Installing recent versions of Windows, including Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, isn’t as time consuming and difficult as it was the case with previous Windows versions but once Windows is installed and running, installing all necessary hardware drivers, installing Service Packs, recent updates, installing your favourite programs and personalizing Windows to your liking is certainly a long, time-consuming, and more importantly, boring task.
Luckily, there are a couple of programs out there to help you customize the Windows installation or Windows ISO by integrating drivers, language packs, service packs, applications, and even your favourite Windows themes. A couple of years ago, somewhere in 2010, we had posted about the best 5 free tools out there to customize Windows 7 installation ISO or DVD.
While all of the above tools work great with Windows 7, some of them haven’t seen updates since years and aren’t compatible with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Of the all tools out there, RT7Lite is the most popular one, but unfortunately it hasn’t been updated since the release of Windows 8 Developer Preview. Even though, some users are reporting that it works with Windows 8 as well, many users are experiencing issues while using RT7Lite to customize Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 installation.
WinReducer 8, the tool which we have reviewed a couple of times before, is fully compatible with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 (a separate version is available for Windows 8.1 as well) but the catch is that you need to manually install additional software such as Windows Automated Installation Kit and 7-Zip to start using recent versions of WinReducer.
The good news is that there is another free tool that you can use to customize Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 setup. The free tool we want to share with you here is Win Toolkit. Win Toolkit, previously known as Windows 7 Toolkit, has been updated to support Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 versions as well. The other good thing is that it offers great number of features and easy-to-use as well.
Win Toolkit Features
To start with, Win Toolkit enables you integrate drivers, language packs, theme packs and service packs. The All-In-One Disk Creator feature lets you create a single ISO file containing both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows flavours, meaning that you can install both 32 and 64-bit Windows from one bootable media.
The other feature, available in all Windows installation customization software out there, is Unattended Creator. As the name suggests, it allows you create an unattended Windows installation ISO, DVD or USB, which means that you don’t need to enter your product key, create user account, and select a language during the product installation. In other words, if you don’t want to stay awake along with your PC during Windows installation and want to automate the installation, use this feature.
The Component Removal feature is for those users who don’t use one or more features built-into Windows operating system and want to remove the feature from the installation media to avoid installing the feature. For instance, using this feature, you can remove Windows Media Player from the installation setup.
Options are available to edit the Registry to tweak various Windows settings and optimize Windows for best appearance and performance. There are also tools to create language packs from MSU to CAB, download latest Office and Windows updates right from Microsoft servers.
In addition to that, it lets you create a new ISO image containing your customized Windows 7/8/8.1 installation files and also lets you create UEFI compatible bootable DVDs. As you can expect, it’s capable of creating bootable Windows USB as well.
Overall, this is an excellent piece of software to customize your Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 installation. Note that if you want to try this tool on Windows XP or Windows Vista, you must have installed DISM Installer and .NET Framework 3.5 on your PC.
We have tested this tool on Windows 8.1 to prepare customized Windows 8.1 ISO and can confirm that this tool works as advertised.
Download Win Toolkit (Alternative link)