How can I install Windows XP Pro on my computer?

by Daniel Petri - January 16, 2009

How can I install Windows XP Pro on my computer?

As a Microsoft Windows support professional, one of your tasks may be to install the operating system. This article provides a step-by-step tutorial on installing Windows XP Pro.

Windows Vista Update: We've recently added similar instructions for how to install Windows Vista

Step #1: Plan your installation

When you run the Windows XP Professional Setup program, you must provide information about how to install and configure the operating system. Thorough planning can make your installation of Windows XP Professional more efficient by helping you to avoid potential problems during installation. An understanding of the configuration options will also help to ensure that you have properly configured your system.

I won't go into that part right now but here are some of the most important things you should take into consideration when planning for your XP installation:

  • Check System Requirements
  • Check Hardware and Software Compatibility
  • Determine Disk Partitioning Options
  • Choose the Appropriate File System: FAT, FAT32, NTFS
  • Decide on a Workgroup or Domain Installation
  • Complete a Pre-Installation Checklist

After you made sure you can go on, start the installation process.

Step #2: Beginning the installation process

You can install Windows XP in several methods - all are valid and good, it all depends upon your needs and your limitations.

  • Manual installations usually come in 3 flavors:
  • Boot from CD - No existing partition is required.
  • Boot from the 6 Setup Boot Disks, then insert the CD - No existing partition is required (see the Create Setup Boot Disks for Windows XP page).
  • Boot from an MS-DOS startup floppy, go to the command prompt, create a 4GB FAT32 partition with FDISK, reboot, format the C partition you've created, then go to the CD drive, go into the I386 folder, and run the WINNT.EXE command.
  • Run an already installed OS, such as Windows NT 4.0 Server. From within NT 4.0 go to the I386 folder in the W2K installation CD and run the WINNT32.EXE command.
  • If you want to upgrade a desktop OS such as Windows 98 into Windows 2000 Professional you can follow the same procedure as above (You cannot upgrade Windows 98 into W2K Server).

There are other non-manual installation methods, such as using an unattended file along with a uniqueness database file, using Sysprep, using RIS or even running unattended installations from within the CD itself, but we won't go into that right now.

It doesn't matter how you run the setup process, but the moment it runs - all setup methods look alike.

Step #3: The text-based portion of the Setup program

The setup process begins loading a blue-looking text screen (not GUI). In that phase you will be asked to accept the EULA and choose a partition on which to install XP, and if that partition is new, you'll be asked to format it by using either FAT, FAT32 or NTFS.

  1. Start the computer from the CD.

  1. You can press F6 if you need to install additional SCSI adapters or other mass-storage devices. If you do you will be asked to supply a floppy disk with the drivers and you CANNOT browse it (or a CD for that matter). Make sure you have one handy.

  1. If you want, you can press F2 to run the ASR sequence. For that you need a good backup created by the Windows XP backup program, and the ASR floppy disk. If you plan to install a new copy of XP - don't do anything.

  1. Setup will load all the needed files and drivers.

  1. Select To Setup Windows XP Professional Now. If you want, and if you have a previous installation of XP, you can try to fix it by pressing R. If not, just press ENTER.

  1. Read and accept the licensing agreement and press F8 if you accept it.

  1. Select or create the partition on which you will install Windows XP Professional. Depending upon your existing disk configuration choose one of the following:
  • If the hard disk is unpartitioned, you can create and size the partition on which you will install Windows XP Professional.

  • If the hard disk is already partitioned, but has enough unpartitioned disk space, you can create an additional partition in the unpartitioned space.
  • If the hard disk already has a partition that is large enough, you can install Windows XP Professional on that partition. If the partition has an existing operating system, you will overwrite that operating system if you accept the default installation path. However, files other than the operating system files, such as program files and data files, will not be overwritten.
  • If the hard disk has an existing partition, you can delete it to create more unpartitioned space for the new partition. Deleting an existing partition erases all data on that partition.

If you select a new partition during Setup, create and size only the partition on which you will install Windows XP Professional. After installation, use Disk Management to partition the remaining space on the hard disk.

  1. Select a file system for the installation partition. After you create the partition on which you will install Windows XP Professional, you can use Setup to select the file system with which to format the partition. Windows XP Professional supports the NTFS file system in addition to the file allocation table (FAT) and FAT32 file systems. Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Professional, Windows 2000, and Windows NT are the only Microsoft operating systems that you can use to gain access to data on a local hard disk that is formatted with NTFS. If you plan to gain access to files that are on a local Windows XP Professional partition with the Microsoft Windows 95 or Windows 98 operating systems, you should format the partition with a FAT or FAT32 file system. We will use NTFS.

  1. Setup will then begin copying necessary files from the installation point (CD, local I386 or network share).
  2. Note: If you began the installation process from an MS-DOS floppy, make sure you have and run SMARTDRV from the floppy, otherwise the copying process will probably last more than an hour, perhaps even more. With SMARTDRV (or if setup was run by booting from CD) the copying will probably last a few minutes, no more than 5 max.

  1. The computer will restart in graphical mode, and the installation will continue.

Step #4: The GUI-based portion of the Setup program

The setup process reboots and loads a GUI mode phase.

It will then begin to load device drivers based upon what it finds on your computer. You don't need to do anything at this stage.

