Well-Known Member
This guide lists the most popular custom operating systems on the forum. People new to customizing Windows are usually confused about where to start, and it can be difficult to help them, since there are many aspects to consider, with the main issue being that each user's needs are different from the next. The second issue, is that most of these customized images are not designed for public consumption, because they are tailored to a specific computer or user. With these things in mind, the most robust public options are maintained below.

NTLite has 4 built-in templates. These are the best place to start for people that are unsure of component removals, want to learn, and be guided in a safer direction. I would recommend the "Privacy" template first, to see if you experience any issues, and if there are no problems after about a month, try using the "Gaming" template next, and so forth. Templates are cumulative, meaning each template includes all the same component removals as the one above it. For example, the "Gaming" template includes everything in the "Privacy" template, but removes even more.

To use an NTLite XML template, load an unmodified Windows image, then go to "Components" in the left menu, click on "Template" from the ribbon bar at the top and choose from the options available. Next, go to "Apply" in the left menu, and now in the far right you can click the small black arrows underneath the "Total pending tasks overview" to see exactly everything it will remove.

It would greatly benefit all NTLite users if more people would use these templates, because then it would lead to feedback that improves them, as well as the NTLite program, eventually making the templates the go-to answer in the future, meaning tweaking is easier for everyone.

The optimized image guide (link1) is a performance/gaming "preset" that is not in XML form since it primarily relies on registry modifications. This guide can be used by itself or stacked on top of templates or other presets to enhance them. The primary focus of this guide is that it tries to optimize all the settings in Windows, while most others focus on component removals. They are two very different approaches, both aimed at improving performance and stability, and they can be mixed together for additional synergy.

To combine this guide with another, the user should take an unmodified Windows image and load it into NTLite, then add the template or other preset first, and "Process" it. Then take that modified image and apply this guide to that, and "Process" it again. The ordering matters, because component removals can also delete registry keys, so always apply this guide last to ensure the tweaks work as intended.

The GamerOS preset (link2) was designed to be a heavy duty gaming template. This preset removes more total components than the NTLite "Lite" template, but is not as aggressive as the "Not recommended" template. The GamerOS also diverges from the built-in templates in the types of components it removes, and also adds registry tweaks which the NTLite templates do not include. The best way to think about the GamerOS, is that it started out by using the built-in "Lite" template as a base, and turned into a substantially different fork in the end.

The LTSC 2019 preset (link3) was popular in its time, and can still be used to glean tweaks and information from. The thing to note about this preset though, is it was specifically designed for LTSC, and is now outdated since it was focused on version 1809. This means that it needs some adjustments before someone can apply everything in that thread to Windows 11 or the latest versions of Windows 10, so it is not something that novice NTLite users want to mess with. There have also been countless changes to the NTLite program over the years too, which will have an affect on an older preset which needs to be accounted for as well.

If you decide to use a preset created by someone else, keep in mind that you do not have to use them as-is, but could instead use that preset as a starting point for you to build on or make modifications to, so that it is tailored to your specific needs. Another option is to create your own preset, and you could check out this guide (link4) for instructions on how to create a simple image that you can then modify however you want.

The major point to be aware of when modifying a preset or creating your own, is that when it comes to component removals it will require a lot of trial and error to get it right. This is because Windows is not a modular operating system, meaning it was not designed to have bits and pieces of it uninstalled, and as files are deleted it can cause issues with undocumented dependencies. You will need to have a good grasp of troubleshooting Windows in order to be successful with component removals.

A dependency is when a program relies on external files to function correctly. A good example of this, is when trying to uninstall Windows Media Player, some games will no longer work since those games were coded to rely on files that are found within that component, and once those files are removed from the operating system the games experience an error. If you do not feel like you can tackle this, then it is best to use one of the popular presets instead, since those can be used without much effort or skill, and these presets are supported by helpers here.

Keep in mind that regardless of which guide or preset you choose, some features are premium and locked, and will automatically be excluded during the "Process" phase of making the image if you are using the free edition of NTLite. I strongly urge everyone that is serious about optimizing their computer to purchase a license so that they do not need to worry about this.

For people concerned about paying, you have to understand how much hard work goes into a program like this, and NTLite is objectively the best at what it does. Without a program like NTLite, the fallback option is a bunch of scripts spread all over the internet, where there is little verification into their efficacy, they become outdated fast, and there is tons of misinformation and bad tweaks included. Also, most internet tweaks are post-install, which is not as good as integrating tweaks into an image and doing a clean install of Windows.

A license is such a small price to pay compared to the expensive hardware a gamer purchases for their computer, and even if you are only using NTLite because you are trying to make the best of a weak computer, there are few things you can spend an equal amount of money on and see improvements from that will match what you can achieve by reducing the overhead of the operating system with NTLite. This is also not taking into account all the Windows annoyances that can be resolved by using NTLite too (ads, notifications, etcetera).

Visit the NTLite license page (link5) for more information.

In previous years we had more choice between which Windows we wanted to use, but that has begun to rapidly diminish, and is slated to get much more restrictive in the future. As such, I only included popular presets for Windows 11 and 10 in this guide, since they make up almost 95% of all operating systems in use right now. Windows 7 is hanging on with less than 4%, and all others are less than 2% together.

Due to several huge changes recently, and in coming months, the older operating systems will continue to dramatically decline, until they no longer register on the charts, which will likely be around February of 2024. In other words, apart from some very niche scenarios, the only real options nowadays are Windows 11 or 10, and of those, Windows 10 is the most popular at 71% of users, and is also my personal recommendation, because Windows 11 is still evolving and needs more time to mature and stabilize.

The other thing to consider is that modern hardware is going to pose more problems as time progresses, since older operating systems lack support for new technology. Anyone that has the technical knowledge on how to work through these issues also knows how to use the search function on the forum, so I want to dissuade novices from touching older operating systems by not linking to those options here.

A great piece of advice to know is that Windows 11 and 10 license keys are interchangeable, meaning if you have Windows 11 and do not like it, you could switch to Windows 10 and use the exact same key, or the other way around. The editions must match though, so you cannot swap Windows 11 Home for Windows 10 Pro, for example.

Visit the Windows Market Statistics thread (link6) for more information.

Visit the Gaming Lounge to find more guides like these.
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