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The Right Way To Install Windows XP


last updated June, 2009

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There is often more than one way to do things "the right way".
Tweaking Windows 7
Installing and setting up an operating system is no exception to
this. This guide is based on my experience working with XP since
Installing Windows 7 RC1, doing more custom installations than I can count, and
interaction/discussion with other geeks. I have found this method
Super XP Tweaking to offer the best results for performance, stability, and error free
Guide Version 2.0
installation. I make no guarantees. If you have a problem it is
Tweaking Windows Vista more than likely your hardware and/or its drivers, or you didn't I use True Image 2011
follow the drivers installation instructions. I don't have or claim to for all my OS backups
The Right Way To Install have all the answers. If you have a suggestion for this guide, or and Disk Director 11.0
Windows XP think you have a better method of doing something, contact me. for all my partitioning
requirements.
Installing Windows Vista
If you just want to see the order I use to install XP and its apps, TweakHound readers
The Freeware XP click HERE. often get a discount off
Machine Acronis Products. Check
the links for more info.
Wanna know exactly how I do it? See: How I Install Windows
The Vista Freeware
Machine
XP

Windows XP Backup * Please read through this entire guide before doing anything.
Strategies For Home **If you are on a broadband connection. Make sure you are behind
Users a firewall router before installing XP.
Windows Vista Backup
Strategies For Home Can I Use XP?
Users Check with Microsoft to make sure your system meets the
requirements ( more on that follows). Check here for XP Pro and
Installing Suse Linux here XP Home. The Microsoft Hardware Compatibility List is also a
10.3
good starting point. Some inexperienced folks think it's a myth
How To Samba With that XP needs high end hardware to run. Well...it doesn't exactly
openSUSE 11.2 and take high-end hardware but Microsoft's specs are, quite frankly, a
Windows joke. "Run" is the optional term here, I've seen it "run" on a lot of
stuff. On anything less than 800 MHz, with 256 of RAM, sure it
iTunes, iPod File Types & "runs"... like a 3-legged turtle in quicksand. My recommended
Quality minimum specs: 1 GHz with 512 MB of RAM.

Which Version?
Since XP was released there has been considerable argument and
misinformation over which version is best. The vast majority of
people will find XP Home more than adequate. For a view of the
differences and recommendations from Microsoft go here: Five
editions of Windows XP compared.

Backup Everything!
Save all your docs, picture, music, email settings, and files to
another computer and/or removable media such as an external
drive or CD/DVD.
A very useful FREE tool for this is Microsoft's SyncToy v2.0 for
Windows XP.
It is a good idea to fully update your anti-virus software and do a
full computer scan before doing this.
If you use an imaging program like Acronis True Image I highly
suggest making a final image of you entire drive before continuing
in case something goes horribly wrong. This should be written to a
CD/DVD.

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Download What You'll Need

Download Service Pack 3


If your XP CD does not have Service Pack 3 then download Service
Pack 3. After you do this I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND you make a
slipstreamed Service Pack 2 Installation Disk.
"Slipstreaming" refers to integrating something (in this case SP3)
into the Windows XP disk. This makes for a faster, cleaner, safer
installation.
For a simple slipstream only guide I like:
Paul Thurrott's Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 3
For an advanced slipstreaming and installation customizing guide
see:
MSFN's Creating the ultimate Unattended Windows XP CD
***Highly recommended - For an advanced slipstreaming and
installation customizing program check out nLite.
I've like all 3 and have used them without issue.

