Windows XP setup
If youíre playing games, youíre running Windows XP. Linux is great for specialized tasks such as number-crunching or programming, or miscellaneous work, but as bad as Windows XPís color management is, itís still better than Linux. As an aside, my personal choice for a Linux distribution at the moment is Vector Linux 4.2 running Xfce since itís fast, lightweight, and easier to work with than Gentoo. When you install Windows XP, youíll always want to partition your main drive into at least two partitions (although some people do three).
With NTFS, the reason to partition is no longer cluster size and bloat, but solely for fragmentation reasons. You should always have a dedicated partition for your temp files and swap file. Itís tempting to actually put this on a separate physical drive to reduce the wear and tear on the main drive, but the disadvantage is that upgrading to a larger hard drive a more involved process. A good rule of thumb for your partition size would be 10GB. That would give you space to set your swap file at the size of your physical memory, and then have the rest of the space as a scratch disk for working digital images, your Internet Explorer cache, creating a 4.5GB DVD, or having a place where you can download torrents without fragmenting your hard drive all the time. I have used a Ramdisk for my IE cache before -- while this does improve speed, itís more finicky and I donít recommend it.
People going with a third HDD partition do this to adopt a Unix like approach where you can have a dedicated partition for programs and/or user data. If youíre like most people, your desktop is fairly cluttered and is a place where you store temporary files such as when youíre downloading a new game demo or trailer. You may also be installing and uninstalling new programs all the time. With a third partition and TweakUI, you can change the location of your desktop and My Documents folder to a different location. I personally stick with the 2 partition option because itís easier to work when you have one megapartition.
As you install Windows XP, youíll want to go into your network configuration and disable the QoS Packet Scheduler. The Quality of Service principle is cool because itís designed to ensure that important data gets through. Youíd rather delay a data packet containing your email message for a few seconds than delay data packets carrying streaming video. The thing is that unless youíre on a corporate network with a large number of hosts, the overhead of figuring out if a packet is tagged with QoS identification or not slows your system down. Most of you donít even have QoS networking and so the system is basically saying ďDoes this packet have a QoS packet? No, OK, go ahead. How about this one? No? Ok, go ahead. Third times the charm?Ē
At this point you should not be connected to the Internet. Chances are youíre installing Windows XP with a non-SP2 install CD and although we all know that Windows XP is insecure and can imagine all the exploits that exist, there are in truth more exploits in Windows XP SP1 than you can imagine. You should have Service Pack 2 burned off a DVD or put on an external USB drive. You can get the 270MB file from Microsoft directly instead of having to go through Windows Update.
Once I install Service Pack 2 and Iím secure, I install SpyBot and immunize my Internet Explorer from the copy of SpyBot I have on my DVD. I then install my anti-virus software. Only now do I connect to the Internet and download the latest virus signatures, and motherboard, video card, and sound card drivers from the manufacturer webpages. Iíll then head to Windows Update to make sure I have the latest security patches. Only now do I consider myself to have a clean, fresh install of Windows XP and begin to install my core set of programs. I leave my anti-virus with real-time file scanning on Ė itís slow, but worth the security.