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Guide to Installing Windows XP

This is part of some remarks I've put together for friends
who are stuck with Windows. You should have read this first.

You did backup all your data, right? If not, do not proceed.

Find your XP installation disk. This might have come with your machine. Your vendor should have provided one or perhaps you bought one. There are probably lots of variations of install disks and I can't possibly give you precise instructions. With any luck what you see here will closely resemble what you see, but there are no guarantees (have I said that often enough yet?).

There are surely a bunch of other resources on the net that will also guide you through installing XP. One such site is (see the section at the bottom of the page). After you all done with your install, you might consider applying his "Super Tweaks" (be sure to apply the Home or Professional tweaks as is correct for you).

At some point you'll also be asked for a "product key". Dell puts this on your PC. It might be on the CD itself. Without it, there's no point in starting. I have two different disks with XP. Their product codes look completely different as you can see:

  CW876 X55B5 66QKH M6CR2 G1G1Y

Yours will probably look similarly bizarre, but there's no telling for sure. You won't know for sure, until you get by the product key prompt in 15-45 minutes from now.

Disconnect your machine from the Internet. Unplug the Ethernet cable that goes into the back of your PC. If you use dial-up, then you don't need to worry about this now. Don't assume you are safe because you have a router in place. You probably are reasonably safe, but don't assume so. Disconnect. During the install your machine is at its most vulnerable. Take no chances, unplug your machine from the Net for now.

Finally, put the XP installation CD in your CD drive and reboot. Each machine does this step differently. Often times during the reboot, you'll see something like

  Press any key to boot from the CDROM

If you ignore this or are too slow, you'll boot your old system. Sometimes you must get your BIOS to allow you to boot from a CD. This can be ugly. Hope it isn't. I can't give you any help here. If you can't get your CD to boot, you are stuck and need to find a 'guru' to help you out. Don't ask me, I can be of no help.

Installation Notes

What follows are my notes from two different scratch installs of XP. Every XP CD will vary somewhat, so what you see might vary from my notes below. That screen details are not complete, but are only here to suggest what you might see. Your action is labeled with a '==>'. Good luck !

Welcome to Setup

  * To set up Windows XP now, press ENTER
  * To repair a Windows XP installation using
    Recovery Console, press R
  * To quit Setup without installing Windows XP, press F3


Licensing agreement

==> You have no choice - press F8

Windows XP Setup

Use the UP and DOWN ARROW keys to select an installation

  * To repair the selected XP installation, press R
  * To continue installing a fresh copy of Windows XP
    without repairing, press ESC

==> ESC  (always install a fresh copy unless you are really really sure)

Windows XP Setup

Use the UP and DOWN ARROW keys to select an item in the list

  * To set up Windows XP on the selected item, press ENTER
  * To create a partition in the unpartitioned space, press C
  * To delete the selected partition, press D

  [[[ you'll see SOME combination of these lines ]]]
3910 MB Disk 0 etc

  C: Partition [NTFS]         3910 MB (1276 MB Free)
  Unpartitioned space         3910 MB
  C: Partition1 [ New (Raw)]  3000 MB (3000 MB Free)
  D: Partition2 [ New (Raw)]  3910 MB ( 909 MB Free)

Not all of the options listed will be on your screen. The idea here is that your disk drive can be broken into 'partitions' (chunks) which Windows identifies as the C: and D: drive. You must have a C: drive. In general it's a good idea to have two partitions. so you can save your data on the D: partition. When you have to re-install Windows, only the files on C: are destroyed. If you were careful/lucky, you can save your data on D: and make it easier to restore things after the next install. You might not even lose data. However, if your drive is less than 10GB (10000 MB), just use one partition (the C:).

If you enter the letter 'D' (delete), you'll have to confirm you want to delete. Read the screens and delete by eventually typing 'L'. If you decide to make a C: and D: partition and currently only have a C:, you'll have to first delete C: and then create a smaller C: and then D: using the rest of drive.

If you enter the letter 'C', you must then decide how big the partition should be. There is no general guideline here, but using about half your drive for C: is a reasonable guide.

Don't get too confused by all this. Heck, you can't get it wrong. It'll Windows will either install or it won't and you can get back to this point pretty easily. If you aren't sure about this partition stuff, just make sure you see one C: partition (or create one for the whole disk) and use that. Your system will work.

Eventually, you should move the highlighted line to C: and press ENTER to start the install.

Windows XP Setup

Use the UP and DOWN ARROW keys to select the file system
you want and then press ENTER.

  * Format the partition using the NTFS file system (quick)
  * Format the partition using the FAT file system (quick)
  * Format the partition using the NTFS file system
  * Format the partition using the FAT file system

Choose the first (NTFS, quick). Formatting will start and then Windows files will get copied to the disk. Now's a good time to go do something else. This will take 5-30 minutes. You have now gone past the point of no return. Your machine is not usable in the slightest now.

