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Old 23-02-2007, 11:37 PM   #1
JAFFA
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Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

A couple of fellas have asked me about my Lightweight benching OS I use and I reckoned its about time I made a little guide for those that don't already know how to butcher XP within an inch of it's life.

Basically when it comes down to it I just remove every single thing that I know I won't need, so that means kissing goodbye to x-amount of foreign languages, a whole bunch of drivers that almost nobody ever needs or uses, loads of services and anything else that doesn't directly contribute to benching... The only requirements are to be able to bench 3d and the mathematical benchies, be able to use a usb key to save results for later submission and thats about it, everything else must go. By doing this I can get my XP install down to 63Mb of memory usuage which is really handy for SuperPi and certainly won't hurt any other benchies we do. Not to mention that it installs in a fraction of the time and boots even quicker than usual.

It's not only useful for benching, you can do away with an awful lot of stuff that never gets used and retain full functionality for a modern rig.

Anyways here is what you'll need:-

1 x Legit copy of XP
1 x Nlite
1 x Blank CD or DVD disk
+ any drivers/updates and extra software you want to add to the disk.

Once NLite is installed the first thing you have to do is copy the entire contents of your XP disk to your HDD (I just copy to a folder on desktop for ease of use).

When that's finished and Nlite is installed we're pretty much good to go.


Just click next here -



Locate the folder containing the files from your XP disk then click next -



Here Nlite asks you if you want to use any preset config files, just click next to select all the options you want yourself.



Here you get to pick what options you want to tweak, generally I don't bother incorporating any additional fixes or windows updates as most of them are security issues and the benching rig will not be used on-line. If you are going to be using RAID you will need to have 'drivers' selected so that the drivers can be slipstreamed onto the disk which is much easier than the appalling F6 Floppy disk method. The components tab lets you remove all the extra 'crap' that XP decides that you need. Unattended allows you to enter your serial number so you can just let the install run without having to keep providing info. Options lets you tweak the way XP is recompressed after butchering it and Tweaks lets you disable services and setup windows tweaks that you would normally have to set up yourself when in windows. Lastly and most obviously 'Bootable ISO' is where you will create an ISO image to burn later. Once you have selected the options you want click next.



Next up is the Drivers section here you can locate any drivers you will need slipstreaming into the install, RAID drivers are obviously of most importance here as Graphics and Chipset drivers can easily be added after install, but if you really want to you can add any driveres here that you need providing they have a textmode installer.


To add a driver click 'insert' and then navigate to the folder where the textmode drivers are saved, here you can see I've set it up with both the ICH7R and ICH8R drivers so this disk will install on both my commando and P5WDG2 WS Pro without any issues. You can also add network drivers if you need them, Graphics and chipset drivers if you need them, but with a RAID setup the only driver completely necessary to get windows installed is the RAID drivers. Everything else can go on later.


Here is what you will see once you've added your drivers, once you are finished click next:-



In the compatability section you select only the stuff wou wish to keep So read carefully and don't uncheck anything you know you will be needing. Click next when ready.


On the component section you get to start really hacking away the dead wood, remember here we select what we want to remove not keep.

Most of the 'Accessories' can go, I just keep calculator and paint for saving screenies because it's handy every now and then.


Almost every driver can be removed which significantly reduces the size of the install, remember we added our own RAID driver so XP's included RAID drivers can go and any other drivers we install can be done later when windows is installed.


In the Hardware support section we can remove everything that doesn't directly relate to the rig so we only need to keep the CPU, IDE and Multiprocessor functionality.



In the Keyboards section we get to remove the myriad of foreign language keyboards that XP installs by default, probably doesn't improve performance, but f we don't need em they must go! Top Tip :- It can take ages to select all the keyboards to remove individually so just check the box next to where it says 'Keyboards' and all keyboards will be selected, you can then go an unselect the keyboards you want to keep.



The Languages section is much the same as the keyboards section so just check them all and then go into the Western Europe section and unselect English so it doesn't get deleted -


In the multimedia section you can disable most stuff, but it's worth keeping 'Luna Desktop Theme' because its fastest for Pi and keep DirectX and OpenGL. I also keep picture and fax previewer so I can easily preview screenies.



In the Network section you can get rid of pretty much everything if you are going networkless. Some benchmarks (PCMark) need Internet Explorer so it's an idea to keep that.



In OS Options you can remove most stuff, but its worth keeping format drive support and .NET framework as some software will rely on it.



In the services section, guess what, we disable services
I can't say I really know what half of these things are so read teh description of each bit before disabling it, the vast majority are junk or network related, but be careful all the same and if you dunno what something does leave it well alone.


