Upgrade or Clean Install? here is some info

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Upgrading to Windows XP
IÂ’ve been flooded with calls recently about upgrading to Windows XP. IÂ’m not sure why there is this sudden interest in upgrading to XP, but there are issues and concerns which need to be addressed before a final decision is made. Not doing your homework can turn an upgrade into your worst nightmare. Before I go any further, IÂ’m going to set out my opinion regarding upgrading an earlier operating system to Windows XP. DonÂ’t do it.

My personal experience has shown that very seldom, if ever, do you realize the full potential of a new operating system when itÂ’s installed as an upgrade. The most meticulous of users canÂ’t guard against all the stray files, drivers, and registry entries that creep into a system through normal use. I see no sense in starting out at a disadvantage. Far too often IÂ’ve heard an operating system badmouthed as being an unstable nightmare when the fault is with the upgrade process.

Of course, itÂ’s not always possible to do a clean install after wiping the disks, but if itÂ’s feasible, the rewards are well worth the extra time and effort. My grandfather, a carpenter, always said it doesnÂ’t matter what you build above ground level if the foundation is shaky. Good advice and as relevant to computer technology as it was to his 2x4Â’s.

So, youÂ’ve decided you arenÂ’t willing to invest all that time in restoring applications, data, network, and e-mail resources. What can you do to minimize the problems associated with an upgrade? Preparation is the best chance you have when upgrading. Here are a few questions you should be asking before you insert that Windows XP CD.

Question: Can the current operating system be upgraded to Windows XP?
Answer: Just because you have Windows already installed it doesnÂ’t mean you have a clear upgrade path to XP. If youÂ’re still on Win95 or anything earlier, stop reading now. There is no upgrade path to XP. For Win 98, 98SE, and Me users, you can upgrade to either XP Home or Professional versions. Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and XP Home users can upgrade to XP Professional but not to XP Home. Upgrades from NT 3.51, any server or any beta version are not supported. I canÂ’t think of a single good reason for XP Home to exist other than to transfer a few dollars from upgrade/donÂ’t upgrade fence straddlers into MicrosoftÂ’s coffers.

Question: Do I have hardware that will work with Windows XP?
Answer: Face the facts. If youÂ’re running the minimum 233-MHz Intel or AMD compatible processor, 64-MB RAM, 1.5 GB of free disk space, Super VGA (800x600) video adapter and monitor, and Microsoft-compatible keyboard and pointing device, you arenÂ’t going to be happy with Windows XP. Nor will you be able to enjoy all the features that XP offers. It would be like driving a Ferrari with a Ford Pinto motor.

Even if you do meet the XP minimum requirements thatÂ’s just the beginning. All the parts and pieces need to be checked against the Hardware Compatibility List. Unless you are prepared to replace anything not on the list, it pays to know in advance what components will not be compatible and likely cause problems. If you donÂ’t have a copy of Windows XP, borrow the CD from a friend and pop it into your CD drive. Close the screen if auto run launches and open Run from the Start Menu. Type in D:\winnt32.exe /checkupgradeonly, substituting the drive letter of your CD-ROM for D if itÂ’s different. This will launch the Microsoft Windows Upgrade Advisor that will identify any hardware and software upgrade incompatibilities. Save or print the results after the advisor finishes.

Microsoft has made available on their website some excellent documentation regarding upgrading to Windows XP. I strongly suggest it be read before a final decision is made. A number of other articles are linked from the one below, including a download location for the Microsoft Windows Upgrade Advisor. Even though it's a 35MB download, if you don't have access to a Windows XP CD it is well worth the time to download a copy before making your final upgrade decision.

Question: Do I have software that will work with Windows XP?
Answer: Equally as important as the hardware issues are the ones relating to software and Windows XP. Read the previous section about the Microsoft Windows Upgrade Advisor. It provides a listing of software issues as well as hardware. I know it isnÂ’t what you want to hear, but if your software is going to be rendered unusable it makes no sense to upgrade the operating system.

Question: The hardware is acceptable, I can live without the questionable applications, and I still want to upgrade. What now?
Answer: Think about it for another day or two.

Question: I thought about it and I still want to upgrade. What now?
Answer: Review the list of applications that appeared on your Upgrade Advisor list. Uninstall each and every one of them using their uninstall routines. DonÂ’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you leave one little program XP wonÂ’t notice and run fine. At the same time, review all the compatible programs and if they are unused or you really donÂ’t need them any longer, get rid of them also. Now is also the time to get rid of old files, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and anything else that tends to mount up over time and never be referenced. Less is better when you are upgrading. Reboot the machine to allow any uninstall routines to complete fully.

Once the purging has been completed, run Disk Defragmenter on the drive where XP will be installed. There will be quite a bit of non-contiguous space if you removed a lot of files and programs. Disk Defragmenter should be a part of your regular routine, but itÂ’s especially important when upgrading to prepare the drive for the new operating system.

Back up all your data. Hopefully, you have some type of organizational system so your data files are all in one place. If not, go through every program and ferret out the data thatÂ’s essential you keep. Whatever method you use for data backup, the most important aspect of backing up is to verify the integrity of the backup. The time to check it is not when you need the backup, but when you donÂ’t.

Make a fresh copy of your current operating system boot disk or Emergency Repair Disk. Hopefully you wonÂ’t need them, but a current copy is preferable to one that is outdated, and having none at all should never be an option.

Question: This is a lot more trouble than I thought it was going to be. When do I upgrade?
Answer: Patience. WeÂ’re almost ready. Two more things and then itÂ’s time to upgrade.

Do you know where all the original installation CD’s are for your current system? That includes the operating system, applications, and any other CD or diskette that you used to bring your system to its current state. If not, locate them now and have them ready just in case something goes wrong – terribly, terribly wrong.

Finally, close all running applications. Check the notification area (by the clock, on the taskbar) to make sure nothing remains open, especially any anti-virus applications. They are notorious for causing problems with an upgrade. Microsoft Messenger, printer utilities, and firewall applications are others to make sure you have closed.

Once you are satisfied everything is ready, think about it one more time and if youÂ’re sure, insert the Windows XP CD and close the tray. If AutoRun is enabled, the Setup Wizard will launch and you are on your way. If AutoRun is disabled, navigate to the i386 directory on the Windows XP CD and click setup.exe.

ThatÂ’s it. Follow the prompts and hope for the best. The steps above, carefully and thoroughly performed, will insure you the best possible chance for a successful upgrade of your current operating system.
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