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OS Setup Guide 2005

OS Setup Guide 2005

Why you should consider it: Sooner or later every PC user faces a full operating system installation. While there is not absolute correct procedure there are hints, tips and tricks that can save any user time and problems in the future. This guide takes the novice step by step through the process of setting up Windows XP and reminds veterans of a few good habits.


The easy way to set up the hard drive and set up the system

Sooner or later every PC user faces a full operating system installation. While there is not absolute correct procedure there are hints, tips and tricks that can save any user time and problems in the future. This guide takes the novice step by step through the process of setting up Windows XP and reminds veterans of a few good habits.

Even the veteran PC user falls victim to viruses, spyware and other unwanted software. Our own Short-Media Forums have helped thousands rid themselves and their systems of these plagues but sometimes a PC user has to start from scratch. Many users lose all their data because they didn’t back it up and the only solution was to reformat the drive thus erasing all of their data. Gone are the MP3s. Gone are the emails, documents, pictures and countless other valuable files.

The C: drive loyalist is the most heavily hit. The C: drive loyalist doesn’t partition the hard drive. They install the operating system and programs on C: drive. They store all their music, emails, pictures and every other file on C: drive. So if the PC develops a fatal problem due to something other than mechanical hard drive failure then the “big bucket of C:” get’s emptied into digital oblivion.

The one drive, no partition way of thinking has to come to end.

This step by step guide will take you through the entire basic process of installing and configuring a system. These steps will play a proactive role in ensuring data preservation and a quicker return to full operation in the event of an entire operating system failure. You’ll protect your valuable data and it’s easy to do. Beginners and veterans alike will benefit from the Short-Media Hard Drive Setup Guide for 2005.

This guide uses Windows XP Professional slipstreamed with service pack 2. It is applicable to Windows XP with or without service pack 1 or 2 in the majority of areas.

For those that are stuck with a pile of parts not known what to plug in where there’s the BUILD A PC FROM PARTS TO SOFTWARE GUIDE for those that need it.

Before you begin

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If the system is operational then do not proceed further without backing up all of your data (MP3s, pictures, letters, documents, etc.). Back up your data to a DVD or CD and check the discs before going any further. Short-Media, the owners or the members do not guarantee this guide as a 100% fail-safe method. Hard drive mechanical failure can happen and it could destroy every piece of data on the drive. The best route to preserving data is to back it up to another drive or optical disc.
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Physically disconnect the computer from any modems or routers that may be connected to the Internet. Spyware can sneak into a system that is connected to an always on modem during installation. Once the operating system is installed then immediately install antivirus software BEFORE physically plugging the CAT 5 cable in and connecting to the Internet to update the antivirus software then the operating system.

Start at the beginning

Did you back up all data you want to keep to another PC or disc if proceeding with an already operational system?

A PC can be set in BIOS to follow a boot order. It will automatically look for a bootable disc in the order it was set to do so. Most PCs default to FLOPPY>CD>HDD. This means the PC will look to the floppy first, then the CD drive and finally the installed hard drive. Refer to the motherboard manual to check for boot configurations.

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Press the DELETE key right after the post beep and repeatedly press it until the BIOS screen appears. The BOOT SEQUENCE of a PC is typically in the ADVANCED BIOS MENU screen. Use the arrow keys to navigate to highlight the ADVANCED BIOS MENU line. Press ENTER and use the arrow keys to navigate to highlight an entry that says or is similar to BOOT SEQUENCE or BOOT ORDER. Press ENTER again to see the boot order. Ensure that the optical drive (CD or DVD) appears BEFORE the hard drive.
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Have the necessary floppy disks ready if the system has hard drives installed to RAID or SATA headers. It does not matter if a RAID is being configured or if the drives will be independent.

Place the installation disc in the optical drive and reboot the system. Windows XP Professional is being used for this guide. The PC will automatically boot off the installation disc. Press F6 when the first screen appears if third-party RAID or SATA drivers are required for installation.

Windows will stop to ask questions. This guide is based on working with a new hard drive or a drive where previous installations and partitions will be erased. Press ENTER to set up Windows XP.

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Windows XP will identify the hard drive(s) that are currently connected up to the motherboard providing the necessary drivers have been installed by pressing F6. This may not be necessary for IDE drives but SATA drives will definitely need the drives on a floppy disk during installation. In this guide there is an 80 GB and 120 GB hard drive installed on the SATA headers. The operating system will be installed to the 80 GB drive for reasons that will become apparent later in this guide.

If the hard drive was already in use with one or more partitions then that information will appear. As a rule of thumb to delete partitions simply work from the back of the drive (the highest letter) towards C:. Use the arrow keys to highlight the drive letter and press “D”. Windows will ask to confirm this by pressing “L”. Repeat this until a screen appears similar to the following image. If only one drive exists then there will only be the information similar to the top entry with drive capacity and which header the drive is on.

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The parts of the partitions

It’s time to create the first partition for the operating system.

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It’s time to think. How big the partition should be depends on if only the operating system will be installed to it or the operating system PLUS all the programs. Either choice is correct but size matters for the choice.

How big should this partition be? Windows XP Professional consumes approximately 3 GB of disk space not including the pagefile. The pagefile is automatically set by the operating system to be approximately a maximum of 1.5 times system RAM. If there is 1 GB of RAM installed then the pagefile could use up an additional 1.5 GB of hard drive space.

By default the pagefile has a minimum and maximum setting on C: drive. It is a space on the hard drive reserved for temporary system operation. This file can be spread all over the hard drive in bits and pieces becoming even more fragmented with computer use. This guide will move the pagefile from C: drive to another partition and apply custom settings therefore the space it would consume is not necessary to be included in the estimates.

