont know if it still is the same, but slipstreaming updates into a windows install used to be a very bad practice.

    If you installed an OS with a slipstreamed disk, if the OS asked for the CD/DVD you had to use the slipstreamed disk or newer. Using the original CD/DVD would throw up an error.

    I highly recommend against using slipstreamed media.

  54. Lordchaotic

    here is the $150,000 question: DOES THIS WORK ON WINE?

  55. Charvin

    The Only Needed Files from WAIK is these One
    wimgapi.dll Then the x64 and x86 Versions of wimfltr.inf & wimfltr.sys
    Put those 2 into a folder wimfltr\X86 & wimfltr\x64 and you can see the customization tool works fine and you dont have to pain-stake and download the 1+ GB of WAIK, just these files will do that work and with out any problems!:)

  56. erik

    Worth noting is that you can’t integrate SP1 since there is no sp1 .msu file available.
    And apparently there never will be.
    Which off course is only a no-go for OEM editions since win7 sp1 retail iSO’s are legally
    available for download ( the OEM version is not).

  57. james

    You can legally download windows 7 OEM or any OEM for that matter as long as you have the OEM key on your system

  58. erik

    Where can you download a win7 OEM iSO? Have Microsoft changed policy suddenly?

  59. Nick

    My Goodness it working. My First Disk is Created Yeahhh, I made it! Chris You Brain, Thank You “HowToGeek” =).

  60. Logicmaster

    @ The Key Squabblers

    Microsft offer people who’s machines where cracked a chance to make them legal with a legitmate key.

  61. nwidesigns

    I am blown away with some of the blind newbie comments here. Those that are questioning the reason for doing this because all they have to do is get the updates from Windows update. Well one reason is to speed up the process and if you have a slow internet connection or limited bandwidth you will not waist time or money on a build. The one who said to just download it from a torrent – ARE YOU FOR REAL? That is the stupidest thing you can do, but if you don’t care about the security or integrity of the download then by all means go for it! Then there is the reason this tool exists in the first place to help IT’s simplify the install process and stop the endless repetitive work when they have thousands of systems to work with.

    To the guy that complained that this will somehow decrease his profit because it speeds up the install and he will be cheated out of some cash. All I can ask is why are your customers standing there watching you install this? If they are what makes you think they will not just do it themselves next time because you in your infinite wisdom just showed them how easy it is. If they are not standing there bill your time out as you would any other install and move on. You make it sound like you have some higher level of integrity because you will actually have to perform the work. The fact is you are probably ripping them off anyway with your apparent attitude so what the hell is your problem?

    Bottom line is if is not for you then don’t use it, but don’t set here and complain because it is worthless to you because all you are doing is showing how ignorant you are!

  62. benhuan

    thank you very much . It’s a good way.

  63. Shawn Collins

    Can you believe @Jimrx7 said: “This is all fine for personal or casual use, but clients pay some of us by the hour for standard installations, setups, updates & maintenance. Yes, the average time is between 3 to 6 hrs per workstation, depending & that’s clearly understood by my clients. Do the math and then ask yourself which method would be more profitable for you, if you were trying to run a business.”

    I disagree! The most profitable method (in the long run), if you were trying to run a business, would be to give your client the most value for their money (to ensure future business). It is extremely short-sighted and blatantly unethical to pad invoices with unnecessary hours by utilizing what you know is an inferior/inefficient method in order to take more time per machine for installation. When and/or if your clients find out about this, you will be (rightfully) blackballed in your local industry.

  64. ninja

    just use portable apps, no head aches!

  65. Gideon

    Love this post – Thank you. Have already downloaded the content and started setting up my own install discs. 1 Problem though, I need the English – South Africa language pack and cannot find it. The default language is English – USA and I have find it to present a problem or 2 here in South Africa. Am I missing anything?
    Thank for the great articles guys – Keep up the good work!

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