Me and Soya have been discussing this a lot via PM:
Now I’m starting a thread so we all can share our stupid ideas and experiences of how to make our systems really, really slim. I want to see Ragwing in this thread!
EDIT: As this thread has come to page 40 when I’m writing this (2008-07-24), I thought it was time to make a little summary. So:
Short summary of how to slim down your Windows XP, strictly based on my system/needs/experiences
Why slim down Windows? Because there are, in most cases, a ton of files and functions you won’t need. Your system will be much faster, and more secure. Since there are very few security functions in Windows (Data Execution Prevention [DEP], Firewall, File Protection [SFC]), the more you remove the safer it’ll be. You will remove vulnerabilities that usually require patches or special settings (like disabling the function). At least this is my belief. It may be questionable, but for me personally, I’ve encountered less problems on a slimmed system because a slimmed system is a controlled system - it’s easy to monitor what’s going on.
This guide is aimed mostly to inexperienced users who are willing try the “learning by doing” thing. It may take your Windows folder from gigabytes to a couple of hundreds of megabytes. My own Windows installation is currently 227+ 13 MB (Windows + themes & installers). Be aware, many things in the guide may cause irreversible damages to your Windows installation. Then you will have to start all over. Don’t forget to back up all your personal files, settings etc! I’m not responsible for any problems!
I’ll make it all step by step, to guide you from a bloated installation to a slimmed installation. I also recommend you to use nLite, it will make things easier. If you haven’t ever used nLite, then that will require a lot of attention on its own. It’s a program to modify an existing Windows XP Setup CD, you can add Windows service packs, hotfixes, remove components etc. and nLite will finalize a bootable CD for you. This is a great start for a slimmed Windows.
As this guide is based strictly on my own system/needs/experiences, here are the prerequisites:
1. Hardware: I have an Acer Laptop machine, 1.8 GHz, 1024+256 MB RAM, 80 GB HDD. No other fancy hardware, no portable things, no router etc. - just a pure laptop whith a USB mouse and a couple of USB sticks when needed. Internet comes via an ordinary network cable, to an ordinary network card. My IP address is static.
2. Software: Other than Windows XP Home SP3 and Internet Explorer (IE) 6 I have no Microsoft software.
- 7-Zip. No dependencies.
- Adobe Reader Lite. Needs Windows Installer + DCOM Server Process Launcher services.
- Bryce. No dependencies.
- CCleaner. No dependencies.
- COMODO Firewall Pro. Needs IE for automatic update.
- DC++. No dependencies.
- Diino. Probably needs IE.
- GIMP. No dependencies (just GTK+ which it installs by itself).
- InfraRecorder. No dependencies.
- Internet Explorer. No dependencies.
- JkDefrag. No dependencies.
- Media Player Classic. No dependencies.
- NT Registry Optimizer. No dependencies.
- OpenOffice.org. Needs Windows Installer + DCOM Server Process Launcher services.
- Opera. Needs Windows Installer + DCOM Server Process Launcher services, unless you chose Classic Installer.
- RegSeeker. No dependencies.
3. Other: What I do on my machine is delimited by the programs above. As you can see, for example, I don’t play games on this machine. Furthermore, it’s my personal machine, meaning that there is only one Windows user account.
Finally, I’ll bring up what I’ve kept rather than removed. That’s an easier approach. You will see what I’ve kept in order to run Windows, stable, with support for the programs mentioned above. By the way, even though all programs seem to run fine, I’m not sure they work completely.
Finally again, my system have no problems whatsoever, but there is sometimes an error reported in the Windows Event Log. It doesn’t worry me, though.
Here’s the fun part.
1. Use nLite on an existing Windows XP Setup CD.
This step is not necessary, but again, it’ll make things easier. Take a look in our nLite thread. Remove as much as you can - I won’t go through it all here - and install your Windows XP (preferably SP3 if you ask me). This will be a fresh start.
One important thing I disabled in my Windows XP Setup CD was the Windows File Protection - SFC. Disabling SFC will make it much easier to delete files manually, which you will have to do later, to slim down Windows. Otherwise, some things you delete will be recreated by Windows. Furthermore, disabling SFC is done very smoothly with nLite, whilst disabling it manually is quite tricky if you’re on SP3. You will have to fool Windows so it thinks you’ve booted in safe mode. I don’t think that’s a good idea, so use nLite to disable SFC.
EDIT 2008-08-03: Here’s a description from Ragwing of how to delete SFC! Thanks Rag!
2. Windows startup: only CFP!
I have COMODO Firewall Pro as my only protection at this machine, thus this is the only startup item. This is easy to manage in CCleaner. If you also have ctfmon.exe starting up, then you probably haven’t used nLite enough!
3. Analyze which Windows services you need.
Windows runs services in the background, which provides support for many functions - functions you can remove. But first, disable the services. Many services are also the reason to some of the processes you see in Task Manager. E.g. you probably have many svchost.exe - I only have two, thanks to my layout of services.