If the choice is to include programs on C: then the space requirement is a variable. A fairly extensive array of office and multimedia software may only consume 3 more GB of space. Games, however, can eat up plenty more. Half-Life 2 will occupy nearly 4 GB of space by itself.

So take inventory of what will be installed now and, perhaps, in the near future. Decide if only the operating system will be installed to the first partition or the operating system and all other software. It’s good practice to give a little breathing room. For an operating system only installation do not make the partition 3 GB thinking that you are a space miser. For the moment 5-6 GB should be enough.

If installing the operating system plus office and multimedia applications then 10 GB should be sufficient room for the moment. Make it 15 or 20 GB if you don’t think it’s enough. If there will be a lot of games along with the operating system then a minimum of 15 GB, probably closer to 20 GB, will give sufficient room.

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Windows uses megabytes to calculate partition size. 1024 megabytes equals 1 gigabyte. Multiply the amount of gigabytes required by 1024.

Example: 5 gigabytes x 1024 = 5120 megabytes.

Windows will enter a default number equivalent to the maximum amount of remaining disk size for that partition or, if no partitions are on the disk, then the maximum space on the drive will be entered. It will default to the partition size if installing on an existing partition. Simply press the backspace key to erase the default numbers and enter the size (in megabytes) that will be required.

A 5 gigabyte partition was decided on since we chose to install just the operating system to this partition. Yours may be more but it shouldn’t be less.

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A 25 gigabyte partition would look like this.

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Press ENTER and Windows XP will return to the original menu showing the newly created partition. You could arrow down to the remaining un-partitioned space and repeat this procedure but it isn’t necessary as there is a faster way to accomplish this once the operating system is installed.

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Choose the file system: NTFS or FAT. There is great debate about which is better. Both have pros and cons and a bit of reading around the Internet may help with the choice but either will be fine for a standalone system. Just don’t choose quick format. Make the selection and press ENTER. The installation will continue by formatting the partition automatically.

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Eventually the desktop will appear signifying the end of the installation. There may have been a few simple setup questions to answer but you will arrive here.

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The desktop…now what?

Give yourself a little elbow room. Right click on the desktop and choose PROPERTIES.

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The operating system may have set the desktop screen size at 800 x 600 pixels which may be fine for some but a bit small for others. You may choose to ignore this step or set a bigger desktop size.

Click the SETTINGS tab in the DISPLAY PROPERTIES window that appears and move the screen resolution slider to the right to increase the screen resolution.

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Click OK to apply it right away. (Or you can click APPLY then OK…your choice.)

Whipping Windows into shape

First things first is to turn off some of the Windows XP automatic features. Remember that these do not have to be disabled as their default settings are intended for those who want things to happen automatically. Our preference is to remain in control of what Windows does for updates or who has the authority to connect to the system.

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Choosing to turn these off could mean that your system is at risk if you forget to update Windows once in a while.

Click the START button and right-click on MY COMPUTER. Select PROPERTIES from the menu that appears.

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The SYSTEM PROPERTIES windows will appear with your own particular registration information. Note that this install was with a Windows XP Professional disc slipstreamed with service pack 2.

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Choose the HARDWARE tab and then click on the WINDOWS UPDATE button.

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Every time a new device is connected to the computer for the first time a dialog box will appear looking for the driver or trying to be most helpful to connect to the Microsoft site. Here’s where to turn off the automatic search of the Windows Update site.

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Click OK and then choose the AUTOMATIC UPDATES tab.

I prefer to retain the choice of when to update the OS and when not to. Click on TURN OFF AUTOMATIC UPDATES if you want to choose when to go get operating system patches and updates. If you are forgetful then you can make other selections based on your preference.

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Select the SYSTEM RESTORE tab. SYSTEM RESTORE is on by default. I use a third-party backup software called ACRONIS which quickly and easily images the hard drive. If a virus should destroy the operating system then I can easily restore my most recent image to the partition.

System Restore is handy for those that do not use third-party backup software but the secret is to keep the backups on another partition and not on the drives that are being backed up. If the backup file is kept on the operating system partition (or program partition) then if that partition becomes unusable it will take the backup file with it. Viruses and spyware usually don’t damage partitions. They can foul up files causing hours of frustration trying to return a system back to operational stability.

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Third-party backup software can save hours of frustration trying to rid a system of a virus or spyware. It can replace Microsoft’s built in SYSTEM RESTORE utility to return a system back to its original state prior to a software or driver installation that caused problems. Microsoft’s system restore or a third-party backup program only works well if recent backups are maintained and maintained on a separate partition from where the operating system and programs were installed.

I choose to turn off system restore due to the fact that I use third-party backup software. UNTICK the TURN OFF SYSTEM RESTORE box if that is your choice.

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Choose the REMOTE tab and UNTICK the remote assistance box. REMOTE ASSISTANCE allows someone at another computer to connect to your computer and use your computer…remotely. It’s a great idea for help and assistance if it were a perfect world without those who want to be mischievous or malicious. It’s recommended that both boxes by UNTICKED.

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Return to the start menu and click on CONTROL PANEL.

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Windows XP defaults to a categorical layout of the control panel after the initial installation.

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Some may find the classic view preferable and familiar.

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Click on the FIREWALL icon and select the EXCEPTIONS tab. Un-tick the REMOTE ASSISTANCE box if you disabled REMOTE ASSISTANCE a few steps earlier. This is another step towards securing Windows XP.

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Click OK and then click on the SECURITY CENTER icon in the control panel.

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The SECURITY CENTER allows for the firewall that comes with service pack 2 to be enabled or disabled. It also allows the user to change how Windows notifies a user about security status. Click on the last line under RESOURCES. It’s the CHANGE THE WAY SECURITY CENTER ALERTS ME sentence.

