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Installing Windows

There are two types of new installations:

The first is a computer that has not been used, or the drive contains nothing of value. There is no user data to worry about, applications to loose; the computer is 'clean' in that sense. There may be data on the drive, even applications, but this data is not important.

The second is a new installation is where there are applications, and more importantly, data that must be safeguarded from loss or damage. However, the applications in question do not have to be installed specifically or migrated usually.

Caution

Nothing is to suggest that you should not backup sensitive data and applications before attempting an operating system installation. Most of the time, the installation is smooth, there are no problems. But sometimes things go horribly wrong, and the harder you try to straighten things out, the worse they get. In this case you may be left with the only alternative: completely wipe the drive and start again clean.

Always, ALWAYS, backup your data. Good backup media includes CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD-R. Even though the computer might have a 30 GB drive, and that drive may be almost full, usually data will fit on a single DVD, or a couple of CD-R disks. Consider the backup good insurance against disaster.

 

Installation Preparation

Prepare for your installation as described above. Get all the necessary CDs, drivers, product authentication codes, manuals, and information about the hardware, everything before starting. The middle of an installation is not the time to find you need a driver, a code, or to check the manual (which during an installation will be well lost.)

Tip

If your computer is usually connected to a network, or the Internet, now is the time to unplug the network cable. A bit later in the install process we'll reconnect everything. I always feel more comfortable knowing that the computer I am installing on is isolated and can neither affect, or be affected by other computers on the network or Internet.

 

Installing Windows 98SE

In this section we will perform a typical Windows 98SE installation. The computer in this example is an older Pentium 233 with 256 MB of ram, and a 3 GB hard disk. When Windows 98SE was released, this computer was a typical desktop (though with much less memory.)

Because this computer has already a working copy of Windows installed, we could simply insert the CD and run the setup program. However, for illustrative purposes, we will instead boot a diskette and start from that point.

To prepare for installation we need to be able to boot the computer and be able to read the CD-ROM drive. This requires a bootable diskette--and one of the best bootable diskettes is a Windows 98SE Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) as it has CD-ROM support and disk utilities all on a single diskette.

Tip

A Windows 98SE ERD made on one computer will usually work in many other computers. If you need an ERD for Windows 98SE, almost any will work acceptably.

 

The following steps will install Windows 98SE on a computer. Except as noted, these steps are identical whether for an upgrade or for a new installation. An upgrade will retain many of the previous settings for the computer.

1.  Check the BIOS boot order. If the A: drive is not the first boot device, set A: to be the first boot device. Save the BIOS settings.

2.  To do a clean installation, insert the boot diskette. A boot diskette may be any diskette that has support for your CD-ROM drive, such as a Windows 98 ERD diskette. If the hard disk reboots when you exit the BIOS setup (step #1, above), recheck the boot device order.

3.  Once booted from the diskette, the installation can be begun. Change to the drive the CD is in (if you booted a Windows 98SE ERD, your CD will probably be drive E:, other boot disks will probably make it D:.

4.  Find the Windows 98 setup program. This is easy; there will be one in Win98 folder, named setup.exe. (There may also be a setup.exe in the CD's root folder; this setup.exe runs the setup.exe in the Win98 folder.)

Tip

To force a fully clean installation of Windows 98SE, prior to starting the Windows 98SE installation program, delete the original Windows folder on the C: drive. Careful: once you do this you cannot boot the hard drive until you re-install Windows.

 

5.  Once setup.exe starts, it will perform a routine inspection of the hardware. This test tells setup what hardware is present in the target machine. When the hardware inspection is complete, scandisk will run to check the hard disk for errors. If errors are found, follow scandisk's advise regarding the correct action to take. Following scandisk, the second half of the setup program will initialize, running the graphical part of setup.

6.  Once the graphical part of setup is running, the first prompt is to accept the license agreement. To continue the setup the license must be accepted.

7.  Windows 98SE uses a product key (Figure 4). This key consists of 25 letters and numbers, arranged in five groups of five characters. You must enter the product key that is found on the back of your CD holder or envelope.

Figure 4-After the license agreement, the product key must be entered.

8.  By default all versions of Windows are installed into the boot drive's root folder, using a folder name of C:Windows. I strongly recommend you accept this location.

9.  Once setup knows where to install Windows 98SE, it will do an exhaustive test of the computer. This test is much more thorough than the one done when setup starts. If this installation is an upgrade, setup will attempt to find any installed components. Following this, setup prepares the directory.

