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Posted 21 Aug 2006


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Doing a Fresh Install of Windows XP, Step-By-Step

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21 Aug 2006CPOL11 min read
This article will hold your hand through formatting a system and loading Windows XP onto it. It will take you from BIOS to desktop at a comfortable pace.


Installing Windows XP may or may not be something you have ever done or are even familiar with doing. The purpose of this article is to hold your hand through installing Windows XP on a new computer or even reinstalling it on a current system that just needs to be reloaded for whatever reason.


The prerequisites for this article are pretty straight forward. Please make sure you do have a legal copy of Windows XP and your Windows XP CD Key for installation. I would also recommend you have backed up your other files that you may wish to keep. Please see my other article that covers which specific files you may wish to backup by hand.

Installing Windows XP

Make sure all your valuable data is backed up to a burned CD on a separate disk or another PC. If you are confident that you can safely lose EVERY PIECE OF DATA on this computer and you have backed up any data of any value to a totally separate box or media, let's continue.

Insert the Windows XP CD into your CD ROM and then select to restart from the start menu. This will shut your computer down and then restart it. Your computer will start to power up and at some point I am hoping the system will say: "Press any key to boot from CD." If your system does say this, press any key and XP will take over. If it doesn’t, we need to get your bios changed so it will boot from the CD. The instructions below will give you a “Dangerously Vague” idea of how to do this. If you go into the bios and none of this makes sense, please let me know and I will do my best to help you (NOTE: You have not changed your system at all so you should still be able to reach the message boards here at CodeProject at this point.). If your machine will not boot from the CD, then it will boot back into your current install and we need to restart again.


In the next restart process, we are looking for a message that says, "To enter bios, press the "Delete" key or "F2" or maybe some other key. If prompted, please press the key specified on the screen."

Now we are in the BIOS, we are looking for a setting that says, 'Boot' or 'Boot Sequence' or 'Boot Order' look under the various menu options in your bios screen. At the bottom of your screen, there should be instructions for navigating the bios and making changes. Just follow them. Find the setting for the boot order and make sure that CDROM is first not your hard drive 'C:' or your floppy drive 'A:' we want the CDROM to be listed first. Save changes and exit. Probably by pressing the F10 key but look around for instructions that tell you how to do this. They will be somewhere on the screen.

When you save and exit, your computer will reboot. This time, it will or should display the "Press any key to boot from CD". If it doesn't, then it's time to post a message to the Message Boards described above.

After you "Press any key", Windows will take a bit to copy some files to a reserved area of your hard drive. Then a screen will show up with 3 options.

  1. To setup Windows XP now, press enter.
  2. To repair an existing installation, press R.
  3. To quit the installation and return to Windows, press ESC.

So at this time, you want to press [ENTER]. Now you see a license agreement, please press F8 once.

It will now search for a previous version of Windows and it will find your current install and show you where that is. You will be given 2 options.

  1. To repair Windows XP, press R.
  2. To continue with fresh installation of Windows XP, press ESC.

Please press the [ESC] key. Now you have 3 more options:

  1. To set up Windows XP on the selected item, press ENTER.
  2. To create a partition in the un-partitioned space, press C.
  3. To delete the selected partition, press D.

Please press the [d] key. Now we have two more options:

  1. To delete this partition, press ENTER.
  2. To go back ... press ESC.

Please press the [ENTER] key. We want to delete this partition.
Again, we have two more options:

  1. To delete this partition, press L.
  2. To return to previous ... , press ESC.

Please press the [l] key. This confirms our desire to delete the partition.
Now you are back in a screen that shows some junk and has the following text highlighted "Unpartitioned Space ##### MB". Down at the bottom, you will notice ENTER = Install and C = Create Partition.

Please press "C" now as we need to create a new partition on the hard disc. In the next screen, you have two more options:

  1. To create a new partition, enter a size and press ENTER.
  2. To go back to previous ... press ESC.

Please don't change the numbers unless you know what you’re doing, just press the [ENTER] key.

Now we are back in a familiar screen with 3 familiar options:

  1. To set up Windows XP on selected item, press ENTER.
  2. To create a partition ... press C.
  3. To delete ... press D.

Please press the [ENTER] key. It is now going to prompt us to format the partition. By default, the following text will be highlighted, "Format the partition using NTFS files system." This is the one we want to use, (We don't want QUICK). So hit the [ENTER] key. Now you will see the screen that shows your disc being formatted and it will show a progress bar and all that.

Just sit and wait... and wait... and wait... it could take like 20 minutes....

Once the format is done, XP goes into what it calls (for the most part) an unattended install. It will automatically copy files and then it will automatically restart your system. Next time it comes up, you will be back in Windows land with 5 progress indicators on the left side of the screen. Watch them closely, they cue you to what is happening. The first screen that prompts you for information is your "Regional and Language Options" Just click 'Next' here unless you are a non English speaking person. In the next screen, please enter your full name, and use your real name here. If you have a business name, put it in the Organization field if you don't leave it blank and hit next.

Now, you are going to be asked for the Windows XP Professional product key. Your Key is:

# # # # # - # # # # # - # # # # # - # # # # # - # # # # #

Once you have entered your product key, please press next. Now you are asked for a computer name. You can use whatever you want. Now enter the administrator password and be sure you write it down. Please click next. Now select your date & time stuff, pretty easy to do, click next. Now it is doing more stuff, it claims to be installing networking.

The next screen shown prompts you for your network settings. Here you want to take the "Typical Settings" and click next. Now it asks you for a workgroup or computer domain. Just take the defaults and click next. Okay, your computer should have done stuff for a bit...Then your system will have rebooted. Now we get to do Microsoft’s Windows XP Welcome Screen...

