Create a slipstream flash drive for Windows 7

The Introduction Everyone always ignores

(You can ignore this section, but hey, ya never know what might be relevant)

It's de ja vu all over again from XP days. It's time for all good IT folks and geeks around the house to create a slipstream flash drive of Windows 7 for the good of all, especially hungry kids and demanding messy homes that wanna know "Why are you spending three days updating the same computer again?"

Why a flash drive instead of a disk? Simple answer: Because the slipstream ISO I tried was 4.8 GB. It didn't want to fit onto a 4.7 GB DVD-RW. Hey, I wanted to put apps on it, okay? Cool stuff, like Secunia PSI and Optimum App for Latpops. And of course, my antivirus and antispyware.

It seems we don't really create slipstream "disks" any more. Instead we create slipstream flash drives. I used a 16 GB flash drive. It was on sale at K-Mart.

These are my procedures for myself. Adapt them for your circumstances. For example, I'm running 64 bit in my host OS, and I'm creating a 64 bit installer. If you have 32 bit in the mix, you're on your own. And I'm starting with a physical retail disk of Windows 7 Home Premium. Stuff like that.

If you prefer screen shots, use the link at the bottom of this post in the summary section under "More instruction if you need it." They're some other guy's instructions with screen shots and more options.

Get started

(No more ignoring)
  1. Install on your computer the four tools listed at the bottom of this post in the summary section under "The tools I used."
  2. Acquire a large enough capacity flash drive. If you have a kid age ten or over, check their junk drawer first before shelling out the bucks. I should have done that, as now I have two.
  3. Acquire a Windows 7 disk (I had one lying around, but you can also get an ISO from Digital River. Either way, you'll ultimately need a product key.)
  4. Now, the object of the game will be to create a folder which we will call the "my slipstream files." It will end up with everything in it that you need -- the original Windows files, all update files, any apps you want, and any customization. Once that's done, then you will build it all into an image and put it on a flash drive. So here goes.
Continue below...

Save the original Windows DVD contents in "my slipstream files"

  1. Put the Windows 7 retail disk into your DVD drive.If you've obtained an ISO from Digital River, the procedure is similar. See the links at the end of this post for more guidance.
  2. Run RT Seven Lite. The default priority is normal but you can set the priority to high. Click the browse button, select the OS path, and navigate to the location of your Windows 7 disk. 
  3. When it says "this operation cannot be performed....yada yada" click ok again.
  4. Select desktop, click on "make new folder," click OK. Call it "my slipstream files" because that's what it ultimately will be.
  5. The contents of the Win 7 install DVD will now get copied into "my slipstream files" on the desktop.
  6. A window will ask you for the version you want. Choose your version of Windows, and also click on the box that says "slipstream servicepack." (Don't worry -- we will still be able to configure the flash drive to allow for a choice of versions  of Windosw 7 each time you install from it.)
Continue below...

Save SP1 in "my slipstream files"

  1. Download the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (KB976932)  exe install file and save it to your desktop
  2. Right click on the exe file, click on properties, click general, click unblock. If you do not see an unblock button, then I guess don't sweat it.
  3. Click browse in the window that came up that says "Service Pack Slipstream." Navigate to and select Windows 7 SP1 exe install file from your desktop and open it.
  4. Click the start button
  5. RT Seven Lite now starts grinding away to save Service Pack 1 with the contents of the DVD in the folder we created titled "my slipstream files." This could take hours.
  6. When it's done, click on the proceed button. RT Seven Lite now starts loading the image
  7. When it's done, click on the task tab in the left pane.
Continue below...

Download all the post-SP1 Windows Updates

  1. There are plenty of slow ways to pick and choose your udpates to SP1. Or you can use some guy's Windows Updates Downloader tool. Run it and then download the msu files of your choice to your desktop. The tool will create a folder called for you called "SP1MSU."
  2. And there's one more thing you can do. The random guy's tool might be a little back level. You can find out by clicking on the little piece of paper icon in the tool, which will then show you the date of last update. Mine showed 6/10/13. So you still might want to get the very latest updates from the Windows Update Catalog. (Here's the wonky thing I did, in order to get the very latest updates: On an up to date Windows 7 computer, I went into Windows Updates history=>see installed updates=>click on "installed on" and found my date range. Then I used the snipping tool, then printed the page of all the updates since 6/10/13. Then I typed those into the Windows Update Catalog and downloaded them into the folder I called "even more post-SP1 updates.")  
Continue below...

Integrate the post-SP1 updates into "my slipstream files"

  1. In the Task tab in RT Seven Lite, check the Integration box and ISO Bootable box options, then click on the Integration tab in the left pane. Or you can select all the boxes if you'd like to do more tweaking.
  2. Under the Updates tab, click on the Add button.
  3. Navigate to and select all of the Windows Update MSU files that you want to integrate, and click on Open. I think the order matters. Be sure and include both the dude's SP1MSU folder and your "even more post-SP1 updates" folder.
  4. When finished adding MSU files, click on Apply.
  5. Click on the other tabs on the left of RT Seven Lite and do all the tweaking and customizing that you'd like.  You can add apps, customize Windows, and other customizations. (Be sure and add at least one device driver -- a network one -- so that you can connect either wired or wirelessly. Once you're connected, then during install you'll be able to fetch the rest of the device drivers you might need.)  Be sure and click "apply."
  6. Select High priority level, select Re-build all images, and click on Commit. 
  7. RT Seven Lite will now start integrating the Windows Updates. This may take a few minutes to a few hours. For me, it took an hour and 45 minutes. I have a fast processor, but I was loading a lot of updates and apps. 
Continue below...

