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Installing Windows XP Home

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Robert Cowart and Brian Knittel describe the variety of installation options available for Windows XP Home.

In this chapter

  • Choosing an Upgrade Path
  • Choosing a File System: FAT, FAT32, or NTFS?
  • Getting Your Network Information Together
  • It's Backup Time!
  • Clean Installation Procedure
  • Upgrading Over an Existing Operating System
  • Making Replacement Startup Floppies
  • Troubleshooting
  • Tips from the Windows Pros: Automating Setup

Choosing an Upgrade Path

This chapter describes the variety of installation options available for Windows XP Home. Even if your system is already installed, you might be interested in reading through this chapter for some helpful information about dual-booting various operating systems and working with multiple formats of disk partitions (FAT, FAT32, and NTFS). For information on partitions, see the "Disk Partitioning Tips" section later in this chapter. A file system is a logical structure applied to a partition which enables the computer to read and write data onto a hard drive. For more information on file systems, see the "Choosing a File System: FAT, FAT32, or NTFS?" section later in this chapter.

Due to improvements and standardization in user interfaces and to Microsoft-imposed installation procedures for Windows programs, setup of application programs nowadays is typically a piece of cake and self-explanatory. Likewise, installation of all newer Windows versions has grown increasingly automated. Installing Windows XP is usually a fairly simple process, but it takes an hour or more to complete.

This chapter covers the installation issues you will need to ponder under differing scenarios. I walk you through a typical installation, but if you've installed any Windows product since Windows 98 you shouldn't be surprised by anything. I also describe the basic decision tree you need to mull over before committing to Windows XP and the path you follow to get it up and running. Along the way, I discuss why you might make one choice over another and what to do when the process goes awry.

There are two primary installation scenarios: clean installation or upgrade installation. A clean installation is performed onto a new/formatted empty hard drive or to overwrite an existing OS. An upgrade installation retains existing settings and applications. In addition to the type of installation to perform, you must also address the issues of multi-booting and selecting a file system.

In this chapter, you learn what to expect when upgrading. Look for the section that applies to your upgrade situation. Also, check the general discussions about dual-booting and upgrading your file system because they apply in all cases. A more in-depth discussion of multi-booting can be found in Chapter 28, "Multibooting Windows XP with Other Operating Systems."

NOTE

In addition to this chapter, you should also read two informative text files found on the Windows XP CD. The first is the file Read1st.txt, which is on the root directory of the CD. This file contains last-minute installation information Microsoft didn't publish until it released the final version of Windows XP. The second file is PERS1.txt, found in the SETUPTXT folder of the CD. This file contains detailed release notes covering topics such as installation, customization, and startup.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, "Introducing Windows XP Home Edition," Windows XP also supports installation capabilities attractive to the IS professional, such as push installations and automated installations that require no user intervention. For more information about these kinds of sophisticated deployment processes and automated installation tools, you should seek the aid of Microsoft's Windows XP Resource Kit. There, you'll find instructions for creating automated installation scripts. I provide a short overview of automated installations at the end of this chapter.

Clean Installation Versus Upgrade

Let's talk about installing Windows XP Home. The next major question you must ask is whether to upgrade from an existing operating system or install fresh. Windows XP Home supports upgrading from Windows 98, OSR2, Second Edition (SE), and Millennium Edition (Me) .

If your system is running any OS not included in this list (such as Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 2000, or even Windows 3.x), you must perform a clean install. Clean installs do not retain any settings or applications. All settings must be reconfigured and all applications must be reinstalled after the clean installation of Windows XP is complete.

NOTE

Windows XP Home edition can be upgraded to Windows XP Professional edition. Windows XP Home cannot be used to upgrade Windows NT 4.0 Workstation or Windows 2000 Professional. If you need to upgrade one of these two OSes, you must use Windows XP Professional.

Most Windows veterans know by now that doing a fresh installation is usually the most beneficial approach in the long run, even though it means more work up front installing applications and reentering personal settings, remote access and networking details, and so forth. You probably have some seat-of-the-pants experiences with Windows operating systems becoming polluted over time by wacko applications that mysteriously trash the Registry or erase or overwrite important files, like .DLL files, that Windows needs to operate properly.

