Windows / Creating a Custom 64bit XP Install CD

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Creating a Custom 64bit XP Install CD

Why create a custom XP install CD?

Commonly called a “slipstream” CD, a custom install CD allows you to create a version of your XP install CD with all the service packs, hotfixes, drivers, and applications included so you can easily re-install Windows XP. You know at some point you will need to reinstall XP, so this will come in handy if you take the time to create it now while your computer is functioning properly.

I'm doing this now because I need to install XP onto an HP xw4400 workstation at work, and the XP install CD does not recognize the SATA controller. This means XP cannot find a disk drive to install XP onto. The only way around this, using my existing install CD, is to have the SATA controller driver on a floppy, and when the XP installation procedure gets to a certain point (early on) where it asks me to press F6 if I have a third-party RAID or disk controller driver, press F6. Of course, the XP install will not give you any indication that it noticed you pressing F6; for several minutes it will go on loading various drivers, etc. and then finally stop and ask you to insert the floppy.

Well, this would be OK if my HP xw4400 had a floppy drive; but, who sells computers anymore with floppy drives installed by default?

So, my only recourse at this point is to create a custom version of the XP install CD with my SATA controller drivers included. This page will document the steps I took to (hopefully) successfully do this, with special modifications for 64 bit XP of instructions from the online resources I used.

Some online resources I used

I did not come up with this on my own. Here are a couple of online resources I relied on to create my custom install CD:

How To: Slipstream your XP installation [SRC1]
Add RAID drivers and Service Pack 2 to your original Windows CD!
Unattended Windows [SRC2]
Have you ever wanted a Windows CD that would install Windows by automatically putting in your name, product key, timezone and regional settings? And have it merged with the latest Service Pack to save time? Followed by silently installing all your favorite applications along with DirectX 9.0c, .Net Framework 1.1 and then all the required hotfixes, updated drivers, tweaks, and a readily patched UXTheme without any user interaction whatsoever? Then this guide will show you how you can do just that!
Beginners Guides: Unattended Windows 2000/XP Installations
Every now and then there comes along a computer or server that needs Windows installed with a specific blend of drivers and settings. Running through one installation isn't too bad, but what if there are a dozen or even more computers to get through? It's times like this that having your own customized Windows installation can be a time saver, and life saver.

Then there is the dreaded "Press F6 to install RAID drivers" process when a floppy drive-less computer is having its Windows operating system installed… Wouldn't it be so nice if those RAID drivers were already integrated onto a customized Windows install CD?
Windows XP Professional Resource Kit - Automating and Customizing Installations
Windows XP Professional includes several tools that enable you to design and deploy automated and customized installations. These tools provide different types of functionality for a variety of deployment scenarios. Each tool has specific strengths and limitations that you can evaluate to determine which tool is most appropriate for your environment.
MS Windows NT Workstation Deployment Guide - Automating Windows NT Setup
This deployment guide provides information, tips, and tricks that will help you automate the Microsoft® Windows NT® setup process. It is designed for Information Systems professionals that are tasked with installing either Windows NT Workstation or Windows NT Server on many computers. You should use this guide in conjunction with Part 1 of the Windows NT Workstation Resource Kit.

What you need

In order to create your own custom install CD, you need:

  • a legitimate Windows XP installation CD
  • a working computer with a couple of gigabytes of free space
  • a CD burner and some blank CDs
  • CD burning software capable of creating Windows bootable CDs (e.g. Nero)

You also need some familiarity with Windows, such as being able to copy files and folders, change file names, burn CDs.