The directories section is just a list of the directories on the XP disk that contain other stuff, nothing majorly important or necessary to running windows so they can go.


Ok job done, next up is the 'Unattended' section. Here we add our serial number and also perform a couple of tweaks like turning off hibernate and the windows firewall. You can also set it to ACPI multiprocessor PC here, but windows will pick that up itself if you leave it at default.



In the Regional tab we set up the region and keyboard type we use.



In the Options tab we can tell nlite to 'merge' all the drivers into one .cab file which saves space and we can also tell it to 'remove duplicate files'.



Next up is Tweak section, tick 'show advanced' and then disable anything that doesn't directly help with benching, in the 'Performance' section you'll find some useful tweaks and you should be able to remove loads of XP visual tweaks that are un-neccessary amongst other things. A lot of what we disable here is stuff that we would need to dip into registry to edit on a normal xp install.


On the services tab you can disable a whole bunch of services that you would normally do in windows. Some of them are needed for windows operation so make sure you only disable those you know you will not need, any others can still be messed with directly in windows.


With all that done we're ready to build the disk so click start process and N-L:ite will begin stripping away the crapola. When it's done it's thang you'll see just how much teh install has been optimised, on this install I've gottenm it down to 151Mb a reduction of 426Mb. Once that's finished click next.


Now we get to create the disk image to be burnt, obviously the install is much smaller than a standard XP install so we can use that extra space to add some programs that we know we'll need like some drivers or benchmarks, anything you know you'll want when benching by clicking explore and selecting the folders to include. Plus the image can be burnt on a DVD so you can have 4+ gigs of extra programs. Once you';re ready click 'Make ISO' and NLite will get busy making your custom built superlite XP disk.


Once it's done burn it to disk and install. Do bear in mind that if you've removed something critical the install might not work so it's best to test on an old HDD to start with and if it works out OK then install to your main benching disk(s).


I'm sorry this guide is so long and such a bandwidth killer the pics could have been optimized better I know. (SLi will tell me off for it I'm sure)


Anyways, thanks for reading, I hope it's not too hard to follow and with any luck it might help our benching efforts. If anyone knows any ways of reducing the install even further please let me know so I can add them to this.


Maff

Last edited by JAFFA; 04-03-2007 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 24-02-2007, 12:31 AM   #2
eva2000
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Re: Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

Wow excellent guide JAFFA!

I use nLite as well but it's been over 9+ months since i made a fresh slipstream/unattended Windows install CD with it.

Going to sticky this thread in the forum
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Old 24-02-2007, 12:43 AM   #3
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Re: Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

Cheers Eva dude,

like I say, sorry about the filesizes
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Old 26-02-2007, 11:30 PM   #4
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Re: Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

Well this maybe counter to what you're aiming for when it comes to lite OS. But using RyanVM pack you can update a fresh WinXP SP2 disk with all hotfixes/patches up to right now Feb 16th http://www.ryanvm.net/msfn/updatepack.html and using nLite http://www.ryanvm.net/msfn/nlite.html
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Old 26-02-2007, 11:40 PM   #5
JAFFA
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Re: Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

Yeah thats the pack I use when I build a slipstreamed full on install, nothing worse than downloading updates for an hour after setting a rig up.
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Old 04-03-2007, 05:42 AM   #6
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Re: Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

I've been looking for a guide to doing a slipstreamed install and this is one of the clearest ones yet. Thanks for the great info!
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:13 AM   #7
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Re: Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

wow Maff thanks for this

if you're benching SPI i wouldn't take off Windows Themes as it helps with some tweaks and HDD accesses the files..

...it would be interesting to see if this method of removing dead wood improves benching and by how much
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:33 AM   #8
JAFFA
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Re: Building a Super Light XP Benching Disk (56k warned)

I did test it out a while ago, can only give numbers off the top of my head, but I think at 3.6GHz a standard untweaked install gives about 14.047s for 1m, with tweaks that came down to 13.922s and with a full on slipstreamed and tweaked install I was dipping down into the 13.89Xs range with identical hardware set up. - I'd take those numbers witha pinch of salt for now, when I can motivate myself to get some clocking donw I'll see if I can get a definitive answer for you with documented results to back it up.


The real beauty of setting it up like this is that it makes going from a fresh-format to tweaked and ready to bench in no time at all... it's pretty shocking in fact, Windows will install in literally 10-15 mins tops even on an ancient IDE drive and once installed it needs very little tweaking.

I know it's probably a little over the top, but I always do a fresh format every bench session.

Good call about the themes, I did mention it, but it kind of gets lost in amongst that mammoth post I'll bold it up, because its kind of critical for Pi like you say bud.
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