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My goal with this page is to provide an online resource to simplify installing Windows XP. This is my cheat sheet so that I can remember what settings I want to change during the installation. It's a guide for me, and meets my needs. If anyone else want's to use it they're more than welcome.
There is no guarantee that it will work for you, so any use of these instructions/guidelines is at your own risk. Of course. And not every setting will work on every computer. The notes I used to update this page were from installing XP SP 2 on a Dell laptop, and later XP SP2 on a new OEM computer. Other computers and customizations of Windows will almost certainly differ, but hopefully only slightly.
These instructions assume some basic computer knowledge, but almost anyone should be able to muddle through.
The built in XP Windows Firewall is turned on by default, which is a major security improvement on Microsoft's part. But I prefer the outbound control that you get from a third party software firewall. If you're on broadband, I also strongly recommend a router in addition to the firewalls and anti-virus program.
I'm starting with a clean install. If you have a good install CD (as opposed to a Restore CD) I'd recommend starting from scratch if you have a prebuilt, factory configured computer. If you built your own, this is not an issue. My Dell laptop came with a bunch of extra stuff installed that I didn't want, like trial versions of software. A clean install gets rid of all that. If all you have is a Restore disk that puts the computer back in
Factory Condition you can't do this. You should consider returning the computer and buying one that will let you do what you want. Dell is good enough to provide a real OS install disk, although lately it appears to be something you have to request as an extra either at time of purchase or later.
Start at whatever step is appropriate for you. If you're cleaning up an existing operating system, you can start with the Cleanup section if you want.
Boot from the CD (this may require changing a setting in the BIOS).
Choose to delete, create, or leave existing partitions as suits you. If you're starting with an empty disk, the setup will want to create a C Drive for the first partition, then E, F, etc since it booted from D. These drive letters can be changed later. Or you can just create and format the first partition (C) and leave the rest empty for now. Then you can create and format the additional drives later. That will let you change the letter of the CD drive once Windows is installed so that any additional hard drives/partitions will be sequential. And if you're trying to replace an existing installation, you'll have to delete the partition it's on and create a new one to install on, otherwise XP will do a parallel installation and you'll end up with two copies.
Pick the partition to install on. For many years I choose anything other than C, partly to avoid malware that simply assumes a default installation. Unfortunately these days most malware can determine the location of all the important folders. And I've recently run across a couple of legitimate programs that were not happy if Windows, (or at least some components like Program Files) weren't on the C drive. So it's your choice.
Format the boot partition as NTFS, if it isn't already.
Wait a while for it to format and copy files.
If you get a prompt asking if you want to get Updated Setup Files over the internet, I'd suggest saying no. You can go to Windows Update once the install is done.
Reboot when prompted (or let it time out to reboot,) you can leave the CD in the drive, just DO NOT press a key to boot from CD if prompted.
Enter your name, and company name if necessary. Keep in mind that this information will be accessible to many programs during installs and later on, so you may not want to enter anything too identifying.
Check the keyboard and location settings and make sure they're correct for your location.
Choose a computer name and when offered the chance choose an administrator password. Make this a random character, mixed case, alpha-numeric password, and DON'T LOSE IT!!!
Set the date, time and time zone.
If you have no Network card: You won't see anything at this point.
If you have a Network card: You'll get a setup dialogue for it. If you're not connected to a Network at the time, you can probably just press
Next and take the defaults. These can all be changed later. If you know what your settings should be, you can use the
Custom Settings button and enter them now.
Wait for files to copy, components to register and other automated things to happen.
Setup then asks if you want to turn on Automatic Updates. While I strongly recommend keeping up with security patches, personally I prefer to do them manually so that I can choose what's appropriate for me. Also some updates have caused problems for some people, so I like to see how it goes for others first.
And now you get to go through the wizard. Pretty much enter the information it asks for (user names, mostly) and click next. However, choose to be reminded to Activate later, and Registration is optional, it's your choice whether you want to do it or not. I always wait to Activate Windows until I'm sure that I've got a nice, clean, working copy and won't need to start over.
Click Next, and OK until it asks you to reboot.