With a clean installation, such worries are forgotten. It's like selling off that lemon of a car you've been wrestling with for the last five years. And yes, you lose lots of settings that are annoying to input again, such as Internet dial-up and TCP/IP settings, email accounts, address books, and so forth. You should attempt to back up as much important data as you can, such as your address books, e-mail, personal documents, and so on before performing a clean installation over an existing OS. Windows XP is somewhat self-healing. Because system files and DLLs are protected against trampling, you're going to have a more sturdy system in the long run anyway. If your system is acting a little wacky already anyway (unexpected crashes, for example), it's better to do a clean installation. A clean installation can optionally reformat your boot partition (that's the one where Windows lives) and will just edit your system partition (that's the one that boots the system and displays the boot menu). In those cases where the boot and system partitions are the same, that partition can optionally be reformatted, too. You don't have to format the target partition when doing a clean installation. You simply choose a new system folder to install your operating system into. You should choose a partition that doesn't have another operating system on it.

When you choose to upgrade an existing operating system, you also run the possibility that some applications won't work properly afterward because they aren't fully compatible with Windows XP. Fortunately, Windows XP is even more backward-compatible than Windows 2000, especially with its Windows Compatibility mode.

NOTE

Windows Compatibility mode is a nifty new feature than enables Windows XP to support a wider range of software products than Windows 95 and Windows NT combined. A compatibility mode is simply a designation for a software platform emulation environment. In other words, when an application is launched with compatibility mode enabled, a virtual machine representing that application's native environment (DOS, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, or Windows 2000) is created in such a way that the application is fooled into thinking that it is the only application present on the computer system running its preferred OS. More details on working with applications is discussed Chapter 21, "Tweaking the GUI."

Table 3.1 compares performing a clean installation versus upgrading your existing Windows installation.

Table 3.1 Clean Installation Versus Upgrading

Perform a new installation when you can answer "yes" to all the following:

to Consider upgrading when you can answer "yes" any of the following:

You've just purchased a newhard disk or reformatted it.

Your current operating system supports upgrading.

The operating system you have on your computer isn't among those on the upgrade list.

You want to fully replace your previous Windows operating system with Windows XP.

Your computer has an operating system already, but you're ready to kill it and start fresh with Windows XP.

You want to keep your existing files and preferences.

You want to create a dual-boot configuration with Windows XP and your current system. (Note that Microsoft recommends using two partitions to do so.)

You're ready to chance that in some rare cases, applications or hardware won't immediately work as they do under the present operating system.


Dual-Booting Versus Single Booting

In addition to the upgrade/fresh installation issue, you also must consider the dual- or multi-boot issue. Dual-booting is a scheme that lets you keep your old operating system and install Windows XP as a clean installation. Windows XP can be installed onto any hard disk volume or partition within a computer, it is not limited or restricted to drive C as is Windows 9x. Thus, by adding a new hard drive and installing Windows XP onto it, you retain your original OS. When you boot up, you are given a choice of operating system to start, as shown in Figure 3.1.

NOTE

Notice that in this book the term dual-booting is used often. This usually refers to having only two OSes on the same system. We use this term because most multiple OS scenarios, employ only two OSes are installed. But the term multi-booting could just as easily have been substituted to include those systems with two or more OSes. So, when you see dual-booting, don't limit your thinking to only two OSes.

Figure 3.1 When a system is set up for dual-booting, a menu like this appears at boot time.

Windows XP officially supports dual-booting with any Microsoft Windows operating systems as well as MS-DOS and OS/2. You can multi-boot almost any OS that uses FAT or NTFS file systems on the boot drive. We'll talk more about the different kinds of file systems and what they offer you. Basically, file system refers to the format of the hard drive and the way the OS stores your data files on the drive.

NOTE

Third-party partition or multi-boot managers include Partition Magic from Power Quest (http://www.powerquest.com) and System Commander from V Communications (http://www.v-com.com).

Pros of Dual-Booting

There are lots of reasons for setting up a dual- or multi-booting computer, especially if you are in the business of testing computers, or you run a wide variety of software and hardware on your computers. Personally, of the five computers in my office, four of them are dual-booting. Below are a few thoughts about dual-booting that you might want to consider before making the decision:

  • I multi-boot on a couple of my machines because I run lots of Windows tools, hardware-specific programs like video editing programs, CD-writers or rewriters, and so on. Also, I'm always testing new programs. No matter how much I would prefer to run a single operating system, sometimes I need to run other versions of Windows to get a driver or some application to work. So, it makes sense for me to multi-boot.

  • If you're regularly testing or running lots of different kinds of software and own an abundance of hardware, or you're a new hardware junkie like me, being stuck with just a single operating system is like being in jail. Choose to multi-boot, even though this choice can cause some headaches, as described in the following section.

