first of all let me wish you an Happy New Year!
Many thanks for your detailed response and sorry for my delay, but I wanted to wait and get more used to WR in order to come back with more useful details. I can say that I played with this tool for all my holidays and learned most of the things and therefore I also want to take advantage of this topic to report some possible improvements and bugs.
You saved me and many other users from wasting lot of time for nothing. May be people with powerful hardware don't care and just enable maximum compression without losing time in finding if they can really benefit from this, but for people with low hardware like me (Surface Pro 3, Intel i3, 4Gb ram, 64Gb SSD) it really makes a big difference.
You also anticipated what is my main concern: windows update. As of now I think to have optimized nearly the maximum I could by preserving Windows Update with the following:
Protection: important files|modern UI apps|Microsoft online account|VirtualBox|Windows Activation GUI|Wndows features|Windows search|Windows Update
Enabled presets: Automatic removing process|Optimize ISO size|Use Expert optimization
ISO - Boot - Clean Boot Wim
ISO - Boot - Delete unneded editions
ISO - Delete unneded files
ISO - Windows - Delete unneeded Editions
Expert - "Net framework" light cleanup (since I included directly .Net framework 4.8 from the update tool)
Unneeded files cleanup
WinSxs Backup Folder cleanup ("boot.wim")
WinSxs Backup Folder cleanup ("install.wim")
Expert - WinSxs Folder cleanup ("boot.wim") (enabled since the TIP stated to be safe)
With the above I got an install size of 7.94 Gb (compress this drive to save disk space: unchecked) running in 750Mb of RAM. I didn't tested WU since I still have to fix some issues related to Network connection, but I want to believe that as is WU should work.
This was just a testing ISO, there are a great number of things to fix and I also realized that I removed too much things (I will have to be reintegrate a good amount of them).
My hardware is pretty low and I lost several days to configure every option in the custom build (there are so many and for mostly each one I needed to search the web to understand it was not going to break something). Most of the work has been done and, at this point, if I can take an huge improvement in perfomance (RAM, install size, OS speed etc), by disabling Windows Update (and enabling all the other expert optimizations not mentioned above included WinSxS Folder Compression), I will certainly do.
But I have several concerns...
1) It will still work the auto-download of virus defender definitions?
About new build releases:
2) If I am not wrong, I'll have to rebuild the whole custom ISO and reinstall everything from scratch. In windows, when there is a new build, the upgrade happens by keeping everything (applications, settings, files etc). If I remember well it happens in the background to a point that an user only realize to run a new build when they see new features.
Is it possible to use the same mechanism in the WinReducer custom build? For example if I install the new build via exe, shouldn't offer to me the possibility to upgrade the system without losing settings, apps and every system customization?
If nothing of this is possible, I must take in consideration that new Windows builds are released twice a year and going everytime through this hassle is not a great deal. If it was once a year, it would be more acceptable. What you think?
3) Yes, I always try to keep everything portable. When the apps are small, I keep them in the main HD, when they are big I keep them in a network drive. This works well for Photoshop and many more, but for other apps like Adobe Premiere|After Effects|Media Encoder, Visual Studio 2019 etc is a bit more complicated. Some of them are strictly tied to the OS (Start10, Groupy, SDKs, Store apps etc) and some of the ones that can be made portable (an example is Adobe After Effects) will suffer from degraded performance (my Network drive is an HDD and max transfer speed I can get is 12 Mb/s).
This bring to question number 4...
4) If I go with maximum optimization, let see if at least I can automate most of the work. Is it possible to include applications executables (and possibly their settings too) in the custom build in other to get them automatically installed along with the new custom iso?
About standard and frequent updates:
5) Preparing and reinstalling a new ISO for each standard regular update it's simply not feasible. Is it possible to just install them separately through executables? Also, checking manually everytime if there are new updates in the Microsoft site and then manually download and install them it's still too much effort and time that I don't want to lose.
How did you deal with that? I found several tools on the web, but if I go to try them I already know to expect days of trials without any guarantee that will work. Did you tried them?
How do you recommend to deal with regular updates?
6) You see, my hardware is pretty low, therefore I have reasons to believe that pushing up everything to the limit can really make a big difference. You really see a big improvement in install size, RAM usage and general performance if I enable "EXPERT - WinSxS Folder Compression" (LZX) along with all the other expert and deep optimizations? What kind of improvements you noticed on your system with or without Windows Updates?
