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Installing Windows XP Professional

This sample chapter describes the variety of installation options available for Windows XP Professional.
This chapter is from the book

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 Startup Floppies
Tips from the Windows Pros: Automating Setup

Choosing an Upgrade Path

This chapter describes the variety of installation options available for Windows XP Professional. 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 "Disk Partitioning Tips" later 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 will take an hour or more to complete.

This chapter covers the installation issues you will need to ponder under different scenarios. I'll 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'll also describe the basic decision tree you'll have to mull over before committing to Windows XP and the path you'll follow to get it up and running. Along the way, I'll 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.

I'll tell you what to expect when upgrading. Look for the section that applies to you. Also, check the general discussions about dual-booting and upgrading your file system because they apply in all cases. You'll find a more in-depth discussion of multi-booting in Chapter 31, "Multibooting Windows XP with Other Operating Systems."


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 you'll find 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 is the file PRO1.txt, which is 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 Professional," 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've provided a short overview of automated installations at the end of this chapter.

Clean Installation Versus Upgrade

Let's talk about installing Windows XP. The next major question you must ask is whether to upgrade from an existing operating system or install fresh. Windows XP Professional supports upgrading from the following operating systems:

  • Windows 98, OSR2, Second Edition (SE), Millennium Edition (Me)

  • Windows NT 4.0 Workstation (with Service Packs)

  • Windows 2000 Professional (with Service Packs)


Windows XP Home edition can be upgraded to Windows XP Professional edition.

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

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'll lose lots of settings that are annoying to input again, such as Internet dial-up and TCP/IP settings, e-mail 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 wonky already anyway (unexpected crashes, for example), it's better to do a clean installation. A clean installation will 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, the partition will be reformatted.

When you choose to upgrade over 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.


Windows Compatibility Mode is a nifty new feature that 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 (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 in Chapter 23, "Tweaking the GUI." By the way, for DOS executables the Properties dialog box is much different than for those of Windows executables. To learn more about tweaking the DOS environment, see "Configuring the Program Environment" in Chapter 25.

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 Any of the Following:

Consider Upgrading When You Can Answer "Yes" to All the Following:

You've just purchased a new hard 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 did under the old operating system.


In any case, installing a "new" or "clean" version of Windows XP does not mean that the drive on which you are installing XP will be reformatted. The XP installer won't format the drive unless you direct it to do so. You can place a new or clean Windows XP installation on a drive (in this case, we'll assume it's the C: drive) even if the C: drive already has Windows 98 installed on it. To do this, install XP in a different directory. When the XP installation is complete, delete Windows 98, because running two operating systems in the same partition is not recommended. Ideally, however, if you plan to keep your original operating system intact, you'll want to install XP into another partition.

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'll retain your original, pre-existing OS. When you boot up, you are given a choice of operating system to start.


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

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. That includes Linux (notice that Microsoft doesn't tout that feature loudly?). With the aid of third-party partition managers, you are able to multi-boot Windows XP with any OS in existence.


Third-party partition or multi-boot managers include PartitionMagic 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. The following 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 just 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 a gamer, chances are you need MS-DOS, Windows 9x, or Windows 2000 just to get certain games to run or even some joysticks or control devices. Most games will function under Windows XP, but you may discover a few cases where things are not exactly as you'd expect. If you can't live without a game, then create a multi-boot system including the alternate OS needed for your game-du-jour. For the full scoop on compatibility with your favorite games, check with some gaming magazines or the makers of the games in question. Configuring game controllers is covered in Chapter 24, "Configuration via Control Panel Applets."

  • 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.


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 31.

Cons of Dual-Booting

Dual or multi-booting isn't always as simple or attractive as it might seem at first. You must 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 should 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 itself 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.


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 mighty 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 your primary OS.

  • Upgrading to Windows XP pulls in all (or as much as possible) of the preexisting settings, such as e-mail accounts, LAN settings and dial-up connections, machine user accounts, and so on. If you dual-boot, you have to create them 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), since 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 still have some 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.)

→ To learn more details about file and folder encryption, see "Encryption," p. 1009.

  • 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 is going to take a little studying, so put on your thinking cap.

  • Although it's possible to install multiple OSes into the same partition on your hard drive, don't do it. However, 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. To quote the documentation, ". . . 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 the "Choosing a File System: FAT, FAT32, or NTFS?" section 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 you boot from) 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 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 Professional won't see the compressed DoubleSpace and DriveSpace partitions, and any NTFS partitions, compressed or not, will be invisible to Windows 9x without third-party drivers.

  • Sometimes an operating system reconfigures your hardware through software settings. Suppose you install some new hardware and run Windows 98. That operating system will detect 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; or your NT 4 system will not boot.

  • Computers dual-booting Windows NT and Windows XP 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 (for example, security tokens).


Dual-booting with Windows 2000 does not encounter these issues since it shares the same version of NTFS that Windows XP uses. For more detailed information about configuring your computer to dual-boot, see Chapter 31, which is devoted to this topic.

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