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Technology Blog, by: David Monaghan.

Yet Another Windows Installation, From ME to XP Home OEM.

Posted by David on April 3, 2006

The other day I was preparing a Windows Millennium PC for an installation of Windows XP and telling my Mom, “I wish I could count the number of times I’ve installed Windows XP”. Today at 9:08 am I restarted the ME machine (my Mom’s Micron desktop computer) and shut down my XP machine which has the copy of Windows XP I am moving to my Mom’s computer.

I obtained this copy of Windows XP Home OEM from Fry’s electronics when I was building my desktop. Before beginning the process of moving XP from one computer to the next I started checking around for information about transferring an OEM licence from one computer to another and found what seemed to be information which indicated that an OEM licence is fixed to the hard drive (or other hardware or combinations) which may either make the process more difficult or entirely stop it. Luckily I realized they were probably referring to OEM licences that come with a computer purchased from a computer hardware manufacturer with a computer, but I couldn’t find any definitive answers. My Mom called up Microsoft and they informed us that an OEM licence purchased in a store with hardware is able to be installed on machines other than the one it was first installed on. Their information proved to be correct, after I completed the XP installation I proceeded to activation, where I was notified the activation could not complete because it had been activated on another computer, this was actually the last install step on the machine and I didn’t see an option to call Microsoft or anything, so I exited the installation interface and tried to activate in the actual Windows shell. This “real” activation window gave me the option to contact Microsoft via phone which I did. I was greeted by a voice recognition service which asked for a long string of numbers on my screen called an installation id, after finally getting the numbers through apparently the automated service decided I needed to speak to a “real” person. After very little wait (maybe five minutes max) I was greeted by a somewhat friendly sounding associate who asked three questions; “Is this the first activation for this product?”, I replied, “No”, he then asked, “How many computers will this product be installed on?”, I replied, “One”, his final question was, “Was this product obtained with the purchase of a computer, or in a retail store?”, to which I replied, “From a store”. This was all, he asked me to type in a number similar to the installation ID and I was on my way, thank you Microsoft for not ripping me off, oh yeah and for having far better support than the company I won’t mention by name (to give you a hint they sell computers and their name rhymes with the opposite of heaven…)

Thanks to a second hard drive on the old ME machine I was able to make a back up of the files the family has saved before formatting and reinstalling windows (unfortunately upgrading from ME to XP requires an upgrade version of Windows, which I generally avoid). I checked the entire computer for DOC, XLS, and MP3 files and copied everything important to the backup drive, and also made copies of the Application Files under the Windows directory (I love Windows XP’s location of this folder much better; in Documents and Settings). I noticed there was one program which didn’t place it’s settings files in the appropriate folder and made sure to back it up too, for those possibly going through similar experiences that program was Trillian, a chat application. This machine hasn’t been upgraded to Firefox, the family got used to and stuck on Mozilla’s Suite of a browser, mail, chat, and WYSIWYG editor, I wasn’t sure if the settings and files from the Mozilla Suite would transfer over nicely so I did a few Google searches and some tests before beginning. Apparently those Mozilla developers are pretty sharp, everything including mail, contacts, bookmarks, and passwords are easily transferred. In some cases this process requires a few file-name changes and an understanding of Mozilla’s document and settings structure is always a plus, although the information is available for those who aren’t.

I’ve been looking recently at automating the Windows XP Home installation process as much as possible, currently I do it the old fashioned way. Not only is it annoying to monitor the install for settings like networking, time/date, and languages but also to install the numerous updates Windows XP has gone through since this CD was made (pre SP2). It would also be nice to include Firefox and some other application with the install but I need to do some more looking into this before I feel comfortable with it as I actually just learned such procedures are (relatively) easy using software designed to do soAfter some investigating and (very little) hands on experimentation I’ve come to the conclusion that the process of slipstreaming (could be wrong on that name) would actually take me longer than the amount of time I predict myself installing Windows XP, besides Vista will come out before I have to hopefully and I vaguely remember reading that it will feature an automated install for at least some versions. Obviously I’m interested in saving myself time, so I won’t be automating the install process of XP. I hope most people agree that Windows XP can actually run for quite a bit longer than 98 without reinstalling as long as certain precautions are taken.

The install and application procedure ended at 10:54 am. The entire process of updating Windows and installing Firefox, Thunderbird, and FinePix then configuring them (restoring old mail, bookmarks, etc.) was completed today at 3:15 pm. The entire process went pretty smoothly exept for my recent finding that GMail has limited attachments to 10mb per email… The reason for trying was to move an email account over to my laptop to test the process of moving emails from Mozilla to Thunderbird. TIP: Use a USB drive to transfer settings. And yes the emails transfer over just fine (not perfect but good enough). Unfortunately I lost most of my time when prompts were waiting for input and the installation was unattended, at least I was getting other things done I suppose. Obviously updating Windows and installing and configuring the applications took the most time, Windows updates particularly suck up time and can’t be done in parallel with applications. The biggest problem is that once Windows is installed the first thing that should be done is Windows updates, you can either do it by hand or set up auto updates. Because I was in somewhat of a hurry to be done I decided to do it by hand, I had a few programs to install and configure and didn’t want to do so without at least SP2 in place. So, I grunted through the updates until SP2 then set up auto-update and continued with the applications, this is where the most time was taken, Windows needs a helping hand through everything and oh yeah, reboot… It’s a sad story but now it’s done and thank God, ME was starting to kill me.

EDIT: Looking back at this install a few months after having completed it I must say that the computer is much more stable than it was before. The family was also happy to have user accounts and all that entails. I had to install Google Talk, Trillian, iTunes, and a few administration utilities I like, nothing really time consuming or notable. My desktop computer now has a nice clean install of Gentoo Linux with some toys for me, I don’t use it a whole lot for the moment but it’s there and not taking much space or power; I turn it on when I need it and cron shuts it off at 4:00am if it’s still on then. The computer is accessed over the network only, I use SSH, Hamachi and Samba for everything I need off of it, oh and SCP but that’s SSH anyway… Happy times, hope you’re enjoying your computers this much too!

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