Download Drivers
Download and install a System Information Tool. I prefer:
SIW
Use the information from these tools to determine your hardware
and download the latest drivers from the vendors. If your
components are "built-in" (mounted on the motherboard) then see
the Motherboard or System Manufacturer for drivers. If you have
older hardware (+ 1 year) chances are XP w/SP3 already has
sufficient drivers and Windows Update may have the drivers or
updated drivers. If your hardware is newer than Service Pack 3
then it should have come with a CD containing those drivers. Still,
it doesn't hurt to go to your manufacturers download site and
check to see if you have the latest version of everything. Video
cards seem to have new driver updates more than most hardware
and you will absolutely want the latest drivers for them. FWIW -
There are often different versions of drivers (WHQL, beta, alpha,
etc.). Personally, unless I'm doing testing, I usually only use WHQL
drivers and usually after they have been out a week or more. Let
someone else discover if they have issues or not. The important
drivers are:
-Motherboard - these are most often referred to as "Chipset
Drivers".
(yes fellow geeks I know, but that is a good enough description for
those using this guide)
-Video
-Sound
-Storage controllers - things like SCSI, SATA, ATA, or RAID
cards/components.
NIC & Modem drivers - NIC = Ethernet card

Popular vendor links:


Motherboards/Chipsets Systems Video
Abit Dell ATI
AMD Compaq/HP Intel
Aopen CompUSA Matrox
Asus eMachines Nvidia
Chaintech Gateway
Epox IBM
Gigabyte Sony
Intel Toshiba
For any Intel based
motherboard.Download the
Intel Chipset Software
Installation Utility.
MSI
Nvidia
Shuttle
SiS

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Tyan
VIA
Storage
Sound NIC & Modem
Controllers
Creative 3com 3ware
Turtle Beach Buffalo Adaptec
Creative Intel
Dlink Maxtor
Hawking Promise
Intel Western Digital
Linksys
Netgear
U.S. Robitics

Prepare Your Computer


Turn off your power supply and monitor. Unplug the power supply.
Now unplug everything from the back of the computer. Take the
left side (as you look at the front) of the computer case off. On
some cases the top and sides are one piece, if so remove the
whole thing. Vacuum the inside of the computer, especially around
the fans. It may be necessary to remove the front cover to
adequately clean in front of the front fan. A can of compressed air
helps tremendously with this.
This is a great time to add any hardware!
Put it all back together. Plug everything back in. Turn on your
power supply. Start up the computer and make sure everything
works. Shut it off again.

Installation
*Note to wi-fi users. I recommend you use a wired connection for
everything until XP is completely setup. Disable the wi-fi
connection on first boot or as soon as you get the drivers installed.
To disable the connection Open your Network Connection
Properties, go to Start > Run > type control ncpa.cpl exactly as
you see here > right-click on the wi-fi connection and choose
disable.

Start your computer and insert the XP disk. If your computer


supports booting from a CD you may need to change the bios
startup options. The key you press to access the bios may differ
depending on the make of your computer. Most use the DELETE
key, if not then it will be one of the FUNCTION keys (F1, F2, etc.)
Save changes and exit. If your computer does not support booting
from CD then insert the first Windows XP floppy disk.
As the system boots you will see a message at the bottom of the
screen:
"Press F6 if you need to install a 3rd party SCSI or RAID driver." If
you do, follow the instructions.

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Now setup begins. If you had another Operating System on your


computer you will be asked what type of installation you want to
perform. NEVER, EVER UPGRADE AN OPERATING SYSTEM!!! You
will perform new installation.
There are many reasons to do a clean installation rather than an
upgrade. They all boil down to 2 important ones. Less chance of
errors and performance. The following statement from Microsoft
can be found here: Benchmarking on Windows XP.

Clean Installation Preferred


When benchmarking Windows XP, Microsoft strongly
recommends a clean installation using NTFS. There are several
reasons why performance for a clean installation will tend to be
superior to that for upgraded systems. An upgraded system will
constrain the placement of files and file system data. The old
disk format may not use an optimal file system cluster size. In
a clean installation, the placement of file system data on the
disk and the internal organization of that data can be optimized,
resulting in a smaller system footprint and fewer and faster
I/Os when using the system.
When performing a clean install, Microsoft recommends that
NTFS be used and that the system be installed in a single
partition on each disk. Under Windows XP, big partitions are
better managed than in previous versions of Windows. Forcing
installed software into several partitions on the disk
necessitates longer seeks when running the system and
software.
If you do choose an upgrade from Windows 2000 or Windows
9x, you may be working with a FAT32 file system. Performance
will generally be better if the file system is left as it is, rather
than converted to NTFS. A partition converted from FAT32 to
NTFS may have to use 512-byte clusters, rather than 4096-byte
or 8192-byte clusters, which can result in a higher number of
fragmented files.

