Windows XP Install Guide

Detailed How-To – Luc Taylor

I realize Windows Vista is up and coming – but Windows XP is certainly not gone yet and probably won’t be for several years. I, personally, will probably resist the change as long as conceivably possible. As many feel that renewing the OS every six months or so is a good practice, this guide may help.

Introduction

I prepared this Windows XP install guide with a Windows XP SP2 OEM CD. The procedure should be similar for other versions of Windows. In the unfortunate event that you ended up with a restore CD from your OEM instead of a true Windows install CD, try to get a Windows install CD – you have no idea what a restore CD will install on your computer since it is up to your OEM. (Regardless, if you have no choice, you can still apply the later tweaks and options to get everything up and working.)

Reinstalling Windows has inherent risks, the majority of which can be offset through backups – but I have lost many files by accidentally forgetting to include them on a backup. I suggest being as thorough as possible – and try to consider everything on your computer that you might want to save: Favorites, settings, address books (I ALWAYS forget this one), installed programs etc.

You are likely to encounter at least one thing which has no convenient way to export, save and restore – for me it is Outlook Express rules, which can be over 4 pages long with all my mailing list, and spam filters. For this particular task, I use notepad and just copy and paste over and over again, being mindful that I am not missing a copy and double pasting redundant information. You may find a few other snags – good luck.

Also for all those out there with dial-up modems: I recently took 5 days to reinstall Windows, effectively ruining my will to live. It will take at least 6 hours – if for whatever reason you do not have a high speed internet connection, see if a friend will let you reinstall Windows at their house with a real connection if you value your sanity (All the CD stuff can be done at home, but then take it over when it comes time to start downloading).

Proceed at your own risk!

Backup

  • Backup all data – you can move it to an alternate computer, alternate partitions, or preferably to optical media.
  • Copy all favorites/address book/mail messages/mail rules, etc.
  • Export accounts from your mail program
  • Make a list of installed programs – a directory listing of your all users and personal start menu may be sufficient.
  • Decrypt hard drives, if applicable – this may take a long time – plan a night for it.
  • Grab a copy of network card and/or modem drivers.
  • Grab a firewall program, such as Zonealarm.
  • If you have a static IP address, record your IP address, DNS configuration, etc.
  • Make a list of installed programs.
  • Now make list of partitions to erase and to keep – if you only have one partition, obviously you will be wiping it.
  • Make a quick final pass through all your files to make sure nothing is missing – it may also help to look through your start menu and try to imagine any saved data associated with each program.

Begin the Installation

Insert install media in the CD ROM and reboot.

System setup: Enter your system BIOS settings screen and return any overclocks to normal speed and ensure that the system is set to boot from CD.

If you are not behind a firewall/NAT, disconnect your machine until you can secure your computer. A quick rule of thumb is to have absolutely no ports assigned to normal DHCP address – this will ensure no traffic reaches your computer before it is secured. No internet until you are fire-walled! No browsing until you are patched! Don’t get a virus on your brand new install!

Then boot from the CD; part of the CD boot requires that you press a key to boot from the CD.

Press enter to “set up Windows now”

Agree to license by pushing F8 (Of course you need to read it first).

Delete all partitions except any that you have expressly decided to preserve.

Create a swap file partition at the beginning of the drive. (I neglected to do this on my last install and there is a noticeable degradation of performance particularly as a drive becomes full.) I usually make mine about 900 MB; however, if you have some specific reason that you need more (such as CAD projects), then plan accordingly. Also if you have less than 512 MB of RAM, then make sure to minimally add the difference between your RAM and 512 to the 900 MB mark.

Create your primary partition and your data partition (unless you already have a data partition). If you are going to install Linux, then make sure you leave room for that. (Keep in mind that Linux should be able to use your data partition, so you only need room for the system files.) If you have a data partition, you can reinstall Windows on the program partition (after formatting of course) and not have to restore your data. This should not replace proper backup procedures, however.

Setup will copy files unattended and reboot unattended. If you are there when it reboots, do not press a button to boot again from the CD because it will need to boot from the hard drive. Ironically it still needs the CD in the drive.

I apologize that there are no pictures in this section, it is just impossible to get screenshots without taking them with a digital camera.

Regional and language settings come up. Basically if you live in the US, you should be alright leaving this the same – but if you speak another language, have an alternate keyboard or need to change how numbers are displayed, do it on this page.

On the next page enter your name – I rarely use my real name, but this name might show up in an app sometime auto filling, so keep that in mind before you use something too silly, or profane! (Try explaining to your mother why swear words auto populate a form.)

