Windows XP: The Complete Guide !

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The Perfect Installation of Windows XP  

Introduction: Before you begin

For this guide, you will need Windows XP, Acronis True Image, and a bootable partitioning program. This guide focuses primarily on making partitions of the harddrive, installing essential programs like antivirus, antispyware, along with free alternatives to commercial programs while making incremental backups to preserve progress.

Throughout the steps, you will be advised to make backups of the main partition using Acronis True Image. You can use whatever backup program you desire, but this guide only covers how to use Acronis.

STEP 1: Partitioning the Harddrive

First of all, you'll want to create partitions on the harddrive using a bootable partitioning program of your choice. Partitioning the harddrive allows us to simulate having multiple harddrives using only a single harddrive. Having multiple partitions allows you to store you personal data like music, pictures or documents away from the OS. By storing your data on a partition away from the OS, you no longer have to worry about backing up your data before reinstalling the OS, your data is safe.

Partitioning the drive is easiest if you use a bootable program, but if you want to, you can partition your drives from within the OS before or after Windows is installed. For a tutorial on how to partition your drive using the free partition utility gparted, go here.

The setup of the partitions will look something like this:

Windows (C:) 10 to 15 GB
This is where Windows will be installed. C: will not need to be bigger than 10 to 15GB.

Doc (D:) 80+ GB
This is where you will store your data, which will be the location of the "My Documents" folder. This partition is essential for easily maintaining your important files that you don't want to lose. We will also try to install most programs here in an effort to conserve space on the C: partition. Games will also be installed on this partition, as the C: partition is clearly big enough for very few things.

After you have made these partitions, it is time to install Windows. Install Windows on the C: partition using the install CD and follow the instructions. It will take about 30-45 minutes for the setup to complete. When you boot up for the first time, your screen resolution will be incorrect, you will have no drivers for your videocard, sound card, or motherboard.

STEP 2: Drivers and Updates

Configure Windows to access the internet and download the latest drivers for your hardware. After you have installed all of the drivers, feel free to change some settings in Windows XP. Proceed to Windows Updates and get all of the critical Windows Updates... complete this grueling process.

Afterwards, you'll want to change the default location of the "My Documents" directory. If you intend to have multiple desktops, then you will want to create folders within the D: partition for each separate user. (For example: "d:\Bob's Documents" or "d:\Sally's Documents") Otherwise, if you are the only person, then choosing D:\ as your new My Documents location will work just fine.

Go to Start > right click My Documents and click properties. Click Move and choose the D:\ partition. Again, if you intend to have multiple desktops, then you'll want to choose a folder within the D:\ partition to better signify who's documents belong to who.

It is now time to make your first backup. Go ahead and install Acronis True Image, choosing the default location (c: partition). Once installed, you be asked to reboot. Go ahead and reboot. Once you have rebooted, locate and run the Acronis True Image Workstation. From here, you will see Backup, Recovery, and other miscellaneous items to choose from. Choose Backup and make a Full Backup of the C: partition. You can name it whatever you want, but store this backup file on the D: partition. (You cannot store this backup file on the C: partition) Remember to validate the backup in Acronis after it has been created to ensure the integrity of the backup is 100%.

STEP 3: Antivirus and Essential Programs

All programs from now on will be installed on the D: drive, to conserve space on the C: drive. We want to make backing up and restoring from the C: partition as quick and painless as possible, and the only way to do this, is to keep the C: partition as small as possible.

This is where it gets fun. Since you are striving to make the perfect installation of Windows, why bother with Antivirus, Antispyware, or software firewalls? Okay, I'm kidding. Make sure the Windows firewall is enabled, and download and install an antivirus of your choice. Below is a list of programs, most of which are free alternatives to commercial "pay for" software.

AVG Free | Spybot S&D
I suggest AVG Free because it is a free alternative to "pay-to-use" subscription Antiviruses. If you need extra protection, or you just don't like the idea of being vulnerable to spyware, trojans.. etc, try Spybot Search and Destroy

Mozilla Firefox | Opera
You will want to download and install several programs that make your computer more efficient. For starters, try a different internet browser. Mozilla Firefox is a good alternative to Internet Explorer, and it's safer. Opera is good too. Your chances of getting viruses and spyware decrease dramatically by using an alternative browser.

