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
COME ON BASS! LOL! 3.5GB's... come on... Next thing your gonna tell me is your runnin' on a sub ghz system LOL
Very useful building HTPC (Home Theater PC) boxes. Cut boot time and extra junk.
Thank you. I've never heard of this. I need it for two things.
1.)I need to uninstall the latest version of Windows Media Player. There's no way to do that right now. This MAY offer that. Why? My WMP stopped playing any WMV files. It complains about CODECs despite the fact that I've downloaded and installed the latest CODECs. I don't know what the problem is, but a simple uninstall/reinstall should fix it.
2.)I'm making some virtual machines for VMWARE. They turn out HUGE if they're Windows XP and I don't need every component. I could shrink my virtual machines with this tool.
Bookmarked & thanks.
--Bill, fighting 'bots & hijackers
Way to go Eagle. Good stuff!
bump for later reference
From Control Panel Add or Remove Programs, you can remove MSPlayer. It gives you the option to back up to the previous version (if it is still on your system). Go down the list of Add/Removes; it is listed as 'Windows Media Player 9 or 10'.
I had a problem with RealPlayer. It quit working when I tried a trial RA2AVI program to convert RealPlayer files. The RA program installed features of RealAlternative. RealAlternative replaces some RealPlayer files and RealPlayer will no longer work. Even after doing the uninstall, I had to do some utility searching and removing manually of a bunch of RealAlternative files. RealPlayer 9 and 10 would try to install, but would stall out. I finally had to install RealPlayer 8, which worked and said there was an updated version (10). I let it update, and now RP 10 is working fine.
I'm not sure why you lost the capability to play wmv files. WinAmp has a new version out. You might try it. Also, your associations might have changed (if wmv's open with another player). You might try updating the MSPlayer. I inadvertantly got 10 loaded but uninstalled and went back to 9.
[I thought I lost the capability to full-screen movie files. But 10 and 9 loaded with defaults checked. I found in an info forum that unchecking 'Enable full-screen mode switch' returned the full-screen capability.]
Windows Media Player is not in my Add/Remove Programs. It WAS in the Add/Remove Windows Components, but I removed it and it still worked. I checked the Program Files, and it was not removed and I was able to double-click a video file, WMP10 loaded, and I got the Codec error.
This happens with files that used to work, but suddenly don't work anymore. I've reinstalled WMP10 a number of times, but that doesn't do the trick.
Placeholder BUMP for an intriguing hard drive diet.
Possibly security issues. After all, embedding HTML in the Kernel is not what I would consider a good move (security wise).
Sounds like you have/had WMP installed in two locations and they are conflicting with each other. I've had that kind of thing happen before, too, where a program gets installed in two different locations and then they conflict with each other.
Are you using XP or Win98?
I have XP and WMP is listed in the 'Add/Remove Programs'
You might try a freeware add/remove program to see if it will work. Sometimes they work better than Windows add/remove.
This is a link to a freeware add/remove program from Ziff Davis called UnClean.
Do you have Quick Time installed? If so QT sometimes will hijack movie files. The codec you are missing could ne associated with QT. Open WMP and find your defaults. Make sure .wmv is still associtaed with WMP.
Er...I think that you replied to the wrong person.
That is an =excellent= idea. I may try it. None of my PCs here will boot windows, but I have VMware for testing purposes.
If people really want to to get rid of the instability and virus attraction that is the windows world, I think they'd be better off abandoning microsoft and installing Linux.
For those of you who might complain that it's too hard for many people to learn a new operating system, I's answer that there are a lot of people out there who know next to nothing about windows either. They use their PC as not much more than a box for browsing and email. These people would barely notice the difference. You click an icon, and up pops a browser. Same goes for their email program. Heck, a full install of any of the major distributions will leave them with multiple browsers and email clients, a complete office suite, and much more.
Why not install Windows 2000 Professional instead?
| I'm working on bringing up a new home PC this weekend.
Don't install SP2!!!!! It's too screwy!
Bump for bookmarking
This looks cool!
I've bypassed xp and gone to Mandrake Linux for all my new installations, however I still have some 98se boxes running. Like many, I had become so accustomed to crashes that it seemed normal to have to reboot more than once a day.
Several years ago I discovered the 98lite stuff, and ran IEradicator. Stability increased dramatically; it would now take 2-3 days before the system became too stupid to continue running. 98lite claimed that you could reinstall IE as an application without losing that stability, but I never tested that (I've never used IE. Not once.) With the addition of a memory garbage-collector (I use ReleaseRAM), it's not unusual for a 98se box to run weeks at a time without a reboot.
bump for later
GOOD info thanks