How To Create An Unattended Windows XP Disk

Jorge Sierra 10-01-2009

unattended xpAn unattended XP disk is a customized installation disk that allows you to perform a Windows installation with minimal effort (once the disk is created). All of the effort takes place in creating the unattended disk, but it is well worth it. With an unattended XP disk, you can preselect all of the options you wish to use for the installation.


When you proceed with an unattended installation, you do still have to manually select the drive where you wish to install Windows (during the blue screen portion of the setup). However, once you’ve done that and started the installation you can walk away, grab a cup of coffee, eat some french toast, brush your teeth, check the weather, and by the time you get back you’ll see your new Windows XP desktop.

To create an unattended disk, you will of course need a Windows XP installation disk. You will also need to download nLite. nLite is a free program that allows you to create customized XP installation disks. Customizations you can perform include the integration of service packs, Windows updates, addition of drivers, preselection of installation options, preselection of components to install, and even more.

As a first step to unattended windows setup reference, you will need to get the latest Windows XP updates for your installation disk. Which updates you will need depends on how old your installation disk is. If you have a very old disk, you may need to download service pack 3 in addition to the updates that have taken place since the release of service pack 3. In the installation instructions below, you will learn how to find out whether or not Service Pack 3 is included on your installation disk.

Launch nLite, select your language, and click Next. Click the browse button to navigate to your the location of your installation CD. You will then be prompted for a location on the hard disk to store the files for processing. Select where you want to store the files and wait for the files to be copied.

create unattended windows xp


Once the files have completed copying, nLite will detect what version of Windows XP is on the installation CD. If it says the installation has Service Pack 3, then you will not need to download the service pack. Otherwise you can download the service pack here. Proceed to the next step.

Since this is the first time you’ve run nLite, you will not have any presets. Just click Next to advance to the Task Selection page. On the task selection page, select Hotfixes, Add-ons, and Update Packs, Unattended, and Bootable ISO. If you had to download Service Pack 3 because you have an older version, select Service Pack as well.

unattended windows setup reference

If you are feeling adventurous, you can also include Drivers, select Components for removal, select Options, and Tweaks as well. These are more advanced options that will not be discussed in this particular How-To. Click the Next button to proceed.


If you need to integrate Service Pack 3, you will advance to the Service Pack page. Select the location of where you downloaded Service Pack 3. Once you’re done, click Next to advance to Hotfixes, Add-ons, and Update Packs.

Click the Insert button (in nLite, not on your keyboard) and navigate to the location of the update pack. Click Next to proceed to the Unattended settings. In order to avoid any interaction with the installation (other than selecting/formatting the hard drive in the blue screens), you will need to update the following:

  • General Tab: Set Unattended Mode to Hide Pages
  • General Tab: Enter your Product Key
  • Users Tab: Password for the Administrator login (or check Blank password)
  • User Tab: Add a new User and set the password (or check Blank password)
  • User Tab: Set the Autologon to the new user you just added
  • Owner and Network ID Tab: Computer Name
  • Owner and Network ID Tab: Workgroup
  • Owner and Network ID Tab: Full Name
  • Owner and Network ID Tab: Organization
  • Regional Tab: Timezone

Once you’ve updated those settings, and any others you would like to update, click Next. Continue when prompted if you would like to start the process. When the process is complete, click Next to proceed to the Bootable ISO section.

Under Mode, select whether you want to Create an Image or perform a Direct Burn to a CD. Direct Burn is probably the easier choice, because nLite will write it directly to disk. When you’ve made your selection click Make ISO. If you decide to burn to an image, use your favorite image burning software to write it to a disk.


nlite -unattended installation

That’s all there is to it! Just take the disk, pop it into the target machine, boot it up, select where you want to install/format, and then go take a little walk. Upon your return, your machine will have a fresh installation of Windows XP running on it!

Have you made unattended installation disks before? If so, what tools did you use and where did you obtain your update packs and addons?

Related topics: System Restore, Windows XP.

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    January 4, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Can i removed old programs like IE and replace with new versions.
    And if yes,how can i do it...


    January 4, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Please my programs couldn't be installed after the windows installation

    I have a little problem in mind, I used nlite to make my bootable unattended windows installation.
    Everything went on well in the windows installation but my programs couldn't be installed after the installation.
    The problem really is I gave the installation cd to a friend of my to make the installation on another
    And unfortunately for him, he took the CD out of the CD-ROM drive after the completion of the windows (thus when the computer was restarted after the windows installation)
    So all my add-ons and softwares were not installed even on the first logon.
    I purposely wrote this message to you to help make another one which will install my softwares and
    add-ons even if the CD is been removed from the CD-ROM drive after windows installation.
    Or make another one which will install my add-ons and softwares during the windows installation.
    I hope to here from you soon....


    • Jorge Sierra
      January 4, 2010 at 6:33 am

      Very peculiar. I would suggest seeking help in the nLite Forums.

