Pirated Windows more impressive than the real thing

One of the annoyances with installing a fresh copy of Windows XP these days is that the driver set is six years out of date and there’s been a LOT of new hardware emerge since then. It’s one thing to install the latest graphics driver but it’s another to have to set up everything from the chipset to the storage drivers. Sometimes you feel that after having spent half an hour installing XP you’re spending twice that much time again to just get it functional.

Fortunately Windows enjoys a very modular installation framework so it’s relatively easy to insert additional drivers during setup something which computer manufacturers use all the time. It’s also led to a spate of all-in-one Windows kits cropping up all over the internet. Based on pirated copies of Windows (generally XP Professional) they contain various tools to assist in creating custom installs recovery tools and integrated patches.

One such pack which has been doing the rounds for some time is TinyXP and with the recent release of Windows XP Service Pack 3 software group eXPerience have just released TinyXP rev09 to the general underground.

Plenty of work has gone into making TinyXP as useful as possible in as many scenarios as possible. The release still fits onto a single CD but it’s packed tight with options and tools. It’s based on XP SP3 and comes with a wide variety of setup configurations:

  1. TinyXP With IE/OE/WMP (With Added Driverpacks)
  2. TinyXP With IE/OE/WMP (Without Added Driverpacks)
  3. TinyXP Without IE/OE/WMP (With Added Driverpacks)
  4. TinyXP Without IE/OE/WMP (Without Added Driverpacks)
  5. TinyXP BARE With IE/OE/WMP (With Added Driverpacks)
  6. TinyXP BARE With IE/OE/WMP (Without Added Driverpacks)
  7. TinyXP BARE Without IE/OE/WMP (With Added Driverpacks)
  8. TinyXP BARE Without IE/OE/WMP (Without Added Driverpacks)
  9. TinyXP With Repair Option (Product Key Already Filled In)

The driver packs are 146MB of OEM-style driver bundles supporting a wide range of hardware from broadband modems and LAN adaptors to base chipset storage and audio. It even has VMWare virtual device drivers. Interestingly the one hardware group which isn’t targeted is graphics hardware – presumably as the driver packs don’t contain any associated application bundles (like Catalyst Control Center) the makers decided it was best to let users download the latest drivers after installation…also graphics driver downloads are huge.

The idea is that you can use TinyXP to install XP on just about any hardware platform and get at least enough functionality to be up and running straight away. This is a very useful approach – building a new desktop image using Windows XP these days means you need another computer to jump online and grab the latest drivers – rather like troubleshooting every Linux distro in existence.

All the OS setup options include SP3 drivers up to May 2008 DirectX Flash player and the Royale theme from Windows XP MCE. The BARE option is a seriously stripped-back installation of XP – no themes or games and minimal services but there’s still enough functionality to support all hardware types and the system footprint is tiny – only 50MB of system RAM is used on a fresh install (compare THAT to Vista.)

The main CD comes with batch files which let you create an ISO based on one of the nine installation options as well as bunch of troubleshooting tools which have been bundled into a “Live Restore” boot option. The included applications are Acronis Backup & Restore Damn Small Linux 4.3 Hirens Boot CD 9.5 and SpinRite 6.0.

Of course TinyXP is based on a pirated version of Windows so it’s completely illegal to use as the basis for any installation. Having said that it’s also a remarkable example of what can be achieved thanks to the flexibility and modularity of the Windows platform and it’s something which any administrator or enthusiast with a bit of time on their hands (OK a LOT of time) can achieve. It’s a shame Microsoft don’t include this level of customisation and troubleshooting on the regular Windows CD/DVD. But perhaps with so many copies doing the rounds of the forums and boards they don’t feel any need to.

Please note – APC does not condone the acquisition or use of pirated software.