Windows Vista: Making a “Universal Install” Disc

In this post, I showed you how to make an “universal install DVD” for Windows 7. In a nutshell, by deleting one file from a Windows 7 install DVD, you can have the edited disc prompt you for which version of the OS you want to install. You can’t use this tweak to get free upgrades – the version you can use is tied to your product key – but the tweak comes in handy for IT support staff who might need to install many different versions of Windows.

I have found a similar tweak for Windows Vista, and it works in a similar way:

1) Using a disc imaging utility like PowerISO, make an image of the Windows Vista installation DVD.

2) Extract a file called SETUP.CFG from the “Inf” folder inside the “Sources” folder in the root of the drive image.

3) Open the file with a text editor like Notepad and scroll to the bottom of the file. There you will see something that looks like this:


4) Delete these two lines and save the edited file, then overwrite the existing configuration file in the ISO image.

5) Burn the edited ISO to disc.

When you run setup using the edited disc, do not enter a product key when prompted; on the next screen you will be asked which version of Vista you want to install. You can then enter the product key after setup completes.

The only “gotcha” to this is that I’m fairly certain that you need a Windows Vista Ultimate disc to create the ISO, as Vista Ultimate is the only one that contains all the installation files for every version of the OS.

17 Replies to “Windows Vista: Making a “Universal Install” Disc”

  1. Will this work on any different manufacturer pc or laptop as well? I’m trying to make a universal OEM vista disk. It would definately be way better if it was a universal OEM and universal version disk in one.

  2. have tried with an vista ultimate dell oem nothing happens…this means that it is imposible to do this tweak with Oem version

  3. I don’t have access to any Vista OEM discs, so I can’t tinker with it myself. I *do* know the old SETUPP.INI hack from Windows XP doesn’t work with Vista, so I’m not sure how you could change the installation media. Gimme a few days to look into this.

  4. i have a copy of Dell Vista Home Premium 32 bit. Would an iso of this help you? I can upload one somewhere for you…

  5. For some reason, I am not able to add the setup.cfg back to the ISO or else create a working DVD ISO from files. Can someone tell me what program I can use to do this? I have tried WinZip and 7-Zip.

  6. Well, WinZip and 7-Zip aren’t really the tools for the job, but you should be able to open the file in either app and drill down to the appropriate folder and then drag and drop the updated CFG file into the folder. WinRAR will ask if you want to overwrite the existing file; I’m sure WinZIP and 7-Zip work the same way.

  7. I wanted to say I really appreciate this. As a small campus IT group, this works well. Should a non-oem Universal Vista/7 disk be able to install an OS using the Product Key that came with a laptop even if it was an OEM install?

  8. @Ken: I *believe* that MSFT removed the most of the distinction between OEM\non-OEM discs with Vista, but am not 100% sure.

    In XP, MSFT used a file called SETUPP.INI on the install CD to differentiate between FPP, OEM and VLK media. There are TONS of sites out there (including this one!) that show you how to hack the SETUPP.INI file to “convert” an OEM XP disc into a retail one, or vice versa. Every time this topic comes up WRT Vista\7, I google for a Vista\7 equivalent, but have never found one (I googled for a few minutes just now and came up with nothing). So I guess there aren’t that many differences between FPP and OEM discs these days.

    Note that earlier commenters said that they could not get this Vista hack to work with OEM copies of the install DVD, so it might be that you can use an FPP disc that accepts OEM keys, but not the other way around.

  9. Will this work in a Windows Vista Enterprise image?
    I’ve been trying like a mad man to install on a old laptop, bet the oem key doesnt seems to work..

  10. I did exactly what it says on the instructions and I used a Vista Ultimate OEM CD for it. It doesn’t work even thogh I tried it twice.

    Thanks for the instructions though much appriciated.

  11. Is this even necessary? I found that by booting off of my Vista disc and skipping the step where it asks for a product key I get to the list where you pick your edition of Windows, the same type of dialog as seen on your screenshot for the Windows 7 hack. I have verified this with a retail copy of Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (first release, no Service Pack, Swedish locale).

    I do however have the [DefaultImageSelection] line in the setup.cfg file of this disc. It’s followed by a value that looks like a product key, but it doesn’t match my actual product key. But I rather not post it here.

    So I wonder, what do I get from modifying this file?…

    I have not verified this with my Vista Ultimate disc yet (also retail copy). But this goes to show that you don’t really need the Ultimate edition of Vista to install whatever edition you like. It’s enough to have the Home Premium media to install the Ultimate edition of Vista. Just skip the step where you enter the product key during installation process. But of course you would need to actually own a license for the Ultimate edition, which then enter after installing Vista.

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