  • If you have doubts about compatibility with your hardware or software and don't want to jeopardize your existing operating system, use a dual-boot arrangement for a while and see what you think. If you become confident that XP is going to work for you, you can either perform an upgrade installation over your existing operating system, or move over into using XP only. (That is, you can migrate your data and applications into your XP setup.) If you decide to upgrade over your old OS, rather than migrate into the clean XP, you can then remove the clean XP "test" system to free up disk space. If you decide XP doesn't cut the mustard, you can remove it. Regardless of how you do the eventual upgrade, this kind of approach gives you the time to test things out. You'll eventually end up with a single OS in the long run, one you're happy with.

TIP

There is an alternative to dual- or multi-booting that makes installing multiple OSes on your computer easier, although not quite as quick or responsive. A program called Virtual PC lets you install and run multiple operating systems at the same time. One "host" operating system runs the secondary operating systems within it. For example, you could have Windows Me be the host to run Windows XP. You boot up Windows Me, run the Virtual PC program, and then tell Virtual PC to boot up Windows XP. You end up having Windows Me and Windows XP running at the same time. It's pretty impressive. Use of virtual computers is covered in Chapter 28.

Cons of Dual-Booting

Dual or multi-booting isn't always as simple or attractive as it might seem at first. You have to take care that you understand the limitations and requirements of making your computer a home for more than one operating system. Operating systems are, for the most part, egotistical and stingy. They don't always coexist on the same computer peaceably. Therefore, you should be aware of a few points before deciding to dual-boot your machine:

  • You must reinstall many applications, particularly ones that make Registry entries, such as Office, or ones that put portions of themselves (for example, DLL files) in the operating system directory. You must run the Setup routines for each such program once for each operating system. Your applications still work in both environments, and contrary to what you might think, you don't have to duplicate all the files on disk—if you install them into the same directories under each operating system. Still, you must go through the process of installation again.

  • Some applications that run in both environments just don't behave properly or cooperate as you would hope. This is especially true of ones that share the same data files or futz with the Registry. If a program tweaks the Registry or alerts your data files to what operating system has been working with it, and then you reboot in the other operating system (each operating system has its own Registry files, remember), unexpected incompatibilities can crop up.

  • NOTE

    Some programs are, obviously, less picky because they are not as integrated into the operating system. Netscape seems to live quite peaceably in a multi-boot arrangement, mail and all.

  • Any application that relies on the operating systems' rights settings, user identities, or multiple profiles will likely not interrelate properly between the operating systems. As you probably know, Windows XP, Windows 98/SE/Me, Windows NT, and Windows 2000 can be set up with multiple-user settings stored on the same machine. Applications that take advantage of these settings often store individual settings in the Registry and in folders such as Windows\profiles or C:\windows\application data or, in the case of Windows 2000 and Windows XP, C:\documents and settings. In any case, because applications sometimes look to the operating system for information about a user's individual settings (whether it's gleaned from the Registry or user-specific folders such as the Desktop folder), things can go awry if you're hoping to run certain applications under either operating system, and you're not a bit crafty. One way to live with this situation is to focus on using one operating system and use the other only when some application or hardware refuses to run in the first operating system.

  • Upgrading to Windows XP pulls in all (or as many as possible) of the preexisting settings, such as email accounts, LAN settings and dial-up connections, machine user accounts, and so on. If you dual-boot, you have to create these settings from scratch for the new operating system.

  • Security is a biggie. Is security an issue for you? Do you need to keep prying eyes at bay? Unless you're going to set up a separate partition or drive with NTFS and encryption on it, you're increasing the chances of security breaches by dual-booting. Drive, volume, partition, and file security are minimal under any OS using FAT16 or FAT32 partitions (including Windows 9x/Me), because these can be altered by anyone who can boot the system in DOS or a DOS-based operating system. If you want to dual-boot and maintain decent security, then you should install Windows XP on a second drive, formatted in NTFS. Alternatively, you can create an NTFS partition on your main drive and install into it. Use the NTFS partition for your Windows XP files and encrypt sensitive data files. When installing, you are given the option of converting to NTFS. (Encryption can be performed after Windows XP is installed.)

  • The only Microsoft operating systems that read NTFS partitions are Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. If you want to multi-boot and gain the advantages of NTFS, remember that you can't access any data files on the NTFS partitions when you're running DOS, Windows 3.x, or Windows 9x/SE/Me. (Linux, however, can read and write to NTFS partitions.)

Precautions when Dual-Booting

If, after reading the pros and cons, you think you want to set up a dual-boot system, consider the following precautions in addition to those listed previously. This part takes a little studying, so put on your thinking cap.

