How (Not) to Install Windows XP in 2012

How (Not) To Install Windows XPI spent nearly all of Wednesday installing Windows XP — yes, Windows XP — to a faster laptop than the one I’m typing this one on for purposes that… well, let’s just say I’m in the process of facilitating my writing process and installing a copy of XP on that laptop is a necessary part of my goal. I doubt anyone wants to know all the dirty details about why I still want to run an operating system that is three generations old and losing its relevancy with each passing hour. Suffice it to say that I spent way too much valuable time installing Windows XP Professional and never want to have to go through the process again. It’s 2012 — XP was released about twelve years ago — and I’m going to tell you what I’d do differently should I ever need to install Windows XP again.

Installing an operating system — particularly an older operating system such as XP — takes a long time if you are installing from an OEM installation disc (which is what I did). Since I no longer have the original restore disc that came with my laptop, I spent a good amount of time digging through the manufacturer’s website and downloading and installing the laptop’s drivers. In addition, I was required to download and install Microsoft’s .NET framework in order to install software that the laptop’s manufacturer recommends in order to keep the machine’s drivers up to date. I’ll admit that that particular piece of software wasn’t a necessary step in the process, but I included it because I wanted to make my laptop operate as it did when I first unpacked the machine a few years ago.

But the main exercise that takes up so much time re-installing Windows XP (in 2012, at least) is the avalanche of security updates you need to install that are necessary for keeping your computer running the way you want it to: capably and securely. This requires a steady monitoring of your system as you install updates and service packs, as every once in awhile Windows will prompt you to restart your system so as to ensure the latest updates get properly installed. Once rebooted, Windows will again check for updates and there will inevitably be another one you’ll need to install, and again your computer will eventually prompt you to reboot. Update and reboot, update and reboot. (Come to think of it now, I could have probably saved a great deal of time by simply downloading Service Pack 3 and going from there. Oh, well.)

Throughout the day I was busy multitasking: taking care of household chores, attending to LockerGnome activities, moving a WordPress blog from one server to another…and returning to the laptop to see if I needed to reboot again. The hours ticked by. At last I found my laptop heavy and satisfied with an installation of Windows XP Professional that no longer beckoned for critical updates. My system was ready for action.

Once my system was fully ready for action I began to consider all the ways I could muck it up. Simply connecting it to the Internet and surfing the wrong website(s) could infect it with a virus, and though many infections might be resolved with a quick virus scan, there are extreme cases where the only way I would be able to return my system to its now-capable and secure state would be to re-install the operating system. That’s right: I would have to do all this over again.

That’s when I realized that I don’t ever want to spend a day installing Windows XP again. Not on this laptop, anyway. Next time I will be better prepared. Next time I’ll install from a disc image.

A disc image (also known by other terms including a cloned image or a ghosted image) is something you make to better prepare yourself for days such as I had on Wednesday. Rather than take the chance that I would quickly infect my computer, I decided I would make a disc image of my system in its now-pristine state so that I would always have the ability to restore the laptop to its end-of-a-long-installation-process status. What imaging does is clone (or image, or take a snapshot of) your entire disk (or a partition on the disk) and save it to another disk (or DVD-ROM, CD-ROM or USB drive) so that you’ll have a backup to restore from in case you should ever require it. No more spending an entire day installing Windows XP from scratch — simply boot from the backup image, start installing to your drive and — voila! — your system is returned to its infancy. (Perhaps adolescence is a better term to use, since you’re restoring your computer to a state in which it is able to walk and talk and perform a few tricks. It’ll still have a lot to learn, however, and you’ll still need to re-install any applications you’ve installed since that initial installation of Windows.)

Thing is, I’m not sure I’ve ever imaged a Windows disk (or partition) before. I’ve used ghosted images at work, and I regularly use an application called SuperDuper! to clone my Mac systems. It’s not a complicated process, once you get the gist of it. Yet when it comes to Windows, I feel like a babe in the woods. Where do I start? Do I use the classic imaging applications I’ve long been aware of, such as Norton Ghost or one of the Acronis solutions? Is storing my image on a virtual server better than doing so on a physical drive? How much would all this cost? Are there reliable free solutions?

