Installing Windows XP - Full tutorial

Updated: July 1, 2006

You have a computer at home. You most probably have a Windows installed on it. Most likely Windows XP. And you have probably bought it with the operating system installed by the technician at the store. Have you ever wondered what it's like to install the operating system yourself?

I think most people have given it a glancing thought but given up out of sheer fear. Installing the operating system can be a tricky procedure. Things may not work. Personal data might get forever lost. It's a risk, and an unnecessary one for most people. If it ain't fixed, don't broke it.

But what if your operating system fails, for whatever reason? What if you can no longer boot into Windows? You will probably take the PC to the store, where they will charge you precious money for restoring your system back. If you're willing to spend a few minutes reading, you will learn how to do it yourself, at no charge, at your own time.

I would like to teach you how to install Windows XP. Basically, all operating systems are much alike. Installations are very similar. By learning how to install Windows XP, you will have no trouble repeating the procedure with Windows 98, Windows ME, or even some Linux distribution.

What will you gain from this?

Confidence - you will realize computers are not black-box monsters. Independence - you will not have to rely on other people for help. You will save money - in the short term, you will lose some time; in the long term, you will benefit from saving both hard currency and time troubleshooting the operating system problems. You will be able to help your friends.

What are the risks?

The beauty of all of this is - none. I will teach you how to install Windows XP using VMware Player. This great product is a virtualization software that will run just like any other application on your PC. You will be able to "simulate" the installation of Windows XP while normally booted and logged in in your Windows XP, without having to restart or risk data. The entire procedure will take place in the virtual world of the virtual machine, with hard disk changes committed to virtual space. If, at the end of the day, you don't like what you did or would like to do it again, you could just delete the file and start again. In a way, running VMware Player and committing changes to one of its virtual machines is no different than running a word processor and writing to a document.

What will you need for the task?

You will need: Windows XP running on your computer, with at least 256MB of memory; otherwise things will be really slow). Windows XP installation disk; the legal issue of this subject is entirely up to you. VMware Player, which is free for download, installed on your computer. Visit EasyVMX! to create a virtual machine, or follow instructions from my VMware Player - a great friend article. Some patience and spare time. Please note that I will do an installation using Windows XP Professional SP2. Installing Windows XP, Windows XP SP1 either Home / Professional edition is basically the same, however some things will differ once you boot into Windows, mainly concerning some basic configurations and security settings. I would suggest every Windows XP user to upgrade his Windows to the latest service pack. If you have an old installation disk without SP2, you can create a slipstreamed version, which will incorporate SP2. Please refer to Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2) for a detailed step-by-step guide how to do it.

Be advised that in VMware Player, you will not have to actually install hardware drivers for your graphic card, audio card etc. Bear in mind that these steps will have to take place after a real, physical installation of Windows XP.

VMware Player does not allow installation of graphic card drivers for guest operating systems. For that you will need the full VMware Workstation. Therefore, if you try to install other Windows operating systems while running Windows XP as the host OS, you might experience a degraded visual performance. For instance, I have been limited to the basic VGA adapters in both Windows 98 and Windows Vista Beta under Windows XP, resulting in a very slow desktop and only 4-16 colors. Windows XP as host and guest will work fine, though.

So, if you are ready, go to the next page. At the end of this multi-page article, hopefully, you will have learned:

  1. How to use VMware Player and build your own configuration files.
  2. How to create partitions and format them.
  3. How to setup Windows XP.
  4. How to create a Limited User Account.
  5. How to configure Windows XP to be convenient and secure.

Warning for the 56K dial-up users: For the purpose of better readability, I will use full-size images rather than thumbnails that link to images. This may cause some slowdown during the loading of the pages.

Again, you do not have to really do any of this. You could just read and practice the next time you really install from scratch. But I suggest you try to follow the instructions and do it for yourself. You will only benefit from it.