Help me reinstall xp
October 13, 2007 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I want to reinstall Windows xp but I am scared.

My computer has become sluggish and I would like a fresh install of xp but am uncertain about several things.

I have a forty gig internal and also a 120 gig internal that all of my data is on. I have a new 160 gig Pata drive. I bought it to replace the 40 gig but now I am wondering if I should just keep the 40 gig for the operating system and get a case for the 160 gig drive and use it as an external drive. The computer has a Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz mother board with a cd drive a dvd drive and a firewire card. Should I replace the 40 gig drive?

I learned about the file and settings transfer wizard here on ask MetaFilter. I am on a cabled home network and am wondering if my network settings will be saved with this wizard. I did not setup the network and the guy that did is long gone. Will my network settings be saved with the wizard?

Will I have to get and reinstall drivers for the printers and scanner and cd and dvd etc. or will they be saved also?

What else am I forgeting?

Now that I have asked these question I have to wonder if this might be more complicated than I though it would be. Darn.
posted by snowjoe to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You don't have to do a complete reinstall. There's a very thorough repair option, that Microsoft has cleverly, or stupidly, hidden, that will rebuild your registry and such, but only where it concerns XP. Your other settings will be fine. All the other software and drivers installed won't be touched.
posted by ijsbrand at 2:00 PM on October 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

However, if you use that repair option, it means that all existing utilities, including any malware you might have inadvertantly installed, would remain in place and activated.

Getting rid of that kind of stuff can only be done by "nuking the system from orbit", precisely the full reinstall you're considering.

As to drivers, there's no way of knowing whether you'd have to hunt those down for yourself. XP has an extremely big library of drivers, but it isn't possible for it to cover everything. The only real way to find out is to do it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:35 PM on October 13, 2007

Your network settings will not be saved, but you can note everything down before you nuke your current install.

Same goes for the drivers : Scan your device manager and note all model numbers for your cards and peripherals before wiping the system. Then find the drivers from the web before you start.

Since you have disks to spare, and with what they cost these days, I would advise against reinstalling on your 40Gb disk. Take it out of the system and install on one of the other ones. Then, if you screw up the installation for whatever reason, you can put it back in and have a working system in no time.
posted by the number 17 at 2:45 PM on October 13, 2007

If you do end up reinstalling, be aware that you're probably better off installing with only 1 hard drive attached. The installer can do odd things if it sees two possible target partitions, such as putting windows at d:\windows while everything else is on c:. I've even seen it make unusual drive letter choices. All of that can be avoided it if only has one choice, and then after the installation is complete attach all the extra drives you want.
posted by dereisbaer at 2:51 PM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you do re-install grab the August autopatcher core and burn to a CD, it will make patching DRAMATICALLY easier.
posted by iamabot at 3:07 PM on October 13, 2007

You definitely want to replace the 40 gig, because you can use that as a form of backup.

Write down your settings, and detach both the existing drives. Do the install onto the fresh 160gb drive. Then, once it's up, hook the 120 up as your D drive.

If you dig yourself in too deep, or you need to review old settings, you can just swap the 40gb drive back in, and you're right back where you started.
posted by Malor at 3:08 PM on October 13, 2007

Response by poster: Okay. I have collected drivers and also the August auto patcher. I will take out the 40 and put in the 160. I am not sure about the network settings....what is the stuff I write down and where is it? Thanks for the help!
posted by snowjoe at 4:43 PM on October 13, 2007

Best answer: Start/Settings/Network Connections, do Properties on your Local Area Connection. (You could see more than one, and you could see it with a number... Local Area Connection 3 is what I see, because I've updated my drivers a few times. If you have more than one, go through this process with all of them.) If you see any "1394 Network Connections", you can safely ignore them.

Unless you have a very weird network, if you click on the Internet Protocol(TCP/IP) entry, and then click Properties, you should see everything set to automatic. If it is, most likely you won't have any trouble with a reinstall; it should just work. If you see manual entries here, write them down, as you're likely to need them again.

When you start your build process, detach your network cable. Before you reconnect it, get Windows up enough to get the Windows Firewall turned on. That setting is on the Advanced tab in your Local Area Connection; there's a button for Windows Firewall. Click that, and make sure it's set to On, and then hit ok all the way back to desktop. Again, do this BEFORE you plug in your network cable.

There are millions of hacked PCs out there scanning for vulnerabilities, and unpatched PCs will generally last less than five minutes before being hacked, which isn't enough time to get yourself patched up. If you turn on the firewall, that should be enough of a barrier to get you fully patched.