10.  If setup finds an existing copy of Windows, you will be prompted as to whether to save the previous version's files. The default is to save them, which I recommend doing. The saving will take a bit of time, but trying to recover a file if you don't save can take much longer.

11.  Experienced installers can choose to do a typical, portable, compact, or custom installation. If you are less experienced, choosing a typical installation is probably best choice to make. After choosing type installation type, setup will prompt for your name, and company name. For home installations, company name can be left blank, or you may put in whatever information you wish.

12.  The next step in setup is to create a Windows 98SE ERD. The ERD is vital towards booting your system should the hard drive not boot correctly. Though most Windows 98SE ERD's are the same, the system insists on creating a new one.

13.  After creating the ERD, setup will copy files from the CD. Once the copy phase is complete, setup will complete the actual installation. This step is lengthy, on slow computers perhaps an hour or more. Setup will display a number of hint or tip screens as installation progresses, mostly so you will know the system is still working.

14.  Finally, after finishing the installation, Windows 98SE will do a last reboot, and present the logon prompt. With this you are done with the basic install. Eventually you will want to customize your windows installation, changing screen resolution, desktop background, etc.

Tip

Some installers copy the entire Windows distribution CD to the hard disk prior to installing Windows. This ensures that if there are files needed from the CD they will always be accessible.

 

In the above section, Windows 98 was the subject version. In the Windows 98/SE/Me family, the setup process is similar for each version.

Installing Windows XP

In this section we do a typical installation of Windows XP Professional Edition. An installation of Windows XP Home Edition and Windows Server 2003's installations are very similar.

Starting the installation involves either booting the installation CD, the installation diskettes, or if the computer has a bootable operating system, running the installation CD's setup.exe program. For this installation, we will boot the CD to start the setup program.

Note

Some users, who have a lot of spare hard disk space, have been known to copy the entire setup CD contents to a folder on their hard disk. This allows them to make configuration changes, accessories and component installation that might require the installation CD without having to actually search for the CD.

 

Once Setup starts, it immediately starts checking the hardware. This check ensures that necessary hardware devices are present, compatible, and functioning. If you do not have the necessary hardware, setup will advise you as to what the problem is.

Once the hardware has been checked, setup will display a blue screen (Figure 5), with a message at the bottom to press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver. In a driver must be installed, you should have the driver diskette handy for this step.

Figure 5-If you miss and don't press F6 in time, cancel the setup and start again.

Once storage and other drivers are loaded, setup will load the initial setup stage, and display a Welcome to Setup message (figure 1). This step gives three choices:

        To install Windows XP press enter. This is the option that we choose to install Windows XP.

        To repair an existing installation with the Recovery Console, press R. This option runs the Recovery Console, a command environment that takes some experience to use successfully.

        To exit setup, press F3. This will end setup, and reboot the computer.

The next screen will display the Microsoft Windows license. Two choices: press ESC if you do not wish to accept the license agreement, and end the setup process. Otherwise, you will press F8 to accept the license.

If you are installing an upgrade version of Windows XP, Setup searches the computer's hard drive for an upgradeable version of Windows. If the drive is clean, or setup doesn't find an upgradeable Windows version, you are prompted to insert an original distribution CD into the drive. The setup program checks the CD to determine if you have a version of Windows that qualifies for upgrading. If you do not have an upgradeable version of Windows, you may choose to quit by pressing F3.

The next step is to determine where to install the new version of Windows XP. The setup program will list all available storage devices. If the drive or drives are partitioned, and/or formatted, this information will also be presented. If you are installing Windows XP with the intention of having a dual boot system, you must install Windows XP on a different partition or drive from the other operating system or version of Windows. Options at this point are:

        Select a partition to install Windows XP on. By default setup will pick the first drive (C:) as the installation partition.

        If the drive has un-partitioned space (that is either part of all of the drive has never been used), you may choose to create a new partition.

        For drives that are already partitioned, there is an option to delete existing partitions. Careful: deleting a partition will instantly delete all files on the partition being deleted. To combine two or more adjacent smaller partitions into one larger partition, the two smaller ones must be deleted and a new (larger) partition must be created. Partitions represent contiguous space on the drive. You cannot combine two partitions that are not adjacent.

Once you have selected the installation location, setup will move to the format stage. There are six options or choices for most installations:

        A quick format of the partition using the NTFS file system. This option will delete any content in that partition, creating a NTFS partition.

        A quick format of the partition using the FAT file system. This option will delete any content in that partition, and format the drive using the FAT-32 file system.

        A full format of the partition using the NTFS file system. This option will delete any content in that partition. If you decide to format (and delete the contents) of the installation location, this is the best choice, though it may take a bit more time.

