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How do I create a Windows XP SP3 "slipstream" disc?

If you run Windows XP, it’s very likely that you have a Windows XP SP2 CD,
which has Windows XP with SP2 already applied. You may even have an
original Windows XP CD with no service packs applied at all.

What you want is a single Windows XP SP3 installation CD. It can be handy to
satisfy the system file checker, and it can save steps if you find yourself
reinstalling Windows XP from scratch.

Fortunately, you can make one.

But we are going to get just a little geeky.



First, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your Original Windows XP installation media, or the original installation files (often the infamous “C:\I386” folder), or the reinstallation files as part of a recover partition. If you do not have your original installation media or files you cannot create a Windows setup CD.

  • The Windows XP SP3 Network Installation Package – currently a 314MB download.

  • A Windows XP Boot Sector. This can be extracted from your CD or CD image, but is most easily simply downloaded from the NU2 download page:

  • A CD burner and burning tool such as ImgBurn which I’ll use in the examples below.

  • A blank CD.

  • About 1.5 gigabytes of free space on a hard drive.

  • A willingness to work in the Windows Command line interface.

I’m going to dive right into the Windows Command Prompt for most of this work.


First we need a folder in which to work. I’ll create one called “SLIPSTREAMWORK” (my typed-in commands are in bold blue):

C:\Users\LeoN> CD \

We’ve created and made C:\SLIPSTREAMWORK our current directory or folder.

From the download we only need one file, w2ksect.bin, and that file must be placed in the root of your C: drive. I’ll use 7-Zip to extract the file from the “zip” container (which is in “C:\t”) and then move it to the root:

C:\SLIPSTREAMWORK> 7z x c:\t\ cds\wxppro\files\w2ksect.bin 7-Zip 4.65 Copyright (c) 1999-2009 Igor Pavlov 2009-02-03 Processing archive: c:\t\ Extracting cds\wxppro\files\w2ksect.bin Everything is Ok Size: 2048
Compressed: 4145 C:\SLIPSTREAMWORK> move cds\wxppro\files\w2ksect.bin \
The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process. C:\SLIPSTREAMWORK>

The “rd” command at the end is a quick way to empty the working directory of anything left behind by the zip extraction. As long as the folder is empty when done, you can ignore the warning message.

Finally, we need to copy over the contents of our original Windows XP installation CD. I’m going to assume that I have my actual original Windows XP disc in drive E:, so I would do the following:

C:\SLIPSTREAMWORK> xcopy E: /s/e

This’ll take a little while as the entire contents of the CD are copied to your hard drive.

The Actual Slipstream

The network install of SP3 that you downloaded earlier is actually an executable file. We run that file (which in my case I also downloaded to C:\t) with a special parameter:

C:\SLIPSTREAMWORK> c:\t\WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU.exe /integrate:c:\SLIPSTREAMWORK

The program will first extract all of its files into a temporary folder:

SP3 unpacking into a temporary folder

Then the program will update your Windows XP image:

SP3 updating your Windows XP CD image

And when it’s done, you have an updated Windows XP with SP3:

SP3 Slipstreaming Portion Complete

Now we just need to make a CD out of that. (You can delete the temporary folders created by the SP3 extraction at this point if you like.)

Burning an XP SP3 CD

As I said earlier, I’ll be using ImgBurn for this example.

Right-click on this link and download this file to a location on your machine: HTHSP3.IBB. That’s an ImgBurn project file with the settings needed to burn our work to CD. If you’ve used the default folder C:\SLIPSTREAMWORK as I have above, and you’ve placed w2ksect.bin in C:\ then you can use this file as-is. Just File->Open Project in ImgBurn. If you’ve used other locations or filenames, you can edit the project file in a text editor before loading it into ImgBurn.

Now, burn the resulting project to a CD.

ImgBurn burning our newly created Windows XP SP3 CD

When done, you should now have a bootable, Windows XP + SP3 installation CD.

(There are actually several other SP3 slipstreaming instructions out on the web. A tip of the hat to How To Haven for their summary which I found the most comprehensive of the batch.)

Do this

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15 comments on “How do I create a Windows XP SP3 "slipstream" disc?”

  1. ” …here’s what you’ll need: Your Original Windows XP installation media, or the original installation files (often the infamous “C:I386″ folder), or the reinstallation files as part of a recover partition.”

    For clarification, does a manufacturer’s recovery disk that includes the operating system also work? And would these same steps work for when when Win 7 releases its first service pack in a few months?

