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Upgrading over an Existing Operating System

If you're upgrading rather than performing a clean installation, the process is a bit different. Setup checks on the advisability of upgrading and asks a few more questions. This section provides a few points concerning the upgrade or dual-boot with preexisting operating systems. The steps included here are for upgrading over Windows 98 SE. Similar steps apply to the other operating systems.


Let me add an additional note about network connections when you're upgrading. If you're upgrading a Windows 9x/SE/Me/NT/2000 system that's a member of a Windows NT or Windows 2000 domain, you must check a few things in advance, or you'll end up wasting some time. Ideally, you should make sure the Windows 9x machine is connected to the domain and working properly because the user profile for the upgraded workstation needs to be stored on the domain controller.

If the domain isn't available during setup, the user's preferences are placed in a local user account on the workstation computer, and you have to copy the profile to the domain profile after joining the domain. So, to avoid that situation, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that the computer's workgroup is set to the domain you participate in by choosing Start, Settings, Control Panel, Network (on Windows 9x/SE/Me systems). Then select the Identification tab, and verify the workgroup.

  2. Create a computer account on the domain server if it doesn't exist already. The computer must have access to the domain during setup.

  3. Upgrade the system to Windows XP.

If you don't follow these steps, you'll have to copy the profile to the domain later. To do so, choose Control Panel, System, User Profiles, Copy.

To begin the upgrade process, follow these steps:

  1. Start the Setup program as discussed in the clean install section. The Windows Setup Wizard appears. Using the Installation Type pull-down list, select Upgrade.

  2. Click Next. The License Agreement page appears.

  3. Read the agreement then select the I accept this agreement radio button.

  4. Click Next. The Your Product Key page appears.

  5. Type in your 25-digit Product Key.

  6. Click Next. The Performing Dynamic Update page appears.

  7. If your system has Internet access from the pre-existing OS, you can optionally select to download the latest setup files for Windows XP at this time. Mark the Yes radio button. If your system does not currently have Internet access, select No, click Next, and then skip to step 9.

  8. Click Next. The Setup routine will attempt to contact the Microsoft download site and retrieve new Setup files.

  9. The Provide Compatible Names page may appear. If you have local names which conflict with existing network names, you'll be prompted to change them. This dialog box automatically provides alternative names by adding a dash and a number to the end of the duplicate. Click Next to accept the suggested changes. You can alter a name change by selecting it in the list and clicking the Change button.

  10. The Network Connection Status page appears. Select the appropriate radio button that matches the network connectivity of this system. The options are: This computer is offline; It connects directly to a local area network; and It connects to a remote network through a modem or other connection. The default selection represents the status that setup detected from your existing OS. I assume you have direct LAN connection (the middle radio button), select it, then click Next. If your system is offline or connected through a modem or some other connection, you might see other setup wizard screens prompting for related configuration details.

  11. The Join a Domain page appears. If the current OS is a member of a domain, the default setting of this page will be Yes, Use This Domain with the name of the domain in the text field. If no domain is used by the existing OS, the No, Skip This Step option is selected. You can change the default on this page and even define a different domain to join. I assume you will accept the default of the same domain as the current OS. Click Next.

  12. If a computer account is not already present in the domain for the new OS, Setup prompts you whether to create an account. Click Yes. You must provide the username and password of an Administrative level user account in the domain, and then click OK. You'll need to confirm that the provided user account has permissions to create new computer accounts in the domain; click Yes.

  13. Setup prepares the Upgrade Report.

Upgrade Report

After you supply your product key, Setup creates an upgrade report summarizing everything that might not work with Windows XP and giving you a chance to access update files that hardware or software vendors might have available (check their Web sites). If you don't have upgrade files for the listed items, you might skate by anyway.

The upgrade report is a pretty spiffy HTML-based dialog box that details what might not work anymore if you go ahead with the installation. It has a link to the Windows XP Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) for easily checking to see whether the Brand X video card you just bought really won't work or if the compatibility test was just out of date. Do check the list, assuming your computer is on the Internet.

Although your list might be long, it might not be catastrophic news. Most of the stuff my systems showed didn't end up causing problems. For example, I know that the video card I have is supported, as is the Epson printer. Both were listed as potentially problematic. Most of the other things such as shares, Recycle Bin, backup files, and DOS startup file issues were no big deal. The new operating system takes care of most of these issues, mostly due to Plug and Play and good hardware detection during Setup. Plus, I probably did have some old junk in my AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files that's no longer valuable. The DOS exceptions were Sound Blaster drivers that DOS-based games used—the kinds of things that most Windows XP users are not going to worry about.

If you see anything listed about your video card, disk controller, sound card, or tape backup, you might want to check on those items a little more closely and download a driver update pack from the manufacturer before you update. Basically, you should take seriously anything that might suggest incompatibility that will prevent basic operation or bootability of the system, and you can acknowledge but not sweat the rest.


If you just want to run the upgrade report and not execute the complete Setup program, insert the installation CD in the CD-ROM drive, or connect over the LAN to the CD. If the Welcome to Microsoft Windows XP splash screen appears, click Check System Compatibility, and then Check My System Automatically. Follow the wizard's prompts to perform an upgrade or XP compatibility test. If the splash screen does not appear or you are working from DOS, issue the following command:

winnt32 /checkupgradeonly

This command generates just the report.

You can just follow the rest of the instructions as they come up on the screen. Your computer might have to restart several times in the process. If the computer seems to be stuck, wait several minutes to ensure it's really stopped functioning properly. Then reboot it. Windows XP uses an "intelligent" Setup feature that should restart where it left off. Eventually, after much spinning of the hard disks, the system will boot up into Windows XP. But before you are granted access to the new system, there are still the issues of activation, registration, and user accounts to deal with. Jump to step 54 in the typical clean installation step-by-step (earlier in this chapter), to complete the installation procedure.

If Windows refuses to boot after the installation is complete, see "Windows XP Fails to Boot After Installation" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of this chapter.

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