        A full format of the partition using the FAT file system. This option will delete any content in that partition.

        Convert the existing FAT partition to NTFS. This is applicable if the partition is already formatted using the FAT file system. This conversion is non-destructive, your data will be saved. (If you choose to not convert at this time, you may later convert.)

        Leave the file system unchanged, which makes not changes to the file system. Windows XP is compatible with both NTFS and FAT; either may be used without any conversion if desired.

Note

Though it is easy to convert from FAT to NTFS file systems, conversion the other way is much more difficult. To convert from NTFS to FAT requires that the drive be backed up fully, reformatted with the FAT file system, and the backup be restored. This is definitely not recommended.

 

Tip

Unless you are planning to dual boot into an earlier Windows 98/SE/Me version, it may be a good idea to convert the file system to NTFS. NTFS offers some important advantages in usability, reliability and security that are not available with FAT.

 

If the location is being formatted, or a partition is being deleted, setup will confirm the choice. It then performs the action you chose. A full format can be a lengthy process (several minutes to perhaps an hour or more for a very large drive on a slow computer), but do not interrupt the formatting process!

Except for partitioning and formatting, at this point setup has not written anything to the computer's hard drive. Once the destination drive or partition has been prepared, setup will begin to write files from the CD to the hard drive. Many files that setup transfers from the CD are compressed, and setup will de-compress them before storing them on your drive. The objective is to create a simple Windows environment uses to perform the next parts of the installation.

Once these files have been written to the drive, the drive's boot sector, and root folder have been updated, the computer will re-boot. Before rebooting, if you used a driver diskette for disk drivers, remove the diskette. However, the Windows XP installation CD should remain in the CD drive. During the reboot, if you see a message to press any key to boot the CD, ignore it. Press nothing, and the computer should boot from the drive that you told setup to install Windows on.

Tip

If for some reason your computer insists on booting the CD and not the hard disk, you can remove the CD from the drive. At a later point setup will search for the CD and not be able to find it, and will prompt you to reinsert the disk. Do so when this prompt is displayed.

This particular problem is uncommon.

 

Setup uses a Windows like environment to gather information from the user from this point onward. I usually move the mouse to be sure it is working ok, and toggle on the num-lock key for the numeric keypad.

Setup will next prompt for regional settings. For almost all of us, the defaults will be acceptable. If the default is not your choice, then now is a good time to change these settings. (If you choose to, you may change the regional settings later.)

Windows XP will ask for your name and organization. This information is used to personalize Windows XP. Of course if you don't have an organization (or a name) you can leave them blank.

Next is your WPA product key. This key, consisting of five groups of five characters (letters and numbers, the case is not important). The key is on your Certificate of Authenticity sticker, which is included with either your copy of Windows XP (if you obtained Windows XP as a retail product) or on your computer.

If you make an error entering the key, the setup program will tell you, and place the cursor in the group that was in error. Once setup has verified that the entered key is a valid key, setup continues.

Once past the product key, next comes the computer's name, and for Windows XP Professional Edition, the local computer administrator's password.

Setup will provide a 'default' computer name, based on a keyword with a relatively random set of characters appended. This name is not terribly inspiring, so give your computer a unique name. Maybe a name from history, your favorite color, or whatever strikes your fancy.

What's in a name?

Old hands in the computer game usually name their computers based on a theme: perhaps characters from a favorite book or story. All my computers are named for Heinlein characters, for example: Dora, PeachFuzz, Pixel, Gay-Deceiver, Smith, Captain-Blood, and perhaps a dozen more. Other people and organizations use other groups of related names. My ISP uses metals as their computer names (they have computers named gold, silver, copper, and perhaps dozens more).

Sometimes we name our computer with a name that later we decide we don't like. Fortunately once named, a computer may be renamed from the Control Panel's System Properties' Computer Name tab.

In Windows XP Professional Edition, you also will specify the local machine administrator's password. Though it is possible to leave the administrator's password blank (and therefore there would be no password, and anyone could logon as the administrator) that would not be good. It is a better idea to use a good, and strong, password here. Do not, as I've seen happen, loose the password! When I do consulting and I'm asked to recover the administrator's password, I know Iím going to make some easy money.

Tip

OK, so you did forget the administrator's password, is it the end of the world? No. You can hire a consultant (and pay for their time to fix the problem.) or you can get from the web the same small program that will allow you to change any local account password in a matter of seconds.

