Win xp guru installation

2009/03/29 by Lassi A. Liikkanen

Things that a sophisticated Windows users does after Win XP installation

Steps in the preferred order of execution.

Note: Before the installation the guru ensures that the network cable is unplugged and the hard disk partitions are initialized as wanted. If you are unsure how you would like arrange your partitions, create a Dynamic disk that allows you to re-arrange partitions later on (similar to LVM in Linux)

  1. Be prepared to the fact that getting Windows running with 10-20 additional software packages and tools can easily take at least one working day.
  2. Set the keyboard and mouse settings to your liking. Check keyboard input language from Control Panel -> Regional and Language settings. Disable input switching with a shortcut.
  3. Switch the desktop and the Start menu and Taskbar options to whatever you please. I prefer using Classic Windows Start menu and setting the Advanced start menu options to your liking. For improving usability, I suggest turning off Personalized menus, which hide seldom used items and create a 'discontinuum' to spatial layout.
  4. If you want to maximize your Windows performance, you should not set up a fixed size virtual memory paging file. To achieve, you need to defrag your primary partition (or where ever you want it) and then set up the volume. Using a third-party defragmentation software such as Smart defrag is preferred. First disable current virtual memory partition, defrag your drive completely, and create a new fixed size partition that will hopefully be one big chunk.
  5. Install the latest service pack. If it is known to be incompatible with a software you are using, you must rely on individual Windows patches, which is a really bad option
  6. Ensure your network security. Install a firewall or a more comprehensive security package and setup it up. A decent firewall, such as ZoneAlarm protects both incoming and outgoing traffic and alerst you when programs behave badly. Now you can completely disable Windows security center service .
  7. Set your user account password. Especially if you are willing to use a weak password, don't give administrator privileges to the account you primarily use even though this would seem to be an easy way out (this is a good policy independent of your password strenght). You will also want to disable the Fast user switching.
  8. Run Windows Explorer and setup Folder options from the Tools menu. I prefer Windows Classic folder. Set Advanced settings on the view tab to show all required file, not to hide system files and not to remember settings for each folder. Simple sharing sounds nice, but is not enough for network administration tasks and problem solving, so disable it.

  9. AND ONLY NOW you can Connect to the network. Enable network icon in the Network connection Properties.
  10. Run Windows Update. Ensure that you get all the critical updates including the latest service pack if not already installed. SP3 was released in 2008, but maybe sometimes problematic to install. If you have problems installing XP SP3, read these posts. The problem arises when the setup tries to backup Beethov9.wma but is actualy related to missing file permissions for All users user account for all files of that user, at least system access is required.
  11. Next you should install a decent file archive extractor program, such as WinRAR or FilZip. The next additional tool is an alternative for the Windows explorer, like xplorer2. These programs allow you to effeciently complete following steps, that is update your drivers, install new software etc.
  12. Install shared application services such as PDF printer or reader, Java JRE etc.
  13. Install an IE replacement, Opera or FireFox and make it your default browser. It also makes your live a lot easier. (Note. To get Java Run-time Environment to work with the current Opera 8.53, you must install JRE before installing Opera.)
  14. Install Windows XP Powertoys and customize your Windows using TweakUI. The most helpful settings are, Explorer - Use Classic Search setting, Common Dialog - Places Bar shortucs and My Computer - Autoplay. Toggle autoplay off for all drives to increase your security. If you use WLAN connectivity, uncheck Taskbar and Start menu - Enable Balloon tips. Powertoys download page contains several utilities that might we worth the try
  15. Update your hardware drivers. Get the latest drivers from the third-party manufactorer sites (or where ever you can find proper ones). Once you've found a working driver, you'll likely want to stick to it. Continuous updates are bound to make your system unstable, so I suggest adhering to the principle, 'if it ain't broken, why fix it'.
  16. If the system has a limited number of users and you do not want to store user settings on the system partition under Documents and Settings (normally in C:) move each user directory to new location, e.g. D:\JohnDoe\. This will make many things easier later on. This can be changed from My Documents properties menu.
  17. Install printers with appropriate drivers
  18. Install the software you are using (Open Office, audio and video codecs, multimediaplayers, games). If you install software that share functionalities, make sure you set the associations correctly. For instance, Winamp can playback videos, but if you'd like to use VLC instead, install former first and override settings with latter.
  19. Import your settings from a previous installation (if any). This must be unfortunately done individually for each program and no general procedure exists (some commercial solutions seem to exist). If software versions match, you can often copy the application data directories or profiles. With Mozilla products, you need to copy profile directories and use profilemanager to import them (see MozillaZine guide)

  20. Setup screen saver and Power saving options. It is hardly ever necessary to use a screen saver, use monitor shutdown instead. Enable Hibernation, which is be default disabled
  21. Setup your System properties (press Win + Pause). You may want to change your TEMP path settings and disable Remote Assistance as well maximize the computer performance
  22. Organize your Start menu and Quick launch bar. For some reason, Quick launch is hidden by default, I always display it.
  23. Use TweakUI to clean up Templates
  24. Use Autoruns from SysInternals Suite to check which programs are automatically started in Windows startup. Depending on your installation, you can usually find several applications that are unnecessary, starting from KernelFaultCheck (dumprep.exe) which provides the useles report to be send for Microsoft after a program has crashed.