  1. Click Customize to change regional settings, if necessary.
  • Current System Locale - Affects how programs display dates, times, currency, and numbers. Choose the locale that matches your location, for example, French (Canada).
  • Current Keyboard Layout - Accommodates the special characters and symbols used in different languages. Your keyboard layout determines which characters appear when you press keys on the keyboard.

If you don't need to make any changes just press Next.

If you do need to make changes press Customize and add your System Locale etc.

Note for Hebrew users: Unlike W2K, it is SAFE and it is OK for you to install Hebrew language support at this phase.

To install Hebrew support:

After pressing Customize go to the Languages tab and select the "Install files for complex script and right-to-left languages".

A warning message will appear. Press Ok.

Warning: You must now press Apply!!!

Setup will copy the necessary files from the installation point.

You can now go to the Regional Options tab and select Israel in the Location drop-down list, and Hebrew in the Standards and Formats drop-down list. Click Ok.

  1. Type your name and organization.

  1. Type the product key.

  1. Type the computer name and a password for the local Administrator account. The local Administrator account resides in the SAM of the computer, not in Active Directory. If you will be installing in a domain, you need either a pre-assigned computer name for which a domain account has been created, or the right to create a computer account within the domain.

  1. Select the date, time, and time zone settings.

  1. Setup will now install the networking components.

After a few seconds you will receive the Networking Settings window. BTW, if you have a NIC that is not in the HCL (see the What's the HCL? page) and XP cannot detect it, or if you don't have a NIC at all, setup will skip this step and you will immediately go to the final phase of the setup process.

Press Next to accept the Typical settings option if you have one of the following situations:

  • You have a functional DHCP on your network.
  • You have a computer running Internet Connection Sharing (ICS).
  • You're in a workgroup environment and do not plan to have any other servers or Active Directory at all, and all other workgroup members are configured in the same manner.

Otherwise select Custom Settings and press Next to customize your network settings.

  1. One thing you CAN do (you don't have to do it, it's your call - read more about it on the Increase Internet Connection Speed in Windows XP page) is to uninstall the Qos Packet Scheduler. Click it and press the Uninstall button. If you want to keep it you can simply remove the mark from the QoS check-box. In anyway you can later install or uninstall it if you want.

Keep the TCP/IP, Client for Microsoft Networks and the File and Print Sharing options selected.

  1. Highlight the TCP/IP selection and press Properties.

In the General tab enter the required information. You must specify the IP address of the computer, and if you don't know what the Subnet Mask entry should be - you can simply place your mouse pointer over the empty area in the Subnet Mask box and click it. The OS will automatically select the value it thinks is good for the IP address you provided.

If you don't know what these values mean, or if you don't know what to write in them, press cancel and select the Typical Settings option. You can easily change these values later.

  1. In the Workgroup or Domain window enter the name of your workgroup or domain.
  • A workgroup is a small group of computers on a network that enables users to work together and does not support centralized administration.
  • A domain is a logical grouping of computers on a network that has a central security database for storing security information. Centralized security and administration are important for computers in a domain because they enable an administrator to easily manage computers that are geographically distant from each other. A domain is administered as a unit with common rules and procedures. Each domain has a unique name, and each computer within a domain has a unique name.

If you're a stand-alone computer, or if you don't know what to enter, or if you don't have the sufficient rights to join a domain - leave the default entry selected and press Next.

If you want to join a domain (NT 4.0 domain of W2K/2003 Active Directory domain) enter the domain's name in the "Yes, make this computer a member of the following domain" box.

To successfully join a domain you need the following:

  • The person performing the installation must have a user account in Active Directory. This account does not need to be the domain Administrator account.

and

  • The computer must have an existing computer account in the Active Directory database of the domain that the computer is joining, and the computer must be named exactly as its domain account is named.

or

  • The person performing the installation must have appropriate permission to create a domain account for the computer during installation.

Also, you need to have connectivity to the domain's domain controllers (only to the PDC if on an NT 4.0 domain) and a fully functional DNS server (only in AD domains). Read the Joining a Domain in Windows XP Pro and Requirements when Joining a Domain pages for more on this issue.

Enter the Active Directory domain name (in the form of xxx.yyy, for example: DPETRI.NET) or the NetBIOS name of the NT 4.0 domain (in the form of xxx, for example: DPETRI). Press Next.

Note: If you provide a wrong domain name or do not have the correct connectivity to the domain's DNS server you will get an error message.

A username/password window will appear. Enter the name and password of the domain's administrator (or your own if you're the administrator on the target domain).

Note: Providing a wrong username or password will cause this phase to fail.

  1. Next the setup process will finish copying files and configuring the setup. You do not need to do anything.

  1. After the copying and configuring phase is finished, if XP finds that you have a badly configured screen resolution it will advise you to change it and ask you if you see the new settings right.

BTW, the minimum supported screen resolution in XP is 800X600.

  1. Setup finishes and boots Windows XP.

  1. A Welcome screen is the first thing you see. The computer checks your Internet connectivity (required for the mandatory Activation and voluntary Registration processes).

You will be asked to register your copy of XP. You can decline if you want.

  1. XP will ask you for the default username that will log onto this computer. You can enter as many as 5 users, but you can create more after the installation is finished.

BTW, the Administrator is not shown as a valid logon option (read more about it on the Add the Administrator's Account to the Welcome Screen in XP Pro page).

  1. That's it! you're done!

Now head towards the Customize a New XP Installation page.

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