I have come to love the free nLite application very much because of the dozens of times that I have had to install Windows XP. It allowed me to enter things like my Windows XP product key along with my preferences so that I could stick the CD in, get the installation started, and then walk away. I never completely understood why Microsoft made you enter in the serial number and select some of the preferences in the middle of the installing Windows, but it sure was frustrating. Not only that, but by using nLite you are able to slipstream hotfixes and service packs into your Windows installation to prevent hundreds of Windows Updates from needing to be downloaded when you get done installing Windows.

One thing that I commend Vista on is that the installation screen looks like something beyond the days of DOS and it is also more productive. It asks you for the required information up front so that you don’t have to worry about the installation pausing halfway through to wait for your input. All Vista asks you for before the installation process is the serial number and which hard drive you would like to install the operating system on. You don’t even have to enter in a serial number…in that case you’ll be asked which version you would like to install, and you’ll have 30-days to activate Vista with a valid serial number. I really like that feature because people can tinker around with the different versions until they find the one that is right for them…and then they can confidently purchase it.

Vista’s setup process only took me 15 to 20 minutes which is half of what it takes XP, and I find that to be very impressive. One of the best things that I love about Vista is that it has the SATA drivers included, which always made installing Windows XP a pain for me. Before I would have to insert a floppy before starting the Windows XP installation so that it would be able load my SATA drivers to recognize my hard drives, but that is because the SATA technology is still a little new (started around 2003).

While I am grateful that Microsoft at making Vista’s installation much more painless there are still some things that many of us don’t need to be installed. For that reason there is a new version of nLite, called vLite, that will allow you to customize a lot of what gets installed in Vista by default. With how well Vista’s new installer handles itself this might not be something that you need right now, but as more Windows Updates are released this might be a great solution to making the Vista installation a little less painful. Looking at the changelog for vLite also says that there is an option to force the Aero Glass effects as well, but to my knowledge the known registry tweak to do this stopped working in early 2006 when Microsoft removed the registry option so I’m not sure if this would really work.

Note: 64-bit versions of Vista are supported in vLite, but the application is still in the Beta stage.

Thanks for the tip Tito!