------- Improvements|Bugs -------
7) There is a big problem that users may face, especially with low hardware. On install they may end up with what seems to be a system stuck at "Getting Ready" and the first thing they may do is to just force a reboot. This will result in a broken install and attempting to reinstall will just end up with some weird errors. It took to me several rebuilds before discovering from an old topic that "WinSXS DISM Cleanup" and "WinSXS DISM Cleanup (ResetBase)" slow down the "Getting ready" install phase for several hours and the fix here is very simple: patience!
However even after disabling them I still experience the same delay. This topic was old and probably there are now further settings that may cause the same delay. Do you know exactly what they are?
My recommendation is to upgrade the TIPS included in the responsible features with something like "Enabling this may slow down the install by several hours under "Getting Ready" screen! This is normal, is not stuck, it just need patience. It's recommended to only enable in the final iso!"
It will save people from going into such nightmare of rebuilding again the iso and without knowing what could be the cause.
eight) Under UNATTENDED TAB, the "Power Scheme" does not work. Every time I save and reload the wccf, that option is just empty. Is not a big problem, we can just set this directly on the installed system. If the saving fails due to a little mismatch of the string, the fix should easy and fixable in a couple of minutes.
9) I noticed that sometimes when I reload the wccf, some customized fields just return to their default value. If I enter again the desired value, save and reload the wccf, they are correctly saved and displayed on reload.
Not sure on what could depend this behaviour.
10) To Keep record of adjustments, I copied by hand all the descriptions of the components and their value and has been a very long work. It would be great if you can implement a button to copy to clipboard a single feature name with its description and value and another button to copy the entire list in a convenient format (csv or something else).
11) "WinSXS DISM reset base": I read that updates must be integrated! This will still preserve Windows Update? It is also stated that we will lose ability to remove windows updates. Does this means that all future updates downloaded from Microsoft will be kept and will not be removable?
12) It's time for the fun because I am going to test what could be nearly the final ISO, but it is also time for frustration because I will have to put the ISOs in an USB 2.0 with very limited transfer speed (plus all the time needed for the install itself at this ridicolous speed).
Now, I am wondering if I can mount the customs ISO and run SetUp.exe directly from my system. It should make everything much faster. Could it work? Pros and Cons?
13) I am sure most of the users ask them self this so many times. When customizing an ISO, especially when pushed to its limits, some problems due to wrong configuration and/or missing components can only be identified after extended usage of the system.
For example an user can realize that an app doesn't work due to a missing component after a month of usage and when their system is full blown of software, settings and further customizations. The question is this: is it possible to manually reintegrate the component without rebuilding from scratch the entire ISO, reinstalling Windows along with all the settings, software, customizations etc (without even the guarantee that it will be that component the source of the problem) ???
It would be a real nightmare.
14) In the theme customization I saw that it is possible to use custom themes. Now, I already used custom themes from an existing installation by patching uxtheme.dll, UXInit.dll, themeui.dll with UltraUXThemePatcher. It was very fast and custom theme was successfully loaded. However the shell styles (shellstyle.dll and .msstyles) didn't worked and remained as default. Can I have the hope that it will work using WR?
15) Always in the customization, I saw that it is possible to use custom icons. To my existing system I successfully used custom icons by using Se7en Source Patcher. Only problem with it is that the entire process has taken several hours. I don't remember well if it was using resource hacker under the hood, but I suppose that WR will do. Should I expect the same execution time if I go with WR. The patcher also stated that works only with certain builds. Is WR supposed to work with every build as long as the feature is selectable?
16) Under the driver TAB there is the option "windows driver download support". Is this supposed to still work even with full optimization and windows update broken?
I ask this because I downloaded from the Microsoft web site an executable containing all the drivers and I discovered that bloated the system with 600 Mb of staff and this goes against the main purpose of my entire work. By using the integrated driver download tool I suppose it will only install the real drivers without all the rest and If I am not wrong the entire process should be automatic with auto-update support. It would be great to update the description with those info. In this way people will save them self from building and installing an ISO just to see if this feature works or not.
And would be also a great idea to maintain its usability status when new builds are released. I hope that this feature will still work in any case!!
17) In addition to "ISO compression mode" are there other settings which only reduce ISO size and not the install size? If there are we may want to skip these and would be great to specify this info in the description.
Sorry for so many questions, but I am sure lot of users can benefit from this topic! This is really a great tool which deserve to reach its full potential and I hope to have contributed in some way!