Just enough for my drivers and my windows XP setup will be more than enough ... I will work from another partition and the system partition will be frozen ...

2Gb seem right but was using 5-10 Gb before, how much do I really need?

I'm now checking with VirtualBox If it's enough, I have access legaly to my school license ...

It used 1.11Gb on 2Gb with a windows xp professionnal cd (oem, retail, msdn, ...)

I know about Nlite but if you're not careful you will lose some stuffs that you need, but I was mostly asking for the default install size to use as a rule of thumb ...

  • After a few updates it will be more than 15GB. – Anderson Aug 13 '14 at 12:22

13 Answers 13


This is just a possible solution to make the XP Install take up less space.

Have you ever heard of nLite? Basically, it allows you to add/remove components to a Windows XP installation (e.g. drivers, applications, services), and create an unattended install if desired.

I always remove the stuff I don't need from Windows (e.g. firewall, defender, wireless services, indexing) to save space and increase performance (also, there's no point on keeping the Microsoft versions of software if you replace them with something else anyways).

I created one version for a Virtual PC, so I basically ripped everything out of it, and got the final install size to under 300mb (and if I compressed the image with WinRAR, the virtual hard disc shrank to ~165mb - the same size as the ISO). On my normal XP disc, which retains most functionality (including wireless), the install was about 400 to 500mb (without a pagefile!).

  • So let's clarify this: The final actual installed size of your Windows XP on your C drive was just 300Mb. OK then. It would be helpful to see screen shots of each stage you went through to achieve this. Here are mine, though mine is unremarkable compared to yours: msfn.org/board/… Thanks in advance. – therobyouknow Dec 20 '09 at 19:28
  • Rob; Just start removing stuff. I literally made this thing a bare-bones Windows XP installation, because I don't need many of the things there. You have to uncheck "keep these components" (the safety thing to prevent accidental removal) to keep it from hiding some things. Remember to disable the pagefile to free up some hard-drive space! – Breakthrough Dec 22 '09 at 15:54

A lot of stuff is done on the partition that Windows is on (think temporary files from all types of files). I once ran out of space while trying to extract a large set of files from an archive, even though I wasn't extracting to the partition Windows was on (but the unarchiver was saving some temporary files there). Also, a few programs, although installed on a different partition, copy some files to C:\Program Files\Common Files (that folder is taking up nearly 650 MB on my PC).

On top of the minimum 4 GB everybody is recommending, I suggest you leave a little bit more, just in case (about 1GB should be enough); it never hurts to have a bit of breathing room :)

  • Temporary files usually live in %TEMP% which usually is in your profile. Not on the system partition. Installers may live temporarily on your system partition, though. And the spooler also needs space there. – Joey Sep 8 '09 at 6:15
  • He will have to move all temp files folders (can be changed in environment variables), and also set the print spool folder to another drive. – caliban Sep 8 '09 at 6:51
  • What about the Common Files folder? Can that be moved? I'd be pretty interested in doing that myself. – alex Sep 8 '09 at 7:09

The default Windows XP installation requires approximately 1300MB (ex. drivers, pagefile and hiberfil).

Of course, that can be reduced significantly with utilities such as nLite (better results but unforgiving, you don't get it right it's back to the drawing board) or XPLite (you can restore removed components with a few mouse clicks). Here's a screenshot of an installation on my Eee 701 4GB where disk space is a scarce commodity!

enter image description here


Personally I'd do a normal install to a relatively larger drive (10GB or more), get everything set up, remove everything I don't need, then image that drive over to the smallest one there is one bump up from the image size. So if it's a 790MB image put it on a 1GB drive.

make sure you watch size constraints of event logs, registry, etc etc. Windows likes to spread itself out.


I don't recommend doing bare minimum installs in bare minimum spaces.

That said, one trick to installing in less space is to install with MINIMAL RAM. Why? Windows will create a pagefile that is 1.5x RAM. So if you allocate 1 GB of RAM, then you need an extra 1.5 GB for the pagefile. If you use a pagefile that's too small, you'll get low virtual memory messages and possible cause the system to be unstable - but in terms of initial install, you can set the RAM to 128 MB (in a virtual machine) and then do the install. This will mean that you get a 192 MB pagefile and reduce the initial disk space required.


I'd use about 6-8 gigs for a minimum size myself. This will give you 2 gigs for the install, another 2 gigs for the swap file (if on the same disk), and about 2-4 gigs for patches/temp files/miscelaneous needs.


I would say 3.5 to 4 Gigs is the perfect amount.


probably just about 2 gig. Windows XP SP1 disk says it needs 2 gig, SP2 probably a bit more, same with SP3 to be safe, I would give it 5


Just a warning : If you run out of space on the system disk you might find that you can't boot any more. So I wouldn't advice you to economize too much on the system disk - take some of the higher numbers mentioned in the answers.

  • 2 Go seem more than enough for a poweruser *

Note : everything is in another partition so my documents and another Program files is maded in that second partition, that include also various downloads folders and a backup folder ...


A normal Windows XP installation will take up about 3GB of space including the normal swap file. I'd say the safe range is 4GB.

You can use nLite to customized your legal copy of Windows too. By removing unnecessary files and packages (such as language packs), a customized version of Windows can be as thin as about 700MB.

  • If you're using more than one (physical) drive anyway, your swap file really shouldn't be on your system drive. Both system files and the swap file will be accessed often, so putting them on seperate drives can greatly improve performance (and in this case, reduce the size of your system drive). – Matthew Scharley Sep 8 '09 at 5:29
  • 1
    you may want to edit your post regarding illegal, pirated windows install disks made for unattended installation with integrated license keys. there are, however, tailor-made nLite session.ini files available. – Molly7244 Sep 8 '09 at 11:06

I've installed a slipstreamed SP2 disk into a 4GB VM, and it had about 300MB of room free, so was slow and complaining. I wouldn't want to try in less than 4.

  • It won't be used as a VM and you have to count that all stuff or almost will be added to a second partition instead of the windows system partition so basicly after the installation it's almost the same size cause I only add some drivers without the graphical tools that come with thems ... – zillion Sep 9 '09 at 20:19

update:enter image description here

if you streamline the service pack 3, and remove things like media player, internet explorer (you will download firefox anyway), etc... it installs at 1.45GB. (more than windows xp SP2 including media center and IE)

to make a small installer you need to use nLite which is free-ware.

the process of removing unneeded portions of windows is painful, but you can remove a Gb from the final install (and 300mb from the installation disk!). here is the preset i use so you don't have to read all the thousands of options on nlite: profile.ini (import as a preset on nlite)

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