  3. Itransition
    October 23, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Can you advice me how to create An Unattended Windows 7 Disk? It should be similar to this tutorial but i faced some troubles. I'll be glad to see one more your article about Windows 7 software system.

    • Jorge Sierra
      October 23, 2009 at 12:55 pm

      I haven't tried it myself, but according to a post in the [Broken Link Removed] supports Windows 7.

  4. Rose
    August 24, 2009 at 2:30 am

    how to update theme in unnatended

    ( Aceh Barat

  5. Adam
    August 15, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    you know, I've gotten myself a problem and I can't figure out how to fix it. Previously I'd created an unattended updated disc, that asked for username, organization, network name, and after the automatic resizing of the resolution, it proceeded to the setup screen about automatic updates and how it's connected to the internet.
    After those screens, the option to add users came.
    Now when I make a new disc, it goes straight to the Administrator logon. wtf is going on?

    • Jorge Sierra
      August 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

      All those options appear on different tabs in the Unattended section of the setup of the disc. Perhaps things have changed in newer versions of nLite, I'm not sure. It has been some time since I've used it.

      • Adam
        August 16, 2009 at 9:22 am

        Ya. As usual after asking a question, I managed to get it working again by using the old unattended disk and updating that. Not exactly what I wanted, cause that's got IE7 integrated, while I wanted to have one that skipped IE7 completely.

        But this will have to do, can't afford to waste more time on this.

        it's a shame IE8 can't be integrated. not that I use it, but for security it has to be installed.

    • b0r1s
      August 18, 2009 at 10:53 am

      In Unattended window of nLite, click on empty space beneath Administrator to deselect any user and you will bee asked for user name. If Administrator was selected, then nLite would automaticaly create it.

  6. Andre
    June 17, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Hello Jorge my problem is i tried to do a re-install windows xp on my mother inlaws computer, eventually she started getting a virus on it, i used the same xp disk on my desk top a week ago i did a clean install no problem. Now with hers i tried to install and it cant get pass the booting up page it would go from boot to cd page then it goes to the page that states safe mode, safe networking com. prompt, and then it goes back to boot to cd page again. A friend to me to remove the hard drive and reinstall in my computer which i did and it booted up no problem but as soon as i put it back in my in laws system it was the same problem another friend told me its possible that the mother might not be a connection to the system i dont know but greatly appreciated not really computer savy. lol

    • Jorge Sierra
      June 17, 2009 at 7:52 am

      If you were able to use the hard drive without issue in one computer and then had problems with your mother-in-law's, I would suspect something is indeed wrong with the hardware on her machine. There may be some sort of issue with the hard drive controller or perhaps the memory. If you have a memory test utility, you could try that, or set up the BIOS to perform a full memory check on boot.

      You may need to either replace the memory or the motherboard. Depending on how old the machine is, you may need to replace both.

  7. Alessandro
    April 25, 2009 at 4:58 am

    You can add a software inside "hotfixes, add-on ..." ?
    or must use a utility such as add-on maker?

    • Jorge Sierra
      April 25, 2009 at 10:13 am

      You can use it to install hotfixes, add-ons, and updates. However, you will need to download them separately. You will have to either download them directly from Microsoft, or use a tool such as Windows Update Downloader.

      • Alessandro
        April 25, 2009 at 12:08 pm

        For example if want to include gimp, ccleaner, avira ... etc, I can use the add-on?

        • Jorge Sierra
          April 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm

          Yes, there are addons out there for other programs as well. You will have to hunt around for them, but they are out there. There are also directions on the nLite site for building your own addons:

  8. Fábio Rosalvo Urnau
    April 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Jorge! Can I translate your article to portuguese and publish with credits in my blog?

    • Jorge Sierra
      April 16, 2009 at 8:07 pm

      Por favor, isso seria maravilhoso


  9. b0r1s
    April 15, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Windows XP with SP3 (Retail) can be installed without entering a Product Key. How to do this in unattended?

    • Jorge Sierra
      April 22, 2009 at 2:09 pm

      Just follow the directions in the article, and you will have an unattended disk.

  10. Railven
    March 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Well, I finally decided to give this a go, I tried a while back before via text files and what not.

    Anyways, how would I go about having my RAID drivers installed without using the F6 option during the initial setup (blue screen?) I don't have a Floppy disc drive installed on my current setup and I'd rather not have to go through all the trouble of installing one just to get the RAID drivers installed.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Jorge Sierra
      March 9, 2009 at 5:00 am

      Download the drivers from your manufacturer, and extract the contents. It's likely that even if it is an .exe file, it is a self extracting archive that you can unzip with 7-zip. When you get to the Task Selection, enable the addition to Drivers. When you get to the drivers section, be sure to add the drivers for your RAID.

