HOWTO: Installing Windows XP from scratch

Last night I decided to wipe my PC completely and reinstall Windows XP. It’s an old PC with an AMD 1800 processor. I’ve hardly used it the last year or two. My PowerBook does most everything I need, except play Halflife 2. And it’s good to stay abreast of what Microsoft is doing, so I wanted to get my PC back in shape so I could play with some of the new “Express” developer packages Microsoft is offering now.

I wiped the drives clean and fired up the XP install disc (this is using an original XP disc). I recorded the process to go from here to a complete installation with all available patches and updates applied.

Step 1: Install XP

  • Boot off of install CD and install to unpartitioned space on first drive (using NTFS as the format for the new installation)
  • XP itself installs and reboots PC to finish installation
  • I installed necessary drivers for WiFi support
  • System requires reboot

So far, so good. The install went smoothly and following the reboot, I was able to set up my network access and continue with the rest of the installation: running Windows Update.

Step 2: Run Windows Update

  • Windows Update updated
  • Recommended and installed 17 Windows, IE updates (roughly 16 MB worth)
  • System requires reboot

Naturally on a fresh install, the Windows Update software itself is woefully out of date. So that had to install. I was surprised to find that Windows Update had a long list of updates to install even prior to the Service Pack 2 download. Oh well, I just do what I’m told.

Step 3: Run Windows Update

  • Windows Update downloads SP2, installs (117 MB)
  • System requires reboot

Windows Update saw I was ready for SP2 and installs that. Upon starting up after the SP2 install, XP now recommends I enable fully automatic updates and starts Security Center recommending antivirus software (I disable the option to monitor this since I don’t care for antivirus software).

Step 4: Run Windows Update

  • Windows Update updated
  • Miscellaneous XP Updates
  • Genuine Windows tool installed
  • System requires reboot

Another round of updates for things that came out subsequent to SP2. I don’t recall the size of these downloads but it wasn’t really significant.

Step 5: Run Windows Update

  • High-priority updates: 37 all together, 22 MB
  • System requires reboot

Just when you thought it was almost finished! 37 additional updates to XP, Windows Media and IE 6.

Step 6: Run Windows Update

  • Finally: 0 high-priority updates
  • Install optional updates for software and hardware drivers
  • System requires reboot

At long last, Windows Update says there are no more recommended updates to install. I installed some optional packages, such as an updated video driver and brought Media Player up to version 10.

Step 7: Final security update

  • Use Add/Remove software to uninstall:
    • MSN Explorer
    • Outlook Express
    • Microsoft Messenger
    • Internet Explorer (don’t get excited, this just removes the icons from the Start Menu and Desktop)
  • Download, install Firefox
  • Set Firefox as default web browser
  • Download, install Thunderbird
  • Set Thunderbird as default mail reader

Perhaps the most important security update: removing IE as your default web browser. Seriously, I thought IE was the best for the longest time, but Firefox has it beat. Microsoft just hasn’t been doing anything with IE over the years and it shows. IE 7 might prove interesting, but IE 6 is just old news.

In Summary

Some observations:

  • I honestly don’t know how dialup users are expected to get their Windows software up to date when there are roughly 150+ MB of patches to download altogether.
  • I’ve been using Mac OS X for several years now and I appreciate their release schedule— a new edition of the OS each year. Sure, it’s $129 retail, but I’ve never been disappointed with the new features and improvements in the OS. Microsoft would do well to follow this pattern— users get more frequent OS updates, it’s cheaper for those that only upgrade every 2-3 years and makes more money for Microsoft for users who want to upgrade with every release.

Your mileage may vary— these notes were taken as of February 26, 2006. Once SP3 is available, hopefully this whole process will be simplified.


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Todd Larason Author Profile Page said:

At one time, probably ~1999, installing Windows NT and getting to the then-current IE _required_ downloading Netscape: would only work with Netscape and IE 3(?) or newer, and NT came with IE 2, and of course you couldn't get and IE upgrade without going through

Dan said:

try ordeing sp2 cd from mircosoft.just drop it in it will do all the work.then do remaining update.from mircosoft updates.all done save a lot of time

macgeek Author Profile Page said:

I'm sorry - Windows XP and no anti-virus? So this computer doesn't connect to the internet anymore? Or do you enjoy having to re-load the OS and close lots of pop-up windows?

Brad Author Profile Page said:

Yes Adam, believe it or not, it's possible. You just have to be conscious and safe about what you download and install. You also should use a non-MS mail application.


This article was published on February 27, 2006 5:20 PM.

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