Just click the Next in the lower right hand corner. Now it checks for your internet, if you don't have one it asks you, "How will this computer connect?" Please check the first option "Digital Subscriber line (DSL)..." Click next in the lower right corner. Now it says, "Do you use a username and password?" to connect to the internet. No you don't, so you will select "No, always connected." Please click next. Now it asks you to set up your high speed connection. Check "Obtain IP Automatically". Check "Obtain DNS Automatically". Click next. Now it wants you to register. Register if you wish, but it is not required. I never register my systems.

Now it asks you for your name and it gives you room to enter 3 others, this is misleading. It will use whatever name you put in there as your username. So my name is Rex Winn, if I put that in there every time I log in, that is what I use. Please do not use spaces in your username. Here I would put "rawinn" for my name as it is ‘r’ for first name ‘a’ for middle initial and ‘winn’ for last name. That is purely my preference. Enter in whatever you like and click next. All done, now click "Finish".

Congratulations, you have just installed Windows XP. Take a breather, have a drink and then read my recommendations and further on let’s install DirecWay.


Okay, so now you are looking at a nice pretty desktop. Microsoft elects to block a lot of stuff from you, so here is what I would do if I was you.

Customize The Desktop

  1. Right Mouse Click on the desktop and select “Properties”. Click on the “Desktop” tab, set Background to "none".
  2. Then a little farther down on the "Desktop" tab, there is a button "Customize Desktop", click it.
  3. In Desktop Icons, select "My Computer" and anything else you want.
  4. Uncheck, "Run Desktop Cleanup every 60 days."
  5. Then click the "Screen Saver", set screen saver to none.
  6. Click the “Power” button (below the screen saver drop down).
  7. Make sure that all power management settings are set to "NEVER".
  8. Click the "Apply" button.

Now if you want to change your resolution, click on "Settings" and move the slider. You will see a few prompts, answer accordingly. Then click “Okay”. Your screen might flicker and it might ask you if you want to keep your changes with a little timer showing. Please click yes. If you don't see anything but a black screen, wait 30 seconds and the desktop will restore. Change your resolution a tad by sliding the slider in the "Settings" tab to the left a click or two and try again. Repeat until you don't have a black screen for 15 seconds.

Set A Password

  1. Now go to the "Control Panel" and double-click "User Accounts".
  2. You will see a link to "Change the way users log on or off".
  3. Click that link and uncheck "Use Welcome Screen".
  4. Click Okay.
  5. Now click your username and click Change/Assign password.
  6. Enter in a password. Do yourself a favor and include a hint.
  7. Click Okay.
  8. Now close the User Accounts Window.
  9. Close the control panel.

Enable Remote Desktop

  1. Now right mouse click the "My Computer" icon and select "Properties".
  2. Click the "Remote" tab.
  3. Put a Check next to "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer."
  4. Then click the "Learn more about Remote Desktop" link and read up. Remote Desktop is totally awesome!!!
  5. Click the Okay button and the window should close.

Set Folder View Options in Windows Explorer

  1. Now, right mouse click the "My Computer" icon on your desktop and select "Explore".
  2. In the new window click the "Tools" menu.
  3. Select "Folder Options".
  4. Now click the "View" tab.

Put a check next to the following:

  1. Display the contents of system folders.
  2. Display the full path in the title bar.
  3. Show hidden files and folders.
  4. Show Control Panel in My Computer.

Uncheck the following:

  1. Hide file extensions for known file types.
  2. Hide protected operating system files. A dialog will say are you sure, YES you are.
  3. Use Simple File Sharing.
  4. Please click “Okay” and then you can close explorer.

Configure Power Managment Settings For USB

  1. Now on the desktop, right click the "My Computer" icon and select "Manage".
  2. In the new window, select "Device Manager" in the tree view.
  3. Expand the Universal Serial Bus Controllers.
    1. Select each USB Root hub double-click or right click and select “Properties”.
    2. Click "Power Management".
    3. Uncheck "Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”.
    4. Click Okay.


Configure Power Management for Network Adapters

  1. Now expand the "Network Adapters", double-click all listed adapters and disable the Windows XP power management on each of them.
  2. Close the "Computer Management" window.

Points Of Interest

The only thing to point out here is that a lot of systems default by putting hard drives to sleep and systems in stand-bye. This drives me insane as I remotely connect to machines all the time. You cannot get a connection though if good old XP puts your system to sleep. So if you right click the desktop and view properties, check out the Power Management under the screen saver tab. Change the options how you like them and be done with it. Please note this is where laptop users can change what their laptop does when the lid is closed. I always set mine to nothing because I hate bringing it out of stand-by every time I walk across the room. In a similar vein, some companies like Toshiba make you change these settings through their own custom applet in the Windows Control Panel. So if you find the above doesn't work, look for a costom power manager in the control panel.


  • August 21st, 2006: First release


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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Comments and Discussions

Generalthe Black Screen after "inspecting your Hardware Configuration..." [modified] Pin
DocLogic18-Nov-06 19:36
MemberDocLogic18-Nov-06 19:36 
GeneralRe: the Black Screen after "inspecting your Hardware Configuration..." Pin
Eric Bechtol28-Dec-06 10:33
MemberEric Bechtol28-Dec-06 10:33 
GeneralBlank screen problem Pin
toomax232-Oct-06 11:51
Membertoomax232-Oct-06 11:51 
GeneralRe: Blank screen problem Pin
DocLogic18-Nov-06 19:50
MemberDocLogic18-Nov-06 19:50 
scottacc13-Sep-06 18:28
Memberscottacc13-Sep-06 18:28 
code-frog13-Sep-06 18:37
professionalcode-frog13-Sep-06 18:37 

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