(this is a guest post by Tenox)
I recently needed to install Windows XP. Because I don’t do that very often nowadays I decided to document the “pro way” of doing it.
First you should consider getting a volume license copy of Windows XP CD because it doesn’t require activation over the internet. The process below will work with any version, but it will require activation.
Then you need to download and install nLite which lets you add SATA/AHCI, network, display, audio, drivers and customize a fully unattended installation, including the product keys, and some tweaks like autologin, themes or show extensions/hidden files in explorer. Create your own bootable XP .iso file. You should probably test it in VMware/Vbox/Qemu first to see that all the settings are to your liking and the setup prompt screens are gone.
Second you need WSUS Offline Update, version 9.2.1 (which is the LAST version supporting Windows XP). It will let you roll out your own Service Pack 4 for Windows XP, including all the updates and goodies like .NET framework, Silverlight and DirectX updates. Create your own SP4 .iso file.
Booting Windows XP from a regular USB pen drive is notoriously difficult, so this is where ISOSTICK comes handy. Put both of the iso files on to the stick, insert to the PC and watch the magic happen.
It’s quite easy to integrate the SP4 in to the boot cd itself, but then it outgrows size of a physical CD, which is not a big deal with ISOSTICK, but I don’t mind installing the updates in a second step.
Finally if you need to install apps automatically you can consider something like Ninite.