Then comes the product key. Hopefully you weren’t stupid like me putting it on the PSU and you have no problem conveniently reading it.

The next screen is to name the computer. The computer name won’t make much difference, so just make it something cute, original or fun – favorite animals top my list.

Next screen set an approximate date and time (unless you know the exact time) and the time zone. We will use a utility to set it to within a few ms, which is better than you will be able to do by hand. Windows has its own mechanism for setting the clock, but it is routinely off by much more than a few seconds (which I consider offensive).

Then a screen will come up thanking you for purchasing Windows XP and says it will guide you through setting up Windows. Basically all it is for is for being annoying and activating. If your internet is setup, you shouldn’t have any trouble activating your copy of Windows. (I don’t know of any reason for registering, though.)

It will ask you next about Automatic Updates – I find this to be generally annoying; HOWEVER, if you know that you will forget to check for updates, then you will probably need it on. But either way, I suggest you leave it off for now because we are going to explicitly download the updates and don’t need to be trying to compete with the automatic piece of crap.

Next a screen comes up asking how you will be connecting to the internet. Choose no (assuming this is not dial-up) – that you will be connecting directly to the internet. Tell it to activate now and not to register. Hopefully if Microsoft is not being dumb, then you will be able to activate no problem; otherwise, I hope you have a phone handy.

Then it will ask you for a user list – I usually just make a login for myself since no one else uses my computer. Use judgment – people only need separate logins if they want separate backgrounds, separate start menus, separate settings etc. Profiles take up room though – so no need to make accounts for infants, nephews, etc.

Aha! Finally it’s installed. Windows will pop-up at an ungodly resolution and the start menu will be fully extended among various other annoyances.

As soon as the start bar comes up, a notification for taking a tour of Windows XP will come up. This will pester you until you click it, so you might as well click the stupid thing right now and then cancel out – immediately push the cancel button as I have indicated in red below:

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{mospagebreak}

Network

If Windows did not install your Ethernet driver – then install it now, we need to before we can proceed. (If you need to setup a dial-up connection, then you will need to do that yourself – the following settings are for Ethernet behind a NAT.) If you are not behind a NAT with a firewall, then be sure you install a firewall before exposing yourself to any threats.

Keep in mind this is a setup for a non networked computer, behind a router – if your setup is different, you may have to adjust accordingly – I consider Microsoft Networking to be very insecure and dangerous. I suggest using intranet FTP servers on non standard ports with PDF printers for sharing printed documents if need be.

Now time to set some settings! Load control panel (Start->Run->Control). It will pop-up the first time in the annoying new-age view. Click on “switch to classic view”. Phew! Now load up network settings.

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Control Panel (Default stupid view)

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Phew! Looks better already!

Open up everything under LAN and High-Speed Internet. In the list on my computer, I have a 1394 Connection (firewire). I open it up and uninstall everything except TCP/IP. Resist any futile attempts for it to force you to restart prematurely. Uncheck TCP/IP on the firewire port unless you are planning on using it.

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Go to the Local Area connection and uninstall everything except TCP/IP (of course, leave it checked unless you are not planning on using it). Eventually you will probably want to setup a static IP address and turn off the DHCP server. I believe there is an extra properties button click to get to the dialog you were at before.

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Updates, Updates, Updates (and a few reboots)

If you have a copy of Microsoft Office, then install it now. You will need to update it through Microsoft Office Update to correct vulnerabilities therein. You cannot update without Windows activated – so if it is not done yet, do it now.

Now begin the update procedure – it’s pretty simple. Install all updates, reboot if requested, and repeat until there are no updates. You can reach Windows Update by opening Internet Explorer and then choosing Windows Update under tools.

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It is a lot better than it used to be in Windows 98, but you still need to repeat multiple times and some updates cause new updates to appear (all with intermittent reboots). But Microsoft has done a good job of making sure you can do many updates at a time. It prompts you to install an ActiveX control – yadda yadda – then you select custom install.

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Never allow an installer to control what you can control; then you won’t know what it is doing. A good rule of thumb is that if a programmer somewhere along the way thought that you might want control of something, there is probably a reason for it. A security alert may pop-up – this is just because you are using a virgin copy of IE. The checkbox to never show this dumb prompt again is already checked – be sure to leave it that way.

Remember before you reboot to remove the CD.

The first time after you boot back up, Windows is already harassing you because you don’t have antivirus software installed. Do whatever you have to do to shut it up for now, we will kill it pretty quickly here. Click the pop-up dead center, then a dialog will come up, just click OK, cancel or close it or something.