It's much better to have a different box doing your firewalling; this is generally a router, often wireless. But that's not what you're asking about here, so I won't talk about it now. :)
posted by Malor at 6:24 PM on October 13, 2007

Response by poster: Malor: I do have a firewall already with my cable provider and our router. I have no clue how they work but have tested them online and they are very good. Thanks for the network tips. I probably will try this tomorrow.
posted by snowjoe at 8:24 PM on October 13, 2007

You definitely want to replace the 40 gig, because you can use that as a form of backup.
I'd rather use the 160 as backup. Most normal people can fit windows and all their programs on a 40 gig. That being said, a faster drive will run Windows slightly faster. But not as faster as more memory.
posted by Area Control at 9:28 AM on October 14, 2007

Dump the 40 gig. Its most likely much slower and has a shorter lifespan than the new 160 you just bought. Also, have you done a disk check on that yet? Perhaps your slowness issues is due to this drive dying. Reinstalling windows will not solve hardware problems.

Generally, when people complain their computers are generally slow its because of spyware/virus issues or having to much crap running at boot time and not enough ram. Have you tried using msconfig to see what starts at boot? Have you done full virus and spyware scans?

No, FAST will not preserve network and driver settings. It will preserve your printer driver. You should download all the drivers you will need. You might have luck with a program called 'driver collector' if you cant find the driver for something. You should not assume FAST will find all your data files. It will only copy over My Documents. Manually copy and verify everything before you do a wipe.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:28 AM on October 14, 2007

Response by poster: So....I successfully installed the new drive but I cannot join the network. We have an NT data server but I can't join. It must be a password issue? Now I am glad I have the 40 gig just like it was. I guess I'll put it back in and see if I can figure out how it accesses the nt server.
posted by snowjoe at 11:37 AM on October 14, 2007

Join the domain by right clicking on My Computer and selecting Properties. Once there, click on the Computer Name tab then select the Change button. Provide the domain name, and then an admin account & password and you should be good to go.
posted by smcniven at 1:39 PM on October 14, 2007

Response by poster: smcniver: I did this using my computer name and password and get this error message:

The following error occurred attempting to join the domain "PDC01"

Login failure: Unknown user name or bad password

I used the same name and password that were on my old drive.

Thanks for the help. What now?
posted by snowjoe at 4:55 PM on October 14, 2007

Best answer: You need to log onto that machine with a domain administrator account. Use a username/password that is an administrator on your domain controller.

It's pretty weird that you'd have an NT domain in your house...
posted by Malor at 7:28 PM on October 14, 2007

Response by poster: Malor: My entire life is weird.

I have logged on to the server. I want to thank you and everyone else for that help. I made several mistakes along the way most of them not being 100% certain about syntax.

You mention that it is weird having a NT domain in my house. My wife has a fairly busy bookkeeping business here and 5 work stations. In the past she has had off site workers also. This is the way our computer guys set it up, but they and their expertise have moved on. One of the things I found out via my mistakes is that it is a work group (PDC01) not a domain (I think)!.

I have one last problem. The data network was setup with virtual drives and they used to show up when I double clicked my computer. For example "Quickbooks on 'NTserver' (Q:)" Now they show up only in the Network places folder and there is no drive letter at the end. Is there a way that you know of the assign drive letters to them. Is this what is called mapping a drive? I think I need to do this but I am so happy to have just finally connected to the data server....I think I will sleep better tonight.

Thanks for all. You computer folks impress me.
posted by snowjoe at 7:55 PM on October 14, 2007

Best answer: This part's easy. Right click on the Network Neighborhood icon (you might have to turn it on in Desktop properties), and choose Map Network Drive. Choose what drive letter you want off the dropdown, and then type in:


Do this mapping just after logging into the computer, and it should prompt you for a username and password. Type those in and click on the 'remember this' checkbox, and it will persist across reboots without making you type it again. If you want other drive letters mapped, just follow that same process, but you probably won't have to type in a username/password. (it will remember your credentials from the first drive you mapped.)

You can also do this by browsing to the computer in question and right clicking the share and choosing Map Network Drive, but as I recall, it's harder to get it to remember the user credentials that way. So I tend to suggest you just do it via the Network Neighborhood icon.

That should take care of your drive mapping, but you need to verify that you're doing the domain or workgroup properly. These look somewhat similar, but they are very different.

Workgroups are very simple things. They just determine what computers you see with the Network Neighborhood browser; by default, you see computers that are in the same workgroup, and ignore computers in other workgroups. Anyone can claim to be in any workgroup and see the other computers in it. There's no security at all. Basically, it's just a way of getting shorter browse lists in big companies.

Domains, on the other hand, can be tremendously complex; a central machine or machines manages the domain and determines whether or not computers are part of it. Workstations that join a domain become fully controllable by the domain controller; it can do things like impose security policies, or automatically distribute software... the list of features and things you can do could go on for pages.

