Shared Knowledge

"How to: Install Windows XP on a Virgin Hard Drive"

2 April 2010



Summary: installing Microsoft's Windows XP (XP) on a virgin hard drive is not as simple as booting from a XP CD-ROM. There are many, many drivers and programs that you will have to download and install for your XP system to perform as you expect it to.




This document describes how to install Microsoft's Windows XP (XP) operating system (OS) on a virgin hard drive. It does not cover all other possible XP OS problems-procedures such as needing to do a repair operation or reinstalling over an existing version of XP.


What is needed to do the job:

Unfortunately, years ago to save a dime, PC manufacturers stopped providing a CD or DVD copy of the installed OS but instead loaded a copy in a separate partition on the system drive. Somewhere during initial setup, the owner of the system was probably instructed to burn a copy of the OS off to CD for future use. And all this leads up the following. You can not install XP on a virgin drive if you do not have a XP install disk. Obvious, I know. As I build my own system, I have a copy of XP in an O.E.M. version.

If you do not have a XP install disk, consider buying a new copy of Windows 7 but first check that your system's hardware meets all requirements for Windows 7 (especially the video RAM requirements).

(1) Windows XP install disk and the associated product key. Usually the product key is located on a certificate of authenticity (COA) somewhere on the desktop or laptop. If you have an upgrade version of XP, you are going to have to have the install disk of an older Window's OS: 95, ME or 2000. You do not have to install the older OS but the XP upgrade is going to search for an older version before it will install.

(2) All drivers for the specific model number desktop or laptop. A driver is a small program that sits between a device, such as an Ethernet controller and the OS. Drivers are unique to specific hardware. Luckily, most manufacturers provide all drivers for download on their websites but again, must be for your specific desktop or laptop. If you have upgraded or changed any hardware from what was originally installed, you will need drivers for all unique hardware. If you do not have these on a CD, use another system and download and burn all drivers to a CD for use.

(3) Access to the Internet. Anything can be done over a dialup line but bringing XP up to date via a dialup is not recommended. If you system is not co-located with your router, move it such that you can connect your system to the router via an Ethernet cable. And "NO" do not count on having wireless capabilities immediately upon loading XP.


Installing XP on a virgin hard drive:

- Power up system and insert the XP install disk into your CD reader.

- Reboot the system by holding the ON/OFF button.

-Now watch the BIOS flash screen. It should tell you what function key you press to change the boot order. You want to boot off the CD.

- XP will now begin to install from the CD.

- If the hard drive is virgin, meaning that it does not even have an active partition on it, XP will determine this and ask you how much space you want to set up for the active, system partition. You can divide a large disk in several smaller drives if you wish and you do this by defining the partition of the system less than the full size of the drive. When you divide a larger drive into multiple "virtual drives" all drives are all still on the same mechanical drive and if the one mechanical drive fails, you loose all virtual drives. It is for this reason that I do not divide a hard drive into multiple virtual drives.

- When asked, provide the product key. If you are booting from "recovery" disks, you may have to look for the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) either on the bottom of the laptop or on the side or back of the desktop.

- As XP installs, it looks at the unique hardware of your system and if it has a driver for a device, it will install it (some PC  manufacturers supply drivers for their systems to Microsoft to include in an OS release), however, it is high possible that when XP finishes installing, not all device drivers will be loaded.

- When  XP completes it is going to want to be activated. At this point, XP may have a driver for wireless and\or any Ethernet port built into your system and if so, you will be able to activate over the Internet. But if XP can not find an Internet connection, you are going to have to wait to activate until you have loaded all drivers.

- With XP installed, use the CD of specific PC device drivers you downloaded using another system and install each driver.

- Note the root driver for many systems is referred to the motherboard INF. You should install this "driver" first as it tells XP exactly     how to deal with all other drivers. This "driver" may have come with the motherboard if you assembled your own system from a motherboard and components.

