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Free utility condenses Windows Vista from 15GB to 1.4GB

Users can trim Vista to a tenth of its normal size by ditching unwanted parts

January 30, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A Croatian college student has created a utility that installs a seriously stripped-down Windows Vista, saying the heft of Microsoft Corp.'s biggest desktop operating system is just too big to believe.

"Who can justify a 15GB operating system?" asked Dino Nuhagic, a fifth-year student from Split, a Croatian city on the Adriatic. Not Nuhagic, or the uncounted users who have turned to his creation, vLite.

The free program lets users pick and choose which Vista components, hot fixes, drivers and even language packs are installed, then builds a disk image that can be burned to a DVD for unattended installation of the operating system.

"Why did I do it? Well, it's performance and work environment," Nuhagic said when asked why he came up with vLite. "Performance, that's easy to explain. The less things running, the more responsive the OS. But the environment part is where it gets down to personal preference."

Those preferences include options for leaving out virtually every component of Windows Vista, from the minor -- such as the bundled screensavers -- to the major, such as the firewall or Universal Plug and Play.

Some vLite users, in fact, have made it a contest of sorts to come up with the puniest-possible installation package for the operating system. While Microsoft recommends that users set aside 15GB of hard-disk space to install its pride and joy, Nuhagic's fans boast of squeezing it into an image file as small as 515MB that takes up just 1.4GB on the hard drive.

One user reported condensing Windows Vista Home Basic into a 526MB .iso file and installing it in a virtual machine that used just 1.3GB of drive space. "It worked well inside the virtual machine and since I have 1GB of RAM on the host I guess the little Vista would work well," said amocanu.

Nuhagic didn't come right out and say it, but he hinted that he -- like more critical users and pundits -- thought Vista was bloated and could use some reducing. "To be frank, I don't need 90% of Windows. But that 10%, which guarantees that you can run [the] majority of games out there, is what is worth isolating."

Crafting vLite wasn't easy, he said. But the time Nuhagic spent on its predecessor, nLite, which similarly squeezes Windows 2000 and Windows XP, paid off in spades. "Since I had four years of experience with tampering [with] older Windows, it was a lot easier than nLite," Nuhagic said of the development of vLite. "Also, it was easier than in XP because Vista does not have the old-style installation. It doesn't install components one by one, but simply extracts the image. Where XP would fail during install because a certain file was missing, that issue is not present in Vista."

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