  • Though it is technically possible to install multiple OSes into the same partition on your hard drive, don't do it. Many of the Windows operating systems, specifically Windows 95 and 98/SE/Me as well as Windows 2000 and Windows XP, share similar common directory names (such as \Windows, \Program Files, and \Documents and Settings). Installing a new OS into the same partition as an existing OS runs the risk of overwriting important files. This is true, even if you select to use a different primary folder name. I highly recommend installing each OS into its own partition (with the possible exception of DOS). You make this choice when installing Windows XP through the advanced options during the initial phase of setup. Most other OSes (especially Windows NT and Windows 2000) offer similar options.

  • Microsoft doesn't suggest mixing file systems in dual-boot arrangements because it complicates matters. Microsoft says "...such a configuration introduces additional complexity into the choice of file systems." Microsoft's warning is probably just an admonition against burdening the operating system and your applications with multiple file systems and multiple operating systems on the same machine. Admittedly, mixing them does complicate things. If you want to play it safe, go with the lowest common denominator of file systems for the operating systems you're installing. Typically, it is FAT or FAT32. (See "Choosing a File System: FAT, FAT32, or NTFS?" later in this chapter.)

  • Installation order is important in some cases. To set up a dual-boot configuration between MS-DOS/Windows 3.x or Windows 95 with Windows XP, you should install Windows XP last. Otherwise, important files needed to start Windows XP could be overwritten by the other operating systems. For dual-booting between Windows 98/SE/Me, Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP, installation order is irrelevant.

  • To set up a dual-boot configuration between MS-DOS/Windows 3.x or Windows 95 with Windows XP, the primary partition (that is, the one from which you boot) must be formatted as FAT. If you're dual-booting Windows 95 OSR2, Windows 98, Windows NT, or Windows 2000 with Windows XP, the primary partition must be FAT or FAT32, not NTFS. These two rules make sense because, without third-party drivers, Windows 9x/SE/Me can't read or exist with NTFS, and Windows 95 can't read either NTFS or FAT32.

  • There is more than one version of NTFS. Windows XP and Windows 2000 both use NTFS v5. Windows NT 4.0 right out of the box uses NTFS v4. But Windows NT 4.0 can be upgraded to use NTFS v5 by installing Service Pack 4. This becomes important when you attempt to dual-boot with Windows NT 4.0 (without Service Pack 4) and Window XP. The NT OS will be unable to access files on the Windows XP NTFS formatted partitions. Your only options are to apply SP4 to NT or use FAT.

  • You can install Windows XP on a compressed drive if that drive was compressed using the NTFS disk compression utility, but not if it was made with DoubleSpace or DriveSpace or some other disk compressor such as Stacker. If you're going to dual-boot with Windows 9x, remember that Windows XP won't see the compressed DoubleSpace and DriveSpace partitions; and any NTFS partitions, compressed or not, are invisible to Windows 9x without third-party drivers.

  • Sometimes an operating system reconfigures your hardware through soft settings. Suppose you install some new hardware and run Windows 98. That operating system detects it and might do some software setting on the hardware that works with Windows 98 but which conflicts with Windows XP. This problem should be rare because most hardware these days is Plug and Play-compatible and should be configurable on-the-fly as the operating system boots up. But be aware of the possibility. A good example is that two operating systems might have different video display drivers for the same video adapter, causing you to have to manually adjust the screen size and orientation when you switch between them.

Precautions when Dual-Booting Windows NT and Windows XP

You must follow some weird rules when dual-booting Windows NT (3 or 4) and Windows XP. Mostly, they have bearing on which file systems you can use. For folks testing Windows XP while keeping the tried and true Windows NT 4 around, they can pose a bit of an annoyance. Here's the list:

  • You should upgrade to at least NT 4.0 Service Pack 4 if you want to dual-boot with Windows XP sharing NTFS partitions. Upgrade first and then install Windows XP; otherwise, your NT 4 system will not boot.

  • If your hard disk is formatted with only NTFS partitions, Microsoft recommends against dual-booting Windows XP and Windows NT. It makes this recommendation because Windows NT and Windows XP use different versions of the NTFS specification, and they bump into one another. Either use FAT32 or, when you're installing Windows XP, opt not to upgrade to NTFS 5.

  • Computers dual-booting Windows NT and Windows XP in a networked environment must have different computer names under each boot configuration if the computers are connected to an NT domain. Otherwise, the domain controller is given conflicting information about the workstation, and it deals with these two types of workstations in slightly different ways.

NOTE

Dual-booting with Windows 2000 does not encounter these issues because it shares the same version of NTFS that Windows XP uses. For more detailed information about configuring your computer to dual-boot, see Chapter 28, "Multibooting Windows XP with Other Operating Systems," which is devoted to this topic.

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