 

Windows XP Home Edition does not allow the administrator account to be logged on except in safe mode. Nor does Windows XP Home Edition usually allow you to set an administrator's password. However, if you really must have an administrator's password:

1.  Start, or restart your computer.

2.  After the BIOS POST is done, press F8 repeatedly until the boot menu appears. Start Windows XP Home Edition in the safe mode.

3.  Logon with an account that has administrator privileges (such as the administrator account.)

4.  In the Control Panel, open User Accounts.

5.  Select administrator.

6.  If the administrator account has no password, Click Create a Password, or click Change my password to change the current password.

7.  Enter the password.

8.  Provide a hint to help you should you forget the password.

9.  Finish by clicking Create Password or Change Password as appropriate.

These steps apply to Windows XP Professional Edition when it is not part of a Windows domain.

Note

The first account you create will have administrator privileges by default. This first new account would be the account you would used to manage or administer your computer.

After you have created the first new account, then additional limited (user accounts with limited privileges) may be created.

 

Microsoft Knowledge Base article 290109 has information on Windows XP Home Edition's administrator account.

Following the computer name prompt, is your opportunity to set the computer's date and time. Also settable is the time zone, which by default is PST. If you are in another time zone, reset the time zone to match your location. After setting the time, date and time zone, is making the network settings.

Network settings may be done the easy way (select Typical Settings), or the not so easy way (select Custom Settings). The Typical Settings option is the default, and I strongly recommend leaving this setting, and allowing setup to do the network configuration. This setting will assume that the computer, when connected to a network, will use Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to get a network IP address and network mask, and other network specific information such as the address of the DNS server(s), and the gateway. Most home networks where there is a cable or DSL modem work with DHCP, so trying this setting first is a good idea. If later you need to make changes, then the Control Panel's Network Connections allows configuring the network interface card, and other network connections (such as IEEE-1394 (AKA FireWire) support.)

ED: FireWire is probably an Apple trademark... PH

Note

IEEE-1394 is little used, little understood technology. Speeds for IEEE-1394 range from a low standard of 400 Mbps (this is about four times faster than 100baseT Ethernet connections), to 800 Mbps (about 80% as fast as Gigabit, 1000baseT, Ethernet.)

IEEE-1394 is not limited to networks. There is a plethora of storage devices made for this interface (both hard drives and CD/CD-R/DVD/DVD-R) as well as other high speed hardware.

USB 2.0 (sometimes referred to as high-speed USB) as a transmission rate of about 480 Mbps, or about 20% faster than the slower standard for IEEE-1394.

 

While Windows XP Professional Edition will work with Windows domain networks, Windows XP Home Edition is not 'intended' to work with domains. However it is possible to achieve acceptable results, realizing that it will be a more complex process to access network resources on a domain based network when using Windows XP Home Edition.

The domain configuration for Windows XP Professional Edition allows either joining a workgroup (the default workgroup is named WORKGROUP), or a domain. On my network I have a Windows domain, with the domain name of DARKSTAR, if you are connecting to a domain based Windows network and you do not know the correct domain to use, ask your network administrator. (Complex networks may have several different domains.)

If you are joining a domain, you will be prompted for a user ID to be used to join the domain. Ordinary users can join up to ten computers to a domain, which is sufficient for most all situations.

Joining and Disjoining a Domain.

If you use your computer on several different domain based networks, you can find yourself in a bit of trouble if you are not careful. This is especially problematic when you are using a notebook computer and move from one network and domain to another on a regular basis.

Once your computer has joined a domain you must tell the domain that you are disconnecting from that you are leaving, and then you can join the new domain. If you forget to tell the network you are leaving then when you return your computer will not authenticate properly.

To properly leave a domain, you must disjoin the domain by opening the Control Panel System Properties. Click on the Computer Name tab, and click on the Change button. To disjoin a domain, click on Workgroup, and give a workgroup name (any name will work, if you don't actually have a workgroup name). Then click OK in Computer Name Changes, and OK in System Properties. Next you must reboot the computer, which completes the disjoin from the domain. Once the reboot is completed, you may shutdown your computer, and move it.

Once you are physically connected to the new network and domain, you can then go back and change from Workgroup back to Domain (use the new domain name). You will be asked for a user ID to use in joining the new domain, which you must provide. Only then are you properly moved to the new network. Once done a few times the process is relatively easy to do, though a bit of an annoyance.

Once the domain or workgroup has been configured, the setup program will complete its installation tasks without any further input from you. setup will do a final reboot of the computer, and present the logon screen--your computer is now almost ready to use. Once Windows has completed this final reboot, you should remove the Windows XP CD from the drive, and store it for safekeeping.