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Back to Windows Update – follow the instructions to allow you to run updates. Select all the High Priority, Optional Software and Hardware Optional that you can. (Note: Early versions of Windows Messenger could not be easily uninstalled, therefore it is my suggestion to install the update to go to the latest version regardless of whether you want to use Windows Messenger or not. If anyone else has fond memories of trying to kill the process so you can delete its DLL – or doing it from Linux – then you might know what I’m talking about.) So keep going back to Windows update over and over again until there are no updates left. Sometimes an update will create more updates – ensure a visual confirmation.

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If you have installed Microsoft Office, then go to HERE and click on the link for “Office Update”, allowing you to update Microsoft Office.

Install all your drivers now. If needed, go to the respective manufacturer’s websites to get the latest drivers to install; you are all patched, so casual browsing should be relatively safe as long as you aren’t clicking yes on random dialogs asking to install viruses and spyware.
{mospagebreak}

Settings!

As a result of some angry complaints I have received, I have decided it is not wise to routinely disable all auto run (or suggest it be removed), no matter how annoying it is (or how dangerous it is), so this will not be included in this guide. If you are interested in that, then search on Google and you should find it pretty easily. “My computer doesn’t work! It doesn’t automatically run games and viruses that I put in my CD drive.” Sheesh!

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Have you ever held the shift key thinking about what key you were going to press and it switches into some stupid mode? I am not opposed to shortcut keys – but I don’t think they should be turned on by default. These features need to die.

Obviously all the accessibility features should be turned off – if you find one turned on, then uncheck it now. Every checkbox on every tab except the general tab should be turned off.

Next we want to turn off the shortcut keys. You will turn them off in a dialog found by clicking the settings button on each feature.

I will list all of them that need the shortcut key to be turned off by tab and feature name below:

Keyboard : StickyKeys
Keyboard: FilterKeys
Keyboard: ToggleKeys
Display: High Contrast
Mouse: MouseKeys

Under the display tab, make sure that the blink rate is as fast as possible and the cursor width is as narrow as possible.

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Open add remove programs. Then go to add/remove Windows components. Uncheck Windows messenger, MSN Explorer (except if for some odd reason you actually like this integrated environment) and Networking services (if applicable). Then, click next and finish, completing the process. However, feel free to deny the computer from restarting at this time.

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Go into automatic updates. I turn them off completely, but if you decide to leave them on, then you need to keep this in mind because you will need to leave its respective service on.

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Open date and time and then go to the Internet Time tab. Uncheck “Automatically synchronize with an internet time server.”

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Open display – DO NOT SET YOUR BACKGROUND TO A JPG IMAGE.

This will use processor time and Windows is quite dumb about it. The proper procedure for setting a background picture is described below. (Note that this won’t apply if you are using something which changes your background for you.)

Go to the screen saver tab, set your screensaver and leave the box checked for security purposes (this will require a password once you have set one). I usually like a Marquee with a cool quote. Under the appearance tab (in display still), feel free to change your color scheme, but change to Windows classic style – a tweak we will do later will make it this anyway, if you are insistent on the new age style, then don’t do the tweak later on.

Go into effects and turn everything off, uncheck it all. Back in the display window, go to the settings tab and increase your screen resolution. Remember, if you have a crappy monitor you may not be able to get the refresh rate and resolution that you desire. LCD screens are also far more limited in their optimal settings – I choose 1152 x 864 or 1280 x 1024.

After I set that (by clicking apply – you may need to confirm your change), then I go to the advanced button and down the monitor tab to find screen refresh rate. Set it to 75 Hertz or above so it doesn’t strain your eyes – be mindful that cheap or old monitors may not be able to handle higher refresh rates.

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Open folder options. This is where a collection of unfathomably dumb default options can be found. On the general tab which loads up, switch to “use Windows classic folders” and “open each folder in its own window.” Then click apply (your settings may be lost if you don’t). On to the view tab: In here you will find many checkboxes – so I think it will just be easier to show you pictorially.

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Note: The window is not actually this big – I took two screenshots and used paint to glue them together.

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On the general tab choose your home page – I’m simple so I use Google. Under the programs tab, set notepad as your default HTML editor and uncheck “Internet explorer should check to see whether it is the default browser.” Under the advanced tab, uncheck reuse Windows for launching shortcuts and Show Go Button in Address bar. Put a checkmark in the box for use inline auto complete.

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Under keyboard, drag all the bars to the far right for the shortest delay, fastest repeat and fastest blink rate.

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The default options for the mouse are fine.

