[Review] MultiSet 6.3

{rw_text}Giveaway of the day for January 21, 2009 is MultiSet v6.3 Build 110.
————————-{/rw_text} –>

{rw_good}

  • Ability to create automated installation disks that install Vista/XP + third party software and other goodies such as drivers.
  • Ability to create automated software disks.
  • Ability to create an automated install list.
  • You can easily reuse software installation “packages” to create multiple different CDs.

{/rw_good} –>

{rw_bad}

    • Cumbersome implementation of a great idea (“macro-recording”).
    • You must copy the Windows disk contents to your computer prior to making the CD.
    • You *must* enter company information/name when creating a Windows installation CD.
    • You *must* enter Windows product key when creating a Windows installation CD.
    • You must close antivirus/firewall and UAC (UAC only if you are in Vista) when ‘recording’ a software install.
    • Does not verify if Windows product key is correct (typos can occur).
    • Time zone list is very disorganized.

      {/rw_bad} –>

      {rw_score}
      {for=”Features as Described” value=”10″}I can’t fault the developer here.
      {/for}
      {for=”Ease of Use” value=”2″}I can fault the developer here. The implementation of ideas that are good is very badly done.
      {/for}
      {for=”Usefulness” value=”7″}Not everyone will be reinstalling their OS (which is the ‘main’ feature of this program)
      {/for}
      {/rw_score} –>

      {rw_verdict}[tdown]
      {/rw_verdict} –>

      Registration and installation went fine. The registration for this software is a bit different then the usual. You must copy the activate_multiset.amltkey file into the folder you installed MultiSet into. By default that folder is C:/Program Files/Almeza/MultiSet (if you did not change it during installation). Be sure to read the readme.txt. Also Vista users run MultiSet as administrator or else you will get an error.

      Okay the concept of this program is excellent – but the way the developer implemented it makes me want to puke. This is what the program looks like:

      There are three keys features of this program:

      • The ability to create automated software install CDs.
      • The ability to create automated Windows XP or Vista install CDs.
      • The ability to create automated Windows XP/Vista + other software/drivers install CDs.

      Now after using vlite, I was expecting one to be able to insert the Windows CD, load it into the program, browse for my software/driver installation files, select them, create the ISO, and done. Man was I wrong.

      First of all, if you are going to be creating a XP/Vista install CD you must copy + paste the contents of that CD onto your hard drive (I kid you not). Secondly, if you want to create software install CDs/add software/drivers onto your Windows CD, you must first create a ‘package’ which is done via ‘macro-recording’.

      Okay, lets teach by example. Lets say you want to create a Windows Vista automated CD. You also want to add VirtualBox onto your CD so that it will automatically install w/ Vista shall you ever reformat. First thing you have to do is put in your Vista CD and copy the contents of the CD onto a folder on your hard drive. This will take anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on your computer.

      Then you must ‘create a package’ for VirtualBox in order to add it onto your Vista CD. First go to File -> New Package:

      That will bring up this window:

      In name, enter whatever you want:

      For “Executable file” browse your computer for the .exe or the .msi file for VirtualBox:

      “Parameters” will generally be left blank unless your specific program needs something special. If you don’t know if it does, just leave this blank.

      The rest is self explanatory. Be sure you have your antivirus and firewall off and hit “OK”. Here is the kicker: MultiSet creates packages by literally “recording” (like macro recording) your installation process. In other words, you have to actually install the software your selected (VirtualBox in this case) to create the package.When you are done, the package is created; you will be able to add this package to your Windows CD or automatic software installation CD later. If you want to add drivers onto your Windows CD, you do it the same way. From the looks of it you can add as many software/drivers as will fit onto the CD (if you are adding multiple software/drivers, be sure to put them in the same category – you will understand why later on) but I have not tested it out myself because of the following error message:

      According to this thread it is because of my UAC settings. AntiVirus, firewall AND UAC? :x

      Although I am not found of this “macro-recording” method of creating packages, one good thing is once you have created a package, you can reuse it and put it on as many different CDs as you want.

      Okay so you have created the packages for the software/drivers you want on your Windows CD and you have copied the Windows CD content onto your computer. Now to actually create the disk. Go to Service -> Create Disk:

      This will bring up a menu which will allow you to choose what type of disk to create:

      I am discussing the “Windows and software” option. The “Software” and “Windows” options work the same way as “Windows and software” except they only deal with their specific parts. Click on “Windows and software” and you will get this menu:

      Since I am on a Vista machine, I can only create a Vista CD. If you are on XP, you can only create an XP CD. Therefore I have to click on the second option then click “Settings”:

      You are able to set the following “Settings”:

      “Protect your PC” is just the Windows update settings. One thing to note here is that the “Time Zones” list is very unstructured and disorganized (at least I cannot find any logical order to it).

