How to Clean Install Windows XP

How to Clean Install Windows XP

After serious system problems, it’s often necessary to wipe your Windows XP system clean and start over from scratch—a procedure referred to as a “clean install.”

Windows clean install is also the best way to go when you want to “revert back” to Windows XP from a later version of Windows, or even if you want to install Windows for the first time into a new or recently wiped hard drive.

Windows XP Repair Install is the better way to go if you want to keep your files and programs intact. Typically you’ll want to try to solve your problem that way prior to trying a clean install.

The steps and screenshots shown in these 34 steps refer specifically to Windows XP Professional but will also serve perfectly well as a guide to reinstalling the Home Edition.01of 34

1. Plan Your Windows XP Clean Installation

The most important thing to realize before performing a clean install of Windows XP is that all of the information on the drive that Windows XP is currently on (probably your C: drive) will be destroyed during this process. That means that if there’s anything you want to keep, you should back it up to a CD or another drive prior to beginning this process.

Some things to consider backing up that usually reside on the same drive as Windows XP (which we’ll assume is “C:”) include a number of folders located here:

C:\Documents and Settings\{YOUR NAME}

This includes DesktopFavorites and My Documents. Also, check these folders under other user’s accounts if more than one person logs onto your PC.

You should also locate the Windows XP product key, a 25-digit alphanumeric code unique to your copy of Windows. If you can’t locate it, there is a fairly easy way to find the product key code from your existing installation, but this must be done before you reinstall.

When you’re absolutely sure that everything from your computer that you want to keep is backed up, proceed to the next step. Keep in mind that once you delete all of the information from this drive (as we’ll do in a future step), the action is not reversible!02of 34

2. Boot From the Windows XP CD

Screenshot of the 'Press any key to boot from CD' screen

To begin the Windows XP clean install process, you’ll need to boot from the Windows XP CD.

  1. Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD message similar to the one shown in the screenshot above.
  2. Press a key to force the computer to boot from the Windows CD. If you don’t, your PC will attempt to boot to the operating system that’s currently installed. If this happens, simply reboot and try to boot to the CD again.

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3. Press F6 to Install a Third Party Driver

Screenshot of the Windows XP setup 'Press F6' screen

The Windows Setup screen will appear and a number of files and drivers necessary for the setup process will load.

Toward the beginning of this process, a message will appear that says Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver. As long as you are performing this clean install from a Windows XP SP2 CD, this step is probably not necessary.

On the other hand, if you’re reinstalling from an older version of the Windows XP installation CD and you have a SATA hard drive, you’ll need to press F6 here to load any necessary drivers. The instructions that came with your hard drive or computer should include this information.

For most of you, though, this step can be ignored.

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4. Press ENTER to Set Up Windows XP

Screenshot of the 'Welcome to Setup" Windows XP setup screen

After the necessary files and drivers are loaded, the Windows XP Professional Setup screen will appear.

Since this will be a clean installation of XP, press Enter to set up Windows now.

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5. Read and Accept the Windows XP Licensing Agreement

Screenshot of the Windows XP Licensing Agreement page

The next screen that appears is the Windows XP Licensing Agreement. Read through it and press F8 to confirm that you agree with the terms.

Press the Page Down key to advance through the licensing agreement faster. This is not to suggest that you should skip reading the agreement though! You should always read a software’s “small print” especially when it comes to operating systems like Windows XP.

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6. Pres ESC to Install a Fresh Copy of Windows XP

Screenshot of the list of found Windows XP installations during the Windows XP setup process

On the next screen, Windows XP Setup needs to know which Windows installation you want to repair or if you’d rather install a fresh copy of Windows.

If you have a new, or otherwise empty, hard drive you’re installing Windows XP to, you won’t see this! Skip to Step 10 instead.

An installation of Windows on your PC should already be highlighted, assuming Windows exists on there at all (it doesn’t need to). If you have multiple Windows installations then you’ll see them all listed.

Even though you may be repairing an issue with your computer, don’t choose to “repair the selected Windows XP installation.” In this tutorial, we’re installing a clean copy of Windows on the computer.

Press Esc to continue.07of 34

7. Delete the Existing Windows XP Partition

Screenshot of deleting a partition during the Windows XP setup process

In this step, you’ll delete the main partition on your computer—the space on the hard drive that your current Windows XP installation has been using.

Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, highlight the line for the C: drive. It probably says Partition1 or System, though yours may be different. Press D to delete this partition.

This will remove all of the information on the drive that Windows is currently on (your C: drive). Everything on that drive will be destroyed during this process.

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8. Confirm Knowledge of the System Partition

Screenshot of deleting a partition during Windows XP Setup

In this step, Windows XP Setup warns that the partition you’re trying to delete is a system partition that may contain Windows. Of course, we know this because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

Confirm your knowledge that this is a system partition by pressing Enter to continue.

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9. Confirm Partition Deletion Request

Screenshot of the final confirmation screen for deleting a partition during the Windows XP setup process

This is your last chance to back out of the reinstallation process by pressing the Esc key. If you back out now and restart your PC, your previous Windows XP installation will boot normally with no loss of data, assuming it was working before you started this process!