Here we go

  1. Create local source. Copy the entire contents of your XP install CD into a new folder on your hard drive (e.g. C:\XP64_CD).
  2. Slipstream the latest service pack. My install CD already had Service Pack 2 (SP2) included, so I did not need to add it to my CD. See SRC2, p 6.
  3. Integrate critical updates (hotfixes). I also did not download any hotfixes. See SRC2, p. 26.
  4. Create basic unattended setup.
    1. Create winnt.sif. This required a couple of files from the XP SP2 Deployment Tools. Those two files are in this attached zip file.
      1. I ran setupmgr, creating a new, unattended setup, for Win XP Pro, fully automated, set up from a CD. After going through all the customization steps, setupmgr created a unattend.txt file.
      2. I edited that file as shown in Figure 1 so that Windows Install would ask me what partition to load to (see SRC2, p. 7).
        Figure 1
        Figure 1
      3. I also added a [Components] section as shown in Figure 2 to keep certain Microsoft fluff from installing, and I disabled Windows Firewall as shown in Figure 3 (for both, see SRC2, p. 19).
        Figure 2Figure 3
        Figure 2Figure 3
      4. I copied this file into my C:\XP64_CD\AMD64 folder and renamed it winnt.sif (note: the instructions at SRC2 say to put it in C:\XP64_CD\i386, but that only applies for 32 bit).
    2. Create iso. I used a tool called cdimagegui.exe obtained from SRC2, p. 15. However, since I am working with 64 bit XP, according to that webpage, I could not use the boot.img they provided with cdimagegui. So, based on a tip from SRC1, I downloaded the free version of IsoBuster and used it to extract the boot image file from my 64 bit XP install CD. Back in cdimagegui, I set the Directories under StartUp; went into Configuration and selected my new boot image file on the Boot tab and changed the volume label on the Creation tab; and finally created the ISO by going to Creation and clicking on Start Image Creation.
    3. Test iso. I used VMware Workstation for initial tests, using the instructions on SRC2, p. 20, as a guide. I set it to "Windows XP Pro x64" and gave it 1GB RAM and a 4GB disk. Before VMware would even attempt to run the 64 bit virtual machine, I had to go into my BIOS to enable Intel Virtualization Technology. Once I selected the partition for installation, the XP installation proceeded without intervention from me. Yeah!
  5. OEM preinstallation. This is where we can add drivers, etc. To begin, I edited my winnt.sif file for OEM preinstallation by changing OemPreinstall to yes and adding the three lines shown in Figure 4 (see SRC1 and SRC2, p. 28).
    Figure 4
    Figure 4
    1. RAID/SATA Drivers. In order to avoid the need to press F6 during the Windows install and find a floppy drive to temporarily attach to my workstation, I needed to slipstream the Intel Matrix Storage Manager (SATA) 64bit drivers into my custom installation.
      Note: using the TXTSETUP.OEM method does not work with the WinXP x64 installer. I tried it and had to resort to the following, somewhat more complicated procedure.
      1. First I downloaded the driver installer and then extracted the files from it. If the installer is simply run, then the extracted files are removed after they are used. So, I just ran the installer to the point where it had extracted the files and looked for the temporary location where the installer put them. I found out later there is a flag I could have used if I had run the installer from the command line to just extract the files. Anyway, once having them, in my CD source folder (C:\XP64_CD), I created a folder named $OEM$. In there I created a folder named $1, in there a folder named drivers, and finally, in there a folder named IASTOR. The resulting folder tree is shown in Figure 5. (See SRC1)
        Figure 5
        Figure 5
      2. Then I edited the TXTSETUP.SIF in C:\XP64_CD\AMD64 as instructed in SRC1. I added one line (as shown in Figure 6 a, b, and c) to each of sections [SCSI], [SCSI.Load], and [SourceDisksFiles]. I then found the information, as instructed, from the driver installer’s .inf file to create the lines I added to the [HardwareIdsDatabase] section (Figure 6 d).
        Figure 6
        Figure 6
      3. I copied the necessary driver files into my IASTOR folder as shown in Figure 7. These include the specific .cat and .inf files for the SATA device (since my driver installer supports several related devices), and the .sys driver file. I also copied this .sys file into the AMD64 folder and compressed it with makecab from a Windows command prompt. (See SRC1)
        Figure 7
        Figure 7
      4. Back in the winnt.sif file, as shown in Figure 8, I added two lines to the [Unattended] section to tell XP where to find the driver files and to accept them even if they aren’t properly signed. (See SRC1)
        Figure 8
        Figure 8
    2. I created the ISO as before. I tested it in a virtual workstation just to make sure there were no obvious errors with the ISO, but there was no way to test that the added SATA drivers would actually work (since the virtual workstation hides the SATA issue). So, I burned the ISO to a CD and tried my new WinXP x64 custom install CD, installing to a separate partition on my drive (with the help of BootIt NG for partitioning and boot editing).
      IT WORKED!!

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There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.

Mark Twain
Following the Equator, 1897

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