The first time you use your computer after installing Windows XP a check is made of your video system's capabilities. The default resolution at this point is a paltry 640x480 standard VGA mode. Windows is not really usable at this resolution, so Windows XP will suggest that the resolution and color depth (the number of simultaneous colors that may be displayed) be automatically adjusted.

For computers connected to an analog LCD, or a CRT monitor, the automatic display optimization will select a resolution of 800x600, with the maximum color depth that the video card will allow (usually 24 or 32 bit). Sometimes, if Windows XP is able to determine that both the monitor and the display adapter will handle 1024x768 resolution, then this higher value will be chosen. This requires a monitor that will identify itself to Windows.

For notebook computers with LCD screens, and a few desktop systems using a digital interface to their LCD, Windows will set resolution to the maximum resolution allowed by the screen. Many modern notebooks offer 1400x1050 resolution, which even on a 15 inch notebook results in some very small items on the screen. This optimization of the video mode is only done one time.

Dealing with Special Install Situations

Special installations always seem to worry users. In this section, we look at some special installations, and walk through the first part of an installation of Windows XP where special drivers are needed.

As with other installations, preparation is important. Fetch the Windows XP installation CD, and any other disks you may have. We are installing a special mass storage (disk) driver in this installation so we must have that driver ready, on a diskette. (You don't have a diskette drive? Well Windows setup wants to load that driver from a diskette.)

First check with the hardware manufacturer's web site and download the latest drivers if possible. Generally, the latest driver will be the most stable, and have the fewest problems. Downloaded drivers will come in a zip compressed file; a self-extracting compressed package, or perhaps a disk image. A zip compressed file may be opened with Windows XP directly, or you may choose to use one of the free or almost free zip utilities. Of course if you have WinZip, you are all set.

Diskette image packages will either be packaged with a small program that will actually write the diskette, or there will be instructions on the download web page as to how to create the disk from the image, each image writer varies in how it works. Image packages are the least commonly used method of packing drivers--most makers use either zip files, or self-extracting zip packages. (The driver diskette need not be bootable.)

The drivers in a zip file, or a self extracting zip file, need to be extracted (un-zipped) before creating the diskette. When you extract the files from the zip, be sure you do not loose any directory/folder information. The locations of these files is important to setup.

Once the files are extracted, use a blank diskette, and copy the files and folders to it. Your diskette root folder will have a txtsetup.oem file (this file is how Windows XP setup finds out what drivers are on the diskette.) There will be a second file, which has a name given to it by the manufacturer. This name is used in the txtsetup.oem file. Also found on the diskette will be either drivers, or more likely, folders containing drivers. Usually the driver disk will support multiple versions of Windows, and all the different drivers will be found on the diskette in folders named according to the version of Windows.

Note

There are no differences between Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 with regard to device drivers. A driver that works for one should work with the other. Often manufacturers will create a folder called Win2003 that will be used for both Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Of course they may have a driver folder called WinXP that is used with Windows Server 2003.

It is possible to write different drivers for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, with perhaps more features for the server version. This would be a marketing decision, and is not technology based.

 

A typical scenario where a third party hardware mass storage driver is required adds a few steps to the beginning of the setup process. Once the driver has been loaded, setup continues exactly as it does in other installations.

Setup does a hardware check when it starts. This check is to determine what hardware is installed on the computer; this information is then used to build the driver list. At the end of the hardware check, one of two things can happen.

        There were mass storage devices found which Windows setup does not have the necessary drivers. When this happens, Windows setup does the same thing as if the user pressed F6 to install drivers.

        Regardless of whether Windows setup finds mass storage devices or not, setup will display a screen (Figure 6) where you can press F6 to force setup to load mass storage drivers. This prompt remains active for a short period of time, and if the user does not press F6, setup will continue. Don't sit scratching your head trying to decide or setup will make the decision for you.

Figure 6-Press F6, but realize that setup will not immediately respond; this is normal.

Note

Throughout this section you will see the terms SCSI and RAID. In fact, these terms do not limit you (or setup) to just SCSI or RAID--rather they are simply examples. You may be installing SATA or using special IDE drivers for example.

 

Once F6 has been pressed, setup will continue to load some drivers. Once the stock driver loading phase is complete, setup will then display a screen (Figure 7) where you can specify which drivers you wish loaded. (This screen is only displayed if you press F6 or if setup detects mass storage devices that there are no drivers for.)

Figure 7-The current list of specifically loaded drivers is empty, signified by the <none> in the figure.