Over the weekend I will be using two or three different imaging solutions for Windows XP. Since I’m absolutely driven by economy, I will only be using free and entirely legal software. I’ve already tested one of EaseUS‘s free solutions without success but I’ll be digging around to find out why I’m having problems with the software. I’ve also downloaded the free and open source Clonezilla, which I’ll be burning to disc and attempting to clone my drive or a partition with. I’ll also test out DriveImage XML, which was recommended by one of the Gnomies in the Gnomies TeamSpeak conference room. Regardless of whether it takes me all day or simply a few hours, on Monday you will find out the best way(s) to image Windows XP so that you won’t have to waste a day installing the operating system ever again.

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  • http://twitter.com/EnvoyOfTheEnd Ian Bunting

    Having just ressurected an old XP desktop due to an equally old XP laptop being on its last legs I know that pain all too well from recent experience.
    I will eagerly await the followup article to this since I have also myself never ventured into imaging, and will be tempted to do so for other windows systems I am using.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Thanks for the comment, Ian. I’m going to document the process as thoroughly as I can using solutions that are supposed to properly image a Windows XP disk (and/or a Windows XP partition). There are many ways to image a disk — both locally and in the cloud — but since I don’t recall ever having done so with Windows XP it’ll be a learning experience…and I’m hoping it will help others (such as yourself).

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Thanks for the comment, Ian. I’m going to document the process as thoroughly as I can using solutions that are supposed to properly image a Windows XP disk (and/or a Windows XP partition). There are many ways to image a disk — both locally and in the cloud — but since I don’t recall ever having done so with Windows XP it’ll be a learning experience…and I’m hoping it will help others (such as yourself).

  • http://twitter.com/lhamil64 Lee

    I too had to install XP on an old laptop a few months ago. I completely understand why you (or anyone) NEVER wants to go through that again. So many updates.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I enjoy installing operating systems. There’s a sense of anticipation, and once the system is up and running the way you want it too, it’s like having a shiny new vehicle. (Or a perfectly rebuilt one). But installing Windows XP doesn’t seem all that enjoyable when you’re simply aiming to get it done and over with so that you can get on to other business.

  • http://my.opera.com/geekgirlfri/blog/ Melinda P

    I had to reinstall Windows XP on an old Dell Dimension desktop only last week – customer wanted to use it for a spare browsing station.  If you hadn’t already mentioned it above, my first tip would have been “download SP3 to save time in updates”!

    I will be eagerly awaiting the results of your disk imaging tests – I wish I had thought to make an image of that desktop when I was finished!

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Yeah, I don’t know why that hadn’t occurred to me! I guess I was so busy I’d forgotten just how long the installation would take…

      If you’re still in touch with your customer and they’ve got their desktop running just the way they want it now, maybe it’s not too late to image that disk of theirs. Regardless, I’ll have some suggestions Monday after I compare a few different solutions.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rysliv ryan haz

    my installs take about 30mins but ive got a trimmed down version of xp.. which only uses about 300mb when installed. 

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Thanks for commenting, Ryan. Please don’t mistake this as me judging but is that a legal trimmed-down version? (Actually, this reminds me of a couple of articles fellow LockerGnome writers explored this week regarding both the legal and the ethical implications of installing modified version of Mac OS X on PCs.)

  • johnnylopez

    I too just re installed windows XP this is the 3rd time and with its system recovery disc on my old Vaio. Twice or thrice I had to restart for XP2 and XP3 service packs. Well, now its back to its usual self while I uninstalled unnecessary programs. Using Microsoft security essentials its faster with just simple browsing and internet utilization.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      The laptop I’m working with originally came with Vista installed, along with all the utilities for the system. I’ll bet it also came with a bunch of trialware. It would have been so much faster using the Vista disc but even if I had that disc I’d still have opted for Windows XP because I have some purpose in mind for the older OS.

      Thanks for reminding me of Microsoft Security Essentials.

      • http://twitter.com/EnvoyOfTheEnd Ian Bunting

        My first thought too was to use MSE, but I was forced into an alternative.
        Despite my best efforts MSE was causing the opening of the My Documents or many other folders to take an excessive amount of time, several minutes often.
        I eventually settled on Panda Cloud Anti-Virus, though that perhaps being more a personal choice from limited experience rather than an educated decision.

      • http://twitter.com/EnvoyOfTheEnd Ian Bunting

        My first thought too was to use MSE, but I was forced into an alternative.
        Despite my best efforts MSE was causing the opening of the My Documents or many other folders to take an excessive amount of time, several minutes often.
        I eventually settled on Panda Cloud Anti-Virus, though that perhaps being more a personal choice from limited experience rather than an educated decision.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1384696030 J Paul Armstrong

    are u retarded or just into pain 1) USE NLITE TO automate the install process and slipstream all required updates including the sp3 service pak  2)ADD  OEM and 3rd party files as needed 3) nlite compiles the slipstreamed materials and then u burn to iso and voila super fast installation hassle free and generally done in under 30 mins.  Nlite installation will start out saying the time to complete is 39 minutes it is generally done in about 22 to 25 mins.   