After files are copied the machine will reboot. This should avoid booting from the CD again, but if you find yourself right back at the beginning again (Welcome to Setup), remove the CD and reboot manually. Now XP starts copying more files to your disk (you might have to put the CD back in). Note: On the lower left hand side you might see something like "Setup will complete in approximately: XX minutes" In my experience this is always wrong.

Regional and Language Options

  Probably nothing here for folks in the USA

==> Next

Personalize Your Software

==> Name:  Myfirstname Mylastname
==> Organization:  Home

==> Next

Your Product Key

Enter your product code that I mentioned at the start of this.

==> Next

Enter no spaces or dashes. Case does not matter. Here's where you find out if Windows will play with you. If you don't get this right, your disk has been formatted and you have an unusable system. How happy are you that Microsoft chose to ask this question after it screwed up your disk? Note: sometimes this is not asked for, depends on your CD.

Computer Name and Administrator Password

==> Next

If you want to name your computer, pick anything you want (short and no blanks is best). Maybe something like "toms-pc". Always set a password, even if you are at home and you are the only person using the machine. No, don't pick your name. When you are done, write it down somewhere where you won't lose it. You'll want to use this again later cause XP doesn't really set the password you want.

Modem Dialing Information

  If you use dialup for net access, you'll know these values
  if you don't, you won't. They can always be reset later.
  In order to proceed you need to provide at least your area code.

==> Next

Date and Time Settings

  The time might be right cause your machine remembered it.
  The timezone is almost always wrong as it usually defaults
  to Microsoft's timezone. Use the drop down to select the
  correct timezone. You really should have this correct.

==> Next

Before continuing it's time to plug in your network cable, unless you have a dialup connection. (Actually I'm not 100% if this is necessary, but it seems a good idea for the next step.) What follows are notes for the network setup using an Ethernet connection (cable modem/DSL users). If you are using a dialup connection, then read about dialups here.

Network Settings

==> Typical Settings
    This has to do with Ethernet connections, finding out
    what your IP address is, your name server etc. For simple
    situations like at home with a router, this is almost
    always right. It can be fixed later.
==> Next

Windows tries to find your network card and set things up. After this is done, unplug your cable again. Maybe plugging in your cable wasn't even necessary for this step. In any case, it's time to be paranoid again.

Workgroup or Computer Domain

==> No, this computer is not on a network, or is on a network
    without a domain. etc.

==> Next

This parts takes some minutes. Time for another break. Eventually XP will reboot again like before. When the reboot happens, you can take the CD out.

Welcome to Microsoft Windows

  Lets spend a few minutes setting up your computer

==> Next

Now it really is necessary to plug in your network cable. XP is about to set up your network connection and it's way easier to let XP figure it out, than for you to do it later.

How will this computer connect to the Internet?

  * Telephone modem
  * Digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modem
  * Local area network (LAN)

==> LAN, for most everyone
==> Next

Most everyone will choose LAN, including people with a router installed. You HAVE read Security and Your Cable/DSL Modem, right? Modem (dialup) users should be reading here and will continue with Ready to register with Microsoft?.

Setting up a high speed connection

==> Check 'Obtain IP automatically'
==> Check 'Obtain DNS automatically'

==> Next

This is for cable modem/DSL users (i.e. a LAN connection).

Ready to register with Microsoft?

==> No 

==> Next

At this point I'd say advise to NOT register. You are on the Internet and subject to attack. Don't waste time with stuff that does not matter, until you install tools to make your machine safe. Besides I've never seen that registering actually confers any benefits.

Who will use this computer?

==> 'Your name' 

==> Next

This is asking for a userid for XP so you can login. You MUST have one, even if you are the only person using the machine. The name can be anything, but you'll find it useful to use your first name or even your Email account name. If more than one person will use this machine, you can enter names for them now -- or later. 'Your name' will be the administrator for the machine. You can add other administrators later.

Thank you!

==> Next

Dial-up users have not yet actually connected to the Net. Cable modem/DSL users are all set. Whenever you attempt to use the Internet, you'll be prompted to dial your ISP. Go ahead and see if it work. Click on Start, then Control Panel, then Network and Internet Connections, then Network Connections and finally double click on the "My ISP" icon to dial your ISP for the first time. You must get your dialup connection working to finish this whole process.

Logging on XP for the First Time

Now you are logged on XP for the first time. Your machine is like a new-born baby -- completely vulnerable to attack. In fact if you are on a dialup, as you read this you be possibly be probed and the attacks are getting ready. You need to install, update, and install and then update some more.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Terry Gliedt. Direct comments or questions to
Be sure to use a subject of 'Coping with Windows' or your Email will likely be tossed out by my SPAM filters.
Last Revision: Sep 01, 2008