      After you have set your settings, hit “OK” and you will be brought back to the earlier window. Fill out the rest of it. You *must* enter the information under “Company” and you *must* enter a product key:

      Make sure you carefully enter the “Windows key” properly. If you accidentally type in the wrong key (i.e. make a typo) you will not know until you have created your Windows CD w/ MultiSet and are trying to install Windows because MultiSet has no method to verify you entered a correct key properly. In my opinion, Almeza really needs to address this issue. Now I understand Alemza cannot access Microsoft’s database of keys or their algorithm or whatever Microsoft uses to verify Windows keys. However what Alemza can do is add a “Enter Windows key again” box; this will help reduce the chances of making a typo when entering your Windows key (just like how you have to enter a password twice when registering for something).

      One thing to note is that if you are creating an XP disk, you will also have the ability to turn on/off “the user selects the hard disk partition” (don’t ask me why that option is disabled when doing Vista – I don’t know):

      Leave this checked so you don’t accidentally let the program install over an existing partition you want to keep – that could cause a disaster.

      Hit “Next” when you are done. It will bring you to this window:

      For the first box, the one where it says “Select a folder with the Windows…”, browse your computer and select the folder where you put the contents of the Windows CD I told you to copy earlier:

      The next box, navigate to where the packages are that you created earlier. As I said I got an error on my computer when trying to create packages so I don’t have an example to show you. But navigate to the categories folder where you placed all your packages (usually under C:/Program Files/Almeza/MultiSet/Categories/[Specific Category]). Hopefully you placed them all in one category like I said earlier since you can only browse to one folder.

      After that, you can have the program create an ISO of the install disk for you (check “Make bootable ISO-image” and set a location your computer). You do not have to use this option. It is optional.

      After you are ready, hit “Create”. Regardless of whether or not you create an ISO of the install disk, the folder that contained your Windows files (the one there you copied the content off a disk to) is now set to be burn directly onto a DVD. Just burn all the contents of that folder onto a DVD like you would be burning a data DVD – or if you created an ISO, you can burn the ISO instead, it is up to you. After that, you are done. Whenever you want to reinstall Windows, just pop in the DVD.

      I did not cover *all* the features of this program, but I did cover what I thought was the *main* feature. Overall, as I said earlier the idea behind this program is nice but the implementation is horrible! Having to copy the contents of your Windows CD to your computer and having to actually install the software/driver while the program records it…bah humbug. Even worse that you have to turn off your AV, firewall and UAC when ‘recording’ software installations. While for IT professionals who continually have to do redundant installs of Windows and third party software, MultiSet could be potentially useful, for the average home user, because of the way it works (i.e. “macro-recording”), MultiSet is not that good at all.

      {rw_freea}

      nLite

      nLite is for XP. It will allow you to customize a Windows bootable CD. While it cannot *add* additional applications, it can add drivers, and allow you to remove certain components of Windows, etc. It automates the Windows installation just like MultiSet. It is much easier to use then MutliSet and is a far superior program.

      nLite described by the developer:

      Have you ever wanted to remove Windows components like Media Player, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, MSN Explorer, Messenger…
      How about not even to install them with Windows ?

      nLite is a tool for pre-installation Windows configuration and component removal at your choice. Optional bootable image ready for burning on media or testing in virtual machines.
      With nLite you will be able to have Windows installation which on install does not include, or even contain on media, the unwanted components.

      Features

      • Service Pack Integration
      • Component Removal
      • Unattended Setup
      • Driver Integration *
      • Hotfixes Integration **
      • Tweaks
      • Services Configuration
      • Patches ***
      • Bootable ISO creation

      vLite

      vLite is pretty much the same thing as nLite but for Vista.

      Macrium Reflect Free

      Macrium Reflect is not a “true” free alternative to MultiSet. Macrium Reflect is actually an image backup software not a create-an-automated-Windows-CD-and-or-automated-software-install software. Melatonin actually mentioned this the last time MultiSet was given out and I understood what he/she meant back then but I only recently gained a true understanding of it.

      You see the “main purpose” of MultiSet is to allow you to create an automated Windows install CD and/or automated software install CD so that is is easier for you to reinstall Windows if the need ever arises. You can accomplish the same result with Macrium. You see all you need to do is install Windows and create an image backup of Windows, using Macrium, after you have installed Windows (you can also install your drivers/software before creating the backup). Then when you want to restore Windows just restore your image backup and it will be just like you reinstalled Windows except it will be automated (and include your drivers/software if you did that). Nifty huh? This actually is one of my goals – next time I reformat to create an image backup so I can easy restore next time.

      The two down sides to this method are:

      • An image backup will take up more space than creating an automated CD w/ vLite/nLite or MultiSet.
      • This method is designed for use after you do a reinstall/reformat. In other words this method will only be fruitful if you plan on doing more than one reinstall in the future.