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This will show the ALERT SETTINGS popup. Un-ticking any of the boxes will disable those annoying alert messages that keep popping up on the taskbar.

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Managing the computer

Click OK and close the SECURITY CENTER window to return to the CONTROL PANEL window. Click on the ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS icon and a new window will open. The icon for COMPUTER MANAGEMENT will open up a whole new world of ease.

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One of the main advantages of the COMPUTER MANAGEMENT interface is providing the ability to partition and format the remaining empty space on the install drive or any other attached drives.

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Click on the DISK MANAGEMENT entry in the STORAGE folder in the window on the left hand side. The window then displays the attached drives including any optical drives. Notice that the C: drive is present and formatted from the initial Windows installation.

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This window can be resized to suit the user’s needs. Look for any attached optical drives and right click on the drive name. Choose CHANGE DRIVE LETTER AND PATHS from the new menu.

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Windows automatically assigns C: drive to the OS on a clean installation of an unformatted drive. It will also automatically assign drive letters to any attached optical drives. It will not assign drive letters to unformatted drive space. Since C: has been assigned to the operating system and D: has been assigned to the optical drive in the example system it would mean that any partitions created would begin at E:.

Computers really don’t care about drive paths except that they exist. Changing a drive letter is more for organization and neatness than anything else. Right now think of the optical drive (D:) as being right in the middle of things. It won’t cause any damage to the system or slow a system down but it isn’t “organized”.

Let’s move it to the far end of the alphabet by clicking the CHANGE button.

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Assign a new drive letter by the pull-down menu on the right of the next window that appears.

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“Z” has now been assigned to the optical drive and if there is a second optical drive then the same can be done for it by assigning it the letter “Y”.

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Two drives or partitions cannot be assigned the same letter.

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This will mean that any new hard drive partitions will be created with the letter D then E then F and so on. Think of this as moving the optical drives out of the way.

What is and why partition?

Creating and formatting partitions with Windows XP is very simple. A partition is a barrier on a hard drive to separate one area from another. A partition will create a data storage area of a fixed size.

An analogy would be to think of a large back yard. This back yard has a garden, a sand box, a swing set, a patio and a nice lawn. It’s surrounded by a fence because, like a hard drive, the back yard is only a certain size. Now the neighborhood kids want to play in the backyard so off they go to tromp through the garden, the sandbox, play on the swing set and ride their bikes back and forth across the lawn creating a well-worn path. The back yard becomes a mess.

This is similar to what happens on a system with only one single drive space…the “C: loyalist’s” way of doing things. All the programs and files and constant writing, deleting and rewriting of files gets dumped into one space and things become a mess. The drive becomes fragmented and performance drops.

And if something should go wrong? The entire drive and all of the data is at risk because everything is in one “back yard.”

One solution to prevent the kids from mucking up the garden is to put a fence around it. The garden area is…partitioned off from the rest of the yard. More fences can be put up to surround the play area so the kids confine their activity to one area and the rest of the yard is left untouched. A user can carry the amount of partitions too far but it won’t slow down peformance…it may just be a bit cluttered with 26 drive letters on the MY COMPUTER screen.

Putting the operating system and programs on their own partition or on a C:operating system and D:Program partition allows a user to back up those files in case of disaster. The user’s other files are kept separate and thus the backup file is that much smaller. The partitions are less prone to defragmentation because the computer is not constantly writing to or arranging files on those partitions because of daily use. Partitioning a drive also helps in keeping a drive operating at optimal performance levels and speeds up maintenance by reducing the amount of files a computer must defragment at a given time.

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Plan out drives on paper first. Segment a line into different partitions and assign space (in megabytes) to roughly total the entire drive size.

Windows XP Professional allows for a quick and easy method to create new partitions in the un-partitioned drive space. It can also delete old partitions.

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Deleting partitions will irrevocably erase all data on the partition

Right-click on the remaining unallocated drive space and choose NEW PARTITION.

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The wizard pops up to begin the process. Choose NEXT.

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If the drive space is unallocated then the system will automatically ask for a choice between a PRIMARY partition or an EXTENDED PARTITION. Primary partitions are where the operating system resides. There can be up to four PRIMARY partitions on a single drive. If a user were planning a dual boot system where the operating systems would be kept on separate partitions then two primary partitions would be used.

For a single operating system then the choice would be to create an EXTENDED partition. The extended partition is not a drive as of yet. Think of it like a truck bed upon which boxes are loaded. The truck bed is the base for the boxes (drive partitions). The motor and cab are the primary partition.

Select EXTENDED PARTITION and choose NEXT.

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Leave the extended partition at the default number which is the maximum remaining unallocated space on the drive. Choose NEXT.

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The wizard confirms the details and choose FINISH.

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Note the system returns back to the computer management window showing the newly created extended partition upon which drive partitions may be created.

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Right-click on the free space and choose NEW LOGICAL DRIVE.

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The wizard will again pop up. Choose NEXT.

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Only the LOGICAL DRIVE radio button will be enabled because a primary partition cannot be created on an extended partition and the extended partition has already been created. Choose NEXT.

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Here is where the size of the partition is entered (in megabytes). The system will automatically default to the maximum remaining space. This is where drive planning notes come in handy.

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Enter the size of the partition that is to be created. In the following image example a 20 Gigabyte partition is being created for the programs to be installed on the system.

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Choose NEXT and the system will automatically default to the next available drive letter or a manual choice can be made.

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Choose NEXT when you are satisfied with your choice. The next screen allows a user access to format options. There is much debate about the choice between NTFS and FAT as a format. Which is better depends on the person asked. Both format choices are stable but it is widely agreed that NTFS would be a better choice for network computers.