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{mospagebreak}

If you are lucky, you made it this far without the computer interrupting an update or install by switching into hibernate mode, or whatever other stupid mode that causes you to disconnect, break all network connections, and occasionally crash your computer. Disable hibernating – hibernating, suspending and sleeping are all evil, so turn off any other nifty feature if you find one. Think about it – if these were things that you might actually want to do, why would you be able to turn them off so easily?

These are my recommendations:

Under power schemes tab, turn the power to “always on” This will set the options on the bottom. Hard drives should be set to never turn off, and system should be set to never standbye and the monitor will be set to after twenty minutes – I prefer to up it to one hour.

Under advanced tab, the options for standby don’t really matter since we won’t be standing by. I prefer the power button to shut down the computer and I set the sleep button to Ask me what to do.

Under hibernation, turn off hibernation.

I have never had an UPS – so this tab doesn’t apply to me. Obviously if you have one, this might interest you.

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Under task bar and start menu: Turn on quick launch and auto hide and turn off the locking of the taskbar and the grouping of similar taskbar buttons. Uncheck hide inactive icons. After you hit apply, go down to the taskbar and drag it up to be two rows high. Using the bar just to the left of the open window icon, drag the program list down below the quick launch. (This can be quite difficult and frustrating until you get the hang of it.)

After you have done that, then you can go back and recheck the box that says lock taskbar and hit apply. Go to the start menu tab, make sure “start menu” and not “start menu classic” is checked, then click on the customize button. In the window that comes up, go to the advanced tab and uncheck Highlight newly installed programs. Check favorites menu and uncheck help and support. Unset “Set program access and defaults” and set the system administrative tools to display in the all programs menu. Also set to list your most recently opened documents.

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Under user accounts – I have never run into problems from deleting the ASP.NET user account and don’t see why it is there. Make sure the guest account is off and setup a password for all users. If you have an avatar handy, you might want to set it now so you don’t have to use a boring standard avatar.

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Open system in the control panel and go to the system restore tab. Turn off system restore on all drives and press apply. It will give you some kind of stupid warning – just tell it OK. Under remote tab, turn off anything you find, remote desktop, remote assistance, etc.

Under the hardware tab, go to the device manager and find something which hasn’t changed much since Windows 98, hehe. Make sure nothing has any question marks or exclamation points next to it. If it does, then that means you need a driver, or something isn’t working properly. Good luck figuring it out.

NOTE: If your C drive is your swap partition (which will happen if you had no partitions you kept from your original installation), then you will have a completely full C drive, which can be a problem for MANY legacy applications (and some poorly designed recent ones). Follow my guide HERE to correct it.

Still inside system properties, click on the advanced tab and then on the Performance – settings button. A new window will pop up with the visual effects tab showing. Click on “best performance” to automatically uncheck everything, but then go down and turn “Use Drop Shadows . . .” back on. Press apply (this is important – your changes could be lost if you make more changes in another tab).

Click on the advanced tab and click the change button under virtual memory. The dialog that comes up can be a bit annoying because you have to hit the set button after every change and it doesn’t prompt you if you are about to erase something. Select the drive that it is currently on, choose no paging file and click set.

Then choose the partition you set aside for your swap file and make it a custom size. Make the minimum and maximum the same size, both 50 MB less than the available space on the drive. Click set. If you had a pre-existing data partition, then this will usually be the D: or E: drive that you set this swap file partition to. However, if you had a clean hard drive, then the swap file will go on the C: drive and Windows on the D: (or E:). Click OK – but don’t reboot quite yet.

Back in advanced tab of System properties – click on the error reporting button and then disable error reporting. Optionally you can also disable notifications of critical errors.

Now you will probably notice a “low on disk space for [swap drive]” message coming up. Don’t worry, that will be the next thing to go. (Oh man, I hate Windows sometimes.)

As you click OK to exit this dialog, it should prompt you to reboot – go ahead and reboot!

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Obviously this is not everything in the control panel. Things like wireless networking (remember WPA with AES not WEP), game controllers, printers, faxes, modem options, or if you need to install any fonts, this will be handled through this dialog. (It was NEVER my intention to design a guide to cover every conceivable hardware configuration. You need to figure this stuff out on your own.)

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Load up an explorer window (open a folder) and turn on the address bar, unlock it and move it down so you can see it.

