HOW TO: slipstream Vista SP1 into your Vista install DVD

If you’re someone who has to install Windows frequently on PCs from time to time there’s nothing more annoying than having to install the release version of Windows then run Windows Update repeatedly and wait for all the patches to download. In past versions of Windows though it has been relatively easy to build an updated version of the installer CD with all the latest patches included. Unfortunately that’s not the case with Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 which both handle patches and updates differently compared with previous versions of Windows.

The new Windows kernel features a “servicing layer” which allows for more streamlined handling of patches and updates with minimal disruption to the user and reducing the need for multiple reboots. However SP1 updates this servicing layer as well as the OS itself which makes a slipstream integration procedure like that which we can use for Windows XP SP2 and SP3 not possible.

It sort of makes sense – when you install SP1 there are a couple of reboots and you can see the OS applying updates before it loads the desktop or any other user interface. There’s plenty of work going on under the hood and most of it happens before Vista loads back into the GUI.

You can get more information on the servicing layer and its implications for slipstreaming here.

Slipstreaming SP1 into your Vista install DVD despite the challenges

So officially the only way to integrate SP1 into Windows Vista WIM is to install Vista on a system install SP1 and then capture the entire image back to a WIM which you then insert back into your installation source.

Sounds like fun? Of course not. There has to be an easier and more accessible way – and thankfully there is. An enterprising German software designer going by the handle of AlbertS2 has developed an incredibly nifty tool which deserves a LOT of praise and attention.

Called “Vista Update Integrator” it’s a .NET application which lets you inject drivers language packs updates and service packs straight into a Vista WIM and then recompiles the whole thing at the end even giving you the option of creating a bootable ISO. Although it’s still in beta (this how-to was written based on 1.0 beta 5) and is a work in process it functions very well and provides a one-stop shop for admins and enthusiasts alike. It’s also a perfect alternative for those people who are using Vista more and more and want to keep an install source up to date but who haven’t dived into the powerful but confusing depths of Microsoft’s suite of deployment tools.

Prepare your system

The first step is to prepare your system. The integration and compilation process is very time-consuming so to get things moving as quickly as possible cache your entire Vista DVD and the appropriate SP1 standalone executable locally on your system. I created the following folder structure:

DVD – C:TempVistaDVD

SP1 – C:TempVistaSP1

Of course you can create anything you like – that particular structure just happens to suit my purposes.

Then download Vista Update Integrator here. You’ll need WinRAR to extract the application executables or any other decompressor which handles RAR files. Launch setup.exe and the installer kicks off. Microsoft’s .NET Framework 3.5 is a prerequisite and this is automatically downloaded and installed. This also means that you can only run VUI on platforms which support .NET Framework 3.5 – Windows Server 2003 Server 2008 Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Once VUI has installed launch it from the desktop icon or from c:Program FilesAlbertS2VistaUpdateIntegratorVistaUpdateIntegrator.exe. Interestingly if you take a look at the installation folder you’ll see that the “active ingredients” are applications Microsoft has released for interacting with and handling WIM files (makes sense).

Now select your original install DVD image

On the Home tab click Browse and select the INSTALL.WIM source file in the cached DVD files.

If the WIM you’re slipstreaming has multiple Vista configurations contained within it (eg: an RTM release of Vista containing all the builds) then you’ll have to choose which one you want to slipstream – the process won’t slipstream SP1 into all the builds and you’ll have to repeat the process for the others. It’s not that the files won’t exist for other builds but Vista builds are defined by XML catalogues of all the files applicable to that particular build – that’s what allows multiple different instances of Vista to be installed from the same WIM source.

Add in the device drivers you want built-in to your Vista DVD

Once you’ve chosen the WIM and the build all the application tabs are unlocked. At this point you can add in device drivers (even boot-critical storage drivers) language packs and updates.

To integrate SP1 click on the Updates tab and then “Add Service Pack”. Browse for the service pack executable and select Open. VUI will take a few minutes to extract the data contained within SP1 and then presents you with a list of what updates are actually included along with handy URLs if you feel like reading up on any of them.

Rebuild your Vista install DVD

To finalise the process go to the Apply tab. Under “Rebuild image” click “Yes” and then Start. The rebuild process then kicks off and this is the part where you walk away and watch TV for a while. Depending on the speed of your system this can take from 30 to 60 minutes.

Once that’s complete the other tabs are locked except for “Create ISO”. Select this tab type in a name for the DVD and click on “Create Iso”. Choose a location to save it and VUI will create a bootable ISO for that particular build and you’ve got yourself a bootable installation source with Vista SP1 integrated.

Now it’s just a matter of using your favourite DVD burning software to burn the ISO to a recordable DVD and voila you’ve got a Vista install DVD with Vista SP1 and your choice of additional drivers built in.