The first thing you need to do is to check your systems specifications to see if they meet the minimum requirements to run Windows XP. According to Microsoft, these are the minimum specifications:
PC with 233MHz processor clock speed required; Intel Pentium/Celeron family, AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended
64MB RAM minimum supported (may limit performance and some features)
1.5GB of available hard disk space
Super VGA (800 × 600) resolution video adapter and monitor
CD-ROM or DVD drive
Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device
Now you should be safe if you have at least a 300MHz Pentium II processor (or compatible), and your RAM should really be 128MB minimum. And a 4 GB Hard Disk, As Windows XP Takes around 1 GB of Space after installation
Backup your files
If you're upgrading, you should back up your current files. You can back up files to a disk, a tape drive, or another computer on your network.
Don't forget to back up your e-mail messages and address book.
It might also be advisable to record your Network settings
Upgrade vs. Clean Install
During the setup process, you must choose between upgrading or installing a new copy of Windows ("clean install").
During an upgrade, the Windows XP Setup Wizard replaces existing Windows files but preserves your existing settings and applications. Some applications might not be compatible with Windows XP Professional and therefore might not function properly after an upgrade. You can upgrade to Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional from the following operating systems:
Windows 98 Second Edition
Windows Millennium Edition
You can upgrade to Windows XP Professional only, from the following operating systems:
Windows NT 4.0 Workstation (Service Pack 6 and later)
Windows 2000 Professional (including service packs)
Windows XP Home Edition
If your computer is currently running an unsupported operating system, you can't do an upgrade. The wizard installs Windows XP in a new folder. After the installation is complete, you will have to reinstall applications and reset your preferences.
If you have the time & spirit, I recommend you choose to do a "clean install". The advantage is that this will get rid of a lot of duplicate files, and left over files from software which didn't get deleted when you uninstalled the software.
If you choose to do this, you need to make sure that you have all the disks and installation codes, or the downloaded files for your software, as you will have to reinstall all your applications.
FDISK & Format
You don't have to worry about running FDISK (to partition your hard drive) or format, both can be done during the installation process.
This is important to know. Windows XP includes an uninstall capability, but only when upgraded from Windows 98 and Windows Me. But you have to remember that you cannot change the file format (convert to NTFS), or you will lose the ability to uninstall.
If sufficient disk space is available, Windows XP will automatically save your previous OS files. Should you wish to go back to your previous OS, it is advisable to do it sooner rather than later. The more time that passes, the greater the chances that you may encounter certain "issues" (in other words: you could run into problems!).
If you want to set up a dual boot with your existing OS, you will need a separate volume (a separate partition on the same physical hard drive), or a separate hard drive.
The only thing to remember is that the oldest OS should be installed first, but this would usually be the case. When you install Windows XP, it will detect the existing OS, and because in this case you will not select to upgrade your existing OS, Windows XP will make a boot menu, where you will be able to choose which OS you want to boot to.
Now installing Windows 9x and Me after installing Windows XP should be safe, as long as you install it to a separate volume. Windows 9x / Me do not use the same system files on the boot drive. In fact, you will notice that they will be added automatically to the Windows XP boot menu. I discovered this when I installed Windows 98 in the boot partition of Windows XP. XP itself was installed on drive E, but the boot files were on drive C. The OS you installed last will be the default choice when booting. The easiest way to change this is to boot into Windows XP, select System in the Control Panel, select the Advanced tab and press the Settings button under Startup and Recovery. Now you can change the Default operating system.
I haven't tried, but I would imagine you might have additional problems when you install Windows 2000 or a version of Windows NT after installing XP. This is because these OS'ses use some of the same boot files.
To be able to use dual boot with Windows 9x and Windows Me, you will need to have your boot volume (usually C:\) file system as FAT or FAT32. So do not convert your boot volume to NTFS during or after the Windows XP install!
Windows 2000 (and Windows NT 4.0 with service pack 4 or higher) can use NTFS, so it doesn't matter if the boot volume is in NTFS file format or not.
Home Edition vs. Professional
There should also be a Professional Step-Up version available, it was announced by Microsoft after Windows XP was released to manufacturing. This step-up upgrade is the same as the Professional (upgrade) version, the only difference is that it can only be used to upgrade Windows XP Home Edition. It should sell for roughly $125, that's a $75 saving over the regular Professional upgrade price.
Windows Update Advisor
Next I would suggest that you run the Windows Update Advisor. This advisor is available for Download from Microsoft, but you have to realize that it's a large download at nearly 32MB, so it might not be advisable to download if you don't have broadband (DSL, Cable) Internet access.
If you have access to a Windows XP CD-ROM, running setup.exe will give you a menu, one of the choices being offered is Check system compatibility. Choosing this option will give you another two options, the first is Check my system automatically, the second options is to Visit the compatibility Web site. Choosing Check my system automatically will do just that, and give you a report when the process is done. For more information on the Windows Update Advisor, see this post in the Windows XP forum of our Support BBS.