    • http://twitter.com/EnvoyOfTheEnd Ian Bunting

      If there were only a small number of updates after SP3 then that would be feasible.
      However more than two weeks later after installing SP3 I am still having to regularly apply yet more updates.
      Also imaging is more than just backing up the OS, but potentially installed applications also which if imaged at the correct time could save further time and hassle upon a restore.

      • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

        Exactly. The only thing I’ve installed on the “pristine” Windows XP is Google’s Chrome browser. I just have a very strong hunch I’ll be using that browser far more than Internet Explorer, so it makes sense to have the image contain the browser installed and ready to get back to work (or play — or workplay)! It’s a tough call in some ways because you don’t know exactly which tools you’ll still be using on that future occasion in which you may be required to use that disk image.

      • Jumbie

        Use AutoPatcher for updates. All done in about an hour.

        http://www.jumbieswatch.com/2007/04/avoiding-hassle.html

  • Gmayes

    Be sure to check out Macrium Reflect (free version).  It works great and it will also create a bootable CD/DVD for doing the restore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/doctorleeds Mark Leeds

    I have an XP disc I bought in the past year at CompUSA (I think they are really Tiger Direct or something like that now).  It is the SP3 version.  I have installed it only in Parallels a couple of times.  I tried installing it on a real laptop recently and I was told that that copy had been installed too many times.  I didn’t know that could happen.  I keep a copy of the VM file saved to use in Parallels whenever I need it.  It is in a state of being well updated but with no programs installed.  Parallels asks if it is being moved or copied when I first start it up in a new place.  Maybe by answering “copied” too many times, is why Microsoft thinks I am running a bunch of installations from the same disk.  I like Parallels (and VMWare is probably as good or better).  It takes the hardware headaches out of running XP.

  • http://www.facebook.com/doctorleeds Mark Leeds

    I have an XP disc I bought in the past year at CompUSA (I think they are really Tiger Direct or something like that now).  It is the SP3 version.  I have installed it only in Parallels a couple of times.  I tried installing it on a real laptop recently and I was told that that copy had been installed too many times.  I didn’t know that could happen.  I keep a copy of the VM file saved to use in Parallels whenever I need it.  It is in a state of being well updated but with no programs installed.  Parallels asks if it is being moved or copied when I first start it up in a new place.  Maybe by answering “copied” too many times, is why Microsoft thinks I am running a bunch of installations from the same disk.  I like Parallels (and VMWare is probably as good or better).  It takes the hardware headaches out of running XP.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Hi Mark. If you purchased a retail (regularly boxed) XP disc, you are only permitted to run the operating system on one computer at a time. Microsoft detects this during a process of the installation called Windows Genuine Activation, in which your computer transmits information to Microsoft to determine your license is legitimate and you don’t already have your copy of XP installed elsewhere. (If it is installed elsewhere, you can contact Microsoft to notify them that you’re moving XP to a new PC.) Microsoft’s database probably “knows” that you have XP already installed on the machine using Parallels.

      If it’s an OEM disc, on the other hand, you’re really supposed to only be able to install it on one PC and never move it to another one.

  • http://twitter.com/br3akth3lim1t Nathan Barnett

    I like to use Clonezilla. Open source, supports many filesystems, and it runs on the Linux kernel.

  • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

    Thanks for that advice. Macrium came up in my research of imaging solutions; one review cited is as second only to EaseUS in his view. Apparently the most recent version, 5.0, had some issues that needed to be patched. Do you know if those issues have been resolved?

  • Sdeforest

    I had similar problem with XP recently, including picking up a toolbar I did not want.  http://www.lockergnome.com/decisions/2012/02/23/remove-babylon-toolbar/

  • Reid Sprague

    Wow – I really feel your pain! Had to do that a couple of years ago on a lady friend’s Dell – the driver search is particularly frustrating. . . It took me all afternoon, then I had to come back the next afternoon and finish up. After we got it up and running, we both felt like we’d never do that again!

    I’ve used Clonezilla a lot and it’s always worked great. It’s command line, but no problem to follow. Pretty fast, too, and makes a good image (which you can check, as well, after it’s finished). It’s free and works great – I like it. 