  11. PapaGeek
    February 16, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Thanks Jeff, thanks Jorge.
    This is a pretty sweet guide! :)

  12. Jeff
    February 15, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Just pop the cd in the tray, close the autorun. When you launch nlite it will tell you to choose your location of files. Choose your cd drive and then a place to hold the copy as you go through the rest of the wizard.

  13. PapaGeek
    February 15, 2009 at 1:18 am

    I do have a recovery disk with XP SP1, and yes there's an i386 folder.
    Should I use the entire content of the recovery disk? Are there specific folder I need and I can just ditch the rest?

    Here's the CD content:

    • Jorge Sierra
      February 15, 2009 at 8:33 pm

      Check out Jeff's comment below. You should be able to use the recovery disk without any problem.

  14. gordon
    February 12, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial.
    I have a desktop windows XP home Compaq SR1550NX.
    But they did not give me a
    "Windows XP installation disk".
    I do have a "recovery DVD" that I created.
    Do I need the "Windows XP installation disk"?

    • Jorge Sierra
      February 13, 2009 at 7:22 am

      The recovery DVD might have the Windows XP installation files on it, but it is unlikely. If you can find a directory with the name i386 somewhere on the DVD, then you're in luck. Otherwise, yes, you will need an XP installation disk.

      The good thing is that recovery DVDs often perform the reinstallation with minimal user intervention. So in essence, it may already be somewhat of an unattended installation disk. The bad thing is that if it is an old computer/recovery disk, you will still need to download and install SP3 as well as the subsequent updates.

  15. Jeff
    February 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Yep. I have to install multiple machines and they all have different keys. So leaving the field blank will allow me to input the key and keep going.

    Thanks for the help

  16. Jeff
    February 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    I got what your saying but let me ask it this way just to be sure. If I use the same cd that i create for multiple installs with different keys for each machine. Can i choose to just leave the cd key field blank and enter it during install?

    • Jorge Sierra
      February 11, 2009 at 10:55 pm

      Ahhh... Sorry for the misunderstanding. It sounds to me as though you are installing Windows on identical hardware, perhaps in a computer lab or a similar environment. When you create the install disk, you should leave the key blank and the computer name blank as well.

      The workgroup/domain should be the same as well as the full name/organization. If my assumption is correct and you are setting up multiple machines in the same location/organization, more than likely you will be on a domain and you should not have to worry about individual machine accounts. As long as each individual machine name is set up on the domain, you will be handling your accounts at the domain level rather than individual machines.

  17. Jeff
    February 11, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    What if you wanted to use an unattended install all the way to the product key? Is there a way to skip this or have it ask just that option?

    • Jorge Sierra
      February 11, 2009 at 10:30 pm

      This is the way to do it my friend. Enter your product key on the general tab and it's a done deal.

  18. Aivo
    January 16, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Thx for the answer Jorge:)
    Another question tough...
    Downloaded file is .exe right? Lets say I'm installing
    brand new XP on my PC and then take the downloaded file
    to it via memorystick - can I just run SP3 from it and then
    go online to get the updates?

    • Jorge Sierra
      January 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      You could do that. But if you use an unattended disk with SP3 already merged, you wouldn't need to install it from the memory stick.

  19. Aivo
    January 14, 2009 at 8:14 am

    I believe my XP installation disk is about 5 years old,
    so I suspect it does not have even a Service Pack 2.
    Do I need to downloat first SP2 and then SP3? If yes, where from?

    • Jorge Sierra
      January 14, 2009 at 10:45 am

      The service packs are all-inclusive. They contain all of the patches from the prior service packs, so all you need to download is SP3 from the link I included in the article.

  20. Guy Cross
    January 11, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Great guide!
    I really enjoyed reading this.
    As part of the netbook (AAO represent!) crew, N-Lite is the bread and butter of the hacked XP iso, I havent considered having a go myself, but I may in the future

  21. mrintech
    January 11, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I also wrote somewhat same thing:

    But you gave nice explanations

  22. T.J. Mininday
    January 10, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Great post Jorge. nLite is an awesome and easy program to understand and use. An unattended XP CD is a must in every Admin's arsenal.

  23. OJay
    January 10, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    When you save the Administrator's password in an unattended install, that password will be written in cleartext to the registry of that mashine. No big issue on a personal PC, but in a corporate environemnt, this is a no-go. So you better leave out that option.

    Besides of that, nLite does a great job in preparing slipstreamed Install CDs which allow you to integrate RAID- and AHCI support right out of install environment. Given the fact that some newer PCs don't have a Floppy, this comes in VERY handy sometimes.

    • Jorge Sierra
      January 11, 2009 at 10:41 am

      Very good point about saving the Administrator's password. Thanks very much for bringing it to everyone's attention! I couldn't agree more about RAID/AHCI support within the install. I had a friend that recently had the exact problem you're talking about. He wanted to set up a RAID, but had no floppy. An unattended installation disk is exactly what he needed.