In my case, I need to change some desktop settings so that I can see things. Whether you use any of these is up to you. Remember that settings are user specific and you may need to do many of these for each user. I've highlighted the ones that needed per user adjustments in inset boxes on this page. Also some of the Font settings can make poorly written web pages and some programs display text partly outside of boxes or windows. Remember that these settings work for me, they may not be optimum for you.
And for those who prefer the look of Windows 2000 to the bubbly look of XP, there's a more complete list of settings to make XP look and act more like Windows 2000 at PCWorld.Log on as Administrator.
When that annoying little Tour Windows XP balloon pops up by the clock, click on it, then click Cancel;, if you just close it, it will start every time you reboot.
None) and decide whether you want to
Display the Welcome Screenwhen you wake it up. Keep in mind that those fancy moving screensavers take some CPU power, sometimes a lot, and if you're going to put the monitor to sleep, you won't see them anyway.
Apply the display settings without restartingis checked.
Link to Network Connections Folder. Uncheck Printers and Faxes, Run Command, Search and Set Program Access. Set System Administrative Tools to Show.
Next, go to Control Panel/Add Remove Programs on the Start Menu.
If you have a prebuilt system, uninstall any unnecessary programs (the extra media players, AOL, and some of the Support Tools for instance).
Go to Add/Remove Windows Components.
Uncheck Indexing Service (if checked), MSN Explorer (unless you actually use MSN Explorer), and Windows Messenger (unless you use it) and click Next, then click Finish.
Close Add/Remove Programs,
Go to Control Panel/System on the Start Menu.
Go to the Advanced Tab, and click Startup and Recovery Settings.
Uncheck Automatically Reboot (if checked), and make sure it is set to do a
small memory dump, or
none if you prefer. The memory dump setting is also per user.
Click the Error Reporting button at the bottom of the tab, then check Disable error reporting.
Go to the Remote Tab, and uncheck Allow Remote Assistance Invitations unless you know for absolutely positive that you will be asking a friend to connect to your computer over the internet soon. Actually, uncheck it anyway, it's easy to put back temporarily when you need it. Confirm that Remote Desktop is unchecked.
Go to the Automatic Updates tab, and choose your setting. You may want them downloaded and/or installed without you having to think about it. I prefer to make sure the latest patches aren't causing more trouble than they solve. People using Automatic Update can be the guinea pigs. If you do turn it off, be sure to periodically do it manually. I recommend setting it to
Notify me but don't automatically download or install them. The Automatic Updates Service must be set to Automatic and started for the latest version of Windows Update to work, but that is separate from this setting. See below.
Go to the System Restore tab, and crank that slider down to about 7%. If you have more than one drive you have to go to the Settings for each drive. You can turn it off for individual drives if you want. That should be more than enough to save you if you actually need it, without eating up a bunch of your drive space. Don't turn it off completely unless you're using other back up software because it will CYA if you ever royally screw up your system in some situations. Keep in mind that it is not a backup program in the true sense of the word. It does not backup data, or many other files.
On the Hardware tab there's a Windows Update button that has settings for updating device drivers. I don't like updates being done without my knowledge, so I have it set to
Never search Windows Update for drivers. The best place to get driver updates is from the manufacturer anyway, not from Windows Update.
Click OK to accept your changes.
Show location of pointer when I press the control key. This will let you find the mouse pointer when it gets lost.
Go to Administrative Tools, then Services
Maximize the window, then decide whether you prefer Standard tab at the bottom left, instead of the Extended layout.
If you use Standard, drag the slider bars so the Name and Description fields are wide enough to read,
In either layout then click on Status twice to sort by Started Services.
To stop and disable services, double click on the name, then simply click
Stop, and change the Startup Type in the drop-down menu to
What you need running will vary slightly based on your setup, but these are pretty standard. Defaults may vary depending on your version of XP, but check to see if you need to disable:
Disable CD AutoRun if you want to: once you get to the Desktop, press the Windows key and 'R', and type regedit.
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Services/Cdrom and double-click
AutoRun in the right-hand window. Change the value from 1 to 0.
Windows Messenger is a very persistent little bugger. No matter how many places you turn it off, it will still start when you start some other programs. I recently started Outlook Express to check the location of a setting and Windows Messenger also started up. If you don't plan to use it, follow ALL these steps.
Double click Windows Messenger in the tray, or start it from Start/Programs if necessary, then click Cancel when it asks you to set up a username.