Move any shortcuts on the desktop that you want to keep onto the quick launch bar. Copy the Recycle Bin onto the quick launch bar as well. Delete all other icons and files left over. Right click on the desktop and go to “arrange icons by” and then uncheck “show desktop icons” This will hide your desktop icons and keep it from getting cluttered. You can switch it back on in like manner temporarily if you need to move some files around.
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Software to Make Life Easier

Basic Functionality

Program

Source

Comments

Corel

For opening zip files. This will try to install some junk – don’t let it. The trial is becoming more annoying – you may end up needing to pay for it. Encryption of zip files with AES under Winzip is considered the de-facto standard and since it is proprietary, you might have trouble finding a free alternative. They seem to have finally made a 45 day trial a hard limit – no more leeching or guilt screens any more.

Sun

If you are not developing in Java and just need the runtime; if you need the SDK, then GO HERE and look around for the latest SDK SE. There is some kind of enterprise pack that installs a bunch of junk that a casual developer would never need, so if you get something that is many hundreds of MBs, then you will know that you have gotten the wrong thing.
Players and Codecs

Program

Source

Comments

AOL

Player of music (don’t let it be the player of video though, it has trouble with throughput and CPU usage while playing many videos. I also like the old school skin but I suppose the new ones are OK.) During install I turn off Winamp agent, Winamp library, modern skin support, user interface extensions, visualizations and video file support. Winamp doesn’t seem to play movies well – I prefer to use Windows media player or Videolan for those. Also disable the System Tray Icon (Agent) in the next screen, and never associate with video files. Once loaded up, click on the digital time display to make it display time left instead of time into current file.

GNU

This is for playing FLAC which are compressed lossless audio files for/from audiophiles. Some songs you can really tell the difference, others don’t really matter. Most people think that the extra space isn’t worth it, but you still need to be able to play one if someone sends it to you. For FLAC to work with Winamp, you will need it to already be installed.

DivX Inc

This is for playing DivX content, which is what many movies and clips are using. Though not as bad as some people, DivX creators still want you to pay for the software, so just be mindful to get the regular (and fine) free DivX player. Don’t let it install any toolbars. In general, toolbars are bad. It might also try to install some other stuff, so watch this install very carefully. Now the divX codec comes with a built-in player – but I prefer to use Windows media player, or videolan, so might as well not install it at all.
Flash Player

Adobe

Adobe likes to hide their standalone installers – a trick they picked up from Quicktime. I have no doubt that direct links to installs are out there, I just don’t know how to find them. Usually I wait until I encounter flash content on a trusted website (Such as overclockers.com!).
Shockwave Player

Adobe

Same as above.

GNU

Quicktime is pretty high on my craplist for poorly made software, so an alternative to the rescue! It even plays inside webpages! Unfortunately, I run into occasional glitches and usually I’m forced to install true Apple Quicktime. (I have abandoned my veto Quicktime campaign when they removed the virus like feature of being unable to disable the quick start client.)

GNU

Same as above, just for Real Player. (Real player by real networks is about the most bloated piece of crap ware ever invented – my own personal opinion, of course.)

GNU

This is used for compression audio to MP3 – an obvious must.

GNU

Great little player – I use it when Microsoft Windows Media player is struggling with something such as a corrupted AVI or MPG file. There is latency in shutting it down which keeps it from being my top pick.

Andre Wiethoff

This is the best CD Ripping program around, and it is FREE! But note that it does not come with the LAME mp3 encoder, so you will have download that separately (it is found also in this list.)
Security

Program

Source

Comments

Kaspersky Lab

This is a great antivirus! I found out about it through an article here on Overclockers.com. I simply hate Norton antivirus, and I believed that antivirus simply brings your system to a halt no matter what. Little did I know it was just because I was using a bad product. This is not a free product but they do give you a good trial of 30 days. (Note: I have no vested or financial interest in this product other than as a consumer.) In general, I prefer no antivirus for my system, but this one I tolerate somehow and recommend it to all my clients.

Lavasoft

This is a very good program for cleaning out your system and it doesn’t need to remain memory resident. It will find spyware, adware and the like. Scan weekly or monthly, and anytime anyone else uses your computer (then scan again three days later in case they got something that wasn’t in the original database).

Unknown

This is a replacement for PGP since they decided to stop offering it for free.
Communication, Usenet, Downloaders etc.

Program

Source

Comments

Agent

Forte

For great newsreading and fun times . . .hehe . . seriously, I still use OE for some odd masochistic reason, but everyone tells me Forte is better. As far as downloading yEnc content, I will admit Forte cannot be beat.

Lime Wire LLC

Limewire is great for sharing files. You do have to sign a disclaimer saying you will not use it for any illegal purposes. Limewire is a Gnutella client in the tradition of Bearshare, just less buggy and with no integrated spyware apps.