      {/rw_freea} –>

      {rw_verdict2}I don’t know what people are talking about when they recommend MultiSet. The best way to describe MultiSet is a ‘good idea implemented horribly’. If you want to put up with the “macro-recording” method of this software that is your choice – I hope it serves you well. However, my advice is to skip on MultiSet. vLite and nLite are superior software to MultiSet in my opinion. True vLite and nLite cannot automate applications (on your Windows install CD or otherwise), but they can add drivers and automate Windows installation in a better, much easier and less cumbersome fashion than MultiSet. They also allow you to remove certain components of Windows, such as Internet Explorer, from your Windows installation…something MultiSet cannot do. For creation of an automated Windows CD, my recommendation is vLite/nLite. However if you are willing to create (and keep) an image backup of your Windows after you install it, I recommened using the Macrium method mentioned above because it is superior to vLite/nLite and MultiSet both in terms of easiness to reinstall Windows – just create one backup (which may or may not, depending on how you did your backup, include installed drivers or software) and restore it whenever you need to “reinstall” Windows; restoration is always automated.{/rw_verdict2} –>

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      12 comments

      1. Jeanie

        @Ashraf:

        lol Really hoping your still around, so that I can decide whether this prog ‘might’ be useful for myself. But before I continue…

        Oh and the wierdness of the post, trying to catch you while your around, and dealing with 7 month old twins lol.

        As far as my tech skills, I’d save above average comprehension/ability (if that’ll help with reply)…I do really good with windows stuff, can format etc, can’t do internals (lol i have twice, successfully, gives me the heebie jeebies lol) However Linux makes me pale lol..I have it for backup purposes but it’s like trying to read Greek. Only reason I explain this is so hopefully it helps with making it easier for the reply?

        Anyways, finally…the crux lol.

        Specially because of Gaotd, and my own software crud, I really need to find a way to back up my ‘essentials’..I don’t really care about backing up my windows as I have disk, disk drivers and such. I really don’t like the idea of keystroke recorders…If I’m not mistaken (please correct me if i’m wrong?) they are a great way for hackers to get in if they’ve a mind to. But yeah, I’d love to find a way to automate installs (plus I need to format…damn Vista SP2, but over a year later and I still need to back crap up first lol) to easily reformat or upgrade. Would this be the sort of thing I’m looking for, or is there a less bloated prog that does it (preferably without macros?) And also, the idea of being able to back up software w/o the installs (reg keys) is extreeeemely attractive, as I have some software that’s Gaotd that I’m loath to lose..part of the delay of format as well lol. Anyways…sorry to babble..hopefully it makes sense, if not, go ahead and mentally curse at me lol.

        Sidenote: Not trying to brown-nose..just wanting to say something that I know you’ve probably heard before but I tend to think that if you see something that deserves kudos, don’t assume everyone else has…that and give credit where credit is due, sort of thing. I absolutely love your reviews, rarely do I disagree and even if I do, i see your points..not only that but I actually look for your gaotd reviews..that and I registered to this site so i can see reviews easier ^^ I know you do this of your own free time and I also appreciate the ‘danger’ you submit your computer to (even if it is minimal with Linux) and the ‘bloatedness’ that comes with the progs lol..Either way, many many thanks…

        lol and Apologies on lenght >.<

        Jeanie :)

      2. Ashraf
        Author/

        Melatonin,

        MultiSet is not a ‘backup’ program. It is a program that allows you to customize and automate a Windows installation CD and/or create an automated software install CD.

        For example, I like reformatting once in a while because I gather lots of junk on my computer over time. However, installing crucial programs, such as my IM app, my FTP app, Office, etc. can be annoying and repetitive. MultiSet would allow me to automate those installations.

        The program/article you linked talks about making a back up of your Windows installation (if I understood that correctly). That will help you restore your Windows, with everything as is, in case something goes wrong.

        So they are two different programs that serve two different purposes; however there is some gray area that I can understand where you are coming from. Technically speaking they both can be used for the same task and same end result so good suggestion.

        Hope that helps.

      3. giovanni

        Hi Ashraf,

        as I said in the GAOTD forum I know this program probably better than you because it was given earlier last September (version 6.1) and to be honest I’m a little bit surprised you were not aware of, not to mention that it got a good review on SOFTPEDIA also.

        I find this SW very useful indeed because with this tool you can RESTORE all your applications and SOFTWARE previously installed in your PC in case of sudden system CRASH included previous GAOTD, even though I personally know other SW and tricks to do that as I already told you a few days ago (remember??)..

        Although it is admittedly a little pain to run it (but the help file includes a detailed guide on how to create a bootable windows disc with applications) with this TOOL you can reinstall any of the programs you want back with the necessary keys saved into the registry.