If you’re sure you’re ready to proceed, confirm that you wish to delete this partition by pressing the L key

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10. Create a Partition

Screenshot of unpartitioned space to install Windows XP to during the setup process

Now that the previous partition is removed, all of the space on the hard drive is unpartitioned. In this step, you’ll create a new partition for Windows XP to use.

Using the arrow keys, highlight the line that says Unpartitioned space. Press C to create a partition on this unpartitioned space.

You may have other partitions on this drive and on other drives that may be installed on your PC. If so, you may have a number of entries here. Be careful not to remove partitions that you may be using, as this will remove all data from those partitions permanently.11of 34

11. Choose a Partition Size

Screenshot of the create partition screen in Windows XP Setup

Here you need to choose a size for the new partition. This will become the size of the C: drive, the main drive on your PC that Windows XP will install to. This is also the drive that all of your software and data will probably reside on unless you have additional partitions set aside for those purposes.

Unless you’re planning on creating additional partitions from within Windows after the clean installation process (for any number of reasons), it’s usually wise to create a partition at the maximum size possible.

For most users, the default number provided will be the maximum space available and the best choice. Press Enter to confirm the partition size.12of 34

12. Choose a Partition to Install Windows XP On

Screenshot of the partition selection screen for installing Windows XP

Highlight the line with the newly created partition and press Enter to set up Windows XP on the selected partition.

Even if you created a partition at the maximum size available, there will always be a relatively small amount of space left over that will not be included in the partitioned space. This will be labeled as Unpartitioned space in the list of partitions, as shown in the screenshot above.13of 34

13. Choose a File System to Format the Partition

Screenshot of the partition format options screen during the Windows XP setup process

For Windows to install on a partition on a hard drive, it has to be formatted to use a particular file system—either FAT or NTFS. NTFS is more stable and secure than FAT and is always the recommended choice for a new Windows XP installation.

Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, highlight the line that says Format the partition using the NTFS file system and press Enter.

The screenshot here only shows NTFS options but you might see a couple of entries for FAT.14of 34

14. Wait for the New Partition to Format

Screenshot of the formatting process indicator during Windows XP setup

Depending on the size of the partition that you’re formatting and the speed of your computer, formatting the partition could take anywhere from a few minutes to several minutes or hours.15of 34

15. Wait for the Windows XP Installation Files to Copy

Screenshot of Windows XP copying installation files to the hard drive during setup

Setup will now copy the necessary installation files from the CD to the newly formatted partition—the C: drive.

This step usually only takes a few minutes and no user intervention is necessary.

If you’re told that the computer will restart, don’t press any buttons. Let it restart and do not press any keys if you see a screen like in Step 2—you do not want to boot to the disc again.16of 34

16. Windows XP Installation Begins

Screenshot of the main installation screen during the Windows XP setup

Windows XP will now begin installing. No user intervention is necessary.

The Setup will complete in approximately: time estimation on the left is based on the number of tasks that the Windows XP setup process has left to complete, not on a true estimation of the time it will take to complete them. Usually, the time here is an exaggeration. Windows will probably be set up sooner than this.17of 34

17. Choose Regional and Language Options

Screenshot of the Regional and Language Options settings as shown during the Windows XP setup process

During installation, the Regional and Language Options window will appear.

The first section allows you to change the default language and the default location. If the options listed match your preferences, no changes are necessary. If you wish to make changes, choose Customize and follow the directions given to install new languages or change locations.

The second section allows you to change the default input language and device. If the options listed match your preferences, no changes are necessary. If you wish to make changes, select Details and follow the directions given to install new input languages or change input methods.

After you’ve made any changes, or if you’ve determined no changes are necessary, select Next.18of 34

18. Enter Your Name and Organization

Screenshot of the name and organization options during the Windows XP setup

In the Name: text box, enter your full name. In the Organization: text box, enter your organization or business name. Choose Next when complete.

In the next window (not shown), enter the Windows XP product key. This key should have come with your Windows purchase.

If you’re installing from a Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) CD, you’ll not be prompted to enter a product key at this time.

Select Next when complete.19of 34

19. Enter a Computer Name and Administrator Password

Screenshot of the computer name and administrator password options during the Windows XP setup

The Computer Name and Administrator Password window will appear next.

In the Computer name: text box, Windows XP Setup has suggested a unique computer name for you. If your computer will be on a network, this is how it will be identified to other computers. Feel free to change the computer name to anything you wish.

In the Administrator password: text box, enter a password for the local administrator account. This field can be left blank but it’s not recommended to do so for security purposes. Confirm this password in the Confirm password: text box.So, You Want to See Some Strong Passwords? Here Are Several Examples 

Press Next when complete.20of 34

20. Set the Date and Time

Screenshot of the date, time, and time zone options during Windows XP Setup

In the Date and Time Settings window, set the correct date, time and time zone settings.