Click the Preferences tab, then uncheck Run this program when Windows starts, and uncheck Allow this program to run in the background. You may only have the second of those two choices. That's the case here.
Even if you don't use it, start Outlook Express. Go to Tools/Options. On the first tab uncheck Automatically log on to Windows Messenger and click OK, then close OE. Restart OE and see if Windows Messenger starts.
If you have Outlook installed, start it and go to Tools/Options/Other tab (may vary by version) and make sure that Instant Messaging is unchecked. Close Outlook.
To be even safer, follow the instructions in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. For XP Pro it's:
Enable both settings and reboot. Windows Messenger will never be seen again on your screen or in your task list until you disable these settings.
XP Home requires a Registry tweak, which is listed on that page.
Another way to do it is to use the instructions posted at NTBugtraq.
Windows classic foldersso that I see the folders and not the eye candy. Then click the View tab.
Go to File Types and scroll down to SHB and SHS.
Click on the file type, then Advanced. Make sure they are checked to
Confirm after download
And then check the box to always show file extensions. See Scrap Files at PcHelp's site
You can set any other files that you’re worried about to the same settings. I always check the various types of script files and registry files among others.
Go to Offline Files, and Uncheck Enable Offline Files, Click OK to close the window.
This next bit applies to NTFS drives only.
Right-click on your C: drive and choose Properties, then uncheck Allow Indexing Service. This is the Operating System equivalent of the old Microsoft Office Fast Find. Turning this off will speed up viewing folders in Explorer and prevent Windows from bogging down the system periodically while it indexes things. Repeat this for other drives if you have them.
Click OK, then click OK again to
Apply changes to all subfolders. You can click
Ignore All when it tells you it can't apply to some files, these will be system files that are in use and Windows can't apply attributes until later.
Restart your computer to apply all the changes you've made.
At this point Task Manager shows me 16 Processes running on startup, not counting the 5 for my video and sound drivers and 1 to remind me to activate Windows, so 22 total.
Be sure to read the screens as you work through the patching process, Microsoft has released a service called Microsoft Updates. It is not the same as Windows Update. I always do a custom installation of updates, if you choose the Express Installation it may automatically set you up for Microsoft Update. Or you could just click on the wrong thing.
Open Internet Explorer, and follow the Connection Setup if it opens too. You should know your settings, if not I can't help you there.
Once IE is open, click Tools, then click Windows Update. Normally you can also start Windows Update by clicking Start, All Programs and it's above the bar on the right.
Click Yes if it asks you to install Windows Update Controls, then click Scan for Updates. You may also need to add some sites to the Trusted Zone.
When it's done scanning, go straight to Review and Install Updates on the left-hand side.
Probably everything listed is a Critical Patch, so I recommend you just click Install without removing anything with one exception. I suggest not installing Windows Genuine Advantage Notification KB905474 if it's offered. It comes and goes. But it is optional, and if installed it runs all the time, periodically contacting Microsoft. This is different than the required Windows Genuine Advantage Tool KB892130. That one just runs when you use Windows Update and verifies that your copy of Windows is legitimate. The notification tool verifies it repeatedly and is not necessary. Normally I choose
Custom Install and go through the list to see what each one is because there are some that I don't want. Media Player for one since I never use it. But Microsoft has made it very difficult to see what each update is now, you have to go at least two levels deep to get any details on each individual item. One at a time, so it's very time consuming.
Some updates will give you a warning about installing an item that has to be installed separately, click Yes or OK to install this item if one of them is in your list. If you're on dial-up, go have dinner, watch a movie, and read a book. Otherwise, just wait a few minutes for the patches to download and install, then click Cancel when it asks you to reboot, and restart your computer manually. I prefer to do it myself since I found (long ago) that there was a higher percentage of failed reboots if it did it automagically.
Once you reboot, go back to Windows Update and scan for updates again.
Click Review and Install Updates, click Install, agree to the license, and wait for them to download again. And then reboot, again.
Once you've installed all the critical patches, you can go back and see if any of the recommended updates look like they apply to you and install them if you want to.
However, I do NOT recommend installing any driver updates from Windows Update, go to the manufacturers site and download and install from there. They are generally newer and more stable (and more easily uninstalled if they cause problems) drivers than the ones on Windows Update.
