Slipsteaming Drivers into Windows Setup CDs/DVDs

NOTE: This post was written almost 10 years ago, and republished here for posterity. As such, no attempt has been made to update the links or information below.

I recently had to repair an installation of Windows Server 2003. Unfortunately, Windows Setup was unable to automatically detect my RAID controller, and while you can press F6 during setup to provider a 3rd party driver, this won’t work for computers without floppy drives.

One solution is to “slipstream” the drivers you need into your Windows Setup media. Slipstreaming is a technique used to insert additional drivers, updates and service packs into your installation disks. This can be done manually by manipulating installation files, or by using a 3rd party tool such as nLite (vLite is the Vista version), AutoStream and PE Builder. I personally prefer nLite because it’s free, relatively easy to use, and works with a wide range of Microsoft OS’s. Best of all, you can also use it to remove unwanted or unneeded components, tweak system options, or set preferences in advance to create an unattended setup disk. Here’s procedure I used:

  1. Download and install nLite (
  2. Copy the contents of your Windows setup CD to a folder on your hard drive (e.g. N:\Windows Setup Files)
  3. Start the nLite application, the click Next to advance to the source file screen
  4. Browse to the files you copied above, click Next again. nLite will detect the OS type, then click Next again to proceed
  5. The next screen gives you the ability choose a previous configuration if you have one, or you can click Next again to skip it and start fresh
  6. The next screen allows you pick and choose what features you want to manipulate, I chose “Integrate > Drivers” and “Create > Bootable ISO”, then Next to take you to the Driver selection screen
  7. Click Insert. If your driver directory comes with multiple .INF or .SYS files, you should select Multiple Driver Folder, otherwise, you can use Single Driver
  8. There will be a pop-up window prompting you to select a driver and a mode. The options are Textmode or PnP. Anything that you need to pre-load prior to installation should be installed as Textmode. NOTE: Be sure to use “Textmode” for any drivers windows will need to begin setup! I chose this option for my RAID controller drivers.
  9. Push Ok > Next to proceed, and when prompted, choose Yes to start the process
  10. When done, it should display the create window. At this point, you can create an ISO or burn the image directly to the CD There you have it!