Open Office
You probably want Microsoft Word by now. If you own that, install it. If you don't have money, download and install the open source alternative Open Office. It's free, and it works VERY WELL.

Compressing and extracting files is not Windows XP's specialty, so you might want to get 7-zip. It's a free alternative to Winrar or Winzip, is faster, easier to use, and can unzip most compressed files.

Foxit | Adobe Reader | PDF Creator
If you like PDF files, download and install Foxit. It's super fast compared to Adobe Reader, but might not display all PDF files correctly. If you're anal, just install Adobe Reader.

To easily create PDF files from any program including web pages, use the open source Free PDF Creator. I think Free is less expensive than the $500.00 Adobe Acrobat for creating PDF files. According to forums, PDF Creator does not install on Vista.

Nero | InfraRecorder
If you like to burn CDs, either buy Nero, or use Windows Media Player 11's built in CD burning. If you need to burn data CD's or DVDs but need something free, InfraRecorder is a great alternative.

VLC Player
If you want to watch every video ever created, but you don't know which codecs to install, why bother? Just download VLC player. It's free, and super fast. It will play just about everything.

The default picture viewer for Windows XP is terrible, which is why I like to use Irfanview. I suggest downloading and installing this. You'll love it.

Winamp | XMPlay | MusikCube | iTunes
Windows Media Player 11 by itself is great, but there are alternatives. If you want something with more functionality, try Winamp.

If you want something fast and efficient, try XMPlay or MusikCube. XMplay is regarded as the best mod player and comes with a decent library. MusikCube is a great alternative to WMP11 or iTunes.. If you want something like Windows Media Player 11, iTunes is a good alternative.

Gmail | Mozilla Thunderbird
Why install and use an e-mail program when you can use G-Mail ? If you insist and own Outlook, use it if you want. If you don't own outlook you can use Outlook Express. Either way I would suggest trying the free alternative Mozilla Thunderbird. It works great, it's fast, it handles IMAP folders better than outlook, and does not contain the dreaded outlook bug which creates thousands of duplicate messages in your inbox if you tell outlook to keep your messages on your POP server.

For FTP and SSH directory access, WinSCP3 is a free program and works great.

uTorrent | Azureus
If file sharing is your life, there are many popular peer-2-peer programs to choose from. Bit Torrent is among the best, and it's easy to use. For a fast, very sophisticated, yet, user friendly Bit Torrent program, uTorrent is the best. For a cross platform, open source, highly configurable client, Azureus is good. Be sure to familiarize yourself with Bit Torrent documentation if you don't know how Bit Torrent works.

Ultra VNC
Looking for a program that will let you perform screen sharing so you can access your PC from a remote location? Then UltraVNC is the free, lightweight, easy to install and use alternative to the crapshare that comes with Windows.

Daemon Tools
Daemon tools is the free and lightweight alternative to Alcohol 120%, but it is more inclined to circumvent common antimounting techniques employed by PC game developpers. Use this to mount your PC games so you never have to put a CD or DVD in your drive again.

CAUTION: Daemon Tools by default will try to install a toolbar that displays contextual advertisements, so when installing Daemon Tools, choose advanced and uncheck the included toolbar.

STEP 4: Games and Other Changes
After you have decided which programs you want to install, you can install your PC games. Be sure to install all of your favorite games on the D: partition to conserve space. If you install any games on the C: partition, remember, you will most likely lose any important save data in the event you choose to restore your PC. By keeping your game data separate from the C: partition, it helps to keep your games installed and possibly prevent you from losing save data. Sometimes game data will be stored on the C: partition anyway, so it's always good to double check before restoring your pc.

STEP 5: Tweaks and Improving Performance

If you are a gamer, or would like to see performance increases out of Windows XP, there are several things you can do to accomplish this. Windows XP, by nature, is not optimized for the best performance. We can improve performance by disabling some things.

Disable Indexing
Open a My Computer from the start menu. Right click a partition > "Properties". Uncheck "Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching" This will prevent windows from accessing the harddrives as often.

Disable Duration and Dimension Collumns
Open a My Computer and navigate to your My Music folder, or wherever you store your music. Right click on the collumn bar above your files and uncheck "Duration" and "Dimensions". If you don't see one or the other, click "more". Browse through the list deselecting collumns you do not wish to see. Apply any changes.

Afterwards, In the main window for My Computer, go to the "tools" menu > "Folder Options". Go to the view tab and press "Apply to All Folders". Press "Yes" and apply the changes.

