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How To Create A Custom Windows 8 Installation ISO


SnakeMasteR

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How To Create A Custom Windows 8 Installation ISO

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What makes re-installing Windows painful is the waiting around for a few keystrokes and post-installation

chores. Windows 8 installs in mere minutes, but you still have to accept the EULA, manually enter your

25 digit serial number, and apply Windows updates once the installation itself is completed. If you’re

eager to optimize this process, here is a way to customize your Windows 8 installation.

Preparation

Before we start, you need a couple of ingredients to make this work:

  • Running installation of Windows 8 or 8.1
  • Option 1: Windows 8 or 8.1 ISO file

(Unfortunately, the Windows 8.1 ISO file available from Microsoft does not seem to work.)

The main tool you’ll be using is WinReducer, but it’s of no use until you prepared and installed all the

other items. Note that WinReducer itself comes with ReadMe and HowTo PDF files, which cover

WinReducer’s features and can be helpful when you get stuck.

Setting Up WinReducer 8.1

When you first launch WinReducer, it will most likely display an error message and point you to its

configuration.

In the Configuration window, make sure all the software needed by WinReducer is detected. Click on

the software name and point the tool towards the file’s location. Note that you need to point it to two

different files in the case of 7zip; both are located in the program folder. When all is done, the

Configuration should look like the screenshot below.

winreducer8configurats3k9q.png

WinReducer Overview

When you launch WinReducer after a successful configuration, you will be greeted by the proper

Welcome screen.

winreducer8startscree9uuig.png


Under Options, you can check for software updates, return to the Configuration window, and set your

Windows theme.

The HowTo PDF reveals that an Easter egg is hidden in the Info page (available via Options) that

apparently grants you access to a Lifetime VIP Edition. If you find the Easter egg, please share in the

comments!

winreducerinformationojunn.png


Under Start, you can open Windows 8.1 using an already extracted folder, extract an ISO file, and via

Tools you can download Windows updates, create an ISO file or a bootable USB, and launch the

Preset Editor.

Creating Your Custom Windows 8.1 ISO

Go to > Start > Tools > Updates, select the x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) Windows update package,

depending on your version of Windows 8.1, click Update, and select the updates you would like to

download.

Option 1: When this is done, close the window and go to > Start > ISO and select your Windows 8.1

ISO file to extract it, so it can be customized by WinReducer. This can take a moment.

winreducerisoextractixfuhh.png


If you get an error message, like “You are trying to use an unsupported Windows 8.x Upgrade DVD“,

you won’t be able to proceed. Try again, try another ISO file, or try another method.

Once your ISO file was extracted, the Preset Editor should open automatically.

Option 2: Alternatively, you can copy Windows installation files from the original installation DVD to

your computer, then to go > Start > Folder, select the folder that contains the extracted files, then

click Mount. This will copy the files into the Extract folder and should launch you into the Preset Editor.

You can also open the Preset Editor manually. Go to > Start > Tools > Preset Editor and click

Launch. Here you can customize Windows 8.1 to your heart’s desire. You can remove features and

services, change the appearance, or set up your unattended installation.

winreducerpreseteditos9zi3.png


As the name suggests, WinReducer’s main objective is to make the installer and the resulting

installation smaller. If you are going to create a DVD, don’t bother. You are more likely to regret

removing a certain feature, than to appreciate the time you saved during the installation or the drive

space you preserved. Rather focus on customizing your installation.

First, however, integrate the updates you downloaded earlier. Go to > System > Integration and point

the tool to the respective download folder. You can do the same for drivers and .NET Framework.

To include and automate the installation of third party software, you could prepare an OEM folder and

have WinReducer add it to your custom ISO. The option is available under > System > WinReducer

Post Installation. The details of how to set this up, however, are beyond the scope of this article.

Don’t forget to set up the Unattended installation. Remember that if you add the serial number, the

resulting ISO file will be set to your computer. Trying to use your custom Windows 8.1 installation disc

on another computer would be a violation of the Windows license agreement and you would run into

issues activating Windows.

winreducerpreseteditom9xea.png



When you are done, you can save this preset for future use on another ISO file. Go to Start and click

Save. Here you can also Load a previously saved preset.

To apply a (preset) customization to your Windows installation ISO file, go to Finish and click Apply.

winreducerloadingi1xfp.png


WinReducer will direct you to the ISO File Creator, where you can save your custom Windows

installation media as WIM or ISO file.

winreducerisofilecreax4d1g.png


Click Save and when the tool is done, you can pick up your ISO file in the respective folder.

Create A Bootable DVD

To turn your custom ISO file into installation media, you need to create a bootable DVD. Use a

DVD burner tool like ImgBurn to write your ISO file to a blank DVD. To avoid errors, be sure to burn

the DVD at a very low write speed, like 2x. Check the verify option, so ImgBurn will double-check for

burning errors. Finally, test your custom Windows 8.1 installation DVD.

Custom Installation To A Point & Alternative Solutions

WinReducer is great to create a custom Windows 8 installation. Unfortunately, you still need to

download and install all your third party apps, as this process can not be embedded in WinReducer.

If a complete setup including third party applications is important and if we’re only talking about a

single computer, you should prepare a perfect Windows installation and then create a system drive

image (aka copy or clone), which you can flash back when it’s time to re-install Windows. Alternatively,

you could look into third party software that offers an unattended installation of the applications you

need, for example Ninite. Or you could automate tasks with AutoIt.

For deployment of Windows 8.1 to multiple computers, turn to Microsoft TechNet for instructions.

What do you think? Is a custom installation file with all the junk removed worth the trouble?

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Very useful.

You Might Want To Try It On Virtual Box Before Installing It On Your Main System.

A Word Of Caution, Many Programs Are Interdependent And Interlinked And Hence Care Needs To Be Taken In That Regard.

Study What You Will Be Losing Because Of Removing The Features you Will Be Removing As Other Softwares Installed/To Be Installed Might Require Them.

Hence Very Deep Study Of Softwares You Use And Their Dependencies Is Required :)

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