SB-Software

Excellent for downloading content off usenet automatically and in bulk. This is a news robot. Always be wary of Usenet content if you are in a position where anything offensive/illegal could get you into trouble. Usenet boards are free and open, and it shows!
Download Manager

n/a

If you are on a modem and you need to download a large amount of information, you have no choice but to get a download manager. I have used a few, but Sun’s download manager is the only one that struck me as a quality product. I am not recommending it unless you need it because you cannot gain access to a real internet connection. (Note: in many instances you can use BitTorrent as a kind of download manager for things which have torrents available, and BitTorrent works well on a modem.)

Bit Torrent

This is becoming an increasingly popular method of downloading large files and distributing them from legitimate sources (although some illegal content does float around). It is imperative that you forward the TCP ports used by this app from the NAT to the program.

GuildFTPd

This is probably one of the easiest to set up FTP servers for Windows. I would never host a public FTP server on anything but a dedicated Linux box, but I have never run into any trouble with quick transfers from internet friends on non standard ports. This program will need ports forwarded to it from the router if you wish to be able to connect from outside of your LAN.

One gripe: It doesn’t seem to be possible to run the server in passive mode simultaneously on the intranet and internet since there is only one accepted host passive IP address. Note they ask that you use BitTorrent to download their compiled program to save them bandwidth – this will assume you already have BitTorrent completely setup with ports forwarded – honestly it is much easier to download such a tiny program directly.

Unknown (Not GNU)

You need this to talk with Linux boxes (if you don’t have a Linux box, then stop messing around and go build one out of your spare parts!!).
Development (For Software Engineers)

Program

Source

Comments

Java SDK and Netbeans

Sun

I listed a site for downloading this earlier in the first section of this guide.

Gexperts

This is my favorite IDE for Java for exceptionally simple, single class compilations. Keep in mind that you need to have separately installed the Java SDK before this to get it to work properly. It is natively compiled, so the startup time is quite nice. (Note, this is a no frills IDE, and that is what I like about it, but don’t go there expecting to find something like NetBeans.)

Bloodshed Software

This is a free GNU C and C++ compiler for Windows. It is great for learning and developing apps. Plus, in general, I have found that EXE’s made from this program are smaller than ones made from MSVS.
Office and Document Programs

Program

Source

Comments

LGPL Public Domain

This is a suite which can replace Microsoft Office. The price is great too – free!
Office

Microsoft

You should have already installed this if you have a copy. Note that Microsoft Office will install a language bar that you will need to kill.

Fox It Software

I don’t know about you, but waiting 30 minutes for Adobe to load to show me what basically amounts to a glorified picture (I’m talking about the splash screen before it shows you the PDF) is not my idea of fun. An alternative exists and works for everything except DRM protected Adobe content. It’s called FoxIt! Please note that this has no installation program – simply an EXE file that you stick somewhere, run once and it will work from then on. (I wish more software were like that!)

CutePDF

This is a PDF printer which allows you to make PDF files as though you were printing. Please note: you must download the ghostscript converter first and then the printer driver.
Chat

Program

Source

Comments

IRC Client

n/a

If you engage in IRC chat you will already have a client of choice – if no, you probably won’t care about it!

Microsoft

MSN is my favorite chat client.

AOL

Yahoo


ICQ AOL – If you are using ICQ, download the client HERE
Browsers

Program

Source

Comments

Internet Explorer

Microsoft

IE is kinda’ forced on us as Windows XP users. This has good and bad side effects. It has security vulnerabilities more than most browsers, but a trade-off is that most websites are generally guaranteed to work with it.

Mozilla

This is a safer way to browse, but you do sacrifice a small amount of compatibility with poorly made sites (which are VERY abundant).

 Corel

I recommend this browser to anyone since they got rid of the ads. It is safer than OE and much lighter weight. I suggest turning off individual profiles for different users. It is quite lightweight.
Miscellaneous

Program

Source

Comments

Mindprod

Use this to set the time use it about once a week.

GNU

Use this for playing old school DOS games, like Lemmings 2!

You may also want to invest in software for file recovery, secure file deletion, disk slack wiping, CD/DVD burning, DVD ripping, photo editing, audio editing, full drive encryption, benchmarking and of course games! There are other audio and video codecs out there, particularly for people who download movies off sites such as BitTorrent. I usually just download these things (such as the xVid codec) as needed.
{mospagebreak}

Services and Startup

The next few steps involve editing the registry which can be quite dangerous – proceed at your own risk!

If you are not willing to occasionally “muck” with your services to make things work, then it is unwise to turn things off. For instance, I don’t mind having to turn on BITS and Automatic Updates every time I update my system in exchange for a little less MB used and a half second during boot. If you know this is not you, then DON’T DO IT!