Tip

Nothing in setup limits you to just one driver or set of drivers. Though uncommon, the setup program will allow you to install multiple sets of drivers for different hardware at this point if necessary.

 

If you find at this stage that additional drivers are not necessary, press the ENTER key to skip the load additional drivers stage.

Once setup knows you want to load a driver, you will be prompted (Figure 8) for the diskette. (Remember, drivers must be on diskettes, not on CD-ROMs.) As with all of setup's screens, at the bottom are instructions to continue, skip this part of setup, or simply end setup.

Figure 8-Be sure the right disk is in the drive. If setup cannot find the txtsetup.oem file, it will give you a message.

Setup reads the txtsetup.oem file, and interprets the contents. Setup next displays a list of compatible divers (Figure 9) that are suitable for the version of Windows being installed. You may use the arrow keys to select a specific driver, pick the driver that matches your hardware.

Figure 9-Most driver disks support a number of different versions of the hardware, so be sure to pick the correct version for your system.

In many cases setup may find a compatible driver, (perhaps you pressed F6 to install the latest driver, for example) and if there is a driver that seems compatible, setup will check the driver versions. A screen (Figure 10) will tell you if your driver is newer (or older) than the current Windows driver, and confirm which driver you wish to actually use. Often you have reached this point because you want to use a specific driver, so you would take that option. Windows will always suggest you use the driver that is on the Windows XP distribution CD. (This is recommended as the Windows setup driver has been extensively tested before it was included with the Windows XP setup program.)

Figure 10-Windows will always recommend using the Windows default driver if there is one.

Once the driver choice is confirmed, setup will return to the loaded drivers screen (Figure 11) similar to that shown above in Figure 6. This time, however, the newly selected driver is listed instead of the <none> identifier.

Figure 11-If you need to install more than one driver, press S, and the driver selection process will start again.

As always, if you realize you have made some terrible mistake, you can abort the setup process by pressing F3. At this point, nothing on the computer has been changed or installed.

Installing Windows XP on a RAID system

There are two different kinds of RAID systems. Hardware RAID is best, offering good performance by off-loading the RAID overhead to dedicated hardware. Software RAID (not available in Windows XP Home Edition) is potentially less efficient, as Windows XP must do some of the work. Typically hardware RAID is easiest setup.

In this section we will describe a hardware RAID system from HighPoint Technologies called the HPT 370A. HighPoint makes a number of adapters for IDE/ATA and SATA drives, as well as RAID chipsets for motherboards. Other makers of raid technology include Adaptec, LSI Logic, Promise Technology, and StarTech, though this list is not exhaustive.

Enabling RAID in hardware requires working with the hardware's setup code. RAID controllers (and most add-on SCSI controllers, as well) have a BIOS that allows configuration of the controller, and provides related utilities. (Though IDE drives need not be low-level formatted, SCSI drives can be, so SCSI adapter card BIOS will usually include a low-level format utility built-in.)

For this example, I've chosen an ABIT KT7A motherboard based computer with the HPT 370 RAID included as part of the motherboard. This configuration doubles the number of IDE/ATA channels from the normal of two, to four. Since each channel can handle two drives, this motherboard will support up to eight hard drives (however, it is unlikely that you would have this many hard drives installed as at least one channel will be needed for the CD-ROM drive.)

Note

There is nothing to prevent you from having an additional SCSI card in the same computer, too. The particular machine in this example has not only the HPT 370 RAID built into the motherboard, but also an Adaptec SCSI interface with additional drives and devices.

 

Note

Some hardware RAID solutions allow a technique called spanning where multiple drives are logically combined into a larger virtual device. Windows XP (Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003 also) offers the same capability using the Windows disk management components.

 

To configure the RAID system, we first install the hardware: four identical IDE/ATA drives. RAID does require the drives to be either the same size, or that part used for the RAID system will be equal to the smallest drive's capacity. Once the drives are installed, we restart our computer.

The RAID system (HPT 370) has its own setup and BIOS. Once the normal BIOS runs the Power On Self Text (POST) it hands control over to the SCSI card if one is installed. The SCSI card will do its own POST, and return to the computer's BIOS. When this happens, the BIOS POST will next hand control to the RAID controller's BIOS. The RAID BIOS will prompt (saying to press CTRL-H to enter the RAID BIOS setup.)

In setup we would see a list (Figure 12) of the available devices for this system. The first choice, Create RAID is step one in our creation process.

Figure 12-First create a RAID array, and then it can be made bootable if desired.

Tip

Some owners use an extra, non-RAID drive as the boot/system drive. I recommend either a non-RAID boot drive, or a mirrored boot drive.

