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WinXP Tweaking: From Relax to Righteous

By: Koroush Ghazi | Guides | Posted: Feb 8, 2003 5:00 am

Installation Issues


This section deals with general issues relating to installing XP, updating XP to SP1, Activation and repair of bad installations.


Reformatting and clean installing Windows XP


Tools: Windows XP CD


If you look under the Recovery Console tweak in the System section of this guide, you'll see the best method of getting to the Windows Setup screen. From there it's simply a matter of pressing ENTER and following the prompts to reformat and reinstall Windows XP.


However, if you need some guidance through the entire process, I've found two excellent guides to help you:


Black Viper's Windows XP Pro Reinstall Guide


Black Viper's Windows XP Home Reinstall Guide


I highly recommend a clean reformat and reinstall of Windows XP if you're experiencing a multitude of problems. It gives you a fresh start, and can also help in matters such as resolving shared IRQs (See System section).


Backing up/restoring system passwords


Tool: Forgotten Password Wizard



One of the biggest hassles when running Windows XP would be losing your login password, particularly if you're the Administrator. With the NTFS file system it is virtually impossible to access the data on your hard drive without the correct password. The best thing to do is back up all your passwords now before anything happens, so that if necessary you can restore them without pulling out all your hair. The way to do that is as follows:


Backing up Passwords


1. Go to Control Panel>User Accounts and click on your User account (the one with the icon).


2. Click on 'Prevent a Forgotten Password' in the left pane. The Forgotten Password Wizard will open up. Click Next.


3. Insert a blank formatted floppy into your A:\ drive and click Next. If you need to format a blank floppy first, open Windows Explorer, right-click on A:\ and select Format. Click Next


4. Type in your current user password in the box and click Next. Once the disk has been created, click Next again and select Finish.


Restoring Backup Password


To restore your password from the disk created above, follow these steps:


1. Boot your PC as normal, and on the Windows Login screen select your User Name.


2. Press Enter once and you should see the 'Did You Forget Your Password?' message. Select the 'Use Your Password Reset Disk' and put your password reset disk in the floppy drive.


3. Follow the Password Reset Wizard to set a new password and log back into your system.


Note the password reset disk needs to be write-enabled (hole closed) so that Windows can update your disk with the new password automatically during this procedure. Once done, put it away in a safe place, as anyone can use the disk to access your account.


What Is Activation and What Does It Do?


Tool: WPA Guide


Windows Product Activation (WPA) or Activation for short has gained a great deal of notoriety. It is a protection system Microsoft uses to ensure that Windows piracy is reduced. There are many haters of the system, but this tweak is not about helping you circumvent it. Rather, read the following (non-Microsoft) FAQ which is excellent in explaining precisely what Activation is, what it checks on your system and sends to Microsoft, how often you'll have to Activate and why, and so on. I highly recommend you read this: Windows Product Activation Guide.


Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) - Tips


Tool: Windows XP CD and SP1/SP1a


Many, many people are afraid to install Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) because either they're afraid it's going to cause problems, they don't know what exactly it is or what it does, or quite frankly they're running a pirated copy of XP. For the last group, I refer you to the above WPA Guide which explains what SP1 does on pirated copies. For the rest of you, here's the lowdown on SP1/SP1a and what you can do to avoid any problems should you (and you should) install it.


SP1 - What is it?


Windows XP SP1 is a collection of fixes for Windows XP, which are detailed here. These fixes are the same as those available individually on the Windows Update site. SP1 essentially gathers them together into one large patch, which can be downloaded from this part of the Microsoft Site.


Note you will see "SP1a" rather than SP1. The only difference between the slightly older SP1 and SP1a is that SP1a does not have Microsoft Virtual Machine, which is not a big deal in anyone's books. If you've already installed SP1, you do not need to install SP1a. If you haven't installed SP1 at all, download and install SP1a.


So essentially SP1 is a combination of all the Critical Updates which are available on Windows Update dating up to early October 2002 when SP1 was released. If you've already installed all of them then you've pretty much got the equivalent of SP1 installed on your system anyway, so I don't see why there's such panic and mystery about SP1.


The are two benefits to SP1 over the Windows Update method - firstly it combines all the important patches into one (134MB) patch, which you can burn to disk or slipstream (see Slipstreaming SP1 below) and hence not have to download every time you reinstall Windows. The second advantage is as part of a Court Order, Microsoft have incorporated the option to uninstall major Windows components like Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and Messenger into the Control Panel>Add/Remove>'Add/Remove Windows Components' utility when SP1 is installed. This is handy if you don't want these tools on your system, as prior to this they could not be uninstalled.


What's the Best Way to Install SP1?


The first thing to do is to go to the download link provided previously and download the entire Network Installation version of XP SP1a. This can be used for Slipstreaming (see below), but can also be saved separately on your drive or burnt to CD for later installation on any number of machines at any time. The Windows Update or Express Installation options check your machine to see how many Critical Updates you've already got installed and install the remained, but if you do it this way you'll need to download SP1 each time you reinstall, and there's more chance of things going wrong in general. Get the Network Installation version and hold on to it.


The following steps (from Alex Nichol) are things you should do prior to installing XP SP1/SP1a:


- Disable all Antivirus and firewall software.


- If you have StyleXP or other tweaking software that patches core system files, remove them first.


- If you've ever installed XP Antispy (it disables a .dll XP SP1 needs), go to Start>Run and type "Regsvr32 Licdll.dll" (without quotes). Click OK. Then open Run again and type "Regsvr32 Regwiz.dll" (without quotes). Click OK.


- Go to Start>Run>MSConfig and untick all items under the Startup tab, and under the Services tab, tick 'Hide Microsoft Services' and untick services showing. Restore all these items once SP1 is installed.


- Reboot and run the SP1.exe file (134MB) you downloaded earlier. Have your Windows XP CD handy.


These steps should ensure that you have a trouble-free SP1 install and that things remain fine down the track. Some things to note are that once SP1 is installed and you've rebooted, DO NOT delete the new Service Pack Files directory (typically C:\Windows\ServicePackFiles), unless you've got a slipstreamed XP CD. The directory is used in the future by Windows to access new SP1 files when installing/uninstalling Windows components, etc.


If you created a backup during the SP1 install, you can safely delete those through Control Panel>Add/Remove. Also, if you don't want to uninstall SP1 or any of the other important Windows Update files, under the Windows directory you can delete the following directory (and its contents): $NtServicePackUninstall$. You can also delete all other similar directories with $ signs around them, as they're uninstall files for Windows Update patches - which you shouldn't need to uninstall ever.


Of course, the best way to install SP1 is to have a slipstreamed copy of an XP CD with SP1 on it and do a clean reformat and reinstall.


Slipstreaming SP1


'Slipstreaming' refers to a process whereby XP SP1 is merged with the original Windows XP CD contents to create a new XP CD. When this new XP CD is used for installing Windows XP, it includes all the SP1 updates and hence you don't need to run SP1 after installation, nor do you need to worry about any outdated files being installed on your system first, or any SP1 installation problems. It's a detailed process, but relatively straightforward. Here are two guides which run you through the process. You can use either one:


Windows Helpnet XP SP1 Slipstreaming Guide


TackTech XP SP1 Slipstreaming Guide


I recommend you do the procedure because it will save you time and disk space next time you install Windows.


How to Multiboot Windows XP


Tool: Windows CDs


If you want to set up your system so that you can boot into two or more Windows Operating Systems on one machine, read this Microsoft Multibooting Article


How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?


Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (ZAT00008) for PC


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