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How to Install Windows


Installing Windows need not be difficult. Often we can accept defaults for installations and everything will work. However, it is nice to have some more information than what Microsoft gives us at hand when installing Windows.

These pages provide a wealth of information. There are illustrations that display with low resolution to aid in fast page loading. If you want a higher resolution image, simply click on the image and the high resolution version will be displayed.

How to Install Windows is sub-divided into 13 sub-pages:

Types of installations

Repairing an Installation of Windows

Re-installing Windows XP

A Clean Installation of Windows

BIOS Issues

Drive Preparation

Installing Windows

Installing the Latest Service Pack

Installing Primary Drivers

Installing other Drivers

Installing Windows Accessories

Installing Essential Applications

Application Updates

All information on this page Copyright 2005 by Peter D. Hipson. All rights reserved.



First, it has been said, and I agree, Windows XP is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has ever produced. It is extremely reliable, the installation is straightforward, and Windows XP supports virtually all hardware, including some very outdated legacy devices.

Second, a Windows installation can be as easy as popping in a CD, and booting the system. Answer a few prompts, and off the setup goes until it is done. The easiest installations are (as expected) those where there are no applications already installed, no user data, a new computer with a new drive for example.

Being able to install Windows is important if you want to be self sufficient, be an "I do it person".

In this chapter we cover all the steps for installing Windows on a computer. We will cover Windows recovery, Windows re-installations and clean installations. This chapter's primary focus is doing new installations of Windows XP.

We will show two versions of windows, Windows XP (which is the current version of Windows) and Windows 98SE, the version of Windows that many feel is the best of the Windows 9x family (it is certainly the most popular version in the family).

Windows Millennium is very similar to Windows 98SE internally, with modifications to the user interface to make it appear more like Windows 2000. Windows Millennium never gained the popularity that Windows 98SE had.

We also cover in this chapter issues such as additional driver support, updating hardware, plus installation and updating your applications.

Types of Installations

The various types of Windows installations look a bit like a tree. At the top of the tree we have new installations. A new installation will be there is either no previous installation of Windows on the computer. Then there are upgrade/replacement installations, where the system's current version of Windows will be upgraded to a newer version. Replacement installations are covered in this chapter, while upgrades are covered chapter 3, "Upgrading Windows".

New installations may be the result of drive or other hardware failure, or the desire to 'start out clean'. Upgrades are usually the result of feeling that a newer version of Windows will be better, or is needed to support new applications or hardware. (Whether the newer version is really better is a point to debate, but not here.)

Product Recovery: The Repair Console and Repair Installation

Recovery is necessary when there are problems with Windows, such as not booting, boots then subsequently fails, or exhibits other odd behavior. This chapter is not intended to be a general purpose troubleshooting guide, troubleshooting is covered in chapter 12, "Windows Troubleshooting".


Both the Recovery Console and Repair installations are intended to do as little 'damage' to your system as possible. However, it is quite possible to loose all your data, applications and other information if the procedure does not work as expected.

If there is any way possible to create a backup of your system before performing these steps, you should do so. Even a less than perfect backup is better than no backup at all.


There are times when the Windows installation has been 'damaged'. Damage can include loss or damage to a critical Windows system files. Another form of damage is when the drive's boot information is damaged. Thankfully, Windows XP is much better at protecting system files from damage than earlier versions of Windows.

Regardless of how the damage occurred, it is possible that neither you, nor Windows XP is able to correct the problem and it will be necessary to reinstall Windows to recover.

For virtually every problem we encounter there are a set of steps that we follow to try and recover, trying safe mode booting, last known good boot, and perhaps even the Recovery Console. Only when these methods fail to resolve the problem do we re-install Windows.

Some indicators that you need to do either a repair, or re-installation of Windows XP include:

        When Windows boots and it fails, and then restarts the boot process over. You may, or may not, receive a message telling about the problem encountered.

        Windows starts, but then either hangs (will not respond to the keyboard), or exhibits other behavior that indicates a problem.

        Windows starts, but then crashes. Usually a blue screen with technical information about the crash is displayed. (The colorful nickname for this screen is the Blue Screen of Death or BSOD). An eight character hexadecimal number, almost always starting with "0x8" indicates what error actually occurred.

When the system fails to boot, you can try a number of simple recovery techniques.

Some indicators that a re-installation of Windows is needed include:

        A critically damaged Windows XP installation is where Windows will not boot even into safe mode. Safe mode is selectable from the boot menu that is displayed if you hit F8 at the beginning of the Windows XP boot process. In this case, something critical to the basic structure of Windows XP is damaged. (See Microsoft KB article 315222 "A Description of the Safe Mode Boot Options in Windows XP" for more information about safe mode booting.

        There are times when a Microsoft update causes the system to fail. This is uncommon (thankfully) but can be a major disaster should it happen. Even I am not immune from this, I lost a server installation recently when a Service Pack was applied, and the Service Pack was not compatible with the server's hardware. However, before doing a repair or re-install, other steps such as safe boot should be tried.

With Windows, sometimes the registry becomes damaged. The registry is the heart and soul of Windows XP where virtually all the system's configuration information is stored. Some items in the registry, if improperly modified, can cause the system to fail to boot. Once the system won't boot, it is not possible to fix the registry. A repair installation will reset some registry options.

File permissions can create problems if not properly applied. This is sometimes the case when a user is just learning about permissions, and makes a simple, yet disastrous modification to permissions. An example is the user who applies a deny privilege for 'all', and a specific allow privilege for the user. Unfortunately, a 'deny' overrides an 'allow' for the user and the user can be locked out of the file or folder in that case.

A repair installation will frequently fix problems when Component Object Model (COM) and Windows File Protection (WFP) objects must be registered.

When the computer's hardware, particularly the motherboard, or a system critical plug-and-play device, has to be changed, it is possible that Windows XP will not boot. In some cases (especially with motherboard replacement or upgrades) there is no way to make the change prior to installing the new hardware, and once the new hardware is installed, Windows XP may no longer run or boot. A repair installation will force an enumeration of all Plug and Play devices, including the motherboard's Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) support.


The Windows Recovery Console is your first line of attack when Windows XP will not start. There are only a few things that you can recover from using it (though if your system drive is full, and windows won't boot, you can go in with the Recovery Console and free some space.) Using the Recovery Console allows replacing files, changes to some settings (such as the boot.ini file's settings), and repair of the boot and Windows startup components.


Windows XP allows us to do what is called a repair installation. This installation will simply 'overlay' the current installation, effectively refreshing the system files, cleaning up the boot components, without causing any negative impact on the user's installed applications or data. The Windows XP repair installation works, not every time, but frequently it is successful.


The differences between re-install and repair (repair is described above) are subtle. If you try a repair installation, and the problem is not been alleviated by the repair, then the next step is re-installation of Windows XP.

When you re-install, most user items, customizations, installed applications are lost. That will require the user to have to recover their profile and settings, and probably re-install applications.

Clean Install

A clean installation is just that, you start from a fresh, out of the box, state. Windows not installed, no applications installed, no customization, everything is new.

A clean installation does not require the disk's contents be deleted; any applications in the Program Files folders will remain. However, these uninstalled applications may use substantial disk space and will offer no functionality.