vLite is a free download that can cut the operating system's size by half or more.
A free software tool that promises to strip down the Windows Vista operating system -- which even some Microsoft officials have called "bloated" -- to a minimalist state is attracting big interest on the Internet.
vLite, created by developer Dino Nuhagic, automatically removes a number of non-essential Windows Vista components in order to pare the operating system's heavy footprint by half or more.
vLite allows users to preselect numerous Vista features for automatic removal prior to installing the OS on their personal computers. Among them: Windows Media Player, Windows Photo Viewer, MSN Installer, Wallpapers, SlideShow, Windows Mail, and other utilities.
"It's not just about hard disk space. There is also an increase in OS responsiveness and you don't have to tolerate all kinds of things you don't use," said Nuhagic, in an e-mail to InformationWeek explaining why he launched the project.
vLite, however, isn't for the technically timid. The software warns that the changes it imposes on Vista are "permanent, so be sure in your choice."
Nuhagic said he doesn't know exactly how many downloads vLite has seen -- but a forum that asks users to submit suggestions for the next version has drawn almost 50,000 views.
The emergence of tools like vLite reflect the frustrations voiced by many computer users over Vista's bulk and resource requirements.
Loaded with an abundance of features and tools designed to ease navigation and bolster security, the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Vista both require a whopping 15 GB of available disk space for installation. By contrast, Windows XP -- Vista's predecessor -- requires 1.5 GB of available space for installation of the Professional version.
With Vista bearing a footprint 10 times larger than XP's, even Microsoft officials are expressing concerns about Windows' growing waistline. Speaking last year at the University of Illinois, Microsoft distinguished engineer Eric Traut said the operating system had become bloated.
"A lot of people think of Windows as this large, bloated operating system. That may be a fair characterization," said Traut.
In response to such concerns, Traut said Microsoft has adopted a new, modular approach to OS development that will yield more streamlined products beginning with Windows 7 -- a successor to Windows Vista that's expected to be available some time in 2010.
The approach calls for Windows developers to use a bare-bones version of the OS -- dubbed MinWin -- as the building block for their next programming effort. MinWin is built on about 25 MB of data -- making it smaller than Windows Vista by an order of magnitude.
Until it's ready, there's always programs like vLite.
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