Vista Registry Tweak – SourcePath

Vista Registry Tweak – SourcePath

In a nutshell, the registry setting SourcePath does not seem as important in Vista as it was in XP.  A by-product of researching SourcePath revealed that XP’s ‘Add or Remove programs’ has been replaced by Vista’s, ‘Turn Windows features on or off’.

Topics for SourcePath


The Situation of SourcePath in XP

In XP, SourcePath is a registry setting that points to the location of the \i386 installation files.  It was good practice, and also a good idea, to copy these operating sytem files from the CD to the hard drive.  The problem is that if you later went to the Control Panel and selected, Programs, ‘Add or Remove programs’, the dialog box does not default to the new location.  However, if you edit the registry, you can persuade Add or Remove programs to look for the files where you copied them the hard drive.  This registry hack stops Add or Remove programs from hunting for the CD, which may not be in the caddy.

The Situation of SourcePath in Vista

From the early days of Windows 3.0, Microsoft has always worked hard to make their operating systems install easier than contemporary programs.  What has happened in Vista is that improvements in the install procedures have made the registry setting SourcePath less important, possibly even obsolete.

Regarding the installation DVD files and SourcePath, Vista differs from XP in these respects:

  • Vista expands the installation files from the DVD sources\install.wim to the %SystemRooot%\folders, XP still asks for the path to the installation files.
  • Vista’s DVD does not use an i386 folder, XP, like its predecessors, uses the i386 folder.
  • Vista’s Control Panel has a sub-folder called programs and menu item: ‘Turn Windows features on or off’.  XP’s Control Panel has an item called ‘Add or Remove programs’.

Killer Reason to Control SourcePath

The reason that researched SourcePath on XP was that I wanted to run SFC (System File Checker).  What I found was that SFC would only look for the XP installation files on the CD drive D:\i386.  By editing the value for SourcePath in the registry, I persuaded SFC to look on my C: \install\i386 folder.  The key difference between SFC and Add or Remove Programs is that SFC has no dialog box where you can search for the install files.  While Add or Remove Programs has the standard, ‘Search for the location yourself’, interface.

Instructions for Editing SourcePath

1)Launch Regedit, click on the ‘Find’ menu enter: SourcePath

XP Locations for SourcePath

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows NT\Windows File Protection

Vista Location for SourcePath

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows NT\Setup\SourcePath

2) Edit the Value data, I double click SourcePath, type the location of the files. For Example, c:\ or d:\.  Should the files be in second level folder, for example, d:\ vista\i386, then you would type d: \vista (no need for the i386).

You could also experiment with network paths using the UNC path format of \\ server \ share.  If you employ this network method then weigh up the benefit of one central location against the extra network traffic and slower file transfer.

Trap: If the full path is C: \i386 then just type C: .  There is no need to add the \i386 folder, in fact if you do add the \i386, then the path and the registry hack, will not work.

Key Points for SourcePath

  • Is SourcePath a value in HKCU** or HKLM? 
    Answer: HKLM
  • Do you have to add a value, or modify an existing setting? 
    Answer: Modify
  • Is it a String Value or a DWORD? 
    Answer: String (Reg_SZ).
  • Do you need to Restart, or merely Logoff / Logon?  
    Answer: neither, just close the Control Panel and start another ‘Add or Remove Programs’ session.

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Incidental Learning Point

XP’s ‘Add or Remove Programs’ has changed to: ‘Turn Windows features on or off’.  Access via the Control Panel, Programs.

Tip: Add SourcePath to Regedit’s Favorites

** HKLM is an abbreviation of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, and HKCU is shorthand for HKEY_CURRENT_USER.  These acronyms are so well-known that you can even use them in .reg files, Vista will understand and obey the registry instruction.

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