Once you're done with Windows Update, you can install and run the MS Baseline Security Analyzer from MS Technet. A perfect score is not necessary, but make sure you understand why you have any negatives that show up.
Also take a look at the XP Powertoys and install any that look useful. I recommend at least TweakUI and Open Command Window Here. Another very useful tool is the SendTo Powertoy from the Windows 95 PowerToys. Download the file (which is just a self-extracting zip file) and run it, or you can use your zip file handling program to extract SENDTOX.DLL and SENDTOX.INF from the EXE file. Right click on SENDTOX.INF and choose install. SendTo works fine on XP, I can't speak for any of the others and I'd recommend not trying them. For the ones that haven't been built into later operating systems there are newer versions of most of them.
Make sure that you have the latest versions of both Flash and Java. Both consistently have major vulnerabilities that can be a major risk to your computer. Unless you're the trusting type who runs their automatic updaters, and the type who doesn't mind all their extra processes running all the time, then you'll want to do it manually. Both of them make it difficult to find the files, and tend to reset features you've previously turned off.
I use Firefox as my default browser, but that shouldn't make any difference for these instructions.
For Adobe Flash: Adobe makes it extremely difficult to find an offline installer, they really want you to install directly from their website. Before they'll even do that you have to install the Adobe Download Manager. It's not obvious that that's what's going to happen, it's buried in the faint/fine print below the Download button.
Never ask again, and uncheck
Allow third party Flash content to store data on your drive, and
Store common Flash components to reduce download times.
Delete all sitesbutton and click
Confirmon the warning that you're about to
delete all information that web sites have stored on your computer and deletes all web sites from the list of sites you have already visited. This is probably something you want to do if you're concerned about online privacy.
Disable P2P uplink for all. This is a new panel since the last time I looked.
For Sun Java:
Belarc Advisor is a free for personal use program that can be used to check for hardware and software problems.
Then you get to install and configure any software you want on your computer. You can check List of Lists for alternatives to the specific programs that I use, since these are just my personal preferences for now. Everything listed here is free at this time, although most of the authors will take donations, or in some cases sell you a version with more features. Some of these programs may include features like Google Toolbar or other things you don't want. Be sure to read the EULA and watch for options during the installation.
Once all your software is installed, you can organize your Start Menu.
Right-click the Start Button, and choose Explore All Users or Explore. Explore All Users lets you create folders and shortcuts shared by everyone and Explore lets you create folders and shortcuts just for you.
Once Explorer opens, click on Programs in the left pane, then create whatever folders you want to sort things into in the right pane. I generally sort things by type, for instance all Games in one folder, all things Internet in another folder, all Utilities (including System Tools) in another folder, and so on.
Once you're done creating folders, you can expand the Programs folder on the left side, and click and drag folders from the right side into the folders you want them in. When you're done moving stuff around, close Explorer.
Open Windows Media Player from the Start Menu.
Go to Tools/Options, and uncheck Download Codecs Automatically, Allow Sites to Uniquely Identify your Player and Acquire licenses automatically.
For Windows Media Player 9 I can't get that far, it want's me to go through the Setup procedure first. Since I don't use it, I haven't done that. I think that's part of why a recent (June 2010) security exploit involving Windows Help Center and Media Player fails for me when I tested it.
You can also set it to use a proxy so that it can't go anywhere anyway. 127.0.0.1 with port 80 works if you don't have a real proxy working on that port already. If it still tries to get out, make a rule in your firewall to block it.
You can also reportedly use the proxy trick with RealPlayer, although I don't have that installed so can't confirm it.
ss64 also has a good list of command line options for tweaking and tuning.
You can also go read up on Windows Product Activation for XP from aumha.org.
Keep in mind that I am not responsible for any external sites linked to from my pages. They may look different to you, or even have effects on your browser or computer that are different than what I see due to different security settings and browsers. They could have also changed since I looked at them. To the best of my knowledge, they are all safe. But you surf at your own risk.
This document reflects the opinions of the author. This document is provided
as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the author/maintainer and/or contributors assume(s) no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
The only information that I collect is page hit counts. My web host Penguinhost.net keeps track of lots of things and makes the information available to me in pretty graphs and logs. I look at them occasionally, but there is no personally identifiable information there.