In Windows environments, it is common for system administrators to make slipstreamed installation sources of the operating system available on network shares. That greatly simplifies deployment for new installations. Microsoft also usually allows ordering slipstreamed CDs from their website. Newer versions of Microsoft products usually come either already slipstreamed or with a separate CD holding some updates.

Slipstreaming can save time and money. It is possible to add service packs and other updates and patches to the install source, as well as extra drivers. In a Windows environment, slipstreaming all needed drivers onto the install source will save time downloading them from the Internet. However, if newer drivers are available then a new install source would be needed. It also involves more work initially, but can save time later on in reinstallation terms. This is especially significant for administrators that have to manage a large number of computers, where the default case for installing an operating system on each computer would be to use the original media and then update each computer after the installation was complete, as opposed to using a more up-to-date (slipstreamed) source, and having to download/install a minimal number of updates.

How to Slipstream Windows XP SP3

Getting started

This time around, I’m only providing one set of instructions, involving only freely available tools you can readily find online. Here’s what you need to make it work.

A Windows XP Home or Professional Setup CD. You can slipstream virtually any version of Windows XP, including the original version (build 2600), XP with SP1, or XP with SP2. It must be a retail Setup CD or a retail-like Setup CD (You may have luck with OEM CDs from PC makers as well, depending how much the company changed the disc layout.) Full or Upgrade CDs work just fine. Previously splipstreamed discs are fine as well.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 Standalone Installer. This 316 MB file is now available from the Microsoft Web site.

A Windows XP boot sector file. In previous versions of these instructions, I had you extract this file from your Windows XP Setup disc. But that requires yet another tool. Instead, just download one (

ImgBurn. This is an excellent free utility for disc burning.

ImgBurn project file. ImgBurn needs to be configured correctly to burn a bootable, slipstreamed XP with SP3 Setup disc. While we could laboriously step through the configuration changes you’d need to make, I am instead providing an ImgBurn project file (ZIPped, so extract it) that makes these changes for you.

Be sure to download the XP SP3 standalone installer, XP boot sector file, ImgBurn, and ImgBurn project file, and then install ImgBurn, before proceeding.

Step 1: Copy the Windows XP Setup CD contents to your hard drive

Open the My Computer (in Windows Vista or 7, Computer) window and navigate to Tools then Folder Options. In the Folder Options dialog, navigate to the View tab and select the option titled “Show hidden files and folders.” Then, uncheck the option titled “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).” (Dispense with the Warning dialog that appears.) Click OK to close the Folder Options dialog.

Insert your Windows XP with SP2 Setup CD in the optical drive of your PC and close any auto-run window that appears. In My Computer (or Computer), right-click the optical drive and select Open. Leave the window open with a view of the contents of the Windows XP Setup CD.

Open My Computer again. This time, navigate to the root of the C: drive or another location to which you’d like to save the files you’ll eventually integrate with SP3. Create a folder named xp (as in C:\xp). Then, create a second folder named sp3 (as in C:\sp3).

Now, drag and drop the contents of the XP Setup CD into the C:\xp folder.

Step 2: Extract the contents of the XP SP3 updater to your hard drive

Now, you need to extract the SP3 files. While the files are copying between the two locations, copy the Windows XP SP3 standalone installer (typically WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU.exe in the UK) to C:\sp3. Then, open a command line window (Start, Run, cmd in Windows XP; in Vista, just open the Start Menu and type cmd in Start Menu Search).

Then, using the following commands exactly, navigate to C:\sp3 and extract the files (Note that the text [ENTER] means hit the ENTER key):

cd \ [ENTER]
cd sp3 [ENTER]
windowsxp-kb936929-sp3-x86-enu.exe -x:c:\sp3 [ENTER]

An Extracting Files dialog will come up and display the progress.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3)

When the extraction is done, the following dialog will appear. Press OK to continue.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3)

Note: Leave the command window open. You’ll need it for Step 4.

Step 3: Extract the XP boot sector file

Locate the ZIP file ( that contains the XP boot sector file and extract it. Navigate to the appropriate location, depending on whether you are slipstreaming Windows XP Home or Professional:


Inside, locate the file w2ksect.bin. Copy this file to the root of the C: drive.

You should now have a folder, C:\xp, that contains the contents of your existing XP Setup disc, a folder, C:\sp3, that contains the extracted contents of the SP3 standalone installer, and a boot sector file, C:\w2ksect.bin. You’re now ready to slipstream XP with SP3.

Step 4: Integrate XP with SP3

Now, type the following in the command line window (where [ENTER] means hit the ENTER key):

cd i386 [ENTER]
cd update [ENTER]
update.exe /integrate:c:\xp [ENTER]

Warning: If you are trying to slipstream a volume license version of Windows XP Professional from Windows Vista, the preceding steps need to be run as an administrator. To do so, right-click on the desktop and choose New then Shortcut. In the Create Shortcut dialog, paste in the following bolded text: C:\sp3\i386\update\update.exe -s:c:\xp\. Then, click Next, give the Shortcut a name, and click Finish. Run the shortcut by right-clicking it and choosing Run as administrator. Then proceed normally. (Thanks to John Straffin for the tip.)

The Software Installation Wizard will appear and integrate the SP3 files into the XP with SP2 install files.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3)

When the integration is complete, you’ll see the following dialog. Click OK to continue.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3)

Close the command line window. (Type exit and then tap Enter.)

Step 5: Make a bootable XP SP3 CD

Now it’s time to make the bootable XP with SP3 Setup CD. Open ImgBurn and choose Mode and then Build from the menu.

Then, click File and then Load Project. Browse for the xpsp3.ibb file you previously downloaded and click Open. ImgBurn will note that the project has loaded successfully. Click OK.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3)

Note: If you changed the locations or names of the C:\XP and XP boot sector file, you will have to hand-edit xpsp3.ibb to match. This file is really just a text file, so you can open it and edit it with Notepad.

In the Source section, click the yellow “Browse for a folder” button and point it at C:\XP.

Insert a blank, writeable CD in your PC’s optical drive. When the disc has been read, the Build button in ImgBurn will be enabled (it resembles XP-style folder and CD icons, with a green arrow in the middle). Click the Build icon.

ImgBurn will begin preparing the image to burn. If you see the following warning, click Yes.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3)

After you verify the project to be burned, ImgBurn will begin writing the disc.

Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3)

Step 6: There is no step 6

When ImgBurn completes burning and validating the disc, you’re good to go: You can install XP with SP3 on a PC, or in a virtual machine, and make sure it works correctly. Then give yourself a slap on the back.


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