Disable Desktop Cleanup Wizard
Every 60 days or so, Windows XP will bug you to remove unused desktop icons. You can disable this by Right clicking the desktop > "Properties". Select the "Desktop" tab and press the "Customize Desktop" button. Uncheck "Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard Every 60 Days". Apply the changes.

Disable the animated dog in search and enable advanced Searching.
The animated dog in the search window has to animate first before you can begin searching. To speed up your search, disable the animated dog by going to "Start" > "Search". In the Search sidebar, press "Change Preferences" and choose "Without an animated screen character".

To enable advanced searching, in the search sidebar, click "Change Preferences" and choose "Change files and folders search behavior". From here you can enable Advanced Search.

Disable Sticky Keys
By default, if you press shift 5 times in a row, Windows will activate sticky keys. This is bad if you are playing a game or are involved in another activity, and you accidentally activate sticky keys. Just press shift 5 times and stick keys will activate. Disable sticky keys and apply the changes. There are other shortcut combinations in there, so feel free to disable those if you wish.

Disable Hibernation
If you are using a Laptop, it would be unwise to disable hibernation, especially when the battery is critically low on power. If you are using a desktop PC, hibernation is nothing short of a needless feature. So why not disable it?

To disable, Right click the desktop and choose "Properties". Select the "Screensaver" tab. Press "Power" and select the "Hibernate" tab. Uncheck "Hibernation". This will free up several hundred megabytes of space on the C:\ drive or partition.

Change location of the Page File
By default, windows automatically determines the size of the page file and stores it on the C:\ drive or partition. Since the C:\ partition is small and storing the page file on the C:\ partition is bad practice, changing the location of the page file can potentially improve performance and increase the size of the C:\ partition.

To do this, go to "Start" > Right click "My computer" > "Properties". Go to the "Advanced" tab. Beneath "Performance", press "Settings". Go to the "Advanced" tab. Beneath "Virtual Memory", press "Change".

Select "D: [Doc]" (or whatever) and press "Custom Size" The initial size will be the first part of the number beneath "Paging File Size (MB)" The maximum size will be the second part of the number. Select "C: [Windows]" (or whatever) and choose "No Page File". Press OK consecutively closing all Windows. It might ask you to reboot, if so, save your work and reboot.

Disable Recent Documents
Sometimes the start menu will lag or pause when you open it, it could be that it's busy loading your recent document's history. You can disable this by right clicking your taskbar and going to properties. Go to the "Start Menu" tab. Click "Customize". Go to the "Advanced" Tab. Uncheck "List my most recently opened documents".

Disable Animations
Windows XP likes to animate some things Windows. These animations have no remorse for even the fastest computers because all animations in Windows force you to wait while the animation is in effect. To disable them, go to Start > Right click My Computer > Properties. Go to the "Advanced" tab and click "Settings" beneath Performance.

Uncheck these options: 1) Animate windows 2) fade or slide menus 3) fade or slide tooltips 4) fade out menu items 5) slide open combo boxes 6) slide taskbar buttons

Disable annoying Sounds
Windows likes to play little sound bites any time you click something or an error occurs. These are relatively annoying. To disable them, go to Start > Control Panel > Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices > Change the sound scheme. Beneath "Sound Scheme", choose "No Sounds".

There is at least 1 sound that will force your computer's internal speaker to be used, and that is "Default Beep". Just select that and choose "Windows XP Ding". Now your computer will be quiet. smile.gif


After you have finished installing all of your programs, games, and tweaked your computer to performance perfection, it is finally time to make your final backup. Run Acronis True Image and make a backup of your C: partition. Store this backup on the D: partition. When it prompts you to make an incremental backup, choose that and proceed with the backup. After you have made your final backup, be sure to validate it for any possible errors.

The glorious thing about this setup is, if you ever get a virus, spyware, adware, or a program malfunctions, you can restore your computer in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes... and know beyond a shadow of a doubt it will work just the way you like and you won't lose any important data like documents, music, videos, pictures, programs, or settings.

If in the future, you decide you want to install another program or game, and want it to be in your backups, no problem! Just restore to your very last known backup, install the program or game, and back up your computer again. This ensures you are clean of viruses, spyware, or adware, and your computer will stay in top notch shape.

Have fun!

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