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30 Hardware and Windows Tips in 30 Days Tip 10: Build a Slipstream Windows XP Install CD

If your Windows XP installation was originally performed with a pre-SP1 version, you could be in for a world of hurt if you ever need to perform a repair install. Find out why a slipstream Windows XP install CD's an inexpensive insurance policy against disaster.

When Windows XP was first introduced in 2001, a 'large' hard disk was 80GB, well under the 137GB LBA limit. Hard disks have gotten a lot bigger since then (160GB is the smallest PATA or SATA drive on most store shelves these days), and Windows XP has changed along with the increase in disk capacity. Starting with SP1, Windows XP includes 48-bit LBA support to properly handle large drive capacities.

Big Disk and Old Windows - A Disaster Waiting to Happen

If you've upgraded to a drive over 137GB after installing SP1 or or SP2 to a system set up with the original Windows XP, and you need to perform a repair install, your data files may be in danger, especially if you are using areas of the disk beyond 137GB. Since a repair install using an original Windows XP CD reverts your system to a condition in which it cannot properly work with disk capacities beyond 137GB, any files in those areas will be corrupted by the repair install. I watched this happen when I performed a repair install from my original Windows XP CD, but I was lucky: I'd performed a complete backup of all of my data before performing the repair install. If I hadn't, my data would have been lost forever.

Preventing Catastrophic Data Loss the Easy Way with Slipstreaming

To prevent a catastrophe like this, you need to add Windows XP SP2 files to your original Windows XP install disc, a process known as 'slipstreaming.' During the slipstreaming process, Windows XP SP2 system files, including those that provide 48-bit LBA support, replace the original Windows XP system files. After the slipstreaming process is complete, you have an .ISO image of Windows XP SP2 that can be burned to a CD and used for a repair install or a complete reinstall in the future.

Obtaining Windows XP SP2

Most users with older installations of Windows XP obtain SP2 via Windows Update. However, to slipstream the files, you need to download SP2 manually from the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Network Installation Package for IT Professionals and Developers page. It's a 266MB download.

The Rest of the Ingredients Needed...

The rest of the ingredients needed include: - a blank CD-R disc - a CD-mastering program that supports .ISO images, such as Roxio Easy Media Creator, Nero Ultra, or a freeware program such as ImgBurn. - a program to extract a bootable CD file from your current Windows XP CD, such as IsoBuster.

See Paul Thurrott's WinSuperSite for a detailed, well-illustrated tutorial of the slipstreaming and CD-building process.

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