Slipstream (computing)

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For other uses, see Slipstream (disambiguation).

In computer jargon, to slipstream updates, patches or service packs means to integrate them into the installation files of their original software, so that the resulting files will allow a direct installation of the updated software.

If not directly supported by the software vendor, slipstreaming can be technically possible, depending on the updates, the structure and type of the program to be slipstreamed and of its installer, if any.

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.

Adding patches to the install source is also another time saver.[citation needed] However, not all (Windows) patches can be applied in this fashion and one disadvantage is that if it is discovered that a certain patch is responsible for later problems, said patch cannot be removed without using an original, non-slipstreamed install CD. Online instructions for this way of doing things emphasise the use of virtual PC environments (such as VMware Workstation or VirtualBox) for testing, as the end user often gets no support from the program manufacturer for using these "homemade" CDs.

By using slipstreamed OS installation media (e.g., a Microsoft Windows XP Professional CD), one can avoid specific installation errors that may be caused by drivers and/or hardware components. For example, a RAID controller built into a computer motherboard may require its own drivers, as well as a specific update/s or service pack for the target operating system. In this case, an installer may choose to include both the driver and the operating system patch in the installation medium. This would be done not only to save time, but by OEMs to ensure end-users have an installation CD for their computer that would not require additional thought or equipment to deploy. (The alternative, in the case of Windows NT/2000/XP, was to provide the driver for the RAID controller on a 3½-inch floppy disk. This driver was then loaded by the Windows XP installation program, following a prompt to push 'F6' on the keyboard. For more information, visit Microsoft Knowledge Base article #314859.)

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