    Now you can either create a flash drive with the ISO on it, or you can create the flash drive with all the files on it but not in ISO format. I choose the first method. I have no use for the second method.

    Create the flash drive with ISO

    If you create the flash drive with the ISO, then you should be able to boot from it without already having an OS running. This could be an advantage if Windows is busted.

    1. Plug in your USB flash drive.
    2. In RT Seven, click on ISO Bootable on the bottom left tab, click on "create image"
    3. Click on "make iso" (bottom right of RT Seven screen.)
    4. Give it a file name.  I called mine 13-07-03 Slipstream. Now RT Seven will create the image. It takes a few minutes.
    5. From the Microsoft Store, download and install the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool.
    6. From the Start menu, open the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool Setup Wizard.
    7. When prompted, browse to your .iso file, select it, and click Next.
    8. When asked to select the media type for your backup, choose USB device.
    9. Click Begin Copying. If prompted, confirm that you wish to erase the flash disk.
    10. The .iso files will start copying to the flash drive (the process can take several minutes). When finished, close the wizard.
    11. Close RT Seven Lite. Let it clean up. 
    12. Congratulations. You now have a slipstream Windows 7 SP1 bootable installation USB flash drive.
    13. Save the ISO for future use. Also save the "my slipstream files" because I'm not sure if you need to or not. Any time you want to install windows a little differently, you can go back into RT Seven, point it to the "my slipstream files" again, and rejigger whatever you want to change.
    14. Note also that even if you keep using the already built ISO, you get a lot of flexibility during install because you get a choice of windows version, and which apps you want installed. 

    Flash drive with files instead of ISO (optional)

    If you create the flash drive without the ISO, you can boot from it by opening it and clicking on setup.exe. This does mean that you would need a working OS to do this from. Also it means you must use a new partition. This procedure is useless for my purposes. But here it is anyway.
    1. In RT Seven Lite, click ISO Bootable from the bottom left tab
    2. Change the mode to USB Bootable
    3. Choose your device
    4. Click the USB button
    5. Say yes to formatting the device.
    6. RT Seven Lite will take a few minutes to format and then put the files on 


      (You can ignore this section, too. It's for reference) 

      The names of important stuff we worked with in this post:
      1. Folder: "my slipstream files

        This folder starts empty, then gets all the files from the retailer's Windows 7 disk, then it gets Service Pack 1 integrated into it, then it gets SP1MSU and "even more post-SP1 updates" integrated into it. And it gets all your windows customization added to it. It ends up as the entire package that will get turned into an ISO.
      2. Folder: "SP1MSU"

        This is the folder created by the dude's tool that has plenty of windows 7 updates in it, but maybe not all 
      3. Folder: "even more post-SP1 updates"

        This is a folder you create. It starts out empty, and then you put into it all the windows updates you're adventurous enough to find that are not incorporated into SP1MSU
      4. File: "13-07-03 Slipstream ISO

        Well anyway that's what I called mine, based on the date. It's the ISO image that you created from the "my slipstream files" folder.

       The tools I used
      1. RT 7-Lite Launcher (64 bit). I used the beta version, which knew what to do with SP1. Be sure and get the beta 2.6.0 version and notice there's an 86 (for 32 bit) and a 64.
      2. Windows Updates Downloader This is some dude's tool that works really well. Get the latest one. I will heretofore refer to it as "some guy's tool" or "the dude's tool."
      3. WinRAR (it's free for a trial period) Not sure if you need this?
      4. Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool This cryptically named tool comes to us courtesy of Microsoft. It will let you put all this good stuff on your flash drive.
      If you like pictures and branch logic in your instructionsThese two links helped me develop these instructions. Use them as a reference in case my instructions trip you up or you need more detail or you like screen shots.

      How to use the flash drive over and over

      If not much has changed, you can continue to use the ISO that you have on your flash drive. But if there have been more windows updates, or more apps you'd like to add, then best to rebuild the image and put it on another flash drive or replace what's on your existing bootable flash drive. That whole process might take about an hour or so (if you remember to set the priority to high). Here's how:
      1. Plug in a suitable flash drive
      2. Run RT Seven Lite
      3. Use the browse button and select the "my slipstream files" folder
      4. A window will come up. Choose your OS. Don't tick the slipstream box
      5. The image will load. This will take about five or ten minutes
      6. Now you should be able to use RT Seven Lite to make changes and create the ISO, and then use the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool to put the ISO on a flash drive

      • When you use the flash drive to install, remember to pull it back out before the first time the new OS reboots itself, so it doesn't try to boot all over again from the flash drive. This could happen if you configured bios to make the flash drive your primary boot device. Don't ask me how I know that.
      • During install using your ISO, you will see an RT Seven windows that offers a checklist of apps. Be careful. Sometimes it will appear to stall because of hidden windows. 
      • You will want to add at least one device driver to the ISO, so that you can get internet access. Either add the ethernet controller driver or the wireless driver.  
      • It looks real great that RT Seven Lite offers the option of creating a USB bootable, it's not that helpful because it only puts files on the flash drive. It's not an ISO. Instead, always use "create image" which will create an actual ISO, then use the Windows 7 USB DVD Download tool to get that ISO on that flash drive. 
      • When using my wonderful new slipstream flash drive to restore Windows 7 on an HP Pavilion dm4, the install threw this message, "a required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing." I thought I solved this by putting a "naked" Windows 7 disc in the disc drive. The next step was the window listing "Microsoft Software License Terms" with a box to check. Then when it came time for partitioning, it threw this message, "setup was unable to create a new system partition." I was never able to solve this, and had to resort to my factory install disk.