 

Selecting Create RAID brings us to the next step (Figure 13) in the process. The first two selections must be configured, first the RAID level (Level 0, Level 1, or Level 0+1). Then the drives to be configured must be selected. Level 0 and Level 1 require a minimum of two drives, and a maximum of four drives. Level 0+1 requires four drives. In this particular RAID system, there is an option to created SPANned volumes. A Spanned volume allows the storage from two drives to appear to the system as a single large drive. (Windows XP also offers this type of functionality.) The prompt for block size allows specifying the RAID system's logical block size, in KB. This particular system allows blocks of from 4KB to a maximum of 64KB.

Figure 13-Creating a RAID array is as simple as one, two, three, and four. Just follow the steps in the order given.

The last step, Start Creation Process will configure and initialize the drives that will be part of the RAID system. As with any hardware setup, if this operation seems to be taking a long time, be patient. Do not interrupt it.

Other RAID options allow a RAID configuration to be deleted.

Caution

When a RAID configuration is deleted, the drives will be reformatted, and all data on them will be lost. Backup all of your data prior to deleting a RAID configuration.

 

If at some point you are using a mirrored RAID configuration, and a drive fails, then the drive must be replaced. Replacement is not as simple as taking out the old drive and installing a new one. Rather the RAID system must copy the mirrored data from the good drive to the new drive. If you replace a mirrored drive, and cannot find one of the same size, install a larger drive. The additional space will not be used (a mirrored RAID system's space is equal to the smallest drive.)

It is also possible in some RAID systems (Figure 14) to create a spare mirror disk. For drives that are not constantly changing, the spare mirror can serve as a high speed restore in the event that both of the RAID mirror drives fail at the same time (say due to a power surge.) Rather than having to restore from tape, or other slow backup media, the spare mirror can be used to get the system up and running quickly.

Figure 14-A spare mirror drive serves as a restore backup, allowing quick recovery from multiple drive failures.

There are many different types of RAID systems. Not all are exactly the same, but most configure using the same basic steps that are outlined in this section.

Note

Some high-end RAID systems offer substantial drive buffering (as much as 256 MB) in addition to the RAID capabilities. These buffered systems can increase the system throughput even higher than what the RAID would usually provide.

 

Regardless of which RAID system you implement, motherboard, add-on interface card, or software driven, RAID can provide both data security and performance benefits.

Installing Windows XP from a USB Drive

A few users (mostly those with very small notebooks) do not have a built-in CD-ROM drive. Usually the solution is to use a CD drive connected to a USB or FireWire port. However problems arise if the installation is to a new drive or computer that does not have a version of Windows already installed.

In these cases, there has to be a boot device. (No computer can start without a boot device, where would the operating system come from?)

Sidebar

Nothing to Boot

Recently I was presented with just the problem described in this section--I had a notebook computer that had no floppy drive. For some reason, the notebook would not boot from the CD-ROM drive, either. (I'd thought the CD drive was broken, but it actually was working OK, it just would not boot the Windows setup CD.) The hard drive in the notebook had failed, and I'd replaced it with a new one. I now had a computer that would not boot diskettes (there was no drive), a CD (I never figured out why, after I did get Windows installed, then it would boot the CD), and it would not boot the hard drive as there was nothing on the drive to boot.

I puzzled over this problem for a while. A USB floppy drive was available but it was not bootable either. Every CD tried didn't work. I was quite stuck, until I found a small adapter (http://www.cyberguys.com item number 161 0405) which allows a notebook hard drive (which has a different connector than a desktop computer's hard drive) to be used in a desktop.

I then installed the hard drive in a desktop (an old test machine worked fine for this), and installed the minimum operating system. In my case, I installed Windows 98SE. I chose Windows 98SE because it is much less picky about changed hardware; where Windows XP will often not boot if there is a radical change in the computer motherboard (such as going from a desktop motherboard to a notebook one.) Once I had Windows 98SE installed and working, I put the drive back into the notebook where it was able to boot Windows 98 from the new hard drive with no problems.

Once this was done, I then installed Windows XP as an upgrade over Windows 98SE. I had managed to install Windows XP on a system that would not boot!

 

In this section we will install Windows XP on a system that has no built-in CD drive, but does have a bootable floppy drive or hard drive. Most USB CD drive makers have a provision to create a bootable floppy diskette. The example here is the Addonics product USB CD drive. At the Addonics web site you may download a small program that will create a bootable floppy. To create a bootable floppy for their drives, follow these steps.