Run regedit and search for the registry for MenuShowDelay. This is the delay between hovering over a menu and it being shown. I used to be radical and insist it be changed to 1 ms – but time has shown me that some delay can be helpful (no double meaning intended), even useful for your brain to adjust. BUT NOT 0.4 seconds – I think 0.08 seconds is a good compromise (it is measured in ms)! You should find it set to generally 400.

Go through and search for every instance and change it to 80 (you can repeat the search with F3). Keep searching until it says it is not found anymore, even if you find something already set to 80 (it did not loop around unless you told it to). What you are seeing is a form of aliasing.

Still in regedit, navigate to

HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorer

Note that this is current user – and you my have to repeat for every user. I have not had luck putting it as a global setting – perhaps my understanding of how the registry works is flawed – or perhaps, rather, Windows is flawed ;)

Make a new DWORD called NoLowDiskSpaceChecks and set its value to 1. You will have to repeat for every user. This will get rid of that annoying pop-up saying you are out of disk space on certain drives.

Go to start, then run, and run msconfig

Choose Selective Startup:

  • Uncheck System.ini
  • Uncheck Win.ini
  • Uncheck Load Startup Items

Startup Tab:

Turn anything back on that you need, such as Virus checkers, firewalls etc.

Run Services.msc:

  • If you use wireless card you will need Wireless Zero Configuration
  • If you were not able to setup a static IP address, you will need DHCP service
  • If you are using Windows firewall, then you need that service to be on – if you are behind a NAT, you will not need a firewall
  • If you have any virus scanners or firewalls, they may have their own services

Sometimes Quicktime or other programs may install useless services (like Ipod, or ATI installs a quick key service). These can usually be turned off (obviously if you have an Ipod, then don’t turn off the Ipod service).

Some printers or hardware devices need a service – I know Lexmark is like this, so you will need those for the printer to work properly.

This is not a comprehensive list – for instance, to make certain flash drives work, you may need removable storage.

Add any services from above to an automatic list; also add the following to automatic list:

  • DCOM Server process . . .
  • Event Log
  • Plug and play
  • Remote Procedure call (RPC)
  • Windows management Instrumentation
  • Windows User Mode Driver
  • Are you going to print (including virtual printer)? If yes, add Print Spooler to the list
  • Are you to use Audio? If yes, add Windows Audio to list
  • Are you going to leave automatic updates on (or will you get annoyed if you have to turn on services to update Windows):? If yes, then add Background Intelligent Transfer Service and Automatic Updates.

Now make a manual list:

  • Application management
  • ASP.NET State Service
  • HTTP SSL
  • Network Connections
  • Network Provisioning service
  • Windows Installer
  • Windows Media Connect (WMC)
  • Windows Media Connect (WMC) Helper
  • Use a modem? If yes, add telephony, remote access auto configuration manager and remote access connection manager

Everything else will be disabled.

  • Sort by name so they don’t keep reorganizing
  • Disable everything not in either list
  • Make things in manual list set to manual
  • Make things in automatic list to auto

To change a service start type, double click it in the list in services.msc. A dialog will pop up with a drop down box for switching services among automatic, manual and disabled (which means it will always start, will start when needed or will never start, respectively).

Of course, I cannot list services not included in the basic Windows setup. Some services you may need for special purposes. AOL has some services that have to remain on automatic for it to not whine and complain and moan (as a tribute to AOL software engineering, one should note that AOL software is unable to start its services if they are left in manual mode).

Miscellaneous

Although not directly related to installing Windows, don’t forget to setup your port forwards from your router. Something like this usually works for me. I change default ports on any kind of server for security, but I will list default ports here:

  • 6112 UDP – All Blizzard Games (War III and later have adjustable port options)
  • ? TCP – Guild FTP Port – TCP (Never ever use port 21 to run an FTP server from a Windows box, it’s not safe)
  • 20000 – 20200 TCP – Default Guild FTP Passive Ports (don’t forget to set it in options to run in passive mode) – it may be safer to change these

BitTorrent / FTP port forwards (If not using UPNP)

Go and download an anti-spyware anti-ads hosts file from a trusted location. Here is a quick link to an article I have used before.

The correct method for setting background: Open an image in Internet Explorer and right click to set a background – this will make a bitmap file.

If you have DDNS – be sure to set that up in your router if possible; if not possible, you will need a client.
{mospagebreak}

General Tips

Do not use internet connection sharing.

Do not host services like HTTP server or FTP server on standard ports.

