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Windows XP and the setup process itself are very resilient. I've performed dozens of installations while writing this book and I've yet to have a failed install. In general, as each new generation of Microsoft OS hits the streets, there are fewer installation problems. I remember the days of installing Windows NT 4.0, which had problems more often than not. I probably spent upwards of two days on a single system once just to get the main OS installed! Anyway, just because it is much improved over previous OSes doesn't mean that the Windows XP installation procedure can't experience problems when you perform the install. There are several common causes of problems and several common problems. In the next sections I tackle each of these and provide you with realistic solutions.

Windows Crashes During Installation

I tried to install Windows XP, but it crashes while installing.

The trick with any Windows Setup is to get it to complete without crashing or freaking out about some setting you try to make during the process. Hold off doing anything fancy—stuff like network settings, screen savers, video display settings, and so on—until well after you have finished the installation. Just get through the installation as simply as possible, and then poke around and tweak up your settings later.

→ To learn more details about recovering a trashed installation of Windows XP, see "The Recovery Console," p. 1157.

Windows Setup is intelligent. It keeps tabs on where in the process things stalled. Simply restarting Setup should result in it picking up where it left off. This, at least, is some consolation. Next time around, keep it simple, and get by with as few settings as possible. Just make the necessary ones. Sometimes a machine will hang when you're playing with the Regional settings, language, or something you can easily change later. Also, avoid the Advanced settings if you don't need them.

At a certain stage, Setup switches from character-based screens to graphical screens (GUI mode). If, at this point, Setup crashes, your video display card might not be compatible with Windows XP. Make sure you checked your system's innards against the Hardware Compatibility List. Also, ensure that you meet the minimum requirements in terms of RAM and hard disk space. Most of the causes of installation problems are directly related to non-HCL compliant hardware.

My Existing OS Won't Recognize the CD-ROM Drive

I can't get my existing OS to recognize my CD-ROM drive, so I can't install Windows XP.

The following are a few other workarounds for those weird occasions when you just can't get DOS to recognize your CD-ROM drive:

  • Create the Setup floppy disks needed to start the installation. See the section "Making Startup Floppies," earlier in this chapter.

  • Create an Emergency Startup Disk (ESD) from Windows 98. As of Windows 98, popular CD-ROM drivers are dumped on the ESDs when you create them by choosing Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, Startup Disk.

  • Use an old DOS startup disk with installable device drivers for the CD-ROM drive on it as stipulated in the AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files on the floppy. Creating such a disk typically takes a little knowledge of MSCDEX command-line arguments, and you need the driver supplied with the CD-ROM drive.

  • Using your existing operating system or a floppy disk with network client software on it, connect to the network and run Setup from a remote CD-ROM drive. This process can take some work if you have to boot in DOS, however. You must know lots of network settings and use the command line to get them going. Your network administrator might have to tell you the exact path of the setup command. You're looking for the file winnt.exe or winnt32.exe from the i386 directory of the distribution files.

  • Another solution is to copy all the appropriate CD-ROM files to your hard disk one way or another (even lap-linking between two computers is an approach I've used successfully). You need all the files in the root directory of the CD and everything in the I386 folder. When files are on the hard disk, switch to the folder you stored the file in, and run winnt.exe or winnt32.exe.

Windows XP Fails to Boot After Installation

I got through the installation, but Windows XP won't boot now.

You can take several steps when an installation doesn't seem to have worked out. As I mentioned in the first troubleshooting tip, you can try to determine when Setup failed. If, by observation, you can determine the point at which it failed, you might be able to avoid whatever it was you did the first time around. Restart Setup, and see whether reinstalling will help.

While you're installing again, note that Setup asks whether you want to load any SCSI drivers at a certain point. At about this point, you can opt not to install support for power management. Try opting out of the power management. You can install it later by choosing Control Panel, Add New Hardware. Sometimes power management can cause problems on a machine that doesn't support it correctly, or doesn't support it at all.

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