Allocation size is a setting for block size on the drive. Data is assigned in blocks. The rule of thumb is that a smaller allocation size (or cluster size) is better suited for smaller files on average. Larger files (video, audio, etc) do better with a larger allocation unit size. For the new user it’s best to leave the system at default. Only time, benchmarking and “playing around” with different allocation unit sizes will determine the optimal setting for a specific system. Most users don’t notice the difference in “feel” between allocation unit sizes.

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The volume label is the name of the drive which can also be entered at this time…or it can be changed manually later on by right-clicking on a drive and choosing RENAME. Renaming a drive does not affect the computer’s ability to find data previously on the drive.

Check PERFORM A QUICK FORMAT and select NEXT. Why wait around for the drive to format?

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The system will confirm settings and choose FINISH if all is well.

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The system will return to the computer management window and show the drive formatting and finally as HEALTHY when complete.

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The process can be repeated until all the free drive space has been assigned.

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Any drive can be deleted by right-clicking on it and choosing DELETE LOGICAL DRIVE. If a drive is deleted between two other partitions then the remaining partitions do not “jump up” to fill the space. Remember that you’ve built a fence and to move things around then all the remaining fences must be removed and rebuilt from the point you want to reconstruct…to the “end” of the drive.

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Note that the third partition has been deleted but it still holds space. The fourth partition (blue) does not move up to fill the space. If a mistake is made then the partitions must be deleted from the end (right side) of the drive until the point where the correction must occur.

The remaining partitions are then rebuilt.

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Upon completion there should be a series of partitions set up with no unallocated or free space.

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If installing a second drive then it is a good idea to set the first partition as a PRIMARY partition. In case the first hard drive becomes unavailable due to software problems then the operating system can be reinstalled to the second drive. If there is no PRIMARY partition then WINDOWS SETUP must completely erase all data on the secondary drive to set up a primary partition.

This allows a user to install to the secondary drive without affecting data in the other partitions on either drive.

IMPORTANT. Since the operating system is kept on a separate partition on the first drive…then the operating system can be reinstalled onto that partition, including formatting that partition, without affecting data on the remaining partitions.

Right click on the secondary drive and choose NEW PARTITION. The wizard pops up and select PRIMARY PARITION. Choose NEXT.

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Enter the size of the partition in megabytes and follow the prompts as previously done. Once completed then the same steps can be performed as with the other drive. Right-click on the unallocated space and set up an extended partition then logical drives on the extended partition.

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After all the drives are set up then it should look similar to this. Of course the size of the drives and names will be different for each particular user’s preference.

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The computer management console can then be closed and a quick check of MY COMPUTER shows all the drives set up and ready to go.

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Any drive can be renamed by right-clicking on it and choosing rename. Renaming a drive will not affect how the computer finds information even if data was already on that partition. It’s just a name for visual organization.

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Move the favorites folder

You’ve spent considerable time collecting favorite websites and you don’t want to lose them in a system crash where the operating system has to be reinstalled. The simple solution is to either make a backup copy of the favorites folder periodically to another partition or move it entirely to default to another partition. This way you can re-import it even if you have to reinstall the operating system and it is continually kept up to date.

Right click on the START button and choose EXPLORE or EXPLORE ALL USERS.

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If EXPLORE is chosen then navigate to C: drive.

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Open up the folder name that you gave as your user name when Windows was first set up. Note the star for favorites.

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Right-click and hold on the favorites star and drag it to another partition and folder you created.

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When right-click is released the system will prompt for a choice. Choose MOVE HERE. This moves the favorites folder and rewrites the path to it. It is now defaulted to the new folder. This is to be repeated for all active user profiles.

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It may be a good idea to create a backup folder for this and sub-folders for each active user because each active user has his/her own favorites folder. This way favorite folders do not get mixed up or write over top of another.

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The favorites folder is now moved from its original location and no longer appears in the DOCUMENTS AND SETTINGS folder for that user profile. If a system crash occurs where the operating system has to be reinstalled then the favorites folder contents can then be copied back over to the default favorites folder after the installation is complete. All the favorites are not lost. The backup folder can then be deleted and then the new favorites folder would have to be moved back to the other partition again.

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Streamline INTERNET EXPLORER

As a rule I always streamline INTERNET EXPLORER by changing the default home page and moving and resizing the TEMPORARY INTERNET FILES folder. Start INTERNET EXPLORER and choose TOOLS>OPTIONS to bring up the following window.

The Microsoft MSN network is the default home page that is set to open up every time Internet Explorer starts. To get rid of this simply choose USE BLANK or fill in your own preferred home page URL address. Some people prefer a search engine as a home page. Just copy and paste the URL to the address window and click APPLY.

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Choose SETTINGS from the TEMPORARY INTERNET FILES choices.

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A new window will appear. Windows sets a default amount of disk space that is reserved for storing all the temporary Internet files. This can be changed to user preference. I make it 100 MB as a rule of thumb since I clean out my temporary Internet files quite regularly. This folder can also be moved to another partition.

Moving the temporary Internet files to another partition is a good idea since it is in constant use writing and re-writing files. If it is kept on the C: drive by default then it can promote drive defragmentation at a faster rate and thus gradually affect performance.

Set the disk space, if you so choose, and choose MOVE FOLDER.

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A new window pops up to browse to a new target area for the folder. I have use foresight in my drive planning and created a 10 GB partition at the end of the drive for temporary files. All will become clear about that soon enough.

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Choose the partition and, if preferred, a folder where the temporary Internet files folder will be placed.

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Click OK and the system will log off then automatically log back on to complete the move.

