In­stalling Win­dows from scratch, par­tic­u­larly if you’re do­ing it re­peat­edly, is an ab­so­lute pain. Although we’ve talked about ways of in­stalling batches of soft­ware at one time in the main fea­ture, that’s not your only op­tion. If you’re de­ploy­ing a batch of ma­chines, you could do it us­ing a sys­tem im­age— es­sen­tially a fully in­stalled ver­sion of Win­dows, with all the soft­ware you’re go­ing to need, that you copy whole­sale on to a new hard drive. Mi­crosoft pro­vides a tool called the Win­dows As­sess­ment and De­ploy­ment Kit to help with this task, which in­cludes ImageX, an ap­pli­ca­tion that can deal with the cre­ation and de­ploy­ment of sys­tem images. Find out more and down­load the Win­dows ADK at https:// de­vel­oper.mi­ en-us/win­dows/hard­ware/ win­dows-as­sess­ment­de­ploy­ment-kit, and make sure you run Sysprep (in­cluded with Win­dows) be­fore mak­ing your im­age, to strip out ev­ery­thing ma­chine-spe­cific, in­clud­ing Win­dows li­cense keys.

This is all rather com­plex and, frankly, quite re­dun­dant for most users. You’ll prob­a­bly be more in­ter­ested in hav­ing a cus­tom­ized Win­dows build on hand for those odd oc­ca­sions when you need to re­in­stall your op­er­at­ing sys­tem. NTLite ( is the per­fect choice for this; it’s a tool that helps you, yes you, cre­ate a cus­tom Win­dows build, in­te­grat­ing soft­ware up­dates, adding the soft­ware of your choice, and even set­ting it to in­stall com­pletely unat­tended. You can use it to re­move Win­dows com­po­nents, too, mean­ing you end up with a stream­lined in­stall, and you can au­to­mate post-in­stal­la­tion tasks in or­der to avoid that te­dious early-days rig­ma­role. The free ver­sion is ab­so­lutely ad­e­quate un­less you’re look­ing to use it for those IT man­ager tasks we’re try­ing to avoid, although don’t make the mis­take of think­ing it’s a way of avoid­ing com­plex­ity com­pletely. Build­ing an NTLite Win­dows pack­age is a task that re­quires a good few hours and a lot of cof­fee.

Want to make your own cus­tom Win­dows build? It won’t be easy...

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