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Next comes the ever popular EULA, press F8 and move on.

If there are partitions on your drive press D to delete them. Then


press C to create a new partition.

If you create or resize partitions BE CAREFUL, you will destroy


data on other partitions if you do this. On a computer with a single

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hard drive I usually use a partition of around 10gb for Windows


XP. I install the applications on the same drive and I use a backup
program. It makes things easier. If you desire the utmost speed
and efficiency, put Windows XP and the applications on a drive by
itself with no other partitions. Given the size of hard drives these
days this may be expensive and/or impractical. After pressing C
the following screen will appear. Type in a size for your partition
and press the Enter key.

If everything looks right, use the arrow key to highlight the correct
partition (should be C:) and press the Enter key.

Format this partition using NTFS. Personally I think it's best not to
use the "Quick" option. Using the standard option checks the disk
for bad sectors. This will take a while. Some people have asked
"I've heard that FAT32 is faster, why use NTFS?" First NTFS is only
about 1-2% slower than FAT32 and only on drives/volumes 32GB
in size or smaller. It is faster because of the overhead created by
the security of NTFS. Second, you can eliminate the majority of
that overhead by following my tweak guide. Third, the
aforementioned security is exactly why you should use NTFS!

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After formatting the setup files will be loaded and the system will
reboot. At this point if you had a floppy in the drive then remove
it.
(click on Thumbnails for a larger view)

As setup begins you'll be asked to fill in some info. Most are self-
explanatory. Click on the Thumbnails for larger views if you desire.

Windows will ask for Region and Language (the default is U.S.,
English)

Your Name. First name will do.

Your CD shipped with a Product Key. Enter it now.

Computer Name and Administrator Password

Time Zone, Date & Time

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Network Settings. Leave it as is.

Type in your workgroup name or leave as is if you don't have one.

When the basic install is finished you'll see this screen. Click Next.

Choose your poison and click Next.

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Choose your poison and click Next.

Absolutely DO NOT Activate yet! Click Next.

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Fill in the appropriate info and click Next.

Finished!

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What the first screen looks like:

After Initial Installation

If you did not make a slipstreamed CD and you downloaded it


ahead of time, install Service Pack 2.

Those with a newer computer or motherboard may need to install


your motherboard or chipset drivers here. Use the CD that came
with the hardware or that you downloaded, reboot.

For people who hate the new GUI you can switch to a more classic
view. Right click on START > click properties > click the classic

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start menu button, now click CUSTOMIZE > place a check in the
EXPAND CONTROL PANEL option. All CONTROL PANEL options can
now be accessed from START > SETTINGS > CONTROL PANEL >
(option) If you are like me and want to see all of the programs in
the start menu (instead of a few items and some arrows at the
bottom), uncheck the USE PERSONALIZED MENUS option. Click OK
to close that box and APPLY to close the next.

What they look like:


(click on Thumbnails for a larger view)
New Start Menu Classic Start Menu

Now load your video card drivers. The download page for those
drivers had instructions on it for a reason. The biggest reason
people have problems installing video cards is not following these
instructions.

If you are going to add more user accounts to your computer, now
is a good time to do it.

Reboot and start up in Safe Mode (press F8 while booting and


choose Safe Mode)

Press the Windows & R keys > type cleanmgr /sageset:50 .


