The eight-day Windows XP install

While this could be a fun rant on why certain software vendors mistreat their customers, or a screed on how all hardware is out to get us, I just thought I’d post some notes on neat stuff I’ve learned during the process, and some links to cool resrources for those in similar dire straits.

Like most small development shops, we’ve got a clutter of older machines sitting around collecting dust: too slow, broken or buggy to use, too functional to throw away. As part of one software development project, we needed to set up a couple of test machines, clean of our software, to confirm that clean installs would install and configure all the needed components.

We picked an HP Omnibook 7100: PII-266, 192 Mb RAM, 7.5 GB hard drive, PCMCIA 100 Mbps Ethernet. The Omnibook’s a bit poky for day to day use, and the combination CD-ROM and floppy unit flaky (this is the second one, the first having been replaced at great expense. Seems like a failure-prone device). Our goal was to have a repeatable test platform, so we wanted to be able to make a snapshot of a clean and configured operating system image, and then restore to that point when needed. While Windows XP is the primary target market for our application, some clients are using Windows 98, so image of both would be ideal.

The CD-ROM was an older model, and only reliably read 650-Mb formatted CD-ROMs, not the more common 700-Mb extended images. I discovered that in a botched install of Libranet, which needed the extra space and so failed to install cleanly.

I needed to start by blowing away the machine, creating partitions, and installing from there. http://www.bootdisk.com to the rescue! Bootdisk.com has images available for most variations of Windows, and some modified disks with very handy utilities on them. A PayPal contribution of $3 will give you access to even more “bonus” material. Check them out.

Win98se boot floppy in hand, I restarted the machine and… failed. Floppy disk was unreadable. A couple of tries, reformatting in different machines, using different media, no joy. The floppy reader was likely history. Didn’t floppy disks used to be more reliable?

Back to bootdisk.com, and found the instructions for burning a bootable CD with the contents of he Win98se book disk, using the Nero CD-burning software. Booting from the slightly-more-relaiable CD-ROM, I was able to boot the machine and partition the hard drive: 2 Gb for Win98se, 2 Gb for Windows XP, 2 GB for a backup partition and/or a Linux install, and the remaining 1.5 GB spare. I made the first three partitions identical in size, a fortuitious event that paid off later in the install.

After a few more challenges, I managed to successfully install Windows 98 Second Edition, but without Ethernet support: Win98se recognized the Intel EtherExpress ro 100+ combo card as a modem, but not a NIC. Heedless of this, I jumped into attempting to get WinXP onto the second partition. Very bad idea. WinXP asked if it could access the internet for an update to the WinXP setup, but of course I hadn’t configured it yet. I attempted to bull ahead. WinXP tried to check the second partition, complained that it could not read the disk, then couldn’t read the CD-COM, then died. Restarting, I discovered the “upgrade” had wiped the c:windows folder.

Start over!

Reinstalled Win98, and this time took the time to transfer the drivers for the Intel EtherExpressPro 100+ drivers and drivers for USB drive so I could stop burning CDs. With an internet connection installed, I updated Win 98 to its most recent patched state.

More to write, but my fingers are worn out. Here are notes on the next steps…

Notes


  1. Before installing WinXP again, wanted to image drive
  2. Installed Belkin Firewire card and connected to Seagate external 160 Gb drive
  3. Ghost 2003 would not recognize Firewire card when rebooted
  4. Went to leafe.com’s ProLinux list for advice
  5. Referred to http://www.feyrer.de/g4u/ by Carl Karsten
  6. g4u worked by using a NetBSD boot floppy or CD, using a low-level reading program to read the partition contents, and ftp the contents to a remote location.
  7. Make sure you download version 2.0 and not 1.17 – links can be confusing!
  8. Problems finding working NIC compatible with g4u – ended up with Etherlink III (3C589C)
  9. Installed and configured ProFTPd on our internal Linux file server to act as the ftp target. Configuration of ftp server and addition of user easy with WebMin.
  10. Snapshot friday night – started before retiring for the day
  11. Restore (to second partition) on Saturday night – lucky I had chosen identical partition sizes, since g4u doesn’t seem to support resizing, like Ghost.
  12. Reboot, verify partitions identical, install WinXP
  13. Since CD is still questionable, use WinXP options to copy all setup files to second partition (D:) and convert partition from FAT32 to NTFS as part of the install.
  14. Complete Windows XP setup (2 hours)
  15. Install Windows Updates for XP. Critical warnings about disk space by the end – 6 Mb free in the 2 Gb allocated for XP. Running out of disk space meant that System Restore was turned off, just at the time all of the updates were installed. Miraculously, the machine rebooted anyway.
  16. Defragged the volume – what a mess it was!
  17. Image partition to backup ftp server.

Still to be done


  1. Do the testing we configured the machine for – remember the testing?
  2. Restore partition to verify it can be done.
  3. Install Linux in third partition to provide boot loader for all partitions.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.