August 12, 2003

Reinstalling Windows XP

Mark Pilgrim loses five hours of his useful life:

How to install Windows XP in 5 hours or less [dive into mark]: My Windows XP installation has reached its half-life. (You do know that Windows has a half-life, don't you? Every installation of Windows naturally degrades along a logarithmic curve until it becomes annoying, then unbearable, then unusable. Each successive revision of Windows has featured a slightly longer half-life. Back in the day, Windows 95 would last me about 3 months, while my copy of Windows XP has lasted me almost 9. I'm not bitter; when you realize that you're measuring on a logarithmic scale, a factor of 3 improvement is really quite impressive.)

Still, the fact remains that my Windows XP laptop can no longer (a) print, (b) sleep, or (c) change network settings without crashing. This is not multiple choice; it can't do any of those things. It's time for a clean re-install.


1. Back up entire d: drive to iMac upstairs. rsync rocks.
2. Find Windows XP install disc.
3. Reboot with Windows XP install disc.
4. Asked for product activation. Curse Microsoft.
5. Search my house in vain for my original, 100% legitimate, retail Windows XP box.
6. Reboot.
7. Search control panels in vain for a window, dialog, tab, or pane that displays my current product key.
8. Search Google for "windows xp get current product key".
9. Find a utility on a cracker web page in Russia that displays the current product key. This is one of the more lame utilities, since most of the good ones allow you to change it. I don't wish to change it; I actually have a perfectly good product key, I just don't know what it is.
10. Reboot with Windows XP install disc.
11. Reboot repeatedly as required.
12. Boot screen. Choose between "Windows XP Professional" and "Windows XP Professional"...
147. Search Google for "apache 2.0 win32". Download. Install. Copy and paste custom stuff into httpd.conf. Restart Apache service.

That covers the essentials that I need to do my job. The rest can wait.

Reading things like this makes me happy that I never succumbed.

Posted by DeLong at August 12, 2003 01:28 PM | TrackBack

Comments

I know what you mean. I have a Red Hat Linux 7.3 workstation at home that I haven't had to reinstall at all, and I have two 7.1 servers that have been running for 2.5 years without a reinstall.

Posted by: agnosticus on August 12, 2003 02:20 PM

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Makes me think more about getting a Mac laptop, rather than a Windows. There's only one application that I need which is not (fully) Mac functional - SAS.

Does anybody have experience with SAS on a Mac?

Posted by: Barry on August 12, 2003 03:20 PM

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Well, life on the dark side is not all bad. In an attempt to be Fair and Balanced (TM), my own Windows XP experience, upgrading from Windows 2000, was as follows:

1. Place CD in drive.
2. Click "Start" or some such.
3. Come back an hour later, and start work.

Posted by: Tom Slee on August 12, 2003 04:25 PM

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Another good operating systems alternative for x86 hardware is eComStation - more secure and stable than windows but alot easier to use than *nixs.

www.ecomstation.com

Posted by: GH on August 12, 2003 04:59 PM

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Speak for yourself, GH. ;-)

RH8 and RH9 are extreeeeemely easy to use. Nice graphical shell, built-in browser, easy-to-set-up firewall, the whole works. You don't have to touch a shell script or Perl script if you don't want to, but it's there once you're ready to dig deeper.

Posted by: agnosticus on August 12, 2003 06:59 PM

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3. Come back an hour later, and start work.

You're lucky.

Seriously, Mark's right about the 'half-life' of Windows, no matter how recent the version. If, like me, you have to install and uninstall lots of crappy software for reviews, you'll find that your registry gets crudded up. (I know, I should use Virtual PC and start from scratch every time, but it's such a bleedin' hassle.) Five hours spent on a fresh reinstall once or twice a year really does save you from running out and buying more RAM or a faster CPU in frustration.

The more forewarned/forearmed will create a disk image with Ghost or DriveImage after all the essential apps are install, and use that for reinstalls; however, even that tactic becomes problematic thanks to 'critical fixes', service packs and whatnot.

The advantage of Apple is, of course, a tiny hardware base to work around, so that upgrades are (generally) seamless. And my next computer. Will. Be. A. Mac.

But I'm still amazed how the Knoppix OS-from-a-CD just plain works. Amazing fun in computer shops where they've forgotten to disable boot-from-CD.

Posted by: nick sweeney on August 12, 2003 07:32 PM

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I have a Mac at home and a WinXP desktop at work-- this seems to me to be a plausible set-up. It's -plainly- impossible for a lone user to maintain a Windows PC in a usable state-- & I speak here as someone who wrote assembly language programs for the CDC 6600 back in the mid-sixties. The User Services folks at work keep my XP box working (thank you very much) & I can handle the duties myself for the computer at home and that's about that.

Matt

Posted by: Matt on August 13, 2003 05:05 AM

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FWIW, my Mandrake Linux 8.2 install went more seamlessly than my XP install, though the latter wasn't all that hard.

I don't think Linux is ready for primetime, though, insofar as one has to be somewhat knowledgeable about computers to use it.

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on August 13, 2003 06:38 AM

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Actually, you did not need to back up your d: drive. Reinstalls give you the option of formatting the drive or not. In this case, not would be good. Don't get me wrong, I hate XP, but Mac's have thier own probs, including really bad hard drives that seem to fail much more frequently than those used in Windoze. I guess competition helps on the hardware side, at least

Posted by: Simon on August 13, 2003 12:56 PM

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Astounding. I have run all sorts of new code on my W2K system. I stay up for weeks to months at a time. Seems like a story to me.

Don N.

Posted by: Don N on August 13, 2003 09:38 PM

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He probably could have solved his problem simply by running System File Checker (or alternatively, System Restore).

Click Start, Run. Type sfc /scannow and press enter. It works magic.

Posted by: Ryan Walters on August 14, 2003 03:05 PM

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I have been having problems with my windows xp.
I have turned on my computer on and when it boots up it shows and arrow which is the mouse and blue background screen and then it goes back to restarting the computer again. Is this a sign that I need to reboot windows by reinstalling it over again and if so how do I go about rebooting it. When I press F8 it has a reboot section in the menus of titles that says "Reboot." Do I just put the Windows XP CD in and press the title reboot and this should bring about Windows XP again.

Posted by: Bryan Muzylowsky on November 17, 2003 12:45 PM

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I have been having problems with my windows xp.
I have turned on my computer on and when it boots up it shows and arrow which is the mouse and blue background screen and then it goes back to restarting the computer again. Is this a sign that I need to reboot windows by reinstalling it over again and if so how do I go about rebooting it. When I press F8 it has a reboot section in the menus of titles that says "Reboot." Do I just put the Windows XP CD in and press the title reboot and this should bring about Windows XP again.

Posted by: Bryan Muzylowsky on November 17, 2003 12:45 PM

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How does one find a good utility for changing an XP product key?

Posted by: Tony on November 23, 2003 12:30 PM

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