    I’ve used Norton Ghost and Acronis too (still have copies of both) but it’s actually easier to boot a Clonezilla disc and go – I don’t even think about what OS it is. Clonezilla works for Windows and Linux equally well.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Hi Reid! I used Clonezilla yesterday — it took about 40 minutes for the application to clone the Windows XP partition to my external USB drive. I stumbled through my first attempt at using it, but I think that was more due to my not paying much attention to what I was doing. (I was watching a movie at the time.)

      By the way, it wasn’t command line, though command line was an option. (By default it’s a text-based GUI.) It worked great but I think it might be a bit too difficult for a beginner to use. I know a thing or two about IT administration but was a bit perplexed about what I was doing.

  • Reid Sprague

    Hope I’m not posting twice – refreshed the page and my comment disappeared. . . 

    Wow – I really feel your pain! Had to do that a couple of years ago on a lady friend’s Dell – the driver search is particularly frustrating. . . It took me all afternoon, then I had to come back the next afternoon and finish up. After we got it up and running, we both felt like we’d never do that again!
    I’ve used Clonezilla a lot and it’s always worked great. It’s command line, but no problem to follow. Pretty fast, too, and makes a good image (which you can check, as well, after it’s finished). It’s free and works great – I like it. 

    I’ve used Norton Ghost and Acronis too (still have copies of both) but it’s actually easier to boot a Clonezilla disc and go – I don’t even think about what OS it is. Clonezilla works for Windows and Linux equally well.

  • Kev

    The “tech guy” where I work swears by his Norton Ghost images of XPPro that he installs on every single new machine we get in-house. Even the brand-spanking-new W7 machines he wipes and installs WXPPro on… At least, he was doing that for about 6 months until several of us complained profusely and repeatedly to our superiors that W7 was much better.

  • Curtis8

    Save yourself even more headache and try http://www.wsusoffline.net/
    I have been using it myself for some time now. Works well and covers Office versions as well. Works with Windows XP and up as well as Office 2K3 and up.

  • Ian Singleton

     yes I used this last week it is very good including a right click create image which is very useful for separate dives, also the Linux rescue CD is pretty good.

  • Ian Singleton

     yes I used this last week it is very good including a right click create image which is very useful for separate dives, also the Linux rescue CD is pretty good.

  • Gibson

    Installing XP Clean doesn’t take this long.
    What does is all the service packs of course, cause you happen to own a copy of it clean from SP1 or before that. XP to me was a 50/50 oS, good for some, bad for others.

    Still a very Viable OS, Although not for gaming and some higher level pieces of software. Yes its sad that a legacy OS is dieing horridly, Lots of software has dropped its support for it, though alot still has, and even alot of the newest hardware is holding drivers for it so Meh.

    Absolutely no hatred for still using the OS for what you use it for.

  • atxshotcaller1

    check out nLite http://www.nliteos.com/. :)

  • Jon

    xp can run on minimum hardware 

  • ‘Tis Moi

    I use Acronis. I’ve had a few corrupt DVD’s (which generally happens on the last one- grr!)- but have always been successful using a hard disk image. FYI…I make a DVD & a HDD copy- to be safe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1813155844 Antim Evtimov Batchev

    windows xp has a different way to the installation menu than the windows vista windows 7 or windows 8, not everybody understands it, we can say its a little bit more difficult than the newer Installations but not something impossible to do  

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  • Jimi Forge

    I like windows xp but i dont think i have the time or patience to do this!

  • MRMVReyes

    I had to go through the pain of reinstalling Windows XP on my compaq laptop about two months ago. Lets just say if Windows XP stops working again it’s straight to linux with this thing. Thankfully when I restored it from the Compaq System Discs that came with my PC back in 2006, it already had SP2 installed. The pain of the installation came from all the updates failing including SP3. Finally after cleaning up the Windows update files via command prompt and 100′s of microsoft fixit’s the updates installed. After all the updates installed i had to install ie8 from ie6 and was that a pain!!!!!!!! NEVER AGAIN! is all I’m saying.

  • err

    not in my case though, I just install it with streamlined Windows XP SP3 and install the driver pack, seriously it was done barely 30minutes. Installing other things such Microsoft Office, browsers and any kind of apps that I frequently used, took me 20minutes, barely.

    Since most of my app works just fine and much faster than any other newer OS today. Ill stick with Windows XP a little longer until the community on the internet requires these new apps or update for Windows 7 or 8. Which is might not happen right now.