New utility cuts Vista install down to size

Vista on a diet.

Windows Vista users now have a way to cut down the operating system's famously large installation footprint with a free software tool.

Developer Dino Nuhagic released version 1.1 of vLite last week. The configuration utility is designed to remove Vista components such as Windows Media Player, Windows Mail, Windows Photo Viewer, Wallpapers and other utilities before installation, creating a new installable image.

The utility can also integrate other components such as hotfixes, drivers and language packs into the new image and has an unattended install function, Nuhagic said.

Tools such as vLite are a response to concerns about what even Microsoft has conceded is Vista's enormous install size. Similar tools exist for Windows XP, such as Nuhagic's own nLite.

Vista's Home Premium and Ultimate editions both require 15GB of disk space to install, 10 times that of Windows XP. The OS has also gained a reputation as a memory hog, leading outfits such as 2X to argue that companies would be better off running Vista on centralized servers and providing it to users via thin clients.

vLite is designed for technically savvy users, and there are serious pitfalls to watch out for, according to Nuhagic. For example, if a user removes the driver for the hard disk controller used on the system, the PC will not be able to see the disks on startup, Nuhagic said.

He said the software plays by Microsoft's rules. "This tool doesn't use any kind of hacking, all files and registry entries are protected as they would be if you install the unedited version, only with the changes you select," Nuhagic said on the site.

During beta testing the utility has gained a wide following. For instance, a message board used to suggest new vLite features has registered nearly 51,000 views. Nuhagic said he doesn't have exact figures on downloads.

In October Microsoft admitted it was working on a streamlined core called MinWin in order to help slim down future operating systems such as Windows 7.

At the time, Microsoft distinguished engineer Eric Traut said: "A lot of people think of Windows as this large, bloated operating system, and that's maybe a fair characterization, I have to admit."

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Matthew Broersma

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