Choose Next when complete.21of 34

21. Choose the Networking Settings

Screenshot of the Networking Settings configuration screen as seen during Windows XP Setup

The Networking Settings window will appear next with two options for you to choose from—Typical settings or Custom settings.

If you’re installing Windows XP in on a single computer or a computer on a home network, chances are the correct option to choose is Typical settings.

If you’re installing Windows in a corporate environment, you may need to choose the Custom settings option but check with your system administrator first. Even in this case, the Typical settings option is probably the right one.

If you’re not sure, choose Typical settings.

Select Next.22of 34

22. Enter a Workgroup or Domain Name

Screenshot of the Workgroup or Computer Domain setup screen as seen during Windows XP Setup

The Workgroup or Computer Domain window will appear next with two options for you to choose from—No, this computer is not on a network, or is on a network without a domain. or Yes, make this computer a member of the following domain.

If you’re installing Windows XP on a single computer or a computer on a home network, chances are the correct option to choose is No, this computer is not on a network, or is on a network without a domain. If you’re on a network, enter the workgroup name of that network here. Otherwise, feel free to leave the default workgroup name and continue.

If you’re installing Windows in a corporate environment, you may need to choose the Yes, make this computer a member of the following domain option and enter a domain name but check with your system administrator first.

If you’re not sure, choose No, this computer is not on a network, or is on a network without a domain.

Select Next.23of 34

23. Wait for the Windows XP Installation to Finalize

Screenshot of the Finalizing installation step during the Windows XP setup process

The Windows XP installation will now finalize. No user intervention is necessary.24of 34

24. Wait for Restart and First Windows XP Boot

Screenshot of the Windows XP Professional splash screen

Your PC will automatically restart and proceed to load Windows XP for the first time.25of 34

25. Accept Automatic Display Settings Adjustment

Screenshot of the Display Settings auto-configuration notice during the Windows XP setup process

After the Windows XP startup splash screen appeared in the last step, a window titled Display Settings will appear.

Choose OK to allow Windows to automatically adjust the screen resolution.26of 34

26. Confirm Automatic Display Settings Adjustment

Screenshot of the confirmation dialog box for the screen resolution auto-configure during the Windows XP setup process

The next window is titled Monitor Settings and is asking for confirmation that you can read the text on the screen. This will tell Windows that the automatic resolution changes it made in the previous step were successful.

If you can clearly read the text in the window, select OK.

If you can not read the text on the screen, the screen is garbled or not clear, choose Cancel if you are able. If you can’t see the Cancel button, don’t worry. The screen will automatically revert to the previous setting in 20 seconds.27of 34

27. Begin Final Set up of Windows XP

Screenshot of the introduction to the Windows XP Setup Wizard

The Welcome to Microsoft Windows screen appears next, informing you that the next few minutes will be spent setting up your computer.

Select Next.28of 34

28. Wait for Internet Connectivity Check

Screenshot of the Windows XP Setup Wizard internet connection check

The Checking your Internet connectivity screen appears next, informing you that Windows is checking to see if your computer is connected to the internet.

If you’d like to skip this step, choose Skip.29of 34

29. Choose an Internet Connection Method

Screenshot of the internet connection choice screen during the Windows XP Setup Wizard

In this step, Windows XP wants to know whether your computer connects to the Internet through a network or if it connects to the Internet directly.

If you have a broadband connection, like DSL or a cable or fiber connection, and are using a router (or if you’re on another type of home or business network) then choose Yes, this computer will connect through a local area network or home network.

If your computer connects directly to the internet via a modem (dial-up or broadband), choose No, this computer will connect directly to the Internet.

Windows XP will see most modern Internet connection setups, even those involving only a single PC, as on a network so the first option is probably the most likely choice for most users. If you’re really not sure though, choose No, this computer will connect directly to the Internet or select Skip.

After making a choice, choose Next.30of 34

30. Optionally Register Windows XP With Microsoft

Screenshot of the optional Windows XP registration process screen during setup

Registration with Microsoft is optional, but if you’d like to do that now, choose Yes, I’d like to register with Microsoft now, select Next and follow the instructions to register.

Otherwise, choose No, not at this time and select Next.31of 34

31. Create Initial User Accounts

Screenshot of the Windows XP Setup Wizard initial user account setup screen

In this step, setup wants to know the names of the users who will use Windows XP so it can set up individual accounts for each user. You must enter at least one name but can enter up to 5 here. More users can be entered from within Windows after installation is complete.

After entering the account name(s), choose Next to continue.32of 34

32. Finish Final Setup of Windows XP

Screenshot of the Thank You screen of the Windows XP Setup Wizard

We’re almost there! All of the necessary files are installed and all of the necessary settings are configured.

Select Finish to proceed to Windows XP.33of 34

33. Wait for Windows XP to Start

Screenshot of the Welcome screen during the Windows XP startup process

Windows XP is now loading for the first time. This may take a minute or two depending on your computer’s speed.34of 34

34. Windows XP Clean Installation Is Complete!

Screenshot of the Windows XP desktop as it appears after a new Windows XP setup

This completes the final step of the Windows XP clean installation! Congratulations!

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