        It also records the installation procedure of other software applications allowing users to replay that specific installation, through a “script”, so that the program is installed automatically all the time users need it, by creating an unattended install CD that boots up, installs Windows (XP or VISTA) along with all the various programs needed for it and all this is made automatically.

        So all you have to do is just to choose your favourite applications and then insert a disk into the CDROM, DVDROM or FlashDrive to undertake the complete installation procedure following instructions.

        In other words with MultiSet you can create an operating system tailored for your own specific needs using any media (CD/DVD/Flash/Hard Drive) wherever and whenever you like.

        That means that when you have to reinstall your Windows XP or VISTA following a CRASH you are no longer forced to format the system drive, configure your original operating system, install the necessary software, enter serial keys, tweak and/or restore the previous system etc…

        Of course you must disable the antivirus software and firewall when the program is running but if you still don’t trust it you can test it on a virtual PC programs and install the OS via this software, as if you have another PC into your PC (use VIRTUALBOX, for instance, which is FREEWARE!!).

        So what’s the problem, man?

        Why did you warn bloggers not to use this TOOL because useless or even dangerous especially for non advanced PC users ?? Can’t undestand that!

        MultiSet is, in my humble view, an extremely helpful product which saves an awful amount of time both for regular users and for those who deal with client system crashes on a regular basis.

        Perfect for those PC users like me who do a lot of installs of Windows and other applications on a daily basis, as not only it can create a bootable disk that will install Windows with its latest service packs and patches but also device drivers, video and audio codecs, players and any other software that you need, all this in a single process.

        As for FREEWARE ALTERNATIVES, besides nLite e vLite, I would also add RYANVM INTEGRATOR.

        Have you ever heard about it?

        http://integrator.siginetsoftware.com/index.php?download

        Please note that this is NOT a BACKUP UTILITY (it neither lets you use the same copy of XP on different machines, where you didn’t install the program on, nor clone or copy the current drive), so a CLONE of the HD onto another hard drive is still the best real way to go if the worst should ever happen!!

        For these reasons I’ll stick with this GAOTD program, upgrading from version 6.1 to 6.3, because, unlike the other freeware mentioned in you review, it supports software pre-installation so the script creation process is automated, instead of manual, and it’s also easily customizable to other applications that don’t have scripts already made for them (by the way do you know that Microsoft does not recommend use nLite\vLite?).

        So it’s true that you can do the same things with nLite or vLite but to do so you need to know how to create OEM pre-installation scripts and packaging which of course is not an easy task especially for an ordinary PC user like me and, I suppose, 90% of GAOTD visitors (unfortunately I’m not a tech expert like you, ASHRAF…LOL!!!).

        Moreover Multiset is also much easier to use than the other FREEWARE mentioned above since it just records what you do.

        So in the end I once again (the second time in 3 days…what’s going on, Ashraf?? LOL!!) don’t agree with your review even though I quite undestand that this may probably be due to your new commitments which no longer allow you to write comprehensive reviews as the previous ones.

        What a pity!!

        Good night from Italy!!

        Giovanni

      4. Ashraf
        Author/

        Jonathon,

        You are right that MutliSet can automate software installations, which is a plus for it over n/vLite. However, this feature is implemented so badly, as I mentioned earlier and you have noticed, I am willing to forgo the feature in favor of a superior n/vLite.

        If you think about it, the automate software install feature will *only* come in handy if you format more then once because of the way it is set up to work. If you spend the time to uninstall your programs, then reinstall them all the while recording the installation, that actually turns out to be more work then actually installing them once you reformat. The work would only pay off if you format more then once. How many people do you know that have even formatted once? How many people do you know that have formatted more then once? Besides geeks like me :D.

        I don’t think, I know it is possible to automate multiple software installations. Do I know how/what program does it? No :( However, n/vLite allow you to add drivers without using the macro record method.

        Lastly, that virtual install is an interesting point you bring up. I did not think of that, thx :) I have not tested it but *technically* I don’t see why it won’t work as long as you use the same OS on the virtual as the one you plan on installing. Try at your own risk though.

      5. Jonathon

        Since “vLite and nLite cannot add applications”, I will use them if I want a custom Windows Install, but I will happily use MultiSet to install all my other software. Hurray! Thank God for MultiSet!

        Ashraf, since I joined 4 days ago I’ve been thanking God/Allah for you, but today I’m disappointed you did not appreciate what MultiSet does that vLite does not do.

        Do you think a program could make multiple-software installations automatic without using the ‘macro-record’ method?

        If we already have the software installed, can we do a [virtual/pretend] install so MultiSet can record our answers to the installation prompts, or do we have to uninstall our software then install it again so MultiSet can record our installation?

        That would be a big negative to MultiSet. Is it so?