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Don’t worry about the TOUR pop up in the task bar. That goes away after a few times never to bother you again.

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Moving temporary system files folders

Windows also places folders for temporary use for each of the active user profiles. These folders represent disk space that is allocated for the system to use temporarily for such things like extracting ZIP files or installing programs and so forth. They are TEMPORARY files but they do write to the drive and thus speed up drive defragmentation and thus, eventually, slow down the system.

The solution is to move these folders. Right-click on MY COMPUTER and choose PROPERTIES.

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A new window opens and choose the ADVANCED TAB then the ENVIRONMENT VARIABLES button.

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The top window are the temporary folder locations for the logged in user. You would have to log in as other users to see their folder locations. Create a folder on the TEMPORARY partition. I called mine SYSTEM TEMP. Remember everything that goes into this folder is for system use only and it is nothing but TEMPORARY files that can be periodically deleted.

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Open the SYTEM TEMP folder (or whatever name you chose) and highlight the address bar. Press CTL-C to copy the location.

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In the ENVIRONMENT VARIABLES window select the TEMP variable and choose EDIT.

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The VARIABLE VALUE is highlighted automatically so just press CTRL-V to paste the location of the SYSTEM TEMP folder.

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Repeat this process for the TMP folder.

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Now move to the SYSTEM VARIABLES window and scroll to the TEMP and TMP folder location. Choose EDIT and repeat the process for those two folders. Click OK when done and reboot the system.

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If there is more than one active user profile then log on as the next user and repeat for the USER VARIABLES and double check the SYSTEM VARIABLES settings.

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Do not change other settings in this area as this could render the operating system unbootable.

Tell Windows to not complain about everything

Right-click on MY COMPUTER again and choose the ADVANCE TAB and click the ERROR REPORTING button.

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Error reporting messages can pop up when a program crashes. This often confuses a user as they may think something is very much wrong with the system. Most always the program can be re-opened with no future problems.

This can be disabled by choosing the DISABLE ERROR REPORTING button and leaving the checkmark in place.

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Move the pagefile

The pagefile is space allocated on the C: drive for the operating system to use temporarily for operations that exceed the amount of memory available. After a while this file can become fragmented as it is constantly changing size and trying to allocate itself in and around other files on the operating system drive.

The solution is to move it to its own partition and set it at a fixed size. Right-click on MY COMPUTER and choose PROPERTIES. Choose the ADVANCE TAB and click the SETTINGS button under PERFORMANCE.

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Choose the ADVANCED tab and click the CHANGE button under VIRTUAL MEMORY.

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Note that the system automatically sets up a page file that has a differing minimum and maximum setting. This is based on a mathematical product of system RAM. For example, with 512 MB of system ram installed the minimum may be 512 MB and the maximum may be 1.5 GB.

The pagefile is always changing size within these parameters based on what the system requires. It tries to allocated itself in one big file but this file will eventually break apart into smaller segments when a consecutive section of disk isn’t available.

The default pagefile must first be deleted. Highlight the C: drive where the pagefile exists and choose NO PAGING FILE and click SET.

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I set up a partition twice that of system RAM for the pagefile. Highlight that drive and choose CUSTOM SIZE.

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Enter the size of the pagefile where the minimum and maximum values are the same. This sets the pagefile as one big file that has set “walls” that don’t move. It will be moved to a clean partition and thus will not become broken up into smaller file segments. The optimum setting for the pagefile is an area of debate but it cannot be deleted entirely. The rule of thumb is that the more system RAM there is then the smaller the pagefile can be.

Set the same minimum and maximum sizes and choose SET.

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Click OK then the system will remind you to reboot.

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If you close out of the window the system will ask once more. The page file will not be moved until the system is rebooted.

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The Group Policy Editor

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The Group Policy Editor is a terrific built-in program of Windows XP Pro that allows considerable control over the programs and settings in Windows XP professional. It is one way to fine-tune a system…and muck it up in a hurry. Backup up your system before playing with the settings.

Click the START button and choose RUN.

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Type GPEDIT.MSC and click OK.

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The GROUP POLICY EDITOR opens up and there are a myriad of settings to fine-tune a system for how it interacts with the user and what information it displays. The INTERNET EXPLORER title bar can be changed for example.

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One such annoyance for users is the MSN Messenger icon that can always pop up. To disable it entirely navigate to the WINDOWS MESSENGER folder in ADMINSTRATIVE TEMPLATES.

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Double click the DO NOT ALLOW WINDOWS MESSENGER TO RUN and choose ENABLED. Yes it seems that ENABLING it means Messenger will run but look to the EXPLAIN tab for Microsoft’s note “If you enable this setting, Windows Messenger will not run.”

setup_87

Click OK and then double-click on DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY START WINDOWS MESSENGER INITIALLY and do the same.

setup_88

Now Windows Messenger is disabled.

hint

Explore the different options in the Group Policy Editor but make changes after the system has been backed up.

Final words before plugging into the Internet

This is not THE definitive guide to setting up a system but it does give valuable step by step information. After the system is set up and the necessary drivers have been installed from the motherboard install disc then proceed. Remember the system is still NOT connected to the Internet by the physical CAT5 cable. This is the BEST way to protect a system from spyware and viruses at this stage.

There is one piece of software that no system should be without; antivirus software. Protect your system…period. It won’t stop everything but it will stop the majority of “meanies” on the Internet that can ruin your day.

stopsign
Antivirus software does not stop SPYWARE. Be cautious of the sites you visit and don’t install everything that is offered for download…such as those “smilies” you like so much.