  25. If you have a LCD display, you may want to enable ClearType from Display properties | Appereance (tab)| Effects... | Use the following method to smooth the edges. The XP PowerToys include ClearType Tuning utility that can further help to tune a sharper image. I have found that ClearType does not work well on all LCD devices, but judge for yourself.
  26. Disable unnecessary Windows Services. For instance Run --> services.msc to see all current services and consult an additional source of information on necessary services (e.g. Beemerworld's tips and Jasonn's list).
    Among usually unnecessary services resides Universal Plug and Play and Error reporting. While you can usually disable UPnP (required only in systems where you are streaming media out of your PC to a network player and some P2P applications) you should also uninstall it from network components using Control panel -> Add or remove programs -> Add/Remove Windows components -> Networkin services -> UPnP User Interface. Error reporting should also be disabled from System properties | Advanced (tab) | Error reporting
  27. There are some unnecessary and even annoying features to disable. The desktop cleaning wizard goes back to Hogwart when you choose Display properties -> Desktop (tab) -> Customize desktop -> Desktop cleanup and uncheck the run box. Accessibility options include Sticky, Filter and Toggle keys global keyboard shortcuts that are usually very annoying and should thus be disable.
  28. I am not fancy of seeing picture thumbnails in the file browser when I've not explicitly asked for them. Howerver, I've found that the only way to get completely rid off thumbnails, which tend turn up in some applications no matter how you try to avoid them, is to disable the component services that generates them. This can also be done with AutoRuns, look for shimgvw.dll and disable it. Alternatively, this can be done by running command regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll. If you them back, run regsvr32 shimgvw.dll
  29. If you use USB flash drives, I suggest you disable write-back caching, so you can always quickly and safely detach them from a computer. To do that, plugin in a USB device, select drive properties from My computer and then Device tab, click to select your USB drive and Properties, from the opening dialogue Policies -> Quick removal .
  30. Ensure all installed software is working

  31. See if the partition where you installed the programs requires defragmenting
  32. Back up your system and store the back up somewhere safe. The backup utility bundled with XP can't store your files directly to an optical drive (DVD) so create the backup on to a place on your harddrive which you are not backing up at the moment and then burn it to a disc.


I've not emphasized virus, trojan and other malware protection. However, they can be a serious problem if the computer is used by incompetent users unaware of the risks and without an intervening hardware firewall. In these cases, necessary measures should be taken. One option is the use the hosts file in Windows, which provides extra security by disabling access to certain websites (see BleepingComputer's article on increased security with hosts). The idea is to first disable DNS caching (service), so applications must always do requests themselves and also create a static, local DNS record which bans known unsafe or suspicious.

I use Winkey to create global shortcuts using the Windows key. There are plenty of nice shortcuts you can set for Windows (see Lockergnome shortcuts list), starting from Network connections and such.

Searching stuff from your computer can be organized in several ways. Some people use the Google desktop, but Windows' Indexing service can be useful as well.

I still use Windows Briefcase to synchronize files between several computers. However, there's a strange feature in Briefcase with a new system. Windows does not offer the Update all context menu option for a briefcase unless you have created a briefcase on the newly installed Windows. For instance, you might like to update USB flash disk Briefcase from a network server, but you can't do this before you create at least one Briefcase locally.

After all these tweaks, there are still few things that don't work like I would like them to. These include the fact the Places bar can be replaced by programs own selection, e.g. file dialogs in Office and the default view in the Open... dialogs is Thumbnails even though I've tried to force it to be details.


Recently, there has been an unofficial release of Windows XP called XP performance Edition SP3, which implements many of these features out-of-the-box. See,

Other interesting options can be found with keywords TinyXP and nLite

Related content:
How Windows 7 restore really works, 2014/04/26

Instructions for creating bootable Windows 7 recovery environment on a USB flash device, 2014/03/30

Disabling background software installations and upgrades in Windows, 2013/03/03

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Keywords: [windows] , [computers] Document's status: Ok (Document dates explained)

This document created: 2006/03/31
Modified: 2009/03/29
Published: 2009/02/22

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