Start at Start Menu → Run → services.msc
Take a look at Black Viper’s guide. Determine which services you need. Here’s my complete layout:
Automatic (these services are started)
COMODO Firewall Helper Service
Plug and Play
Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
Manual (these services are stopped but Windows starts them on demand)
Disabled (I enable these myself, on demand)
DCOM Server Process Launcher (needed for Windows Installer!)
Network Connections (needed to activate Windows online!)
Print Spooler (needed for PDF printing!)
Task Scheduler (needed for Prefetch, which I’ll return to later)
All other services have been removed since it’s very unlikely that I’ll need them, and if I’ll do, well I have to reinstall Windows. To remove a service, double click on it in the Services manager. Take the name, e.g. ‘wuauserv’ for Automatic Updates. Then start the Command Prompt, and type ‘sc delete name’ - without the ’ and replace name with the service name (like wuauserv).
What may differ in your layout of services is e.g. what you need to establish an internet connection.
4. Install your programs.
I actually recommend to install the programs you need before slimming down. This way you will be able to try them, while slimming down Windows, and make sure they run fine. If you did the opposite, there would be a risk that you made a hard down-slimming and then found out that a program doesn’t work - and you couldn’t tell why. It may be a painful learning process if your programs differ much from mine, and most important; have certain dependencies.
5. Time to delete files and folders!
Before you delete, make a backup of the folder/file, and test if your system still works. If it still works after a couple of days and reboots, you’ll have a lot to gain by cleaning the Windows registry. That’s #6 though.
Now, first of all let me point you to the very guide that was the cause of this thread, in the first place: Slimming Down Windows XP by Bold Fortune (many, many thanks to you if you see this! :)).
BF’s guide is a great description of files and folders. I will only describe which folders I’ve kept - going through files would be too much, BF has already done that.
So what have I kept? With the prerequisites of my system, needs, programs etc:
Documents and Settings
LL [my profile]
Thanks to disabled services I could remove LocalService, and since I won’t ever manage any user accounts I removed Default User. Keep that folder if you have to create a new account some time.
Program Files\Common Files
[Nothing Microsoft related at all]
- You can delete it, I kept it for some fancy mouse cursors
** Here are .msi packages in case any of your programs uses such files, e.g. OpenOffice.org, Adobe Reader. I kept it, so I can uninstall/reinstall these programs.
*** Prefetch speeds up Windows booting, and it is said to speed up application launches. I’ve set prefetch to work only for booting. Here’s how (value “2” in my case). When you’ve set it to 2, clear the folder → enable the service Task Scheduler → reboot → leave computer idle for at least 15 minutes → two files have been recreated in Windows\Prefetch. Then you can disable Task Scheduler again.
There are two quite important folders missing:
- Driver Cache - when you plug in a USB stick or any other hardware, Windows will look here for drivers. I’ve removed it from my system, after I plugged in all my USB hardware, but I kept a backup in case I need to plug in a new USB stick.
- inf - BF says it’s important and he’s the master of slimming down XP. Still, I do fine without it, but in case I’d need it some day I have a backup of this folder as well.
Finally, for the WINDOWS folder, I only have these four files: explorer.exe, hh.exe, regedit.exe and winhlp32.exe.
- In this folder you may be able to delete all of the folder systemprofile.
The chances of having only these three folders (if you don’t even have Flash, skip “Macromed”) is probably little, but obviously it’s possible. I really don’t have any other folders in system32 and I would repeat myself if I told you “this system works great”. To delete some folders you may have to boot in safe mode.
6. Clean the registry.
So, you’ve deleted a bunch of folders and files, and now your Windows folder is sub 300 MB? Have you run your system for a while so you know it works? Great, let’s proceed. Now comes the truly irreversible part - at least it’s not even completely safe to make a backup here. In fact, I once cleaned the registry, and then ran into some problems. I thought “OK, let’s restore the registry”… well, for some reason that didn’t work.
This time I was really lucky in my registry cleaning, it’s unbelievable how much I removed. First, the gentle approach of CCleaner, then the real killer: RegSeeker. RegSeeker finds “green” and “red” entries, of which the green ones should be safe to remove. In the example above they turned out to be non-safe to remove… but on my current installtion, I have removed ALL entries found by RegSeeker (and CCleaner) - green and red, and also, the “invalid services” that RegSeeker may find.
In short, I made one heck of a registry clean up - after I deleted all those Windows files - and my system still runs fine.
After cleaning the registry, run a defragmenter. NTREGOPT is great! After running this program, it reported my registry to have a size of 8.9 MB which I think is quite small.
7. Finalize your Windows installation.
Finalize your super-slimmed Windows XP installation by doing tweaks you haven’t done already, and make sure Windows is updated with the latest patches.
As you’ve installed everything now, and deleted all junk (CCleaner!), run a disk defragmenter.
Finally, see the attached screen shots (for registered users only). They show what I’ve described above.
I hope you enjoyed the guide and got some tips from it.
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