The other piece of software is a good backup software. Acronis True Image is one such recommenced backup software programs. Acronis can quickly and easily take a snapshot of your partition(s) to create a backup file that can be restored if the operating system and program partition becomes corrupted beyond an easy fix by a spyware program(s) or a virus.

Install the backup software NOW and image the operating system and program partition(s).

Now install the antivirus software and physically connect the system to the Internet and update the virus definitions

Now visit WINDOWS UPDATE and update the operating system. Download and install any new video or chipset drivers. NOTE: The novice may prefer to install video and chipset drivers from the motherboard install disc or may have to install a NIC driver from the motherboard disc prior to connecting to the Internet. Veterans may prefer to get the absolute latest drivers direct from the manufacturer’s website and bypass the motherboard install disc altogether.

Install programs and games.

Lastly the operating system and program partition(s) can be defragmented and then take a second, separately named new image of the operating system and program partition(s).

Why?

It has happened once where I’ve plugged a computer into the Internet with a clean install of the operating system, visited Windows Update and found spyware on the system. It did not come from the Microsoft site but the computer was not behind a firewall and connected directly to the modem. Spyware can find its way in. I had no choice but to start from scratch.

If I had a backup of the operating system partition before connecting to the Internet then I could have restored the clean install in a few minutes rather than an hour. Regular (once a month) backups can save time and grief and I suggest leapfrogging backup images. Start with backup_(date of backup) and then the next month make a new file called backup_(date of backup). Only keep the recent two files. If you’ve used the system for a month with no problems then you can always revert back to it if there have been changes that affect the system that occurred between the first and second backup.

This guide was intended to cover the basics. It is a step by step guide for the new user and reminds us veterans of some good habits. It is not intended as the ultimate tweaking guide. It simply gets a system up on its feet quickly and easily with some safety measures in place to help in case of unforeseen disaster.

Quick and easy if far better than format c:.

Highs

  • Learn how to set up a system
  • Recover fast and easy from major problems
  • Save time
  • Less frustrating situations
  • Take steps to protect data

Lows

  • You have to clean out your old system

Comments

  1. Unregistered
    Unregistered According to the Description next to the Messenger settings in Group Policy Editor, you have to select Enabled to actually disable Messenger.
  2. Unregistered
    Unregistered Why did you so totally ignore the proper methods and order for installing drivers?????
  3. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    Unregistered said:
    According to the Description next to the Messenger settings in Group Policy Editor, you have to select Enabled to actually disable Messenger.

    Good eye. Had missed that one myself. Typed DIS when I should have typed EN...

    Thanks for catching that...corrected.
  4. lemonlime
    lemonlime Great Guide MM! Very thorough!
  5. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    Unregistered said:
    Why did you so totally ignore the proper methods and order for installing drivers?????
    1) OS installed and configured.
    2) Backup software installed (optional) and image taken of basic OS
    3) Antivirus software installed.
    4) Connect to the NET to update Windows OS Critical Updates and a) retrieve and install latest video and chipset drivers or b) install them from the motherboard install disc. I usually look to the manufacturer first for latest video and chipset drivers rather than Windows Update.

    The AV protects the system from surfing around to various sites looking for latest drivers else, if uncertain, the motherboard install disc is recommended.

    And this method is wrong? I've done this many times and I did state that this is no the DEFINITIVE guide but one to pick up hints and tips from. May I enquire as to what is in error that I may have missed?
  6. FAH_WW
    FAH_WW I would suggest adding another option to the guide:
    1. Get NIC working and as soon as it does, enable the windows firewall

    Suppose in your numbers in the post dated 28th Feb @ 16:26 that would be 3a ;)

    Main reason being that once you have the NIC working you can then download the antivirus software for free from AVG, and whilst that is taking place you need a firewall to protect you.

    There are some other gotchas like requiring SP1 before you can get certain NV driver packs to actually work, cant remember if ATI had the same or not (not had to do a clean-install for XP Pro for ages now).

    Not having the firewall enabled meant a re-install at my previous job - basically the network was so virus-infected that you didnt even have time to get the virus scanner installed.

    If at all possible I would recommend either using an integrated XPSP2 disc, or downloading the network installer on a working PC, and burning it to CDR.

    The more you can preload, the more likely it is to remain safe :)

    Good guide nevertheless, and as you say, it's a guide, not a definitive guide.


    Nice job,

    WW
  7. Unregistered
    Unregistered just wondering guys i have lots of problems with stuttering and drivers i currently use xp sp1 i underclock my system then format install xp sp1 and ati 4.7 any other drivers like 4.8 4.9 or sp2!! gives me so much trouble and general slowness but to my real question what advantages does putting to page fil on its own partition have speed boost or does it help agasint to windows performance deterioration we all love so much
  8. profdlp
    profdlp
    Unregistered said:
    ...what advantages does putting to page fil on its own partition have speed boost or does it help agasint to windows performance deterioration we all love so much
    The page file, like every other file on your computer, is subject to fragmentation over time.
    The pagefile is space allocated on the C: drive for the operating system to use temporarily for operations that exceed the amount of memory available. After a while this file can become fragmented as it is constantly changing size and trying to allocate itself in and around other files on the operating system drive.

    The solution is to move it to its own partition and set it at a fixed size.
    By having it on it's own little partition it doesn't have to work around all the other files on the partition (because there won't be any). To borrow the analogy used to make the case for partitioning to begin with, imagine having an eight room house and three kids. If you could make them keep all their toys in one room it would make it a much simpler job when it came time to clean them up than if they were scattered all over the house. :)

    Nice article, MediaMan. :thumbsup:
  9. Unregistered
    Unregistered does putting the paging file on a differnt partition make game feel a bit better or boost speeds?
  10. Unregistered
    Unregistered im not an advanced user i just came across this and wanted to know is it worth putting it on its on partition as i only use this pc for games im not an advanced user just looking to see if it will make my system run smoother and better could someone give me a yes or no? :D
  11. Thrax
    Thrax Do it. Then you won't lose anything when you reformat.

