Windows Foundation

XP: From the Ground Up

Your Win2K Pro-savvy will give you a head-start on implementing Windows XP. Let's start with the installation.

How times flies! This column was started less than two years ago to focus on the forthcoming Windows 2000 operating system, which has now gone through a complete product cycle. With the release of Windows XP and the soon-to-be released Windows .NET Server products, this column will shift to address these new platforms while retaining the central mission of focusing on introductory and intermediate technology issues of interest to MCSEs.

Where should we start with this new focus? At the beginning, of course! Let's look at what you'll need to do to get XP up and running.

Installation Walk-Through
XP setup is broken up into two phases: character-based and graphical-user-interface-based. This is consistent with other Windows setup routines, so not much is new here. Following is a walk-through of both phases of the installation.

For this walkthrough, I'm assuming you have a bootable CD drive—a common feature. If not, you'll need to create the setup floppy disks per the instructions in the README.DOC file on Windows XP Professional disk.

Here's the step-by-step:

  1. Place the Windows XP Professional disk in the drive and boot the computer.
  2. If required, touch any key during the machine's power on stage (POST) to boot from the CD.
  3. The character-based setup phase looks surprisingly like Win2K Professional. You're offered the opportunity to press F6 to specify unsupported SCSI and RAID drivers, but this wasn't needed with my installation.
  4. At the Setup Notification screen, press Enter to continue.
  5. At the "Welcome to Setup" screen, hit Enter to continue.
  6. Read the Windows XP Licensing Agreement and press F8 to agree.
  7. On the Win2K Professional Setup screen, you'll create your installation partition. You do this by selecting "Unpartitioned space" and pressing Enter.
  8. Next, select "Format the partition using the NTFS file system" and press Enter. The hard disk will be formatted using the NTFS file system, and the numerous setup files will be copied (*.drv, and so on). You have time here to sprint out and get a quick shot of espresso (it's true!). The computer will perform one reboot, and the very attractive XP logo will appear.
  9. The "An exciting new look" page will notify you that Windows is installing and will be done in approximately 39 minutes (your time will vary). The setup process goes on autopilot here for a spell.
  10. Numerous other information screens will pass before you eyes like virtual billboards.
  11. Complete the Regional and Language Options screen and click Next.
  12. Complete the Personalize Your Software screen (Name and Organization fields) and click Next.
  13. On the Your Product Key screen, type in the 25-character Product Key found on the CD gem case sticker. Click Next.
  14. On the Computer Name and Administrator Password screen, complete the Computer Name field (preferably a short name like Computer1) and the Administrator Password and Confirm Password fields (use a complex password, with alpha, numeric and special mixed-case characters).
  15. On the Date and Time Settings screen, adjust as necessary and click Next. At this time, the networking components will be installed in a semi-automatic manner.
  16. On the Networking Settings screen, select Typical Settings (the default selection) and click Next.
  17. On the Workgroup and Domains screen, select No and click Next. For this example, I'll assume you aren't joining a domain. Next month, I'll show you Windows XP peer-to-peer networking based on the workgroup model. At this point, the setup process will autopilot for a while again. If you look closely, you'll see the Start menu items, among other things, being installed.
  18. When the Display Settings dialog box appears, click OK.
  19. After the display test occurs, the Monitor Settings dialog box will appear, asking you if the settings are correct. Click OK.
  20. When the Welcome to Microsoft Windows screen appears, click Next.
  21. When you get to "How will the computer connect to the Internet," click either Digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modem or Local area network (LAN). Click Next. Based on my current connection, I selected the LAN option.
  22. On the "Setting up a high-speed connection" screen, configure your IP address information for dynamically obtained or statistically assigned. I selected the Obtain IP Automatically and Obtain DNS Automatically checkboxes. Click Next.
  23. On the Ready to Activate Windows screen, you'll likely want to select "Yes, activate Windows over the Internet now." You would then proceed to complete the registration screens. In this case, for simplicity, select "No, remind me every few days." Click Next. (Note that you will have 14 days to activate Windows once you've installed it. )
  24. On the "Who will use this computer" screen, in the "Your name" field, type your name and click Next.
  25. On the "Thank you!" screen, click Finish. The setup routine will apply some last-minute configurations and a lower-case "welcome" notice will entertain you.
  26. You're then presented with the Windows XP desktop.

Take a bow! You've successfully installed Windows XP.

First Looks: Eye Candy
You might be subliminally aware that Windows XP is based on the now stable and mature Win2K code base. So when you look at the desktop in Figure 1, you might actually be "underwhelmed" with the new look and feel.

Windows XP desktop
Figure 1. Modest to say the least, the baseline Windows XP desktop is somewhat blank, relying on the Start menu to access the user interface objects. (Click image to view larger version.)

Clicking on the Start menu leads you into more familiar territory. You'll see a number of program items on the left, such as recent programs opened and the obligatory inducement to subscribe to MSN as your Internet Service Provider (ISP). On the right side of the Start menu, you have My Documents, Control Panel, Search and so on (Figure 2, below). Easily overlooked is the All Programs group that displays numerous other program items and groups (e.g., Accessories).

Windows XP Start
Figure 2. Meet and greet the revised Start menu in Windows XP. (Click image to view larger version.)

In preparing this column, I spoke with an MCSE based in Cocoa, Florida, to get her reaction to Windows XP (in part to validate or discredit my own observations). She felt the experience in upgrading to Windows XP from Win2K was similar to her experience years ago when she migrated from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. Yes, she could appreciate that Windows XP contains new features she's not completely exploiting at this early date, but the user interface was taking a lot of time to master. I concur and basically feel I'm aging as an MCSE, forlorn in my fondness for the familiar user interfaces of old.

New Features
Windows XP isn't just replicated code base and new eye candy. There are actually some new features you should note (Future columns will focus on specific features, so this is just an overview).

  • Driver management—Long-awaited improvements in driver management include the ability to rollback a driver installation. That is, the old dynamic link library (DLL) and associated files are retained so that a rollback scenario can be easily implemented. Better yet, Microsoft has pledged to maintain its Web site as a single source for all drivers needed for any device used with Windows XP.
  • Firewall—A personal firewall component is provided as part of the networking setup routine. This is accessed from Control Panel | Network and Internet Connections | Network Setup Wizard (this is the topic of my column next month so hang on, please!).
  • Remote Desktop—Imagine something with the small footprint of NetMeeting and the robustness of Terminal Services and you've got the remote desktop management capabilities in Windows XP. This alone may well justify an organization's cost to upgrade to Windows XP because of the Help Desk savings in providing real-time user support.
  • Multimedia Support—In the past, multimedia was a take-it-or-leave-it feature with MCSEs, to be honest. But with the world changing and people re-evaluating their need to travel, we're seeing a boom in video conferencing. Windows XP, while not a Macintosh in the multimedia realm, improves on the multimedia support seen in Windows Me and brings the stability of Win2K Professional. Not bad, eh?

Next Steps
Congratulations on completing the installation of Windows XP Professional. Please take some time to explore the new user interface and build your baseline knowledge of the operating system. That will be especially useful next month when you are charged with the task of networking Windows XP in a peer-to-peer scenario.

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