Always make sure to completely erase the old partition Windows was installed on. You won’t have a fresh install without this. Also wipe it, if you did not previously own the hard drive, or you have anything to hide.

Toolbars are bad – they latch onto internet explorer and you never really know what they are going to do. Google toolbar is tolerable, I suppose.

Eventually you will probably want to setup a static IP address and turn off the DHCP server to save a little bit of memory. To get your current IP information, go to the command prompt (Start->Run->cmd) and type “ipconfig /all” (quotes for clarity). When choosing a static IP address inside your intranet, choose a high enough number so that DHCP IP addresses will never conflict. I usually just add 50 to the last number since my LANs are quite small.

Spybot will try to turn Microsoft security center back on every time you run it. Other antivirus and anti-spyware applications may do the same. Stop them. Microsoft Security Center is an insult to computer users everywhere – a resource hog and it pesters you incessantly about useless “problems”.

Annoyances

There is a point to this section – I will somewhat comically remind you of program annoyances which need to be corrected before you can happily use your Windows install.

Applications that you install are naturally going to try to be as annoying as possible. For instance, chat clients are notorious for adding themselves repeatedly to your start group – you actually have to change the option in the client so it realizes it is not supposed to go there (as if it were doing you some kind of favor).

On that topic, chat clients also like to bring up an annoying news page that some people get in the habit of mindlessly closing. And what $#^%^ is with the stupid icon bars along the left? MSN at least has the courtesy to put it inside the window, ICQ has a hanging one that hangs over other applications so you can’t see them. I am still trying to figure out how to kill it permanently – MSN is at least straightforward in turning it off (they are called tabs).

Great programs like Daemon Tools install with adware – fortunately you can uninstall it. I did not list Daemon Tools on my software list for this reason. I use it – but having to uninstall an adware application is one excuse I don’t want to have to explain to someone who forgot to while innocently following my install guide.

Inside GEL, there are two crazy options called tab indents and smart tabs which need to be turned off. Apparently some kind of AI is supposed to be able to detect how you want your file indented. They should rename them to “random tab indents” and “retard tabs” respectively.

Organizing

Now your computer is mostly working (at least it should be), it is time to restore you backups! Copy all your files back – you can worry about sorting them later. You will want to run a virus scan on them with something like Panda Free Online Virus Scanner. I always click “I am feeling lucky” on the Google search “Panda Free Virus” to find it. The quick link is HERE.

Keep in mind that it will only work in Internet Explorer because of its use of ActiveX technology. I know there are Java versions of similar products out there, but I have not found a good one yet. Don’t forgo the virus check and re-infect yourself with some virus you had before.

I suggest you consolidate your user start menu with your “all users” start menu. Do this by moving the folders in

x:documents and settingsusernamestart menu     with

x:documents and settingsall usersstart menu

where username is your chosen username and x: is your system drive. (Ever deleted a folder from favorites and gone back to find the folder there still, or with half or all of the entries removed? You are witnessing this stupid redundancy – it should either be pure global or duplicate copies for everyone, not some crazy hybrid mix.)

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the start menu is insanely out of control, messy, convoluted and polluted by a number of vendors all adding stuff at random to it. It is time to clean it up.

I prefer to break it up into categories and eliminate nested folders as much as possible. I keep most accessories that system put there, but I drop things like putty.exe into it as well as eliminating the majority of nested folders. You will probably find, as I did, that the majority of nesting and many default entries are not required. Use nesting to hide things that you may need to locate but that you will rarely use.

Pic

You have to sort your start menu a way that is intuitive to you. Don’t let me influence you too much – but I think that any kind of organization is better than not messing with it at all. I chose this to show you what I consider to be necessary folder nesting.

The Microsoft Office Tools include rarely used applications like document recovery – you won’t need to navigate to it, but you won’t be restricted from it either if you had deleted it. If you had dropped it into its parent folder, then finding what you need would be made harder. Also, murder shortcuts in your start menu that you know you will never use, like all the uninstall options hidden in there.

I like to be able to open programs with a hotkey, but it is especially annoying to have to setup in Windows. You need to go to the shortcut in the start menu, go to properties and setup a hotkey (you will see the place in the dialog that comes up under properties on the shortcut tab). I usually set up Ctrl+Alt+W for Winamp and Ctrl+Alt+N for Notepad.

I used to have far more elaborate configurations with over 40 hotkeys, but since there is no way to save them (no way that I know), I have gotten lazy – not to mention I would forget, and it simply takes too long when you have to do them one at a time.

I hope you find this Guide useful!

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