- Unfortunately, driver installation details or procedures vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, there may be a video driver and then video driver upgrade or video driver registry update and the manufacturer will provide no details as to which must be installer before another. Most drivers reside on manufacturer's websites as self extracting zip files, meaning you simply click on the downloaded zip file for it to execute. Also note that some drivers will have to be installed by going into System Device Manager and then selecting the device, then properties finally clicking on "update driver".

- With all drivers installed, try to get an Internet connection via Internet Explorer (IE). Now if you have a very old version of XP, IE will also be old and it might crash several times before you will get connection to the default MSN website.

- Now, activate XP by clicking on the activate reminder icon down in the lower right corner of the task bar (system tray).

- If the version of XP you installed has not been installed and activated on any PC for 6 months or longer, XP will be successfully activated. However, if you installed XP, activated it and then had to reinstall for any reason, the activation process may say that you need to speak to a Microsoft representative. If this happens, call the telephone number provided on your computer screen and go through the automated menu to enter a new product key. Even it you eventually do have to speak to a live representative, you can get your copy of XP activated.

- Open IE and get the latest version of IE from a Microsoft download site and install it.

- Go to the manufacture's website of your specific laptop or desktop and entering the details of your system, download and install the BIOS update. The BIOS is the lowest level programming of any computer and an update fixes various bugs found after the hardware was released for sale. Although absolutely not required, some strange system behavior has it roots in the BIOS. If you do opt to do a BIOS update, following the instructions how how to do it exactly. If you screw up a BIOS update, your system motherboard can be ruined completely.

- Find the Windows Update icon in the program folders and double click on it. Because XP has been around a long time, you will find that you have to download and install many different updates. Depending on the age of your version, the update website may just have you download and install service pack 3. Here, I recommend you save each download to a folder under Programs on your system drive. Go into Programs and create a folder labeled, "AAA - Off the Internet" and then inside this folder, create a folder for each download. For example, for Service Pack 3, create a folder labeled "System - Service Pack 3." And the point to downloading first is that Internet connections can drop out during the middle of an install.

- As part of an XP update, you might be offered driver updates. Go ahead and download them and then execute each. Note however, that it is possible that a driver version you download from Microsoft may be older than  the one you downloaded directly from the system manufacturer website. Some driver installs are smart enough to tell you that you are trying to replace a more current driver with an older version and some driver installs are not that smart.

- Now need to download all Adobe products that are used by various websites: Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash player and Adobe Shockwave. All these can be downloaded from the Adobe website.

- Download and install Java. Java is used by many websites.

- If you use it, download and install Windows Media Player.

- Install Microsoft Office or whatever you use for your office applications.

- If you use Microsoft Office (Office), once again click on system update and have the Microsoft update website download and install all updates to your Office suite.

- If you use anything other than Office, you will need to go to the website of your office suite and download and install all updates.

- Continue to go to Microsoft update or your office suite update website until there are no more updates to be downloaded and installed.

- Find "disk cleanup" icon in your program folder (usually under System) and have disk cleanup, remove all junk files from your hard drive. Removing junk files will help speed up system processing and should be done periodically.

- Find "disk defrag" icon your programs folder (usually under System) have have disk defrag pack all files on your hard drive. This will help speed up all system processing and should be done periodically.

- Now install all applications that you normally use: Slingbox player; CD burning software; iTunes; etc. etc. If you paid for a specific application, hopefully have have the product key to activate the product over the Internet. Once activated, you will need to go to the website of each application and download and install any application updates. If the application is very old, the application may no longer be supported by the developer and you will face having to either replace the application by buying new or simply use the application as is.

- If you have data backups on CD or DVD, reload your data onto the hard drive.

- Via the Control Panel, create a profile for all other system users.

- Take a look at your system. All applications have been reloaded?

- Create a System Restore Point. The icon for this can be found in programs. A System Restore point will take a snapshot of your hard drive such that if a problem arises, you might be able to boot to the the Restore point and avoid having to reinstall XP again.


Ron - Shared Knowledge Home