Preparation for Windows XP Installation

Before you start

Objectives: prepare for the installation and learn about general installation commands and their switches.

Prerequisites: you should know about typicall Windows installation sources.

Key terms: installation, start, exe, files, switch, winnt, process, run, bootable, cd, hard, hardware

Before the Installation

Before starting the installation we should check the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) to verify that our hardware is compatible with Windows XP. Also, we should disable virus checking in the BIOS. Also, we should know the facts about the environment in which our computer will be used. This includes things such as a domain name, etc.

Installation Commands

If we run the installation from the bootable CD or if we run the setup from the CD while we are in some 32-bit operating system, the setup.exe will run all necessary commands to start the installation automatically. However, if we have to start the installation manually using CMD line, we have to know which executable files we need to run in order to start the installation.

To start the installation process we can use two installation commands, Winnt.exe and Winnt32.exe. The Winnt.exe command is used when we don’t have a 32-bit operating system running. For example, we can boot our system using DOS and then use the Winnt.exe command to start the installation process. If we want to start the installation from within a current 32-bit Windows installation, then we can use the Winnt32.exe command.

Command Switches

With mentioned installation commands we can use certain switches to customize the installation process. The first switch we should mention is /makelocalsource. This switch is used when we have a CD that is not supported in Windows XP. In this case with that switch we copy the installation files onto a local hard drive and point our installation to that, rather than the CD.

Another switch is /dudisable. This switch will disables the dynamic updates during installation. We can always connect to the Internet later and get all updates after the installation.

Another switch is the /makeboot. We use this switch to make a bootup floppies. We can use them if we don’t have a CD-ROM that is bootable.

Other switches that can be used are /duprepare (download update files and save them locally), /dushare (start the installation with downloaded update files), /u (indicates use of an unattended answer file), /udf (indicates the use of a uniqueness database file), /s(specifies a path to source files), /checkupgradeonly (verifies upgrade compatibility with XP).

Installation Phases

Once we run the commands and the installation begins, we start the phase 1 of the installation process. In this pahse we will see the welcome screen and then we have to determine the source files for the installation. After that, some of the core XP files are copied to the computer memory and will be used to perform are installation. After that, we can install additional drivers, and to do that we need to press F6 to install them. For example, if we need to install additional SCSI or SATA controller adapter drivers, we would use this option. If we want to install a custom Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), we can press F5 during the installation.

After all this, we will have to configure our hard drives. This allows us to create or delete partitions, and to format the partitions. After we configure our hard disks, the process of file copying will begin. Once all the files are copied to the hard drive and when the system reboots when reboots, we will get to the GUI phase. In this phase we will have to set some options like regional options, date and time settings, serial number which is 25 character code, etc.

When it comes to licencing, there are several different options. We can have the volume licence or a single user license. Note that we can use the volume license only with the volume license media. So, the licence code must match to the installation type (volume or single user). When we answer all the questions our computer will reboot itself into the Windows XP environment.

At this point we will be prompted to register our Windows XP copy with Microsoft. This is an optional step but it’s recommended. Another thing we have to do, and which is not optional, is to activate Windows XP. This is an attempt from Microsoft to reduce the amount of software piracy. We have 30 days to use Windows XP and in that time we have to activate our copy. Activation can be done online or over the telephone. Activation will require some information about our computer so that it is known where that licence is applied, but Microsoft will not collect any private information.


We have to ensure that our hardware is compatible with XP. To start the installation process we can use two installation commands, Winnt.exe and Winnt32.exe. Common switches to use are /makelocalsource, /dudisable and /makeboot.