Friday, May 30, 2008

Starting Fresh: Day 2

After two days of wrestling with Windows installation errors and unbootable CDs, I finally got the formula down for creating a Windows XP Home Edition bootable setup disk. Like the information I found online suggested, all you need to do it is an I386 directory, which is usually always found on Dell computers. Note that the I386 folder MUST BE THE ONE AT C:\I386. There is another similar folder somewhere in the WINDOWS folder, but that one doesnt have the same stuff the one in C: has. So, here are the steps I took to make the CD.

At this point, you might want to stop here and back up all of your files, including the OS files, if you havent already. If you dont back up now and decide to back up later on, youll probably be including all the extra programs and data were about to add. If you dont plan on backing up or want to just wait it out, read on.

  1. Print out a report from Device Manager found in the Control Panel. This will help you identify missing drivers after you reinstall. This isnt required, but if youve got some extra hardware installed like graphics or sound cards, it can help out.
  2. If you dont know your CD key, download Magical Jelly Bean to find the one used when your current installation was first installed. Write it down or print it out. I also printed out the other registration keys the program found, just to make it easier on me when I reinstall everything.
  3. Create a folder in C: named XPSETUP. Now, put a copy of C:\I386 in XPSETUP. Make sure you copy the entire folder, and not just the files inside the folder, so that you now have an I386 folder inside C:\XPSETUP. I386 holds all the installation files needed by the Windows installer and is usually pretty big, so expect to wait a couple minutes while it copies.
  4. Open Notepad and type "Windows " (including the space afterwards!), then hit Enter to add a new line. Go up to File > Save As, and type "C:\XPSETUP\WIN51" (including the quotes!) in the file name box. Click save and close Notepad. Navigate back to C:\XPSETUP and make a copy of the new WIN51 file called WIN51IC.
  5. Now the tricky part begins! If you know what Service Pack came pre-installed with your computer, youll be fine. Otherwise, youll probably have to shoot-and-miss to get the disk to work correctly. If your computer didnt come with any SPs pre-installed, skip to the next step. If SP1 came with it, make a copy of WIN51IC named WIN51IC.sp1. If SP2 came with it, make two copies of WIN51IC named WIN51IC.sp1 and WIN51IC.sp2.
  6. At this point, other web sites would suggest you slipstream the newer service packs. I decided not to after getting a headache while trying to get the disk to work with the slipstream. You can look elsewhere if you want help slipstreaming, but dont ask me for it. I couldnt figure out any easy and fool-proof way of doing it.
  7. Download nLite and use it to customize the installation. This is optional, but if you dont customize, at least use it to create the ISO.
  8. Use your favorite CD burning program to open the ISO created in the previous step and burn its contents to a fresh CD. Congrats! If all went well, you are now the proud owner of a Windows XP Home Edition bootable setup and installation CD.

The next task is where the real fun begins. Reformatting and reinstalling everything. Im not looking forward to it, because Im so lazy. But, Ive come this far, so might as well continue!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Starting Fresh: Day 1

The first official step towards this, in my opinion, huge undertaking is backing up the entire hard drive onto my brand-spanking-new 1 terabyte Western Digital My Book. The backup itself only took around an hour and a half to copy all 83 gigs of data. I simply booted up to my Ubuntu LiveCD, mounted the backup drive, and used the cp bash command to copy everything over. Afterwards, I ran the diff command to compare the backup and original just to make sure everything was copied correctly. There was only one mistake I had to correct manually, which was a file missing from the backup that was originally named with a tilde (~). Apparently, that character messes up copying or something.

The reason I copied everything from Ubuntu and didnt just use the Windows Backup utility is because I wanted EVERYTHING, not just my data, so that if I mess anything up, I can just clear off the hard drive, copy everything back onto it, and pretend the whole thing never happened. This admittedly costs a lot more space, but if youre like me, you dont want to have to reinstall and reconfigure everything if you screw up, with the only consolation of your backup being you didnt lose any of your personal documents.

The next step is to create a Windows XP Home Edition installation CD. I found some scattered guides on the internet that touch on how to do it, but Im thinking its going to be shoot-and-miss for a while. Ill detail the process I took on my next post.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reformatting/Reinstalling My Desktop

Ive been wanting to do it for a while, but today I finally bought a 1 terabyte external hard drive. My first act with it is to back up everything from my desktop computer. Its a fairly old machine, running Windows XP Home Edition. Over its lifetime, Ive seen its speed decline drastically. Now, those of you who keep up with my work or know me personally know I am not a noob with computers. Having said that, Ive tried all the tricks up both my sleeves to get it running faster than the painful speed its currently at. Nothing has worked. So, Ive decided its about time to reformat, reinstall, and start fresh. Its a big step, but hey, Ive got a whole Summer of boredom I need to kill. I might as well do something productive.

The fun begins with my lack of Windows XP installation CDs and keys. Luckily, I know how to retrieve keys of already installed distros with the help of Magical Jelly Bean. The CDs, however, are semi-new territory to me. Ive been informed that theres a way to create setup cds from the otherwise meaningless i386 folder found on a majority of computers.

Ill be posting my progress as I go, and explaining what Ive done each step of the way, as Im sure there is some poor, lost soul out there in the same predicament Im in. All progressive posts for this project will be titled "Starting Fresh" for ease of access.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

How To Change The Windows Explorer Start Location

NOTE: For some odd reason, this does not work on some systems. Im trying to figure out why that is, but until then, this guide should only be brain food and shoulnt be expected to work. Sorry!

After Googling around and not coming up with any indications as to how to change the location Windows Explorer automatically opens when you right-click the Start button and choose Explore or Open, I decided to do some digging through the registry and found out how to change both of them.

If you are a hands-on person who isnt afraid to mess around with your registry and possibly screw up your computer, open up the registry editor (type regedit into the run box and start it), then navigate to the key HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell. In this key are two subkeys named explore and open. Select the key you want to change and then select the command subkey. In this key, you will find a (Default) value. Edit it to whatever command-line command you want Windows to run when you click the option in the right-click menu.

While this allows you to use any program instead of just Explorer, its still recommended that you keep using it (at least for one of the options) for support reasons and old times sake. If you need a list of options supported by Explorer, you can find them here or in the incomplete Microsoft list. If you are like me, you just wanted to change the location it starts up in and have no interest in all the other options. In that case, you can just copy the following:

%SystemRoot%\Explorer.exe /separate,/e,C:\Program Files

Replace the bold location with the location youd like Explorer to start in. This registry hack is based on Windows Vista, but Im fairly sure itll work in XP as well. In case you dont like the change, the default value for Explore is %SystemRoot%\Explorer.exe /separate,/e,/idlist,%I,%L and Open is %SystemRoot%\Explorer.exe /separate,/idlist,%I,%L.