Ensure there is a space between cleanmgr and / > click OK. In the
resulting screen, choose your options by checking the boxes. I
choose all but the bottom two. Click OK. Press the Windows & R
keys > type cleanmgr /sagerun:50. When Disk cleanup is
finished, Reboot.

Windows Update
*Note to wi-fi users. I recommend you use a wired connection for
everything until XP is completely setup. Disable the wi-fi
connection on first boot or as soon as you get the drivers installed.
To disable the connection Open your Network Connection
Properties, go to Start > Run > type control ncpa.cpl exactly as
you see here > right-click on the wi-fi connection and choose
disable.

Now you need to load your ISP software, or configure your


computer for your broadband connection. If XP didn't already
install the NIC/modem drivers for you, install them now. Then load
your ISP software. You should only load ISP software if you have
to use it to connect. Most of the ISP software I have seen is loaded
with junk.
Sign on to the web. DO NOT check email, DO NOT IM, just go to
Windows Update ( START >WINDOWS UPDATE).
Now...Microsoft has decided to be a royal PITA and has introduced
a series of "validation" checks to ensure you are using a "valid"
copy of XP. What it boils down to is they are assuming you are a
criminal and you have to prove you aren't. This is also a major
inconvenience because you'll now have to activate XP instead of
being able to wait to make sure everything is running right before
activating. A series of screens will pop up asking to install this and
that. You want to update automatically you have no choice. Click
yes, next install, whatever and get that stuff installed.
When all that Bravo Sierra is finished, click on the SCAN FOR
UPDATES link. You'll get a choice between Express Install and
Custom Install. Choose Custom Install. Install the High Priority
Updates, under the Software, Optional section choose >.NET
Framework, and Windows Media Player 10, Check the Hardware,
Optional section to see if anything is there and check those too.

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When those are finished, reboot sign on to Windows Update again


and install any remaining High Priority updates. Reboot into Safe
Mode again and run cleanmgr /sagesrun:50

Install Remaining Hardware

***Try to follow the manufactures instructions on installing your


hardware. Check your manual or the manufacturers support pages
for these. Some hardware may require you to install software
before installing/attaching hardware.

Open DEVICE MANAGER


To open DEVICE MANAGER: Press the Windows + R keys, type in
devmgmt.msc .
Any hardware without a driver will be in a section with a yellow
question mark:

Device Manager
(click on Thumbnail for a larger view)

If that hardware has a CD or file that will automatically install


everything, run it now.

If you have anything left in DEVICE MANAGER that hasn't had its
driver installed, try the following before attempting to install the
driver manually.
Right click on the device > choose UPDATE DRIVER > in the
resulting screen choose Install the software automatically. If your
lucky XP will already have the driver. If not you'll have to do it
manually.

To install a driver manually: In DEVICE MANAGER, double-click


that hardware item > Click the Reinstall Driver button > in the
resulting screen check No, not this time and click Next >

- If you know exactly what driver you want to install choose Install
from a list or specific location (Advanced) and in the following
screens browse to the location of the file to install the driver.
Insert the manufacturers CD if needed.

- If you do not know exactly what driver to install insert the


manufacturer CD and choose Install the software automatically
(Recommended) > If that does not work, go back and this time
choose Install from a list or specific location (Advanced) > in the
resulting screen in the Search for the best driver in these locations
section check the box that says Include this location in the search
and browse to the file that contains you driver. If that fails you'll
have to do it manually.

If you need to partition and/or format other drives and partitions,


do so now. You can do this from ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS > DISK
MANAGEMENT or use a program like Acronis Disk Director.

Install Peripheral Devices


This will be devices like printers, mp3 players, cameras, scanners,
etc...
***Try to follow the manufactures instructions on installing your
hardware. Check your manual or the manufacturers support pages
for these. Some hardware may require you to install software
before installing/attaching hardware.

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If you use an Imaging program like Acronis True Image. Install it


now and make a backup.

Click here for: Part II. Installing Applications

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