There is a procedure known as “slipstreaming” that many average computer users do not know but can be pretty useful when you need it. To slipstream means to integrate various patches and service packs into the installation files of the original software such that installing the software also installs all updates automatically.

For example, do you have an old Windows XP installation CD? How could you somehow combine Service Pack 2 in with your original installation disc to create a hybrid Windows XP SP2 installation CD? Or perhaps you want to combine several drivers, patches and other updates into a single installation procedure.

This is slipstreaming.

How To Slipstream an XP SP2 Installation Disc

Creating a slipstream is a little bit more involved than some things, but it isn’t too bad. If you are creating a Windows XP SP2 slipstream, there is actually a free tool that can help you out. It is called Autostreamer. You’ll need to find it on various third party download sites, but here are a few links for you to get it:

The program will give you a wizard to automate the slipstream. You tell it whether you want to use a Windows CD or the i386 folder on your hard drive. You then point it to the Service Pack 2 file (you will need to download this separately as a single install file). It will then create the slipstream and output an ISO file which you can then burn to a CD.

If you want to get an idea for what is actually happening here, here is the rough outline of how you would do it manually:

  1. Copy the entire contents of your Windows XP installation CD to a folder on your hard drive. For sake of demonstration, make this folder name “xp” on your C drive. Note that your installation CD must be either a retail or upgrade version of the OS. You cannot make this work with an OEM version.
  2. Download the Service Pack 2 installation package.
  3. Create another folder on your hard drive called “sp2”. Put the file you just downloaded into this folder.
  4. Open up the command prompt and navigate to the “sp2” folder. Extract the SP2 installation file using the following command: “xpsp2.exe -x:C:\sp2”. You will see a dialog box while it extracts. When done, you will see a new folder in the “sp2” folder called “i386”. This contains the extracted files for SP2.
  5. Combine the two folders. In the command prompt, navigate to the “i386/update” folder just extracted. Then, run the command: “update -s:c:\xp”. This will slipstream the SP2 files into the XP installation files.
  6. Next, you need to make a bootable CD. Generally, people use an ISO program like ISO Buster to do this. While this is trialware, you can use the free features to do what you need. In ISOBuster, select the “folder” called “Bootable CD” with the XP installation disc in your CD drive still. You will see a file called “Microsoft Corporation.img”. From the menu, choose “Extract Microsoft Corporation.img” and extract it to “C:\xp”.
  7. Next, eject the XP installation CD and put in a blank, recordable CD. Use a CD burning program of your choice to burn the entire contents of the “XP” folder to the CD. It is important that you have the program specifically create a bootable CD. You will probably need to specifically select the above referenced IMG file as the bootable file. Now all CD burning programs are capable of doing this. The latest version of Nero Burning ROM can do it for you.
  8. You’re done!

What, You Want More?

You can do a lot more with slipstreaming than just integrating a service pack. You can also integrate your own custom drivers as well as applications into the installation process, thereby creating one install CD that does it all for you. However, it goes get more involved than above do do this. In fact, it gets so involved that I just assume throw some links at you to get you going rather than type it myself.

  • Unattended Windows – a great and very detailed tutorial on create some very fancy slipstreams.
  • nLite – An application that helps automate the creation of more advanced slipstream CDs.
  • InstallRite – allows “application cloning” to make it easy to re-distribute full applications. Will make it easier to slipstream apps into your installation CD.

Slipstreaming is likely not going to be your everyday computing task, but it can come in handy sometimes.