    It depends on exactly what the recovery disc holds. Since there’s no standard it may, or it may not work. Too soon to tell on Windows 7 – we’ll have to wait until the SP is released.


  2. I have Windows XP Media Center 2005. It came with 3 CDs: 2 main install CDs plus an update CD. How do I incorporate all three in the slipstream to make an SP3 DVD?

  3. “…I’ll use 7-Zip to extract the file from the “zip” container (which is in “C:t”) and then move it to the root:”
    For clarification, do I download this file to a folder named “t” located in the root dir of the C drive before using the comand line to extract it?

    Yes, though the folder name “t” I’m using is totally arbitrary.


  4. I did a similar exercise in a TAFE course, follwing the set out in Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows. Subsequently I came across the free program “nlite”, which I have found to be fairly easy to follow.

  5. Use nLite. Its GUI makes it very easy for the novice, just make sure to avoid touching the advanced features unless you know what your doing. You may think its cool to remove IE but you’ll soon run into problems if you try to run something that relies on some IE file that was removed.

    Also, always use a Vanilla XP CD (the Original RTM disc) that has no service packs on it. Using disks that already have updates or that have been customized (such as Recovery Discs) can cause problems. For example, if I integrate SP3 into a disc that already has SP2, the icon for Internet Options disappears from Control Panel even though it is installed and can be run from the Run box.

  6. Hi Leo I have a “OEM” windows disk and have beeen told I can not use this to make a slipstream disk can you tell me if this is so, if so why?.

    I believe it depends on the OEM disk. The problem is that the manufacturers make changes to the original install that are often not coverd by, and potentially confuse, the slipstream process. It doesn’t hurt to try, but I’m not aware of a workaround if it fails.


  7. Hi Leo:
    I had a lot of fun following your, “making a slipstream disk.” Since I’m using a 64bit Win7 PC, I wasn’t able to follow all of your script, but I was able to work my way around the parts that I couldn’t make work by using the Command Prompt. The interesting thing is that I wasn’t able to make an .iso file, but ended up with ImgBurn making me a bootable CD that works great.
    I haven’t figured out how, but really don’t care, since I do have a bootable XP3 CD. Thanks!

  8. Leo,

    Is there a way to make my own Windows XP/SP4 CD?
    I have the XP/SP3 CD, but would like to have one that includes all the updates since the release of XP/SP3. That way I could easily reformat and rebuild my Windows XP computer without spending hours downloading all the updates.

    I do monthly Arcronis True Image backups and just recently had to recover from last months backup. But it would be nice to start from scratch with a new build of Windows XP once a year.

    I’m not aware of a way to mimic an SP4, no.


  9. Leo,
    Followed your instructions and all went well until…IMGBURN reported that 183 file names had been modified to meet ISO9660 requirements. I would think not since this is an OS. Did I miss something?


  10. Above, where it reads “The network install of SP2 that you downloaded earlier is actually an executable file.”, did you mean to write “SP3” ??

    Ooops. Thanks for catching that. Off to fix it…


  11. Hi Leo,

    I tried it myself too. However, when the SP3 file had to be slipstreamed in the slipstreamwork directory, I got a message that it was not succesfull as the language type or platform for the destination directory and Service Pack 3 must be the same.

    What have i done wrong? Maybe because I am living in The Netherlands that I got a ‘wrong’ file?

    Your advise will be appreciated.

  12. I have several PC’s using XP at home. With one PC I successfully made a bootable install CD. With the next PC I tried, the I386 was large enough (900+ MB) that the slipstreamed result would not fit on a CD. I tried to burn to DVD but that didn’t seem to work. Am I missing a step or option? Thanks!

  13. Leo, I get most of the way through the “integrate” process running on a local hard drive of a PC running XP Pro, but after it copies all of the files to the temporary directory, I receive a Setup error message that reads:


    Please check that:
    a) No network or copy error occurred during the integration process.
    b) The format of the destination directory is correct.
    The files to be integrated MUST reside in an i386 and/or ia64 or nec98 directory (i.e. for an i386 share, if you typed “update /s:c:cdshare”, the files must be in the c:cdsharei386 directory

    Any thoughts or suggestions on this would be appreciated. Thanks!

  14. Hi Leo, will this procedure work in this situation. The hard disk on my old laptop running XP Pro SP3 has gone belly-up and I have just obtained a replacement HD.
    I have the original XP Pro SP1 CD.
    I have a new laptop running Windows 7 64-bit.
    Can I create the slipstreamed XP SP3 CD on my new laptop?

    I’m honestly not sure, though it appears that the process isn’t dependant on what you’re running at the time so it seems like it should work.


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