One of my favorite sources for blog fodder here is MajorGeeks.com. This has been a great source for me over the years for Windows tools and utilities. I still visit there once or twice a week to see what’s new and what’s changed. Earlier today, I renewed my acquaintance with a Windows tool I’ve used before but hadn’t thought about for a while. It’s called NTLite and it’s something of a Swiss Army Knife for working with Windows images. There’s even a free version available. Thus, you can download and play around with it to see if you like it or not before considering the Professional ($69) or Business ($249) editions. NTLite provides great ways to slim down Windows images prior to deployment. It can also help to customize the install process that occurs while deployment is underway.
To get started with NTLite, select a Windows image: I chose the Build 1511 64-bit Windows 10 Pro.
[Click image to see full-size screen capture.]
How NTLite Lets You Slim Down Windows Images — and Customize Them, Too
Here’s a small laundry list of the kinds of things NTLite will let you do with Windows images (it works with all modern Windows versions back to and including Vista):
- You can target a running Windows image to modify the Windows you’re currently using. I don’t think this is a particularly good idea, and NTLite’s makers don’t recommend it either. We both agree you should NOT go there without a current image backup and some way to replace your current runtime environment.
- You can visit and remove a whole slew of built-in Windows components to cut down on image size. These include various Accessories, Drivers, Hardware Support, and so forth. Some items are interesting, and some of them indeed worth removing. This includes drivers and device support you’re sure will never be needed on target machines, or accessories like the on-screen keyboard for PCs that lack touch displays. Ditto for Easy Transfer and Embedded Mode support on machines that won’t be allowed to use those facilities, and so forth.
- You can integrate third-party drivers, Microsoft updates and language packs, and make Registry modifications. All of these can be handy when building an image for immediate deployment. That’s because MS may not supply all necessary device drivers or new updates may be needed. Likewise when two or more languages may be desirable in a standardized Windows image.
- Use NTLite to change Windows settings and to incorporate app features. This means pagefile and restore point settings, adding Edge extensions, or altering Internet Explorer settings. You can also pre-configure Windows Features just as you would using the Turn Windows Features on or off facility in Control Panel/Programs and Features, but prior to image deployment.
- You can pre-configure unattended setup for Windows to select options that might normally require interactive input during the installation process. Disk partitioning commands and values can be supplied to establish custom disk layouts during the install process. Multiple choice options may be pre-selected in advance, or may use an auto-fill function which can ready and supply local machine data such as machine names, IP addresses, and so forth. Local accounts may be defined and passwords supplied, with autologon invoked following installation. Network join functions permit PCs to join workgroups or domains following installation.
All in all, this is pretty good stuff, and worth any admin’s time and effort to explore if their job responsibilities include Windows image creation and maintenance. NTLite will let you slim down Windows images and customize them and their settings to make them simpler and faster to deploy.