The Realities Of Computer Life
First of all, this is not a review of Windows XP. I'm much too biased to do an effective review, but that is what Op/Ed writers are supposed to be, so I can live with that. No matter all the hype and the emotion, it is going to be a fact that many people out there are going to be using Windows XP. You'll either get it bundled with new machines or you will go out and grab a copy to put on your existing machine. XP is a somewhat radical departure from the Windows 9x world, so I'm going to write this little article from the perspective of a Windows 9x user and go over some of the things that are likely to be found when making the jump. Hopefully by the end of all of this, you will be able to help make a smoother transition from the old to the new.
For the purposes of this article, we'll assume that your machine meets the minimum system requirements for Windows XP and that you have the latest XP compatible drivers for all of your hardware on hand. Once that is done, the choice of versions will come into play. On balance, if you are a gamer or enthusiast, XP Home Edition will give you what you need. It has a 5 connection network limit instead of the 10 in the Pro version, but unless you are going to be logging onto domains and doing remote network administration, Home will work just fine. Not only that, but you will save yourself $100 in cash by upgrading to XP Home and skipping XP Pro. Where I come from, $100 is some serious change - enough in fact to allow you get a new 6000 scan per second mouse. Just be sure to the one with the wire instead of the one without, because reaction time will be faster... (drool)
Choosing The Method Of Installation
Either flavor of Windows XP will benefit greatly from a clean, fresh install to an empty hard drive. Upgrades, particularly from Windows 9x, can be spotty at best. I highly recommend backing up your data and formatting the C: drive with the FAT 32 file system. Hopefully you have used FDISK or some other program to properly create a full FAT 32 partition. This article assumes you did and that it is working just fine with no bad sectors, lost clusters, etc. Don't forget you can do a Quick Format to save time if you are just doing a simple erase operation of what is already on the FAT 32 partition. If you want the fastest, most trouble-free install, I would recommend that you install XP directly from the bootable CD. Most modern systems support bootable CD's, though some will need to have the BIOS set to allow for it. You may find after installation that when you make changes the system asks you for the CD so it can copy files from it, but if you don't mind the prompts, it is the best way to go.
If you never want to be prompted for system files at all, the best thing to do is copy the entire set of XP setup files to your local hard drive so that they can be found locally when needed. To go this route, it is a good idea to create a boot floppy such as Windows 98 SE provides, as it has CD-ROM drivers built into it. If you don't have one, grab a blank floppy disk, head over to a Windows 98 SE machine, go into Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs and select the Startup Disk tab. Put the 1.44 mb disk in the floppy drive with the write-protect tab in the off position, and click the "Create Disk" button.
There are three files that you should probably have on the floppy that are not there by default. To locate them, click on the Start button and choose Find and then Files or Folders. In the Name box, type: XCOPY*.* and in the Look In box choose Local Hard Drives. Click the Find button and the system should locate three files called Xcopy.exe, Xcopy32.exe and Xcopy32.mod, hopefully in your C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND folder. Select all three of those files and copy them to the startup disk you created earlier. You should be able to do it by selecting them, right clicking on them and choosing Send To and then picking the 3.5" Floppy. When finished, you can place the newly created floppy into the machine you are going to install XP on and boot with CD-ROM support.