    EVERY user should have two partitions. And I do mean every user.
  12. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    Unregistered said:
    im not an advanced user i just came across this and wanted to know is it worth putting it on its on partition as i only use this pc for games im not an advanced user just looking to see if it will make my system run smoother and better could someone give me a yes or no? :D

    This is why you come to Short-Media Forums. We answer questions just like that and hope to help. As my concise compatriot states..."do it."

    Think of it this way. You have one chalkboard. You write on it but can't erase it. So that means you have to throw it away...but one problem. All your important notes are on another part of the chalkboard. That means your notes get thrown away too.

    That's a hard drive with only a big C:\ drive.

    Now...same scenario except you have two chalkboards. Your notes are on one but you are writing on the other. Oops. You made a mistake. This time you can erase the chalkboard and start again...but thank heaven your notes are on the other chalkboard...untouched and safe.

    Make sense?
  13. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    Unregistered said:
    just wondering guys i have lots of problems with stuttering and drivers i currently use xp sp1 i underclock my system then format install xp sp1 and ati 4.7 any other drivers like 4.8 4.9 or sp2!! gives me so much trouble and general slowness but to my real question what advantages does putting to page fil on its own partition have speed boost or does it help agasint to windows performance deterioration we all love so much
    I doubt the performance boost would be hugely noticeable but it would be a positive step in the direction of reducing the rate of defragmentation.

    Defragmenting your hard drive along with emptying the Temp Internet Files, temp files and prefetch folder should be done at least once a month. Think of it like an oil change for the car. It may not add considerable speed but it does make the car last longer and run a bit smoother.

    As to your driver problems...see the other forums and post some questions. :)
  14. Rewired
    Rewired Will changing the Pagefile to one fixed size (but not on its own partition) not keep it from fragmenting?
  15. Thrax
    Thrax Unfortunately, no.
  16. Jimborae
    Jimborae Just one point as I havn't read it yet & it's probably user error but I wanted to be old school and read this in paper form & proberbly bind it as well for future reference.

    So I go to the print icon at the page bottom, click it & a lurverly version of the doc appears in a suitable print format. However for A4 size in the print preview it cuts off the right handside of the doc so that it missies off the last few words of each line.

    I've noticed this in other s-m articles, is this is a print format error or stupid user error?
  17. Tex
    Tex
    andfitchandyou said:
    Will changing the Pagefile to one fixed size (but not on its own partition) not keep it from fragmenting?
    As long as your partition was defragged first so that the new pagefile would be pretty much contiguous ( a few fragments do not hurt ) then yes that would be fine and performance wise its actually better then having it on its own partition.There are performance advantages to having pagefiles on seperate disks not partitions. In fact having one on every seperate disk is an adavantage because XP will page to the disk with the lightest I-O or even page to all the pagefiles simultaneously. If that was happening to partitions not disks you would be screwing yoiurself over performance wise. Its better to keep the pagefile in the OS partition because the heads are closer and do not have to move as far in general. The only reason to have it in its own partition is for housekeeping and defragging which can be overcome in other ways IMHO.

    Tex
  18. Rewired
    Rewired Some interesting tidbits from AUMHA.ORG:

    • The page file in XP is a hidden file called pagefile.sys. It is regenerated at each boot.

    • The slowest aspect of getting at a file on a hard disk is in head movement (‘seeking’). If you have only one physical drive then the file is best left where the heads are most likely to be, so where most activity is going on — on drive C:. If you have a second physical drive, it is in principle better to put the file there, because it is then less likely that the heads will have moved away from it.

    Virtual Memory in Windows XP
  19. Tex
    Tex It's regenerated if its not there. An existing pagefile is not regenerated in any way or form.

    Tex
  20. Unregistered
    Unregistered I just reformated and set up partitions according to your guide. I allowed 6 GBs for the C:\primary partition. My problem is that I have 4.2 GBs of My Documents which is too big for that partition. Do you move My Documents to some other partition..ie...Work partition?

    Great guide by the way. I was one of those one big C:\ drive guys, but I see the sense of partitioning now.
  21. Unregistered
    Unregistered I had to copy a Windows98 OEM disk in order to run XP. I now have 2000 which is infected with viruses. I am reading the instructions and hoping for the best. Thanks for these instructions.
  22. MediaMan
    MediaMan
    Unregistered said:
    My problem is that I have 4.2 GBs of My Documents which is too big for that partition. Do you move My Documents to some other partition..ie...Work partition?
    You are a MY DOCUMENTS fan huh? Simply move it to another partition.

    Click on START and right click on the MY DOCUMENTS name and choose PROPERTIES.

    Choose the MOVE button and move the folder. OK and you are done.

    :)
  23. Jimborae
    Jimborae
    Jimborae said:
    Just one point as I havn't read it yet & it's probably user error but I wanted to be old school and read this in paper form & proberbly bind it as well for future reference.

    So I go to the print icon at the page bottom, click it & a lurverly version of the doc appears in a suitable print format. However for A4 size in the print preview it cuts off the right handside of the doc so that it missies off the last few words of each line.