You should be able to mostly ignore all that. What you need to do, though, is verify whether you're using a domain or a workgroup. Log onto one of your other workstations and right click on the My Computer icon (you might have to turn it on in Desktop properties, like with Network Neighborhood). Choose Properties, go to the Computer Name tab, and look to see what Workgroup or Domain the machine is in. The actual name won't matter to me, but whether or not it's a workgroup or domain is important, and you should post back with that info.

If the other workstations are in a domain (which I think they probably will be), then I'll have more questions about how you log into the other computers. If it's a workgroup, I think your rebuild is probably finished.... but with a computer named PDC01, I would be deeply surprised if you were in a workgroup. :)
posted by Malor at 1:46 AM on October 15, 2007

Response by poster: Malor: Prepare to be deeply surprised. I checked the other computers and the both say "workgroup" as opposed to domain. I think this is one of the many mistakes I made while trying to get up and running...I was trying to join a "domain". As soon as I tried to join a workgroup I was successful. There were many other mistakes I made along the way but those are too painful to talk about now. Maybe someday I will be able to talk about it....

On a semi-related topic I would be curious what you and others think about simplifying this network. It was built at least 7 years ago, probably more. The coolest thing about the ntserver is that there are two mirrored drives which is a nice safety net. My wifes office is separate from the house so I back her data up on my computer here in the house. I figure that qualifies as an offsite backup. The bad thing is no one really wants to work on it. We have had a couple of different techs but they seem to evaporate rather quickly.

My point is that it was built when things were a little more complicated. It has been pointed out to me that a couple of network (NAS) drives could replace the ntserver and ultimately make this a much simpler network. Is this a bad idea or a good one in your opinion?

By the way the drive mapping went exactly as you said! Thanks for that info.
posted by snowjoe at 9:20 AM on October 15, 2007

Best answer: Workgroup is good, it means you're pretty much done. If it was a domain, there was gonna be this whole mess of figuring out if you were using domain or local computer user accounts, which we've just avoided.

Before you can replace your NT Server, you need to determine exactly what it's doing for you, which is probably out of the scope of an AskMe. Yes, you could certainly replace it with a smaller/cheaper unit, and getting new drives would be an excellent idea; after seven years, those existing drives are gonna be pretty tired. But you can't do that without knowing what services the replacement box needs to provide.

Most likely, in a workgroup, it's providing DHCP (automatic IP addressing), DNS (server name lookups), print sharing, and file sharing. Those functions are all very easy to duplicate with virtually any NAS device. (they mostly run Linux, which has programs to do all these things easily.) But your existing server could have other programs installed that are Windows-only, and it would take some time at the keyboard to take an inventory and see what's there.

If you can determine that the four functions above are all that's happening, then you should be able to configure almost any NAS to replace it.
posted by Malor at 11:31 AM on October 15, 2007

Best answer: Oh, I didn't answer one question. As to whether or not it's a good idea... that's questionable. I'd be worried about seven-year-old drives, but the rest of it... eh, it works. Unless something is broken or keeps breaking on you, I'm not sure I'd bother. Basically, other than the old drives....if it ain't broken, why fix it?

If I were trying to do the least-impact maintenance for you, I'd buy a pair of larger drives, and use the program Partition Magic to copy your existing NT installation from one of the mirrored small drives to the larger one, expanding it to fill the drive. Then I'd pull the small drives, replace them with the larger drives, and once the machine was up, would rebuild the mirror.

If it's a hardware mirror, it would be more involved.

I don't think I'd mess with anything else, unless you had a need that wasn't being met.
posted by Malor at 11:36 AM on October 15, 2007

Response by poster: Malor: I can't thank you enough for your help but I can try. Thanks for your help.

I like what you said about if it isn't broke don't fix it. Even the old drives are mirrored and backed up on two pc's so if one goes we would have a chance to replace it.

I don't like not having a qualified tech that we can call. If anyone knows one in LA let me know please.

Regarding the NTserver I am sure it is only used as a data server. In a pinch I bet we could just network the pc's. Word docs, excel, quicken and quickbooks. It's a bookkeeping service.

I am so happy that I managed to do this project with the help provided here. I am all welled up. No kidding.
posted by snowjoe at 9:07 PM on October 15, 2007

One more thought -- you might want to take a can of air to the server and workstations, and blow out any dust you see. Dust makes it harder for chips to cool themselves, and clogs fans.

if any of the fans look to be spinning slowly, they might need replacement.

Other than that... assuming you keep doing what you've been doing and don't need new features, you probably won't have to mess with it again for a few more years yet. The drives are likely to be the limiting factor for how long that system keeps running.
posted by Malor at 10:54 PM on October 15, 2007

Response by poster: Okay. I did clean out mine when I changed the drive. You're right about the office. I won't keep putting that off.

Thanks Malor
posted by snowjoe at 5:30 AM on October 16, 2007

You're very welcome, snowjoe. Hope everything goes well for you. :)
posted by Malor at 4:12 PM on October 16, 2007

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