Skip to comments.Langa: A New Way To Slim Down Windows XP, Including SP2 (May interest Windows XP users)
Posted on 11/20/2004 1:44:51 AM PST by Eagle9
Windows has a well-deserved reputation as a large operating system. A standard installation of Windows XP (with nothing else installed) can easily occupy something in excess of 1.5 Gbytes of disk space. In part, that's because Windows is a general-purpose operating system. As such, it's a kind of kitchen sink software, with all manner of tools, capabilities, and functions thrown into the mix.
That trend started almost a decade ago when Microsoft built HTML rendering functions into Windows: What had previously been part of a separate application--a stand-alone browser--was now inside the operating system and available to any application or utility that wanted to use it.
That sounds like a good thing, and indeed it can be--sharing common functions can be a fine way to reduce overhead and simplify setup, installation, and maintenance. But there are downsides, too:
For example, users who installed a stand-alone browser (e.g., Netscape) ended up with needlessly complicated systems, carrying both the unwanted Internet Explorer code buried in the operating system, and the code for the stand-alone browser that duplicated many of the operating system functions.
More seriously, code-sharing also means problem sharing: Any coding errors, security flaws, or other problems in shared code can affect any or all of the components that access and make use of that code. This, in fact, is one of the reasons why Internet Explorer and Outlook Express--distributed together, and sharing some common code--became the primary infection vector for huge numbers of worms, viruses, and other malicious code.
So, why not just delete the offending software subsystems; for example, the browser engine? Microsoft originally asserted that the browsing subsystem couldn't be removed from the operating system without wrecking it, but a developer--Shane Brooks--proved it could be done. His elegant little hack became distributed as the freeware "98 Lite," and is still around today, along with some companion software that lets you add or remove other deeply buried parts of Win98 that otherwise can't readily be changed. (See examples.)
Over the years, Brooks' original tools gained polish and sophistication, growing into a family of "98lite" products. Incredibly, this now includes a tool that can trim Windows 98 down from its normal installation size of around 400 Mbytes to as little as 9 Mbytes! This ultra-lean version of the operating system is highly restricted in what it can do, of course; it's really meant for use in embedded controls and the like. But another version of 98lite can produce a desktop-capable version of Win98 that weighs in at only about 40 Mbytes, or about 1/10th the normal size. The whole 98lite software system works "on-the-fly," letting you select whatever combination of components you want at any given time; and all changes are reversible. (It's all available here, and 98lite costs $25.)
Windows 2000 and XP, with a different genealogy and core structure, were more of a challenge for the developers, but "lite" tools eventually were produced for them as well. (And with the extension of "lite" technology to these operating systems, the company changed its name to the more general "LitePC.")
Just last month, LitePC released a brand-new version of its XPlite software; this being fully SP2-compliant.
Given that XP is a fairly large operating system to begin with--and made even more so by SP2--I wanted to see what the new version of XPlite could do.
Test Driving The New XPlite
I started with a completely standard installation of XP Professional using a retail setup CD that had been "slipstreamed" with all to-date patches, including SP2 (see Save an Hour Or More On XP Installs). I then applied my normal set of tweaks and adjustments so this test installation would closely mimic my real-life, daily-use XP Pro setup. (See System Setup Secrets For Windows XP, Ten Ways To Make Windows XP Run Better, and More Ways To Make Windows XP Run Better). I then ran the free CleanXP tool and ended up with a fresh, clean XP Pro installation occupying just under 1.8 Gbytes.
I then downloaded a copy of XPlite Professional ($40, from LitePC, registered it, and ran it.
XPlite's menu offers you access to some 120 separate Windows components--far more than are normally available through the Add/Remove applet in Control Panel. Clicking on any or all of the XPlite menu items will cause them to be removed from the operating system in a later step.
As you work, XPlite displays a succinct explanation of what each component does; and the software offers warnings of interdependencies, so you won't disable desired components by unintentionally removing essential infrastructure. But if you do accidentally remove a portion of the operating system you later determine that you need, you simply can run XPlite again, and click to restore any/all components you wish.
XPlite will use System Restore, if you have it enabled; and will warn you if you don't. If you already have good backups of your system, you can disable System Restore and make Windows' footprint even smaller than otherwise. But if you prefer to leave System Restore enabled, XPlite will employ it to help ensure that all changes you make are fully reversible.
For my test, I selected all 120 items for removal, and let XPlite go to work. It took about half an hour of disk thrashing, plus a reboot, but when it was done, I ended up with a minimal XP installation less than half the size of the original--53% less, to be precise--or just under 850 Mbytes (that's 0.85 Gbytes).
My test setup booted fast and ran without a hitch. Of course, the features and functions I had removed were no longer available, but they could easily be restored, if I needed them, simply by re-running XPlite.
In all, XPLite was a surprisingly easy-to-use tool that yields vastly more control over an XP setup than any other tool I've seen.
Try It For Free
Few users need or want all of Windows' tools, all the time. But relatively few components are accessible for removal through Control Panel's Add/Remove applet. Some others can be disabled or removed through a variety of deep-geek tools and techniques like these examples, but XPLite makes it all incredibly simple. There's a limited free version available with no nags and no expiration; the full version costs from $40 down to $20, depending on how many copies you buy.
If you're looking for a way to make your Windows smaller, faster, and maybe more secure, the newest version of XPlite is surely worth a trial.
To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.
To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.
If you remove the Internet Explorer you can't update Windows anymore. As for the few MB saved: who cares given todays harddisk sizes. Such tools were useful a few years ago but not today.
Bump for later perusal
Unless you're trying to update an old laptop...
Agree about the space saving, but would it improve speed? If it can make my 98SE system significantly faster it might be worth it.
I used it on 98SE a few years ago myself. I don't think speed was improved noticeably. It can only improve speed if you remove memory resident parts and especially on Win 98 there isn't a lot memory resident. If you don't use Internet Explorer as your browser you might want to give it a try. For Win 98 you can download all the updates as exe files and therefore don't need to access windowsupdate with your Internet Explorer. But keep in mind that you might trade in a minimal speed improvement with reduced stability and security. I wouldn't do it.
On Win XP people are better off stability- and security-wise if they just turn off unneeded services instead of deleting system files.
I don't see whats the fuss is about, i have over 200GB's of space... even if I totally gutted XP like he did I will only gain 800MB and lose functionality... not worth it, Tell this guy to get a bigger hard drive and a faster processor :)
Right you are.
For those among us who would like some good info on what services do what and what should be left alone and why, may I suggest a visit to Black Viper's page:
There's no way to uninstall Internet Explorer. Of course if you have AOL - guess what - I.E gets reinstalled so you're right back where you started. Why bother?
Yes, I agree. Much better idea to spend the money on more disk space instead, which is really not that expensive. They don't put those tools in there if they are never needed. This is like removing your spare tire to reduce weight.
Bump for later...
Sounds like an awful lot of work to save a half a gig. I mean, if you've got a 120, 80, 40 gig hard drive, is the money and time really worth it?
It'll take a few days to straighten it out and transfer files. I'll check out this software.
sick of ms bump
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