    I've noticed this in other s-m articles, is this is a print format error or stupid user error?
    Bumpety Bump Bump

    Care to comment Mr MediaMan :D
  24. Rewired
    Rewired Jimborae,

    In Firefox click Page Setup. Under the 'Format and Options' tab, check the box where it says Shrink to Fit Page Width. If you're using IE it's almost the same procedure.
  25. Jimborae
    Jimborae Thanks for that but I can't find the option in IE.
  26. profdlp
    profdlp Try:

    Print>>Preferences>>Advanced>>Page Setting 4 (Scaling) Icon>>Fit To Paper Size
  27. Jimborae
    Jimborae Hi prof,

    'Fraid that option ain't their either, under >advanced >Paper size (no option to fit to paper size) just Letter, A4, A6 etc
  28. profdlp
    profdlp
    Jimborae said:
    ...'Fraid that option ain't their either...
    It must be a setting specific to my printer. :(

    Try this:

    Open the article and click the Print button so you have the whole works on one long page. Use "Select All" to highlight everything and then copy and past it into a Word document. Then just drag the right margin over far enough so that clicking "Print Preview" displays a sample with the entire text fitting within the paper size you're using.

    I tried this and it worked for me. Better make sure you have at least 81 pieces of paper in your printer, though. :D
  29. Rewired
    Rewired In IE you could also try clicking 'Print Preview'. There is an option to scale your document. Click 'Page Width'. I think this might work but I haven't tested it out as I haven't yet built up the motivation to go upstairs and turn on the printer.

    If there was only away to turn on my printer remotely and have my documents find there way downstairs...
  30. Jimborae
    Jimborae OK well I found the option to shrink to fit with the printers at work, Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work.

    Also there is no option in Print Preview to scale the document. I think the only answer that will work is to copy & paste into Word.

    Thanks for the help guys.
  31. Unregistered
    Unregistered On the page streamline INTERNET EXPLORER, you said "I have use foresight in my drive planning and created a 10 GB partition at the end of the drive for temporary files." You mean 1 GB don't you?
    Great setup guide, thank you.
  32. MediaMan
    MediaMan 10 GB 1 GB....o well. :)

    1 GB would be the proper number.


    About the print option. Tis a bug in the coding and it will be corrected in a future upgrade. Landscape printing will solve the problem...and my o my...never realized it was 81 pages. ;D
  33. Unregistered
    Unregistered Hi guys, fantastic guide by the way, nice one. I had to admit I was stuck in the old way of thinking but your guide soon changed that. I just wanted to ask though, are these sizes ok for my partitions because I'm starting from scratch,

    - 5GB for XP (only), 2GB for the Pagefile (I have 1GB of RAM, might be upgraded to 2GB later), 1GB for Temporary and 10GB for Backup (the remaining space will be used for program and storage partitions). I just wasn't sure how big I should make the Pagefile or Backup partitions and would really appreciate your thoughts, thanks. Karl
  34. MediaMan
    MediaMan That sounds good to me. The pagefile really can never go away but the more ram you have...the less it is accessed. 2 GB will be more than enough for the next forseeable while.

    I did make a scratch drive of 5 GB where I could put DVD files of 4.7 GB but in hindsight...I found this a little small. I use that same "scratch" drive for my multimedia programs to write temporary files to such as Photoshop. It can get full if you have and DVD files on it temporarily.

    10 GB as a backup drive would probably give you space to make 2 complete backup files of your OS/Programs. Backup 01 then...a month later...Backup 02.

    I leapfrog backups.

    There is no real rule of thumb...just good advice to adapt to your own needs. Glad you enjoyed the guide.
  35. Unregistered
    Unregistered Thanks MediaMan, you've been a great help. Keep up the good work!! Karl
  36. The-Original-MadMat
    The-Original-MadMat A little known fact is that when you setup your workstations never open Outlook, Outlook Express or any other mail transport first. This is what we tend to do because we want to setup the user's email account. You must open Microsoft Word or Excel and accept the agreement, then close the program. Now set up the email account. By doing this you avoid many problems. :thumbsup:
  37. Rewired
    Rewired Why is this? What problems might you run into and in what context?
  38. The-Original-MadMat
    The-Original-MadMat Problems like loosing the address book (Win 2000) Outlook folders you cannot get rid of... etc..
  39. Unregistered
    Unregistered i want 80gb parttion
  40. Unregistered
    Unregistered So if I wanted to tidy things up via a new pagefile.sys on a sparklingly defragmented partition, I would...
  41. profdlp
    profdlp
    Unregistered said:
    So if I wanted to tidy things up via a new pagefile.sys on a sparklingly defragmented partition, I would...
    ...create a new partition of the appropriate size for your Page File, then go to
    System Properties>>Advanced>>Performance>>Settings>>Advanced>>Virtual Memory>>Change
    then move the pagefile to the new partition. Don't forget to remove it from the old location, else you'll have two of them.
  42. Unregistered
    Unregistered Just found this site. I've been around a few years now but the guide is brilliant - and up to date! I'm doing this with Linux (and Firefox) which is my preferred choice now, but I do help a few friends and relations with their Windows and I still run it for some things. I found the advice on stopping "automatic" actions very useful.
  43. Ed Hernandez
    Ed Hernandez Yo, I first used this guide when I installed my first HDD in 2005, when I found this guide on Short-Media. I recently installed a second drive, and panicked when I couldn't find this article, until I googled my way here. Whichever site had it first, I'm glad you have it now. I sent it to a PC savvy friend of mine, who learned some things from this. There's a lot more good advice here than simply partitioning! I kept both drives, and move the page file from one partition to the other, for perdiodic defrag. The only question I have is this: I made a 10Gb OS parition and moved over the OS from the original drive(was only a 6Gb partition on that drive). But this 10Gb quickly filled up after some Windows updates. Should the guide be updated for XP SP3 space requirements, or can I be deleting some leftover crap? Awsome job!
  44. primesuspect
    primesuspect Thanks! We're still the same people that were behind Short-Media. We changed our name last year.

    Here's our history. :)

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