1.  From the Addonics web site, download the driver file. This file will be a zip file. If you have access to a Windows XP computer, this file may be opened in the Windows Explorer, otherwise open it using the WinZip program from http://www.winzip.com. There are shareware and trial versions of WinZip available.

2.  Extract all the files from the zip to a folder. The folder name is not important, Addonics recommends calling the folder USBboot.

3.  In the USBboot folder will be a program called rawwrite2.exe. This program will create a bootable diskette from an image file. When the program starts, it will prompt for the name of the image file (Addonic's image is named dosboot.img).

4.  The rawwrite2 program will then create a bootable diskette using your floppy drive. (It is not necessary to create this bootable diskette on the same computer that you are trying to install on--any computer with a floppy drive will work fine.

5.  When the diskette created in step 4 above is booted the USB CD drive will be accessible. If necessary, partition and format the target computer's hard drive. This is required when the drive is new and has never been partitioned or formatted before.

6.  Copy the I386 folder from your Windows XP installation CD to the hard drive you are installing to. Use XCOPY (with the /s for subdirectories option) to copy I386 to a folder on your C: drive. (I recommend naming this folder c:\WindowsXP for Windows XP, but do not use the name C:\Windows, as that is where Windows setup will install Windows later.

7.  Once the I386 folder is copied to your computer's hard drive, go to that folder, and run setup.exe

The installation will continue, installing Windows XP on the computer. Notice that we didn't have to make the C: drive bootable, we only needed to format it and copy the CD's contents to a folder.

Note

Once you have installed Windows XP, unless you are short of disk space, leave the CD files you copied in step 6 on the hard drive. This way if you later need to install an optional Windows component, the files will be there, ready to use. Windows will remember the folder it was installed from, and search that location first when files are needed--no more searching for lost CDs.

 

Installing Windows XP Professional SP2 on Large Drives

Each new family of PCs has had a set of limits on the hardware, BIOS and operating systems. The most problematic limit has been the upper limit on hard drive size. When the first PCs with hard drives appeared (The IBM PC-XT) a typical hard drive was about 11 MB in size. Early versions of DOS were unable to address a partition of more than 32 MB. At the time everyone thought that represented a really big drive, with reasonable care, one would "never" fill the drive. The next big jump in drive sizes were about 80 MB in size. The most popular, costing about $2000 was the ST-4096, a ten pound monster that at the time was blazingly fast. With a 32MB partition limit, users were forced to use three partitions (almost always C:, D:, and E:.) As computing power has increased, memory, and disk storage have also increased. Limits were about 500 MB, then broken, then about 8 GB, again broken, and today's limit for many legacy computers is 137 GB.

Today's legacy computers frequently have the 137 GB limit if they were made before 2002. As well, motherboards with the Intel 440BX chipset will only support 137 GB. Some computers made before 2002 may support a BIOS upgrade to add 137+GB support, however many older motherboards will not support these disks.

Another alternative, rather than buying (and installing) a new motherboard would be to use an add-on disk drive controller. There are many different add-on controllers, most selling for under $50 at online sites.

Adding a new interface card (or upgrading the motherboard) will solve most of your disk size problems. There is still one small hurdle to jump: that issue that even Windows XP, without SP1, will not work with drives larger than 137 GB. (As Service Packs are released, they are included in the distributed Windows XP product, for example if you purchased Windows XP Professional today, it would include SP2.)

If you have an earlier copy of Windows XP, without SP1, a single large 137+GB drive is a tough prospect. Like the chicken and the egg: when you install Windows XP without SP1, you don't have support for the larger 137+GB partitions. Install SP1, and you have the support, but since Windows XP is already installed, your partition size is already established.

One solution is a partition utility tool such as Partition Magic (from Symantec) which will allow you to resize a partition, merge partitions, and perform other partition tricks including multi-booting different operating systems. However, keep in mind that the cost for partition utilities may exceed the cost of replacement hardware.

Note

No version of Windows other than Windows XP SP1 and later supports partitions/drives greater than 137GB. If you are running Windows 98/SE/Me, or Windows 2000, and install a drive larger than 137 GB, you will not be able to utilize the drive fully as a single large partition. So if you are buying a drive larger than 137GB, and do not have Windows XP, include the Windows XP upgrade in your budget, too.

 

Tip

When you have a license to use Windows XP, you are licensing the operating system, not the CD that it came on! If you know someone who has a later copy of Windows XP (with SP1 or better yet, SP2) you may be able to install from their media rather than your original non-SP1 CD. You must, however, use the product key that matches your original Windows XP.