The report generated will tell you if your system (hardware & software) is suitable for Windows XP. You'll get a list of any programs which may cause problems. Just follow the advice from the Upgrade Advisor.
Hardware Compatibility List
This is the place to check and see if a piece of hardware has been (positively) tested with Windows XP. The Hardware Compatibility List is available on line [1.7MB]. If your hardware is not listed there, it doesn't mean that it won't run, but there is a chance that you could run into some problems. In that case, check with the manufacturer of the hardware for a Windows XP driver. If a Windows XP driver isn't available, you can use a Windows 2000 driver. Windows XP will throw some warnings at you that you are about to install a driver which is not verified for Windows XP (well, we already knew that!); just select Install anyway.
Upgrade your BIOS
You should also check with the manufacturer of your system's motherboard for the latest BIOS version, and if a newer version exists, update your BIOS. For more information on updating your BIOS check the manual of your computer/motherboard.
Get the latest drivers
Make sure you have the latest drivers for your hardware by visiting the manufacturers' Web sites. This applies specifically to Network Adapters, Modems, and Hard Drive Controllers.
If you choose to dual boot, you may be limited to the choice of file system (either FAT or FAT32). Only when dual booting with Windows 2000 will you be able to choose NTFS.
If at all possible, choose NTFS as your file system. It will offer you increased security & reliability. If you want to read more on the advantages of NTFS, read my article on the Windows 2000 site: Windows 2000 File System: NTFS. Windows XPs NTFS is a slight improvement over Windows 2000, but the basics are the same (and they are compatible).
You can convert from FAT to NTFS after you have installed Windows XP. Type convert /? in a command prompt for details. But I would strongly advise you not to do this. The reason is that by converting you will end up with a cluster size of 512 bytes, which will increases the likelihood of fragmentation, and on large volumes, will cause the Disk Defragmenter to take a significant amount of time to defragment. So, all in all, you are better off in formatting a drive using NTFS in the first place.
Clean Install Using Upgrade CD?
One of the most frequently asked questions is whether it is possible to do a clean install using an upgrade version. The answer is yes. At some point during setup, Windows XP will ask you to insert your qualifying media, to ensure that you are eligible for the upgrade. The media must be a retail Windows 98, 98 Second Edition, Millennium Edition, NT 4.0, or 2000 CD-ROM, be it an Upgrade or Full version. You cannot, however, use a rescue CD that you got from a PC maker.
There are a few ways to invoke setup. The easiest way is to load the Windows XP CD-ROM in your CD-ROM drive, and reboot your computer. Your BIOS needs to support booting from the CD-ROM, but most computers have had this support for the past 2-4 years. It might be necessary to enable this in your BIOS. Consult your computer/motherboard manual about this.
If your computer doesn't support booting from the CD-ROM drive, you will either have to boot from your previous OS, or from a bootable floppy drive.
If you boot from your previous OS, the Windows XP setup will start as soon as you pop the CD in your drive. If you boot from a floppy (remember, you need to have support for your CD-ROM and the Windows 98 start disk includes this), you will have to change to the CD-ROM drive, and then you will have to run winnt.exe from the I386 directory.
Windows XP setup includes a new Dynamic Update. This enables the setup program to connect to the Microsoft Web site, to check for the latest updates before setup starts. This should guarantee that you have the most up-to-date files when you start the upgrade process.
This does not include all available Windows Update downloads, just setup fixes.
Dynamic Update can only run when you have an Internet connection available during setup (upgrade only).
Near the end of the setup routine, you will be asked to input an administrator password. This is important. Make sure you remember it, or make a note of it (but keep it in a safe place). The Administrator account on Windows XP is the most powerful account which lets you control the total system.
When doing an upgrade from Windows 9x, you will be asked to supply usernames for people using the computer
This is a completely new concept for Windows 9x users to come to terms with. To learn more about it, use the Learn About link on the User Accounts applet in Control Panel, or search for User Accounts in Help.
The first time Windows XP boots, you will be presented with a Welcome Screen. This is also known as "Out of Box Experience" (OOBE). It is important to note that you will not see the OOBE screen if your display resolution is less than 800x600. You also won't see this if you join a domain.
You will be guided through some simple tasks, such as connecting to the Internet, registering your OS with Microsoft (optional), Activate Windows XP, create user accounts, and so on. At this stage, Windows XP is ready for use.
Post Installation Tasks
There are a few things you should do first when you have XP up-and-running. The first is to see if your installed software (in an upgrade situation) works. If you are having problems with a piece of software, first attempt to uninstall it, and then reinstall using the original setup disks. You should also check the Web site of the software vendor to see if there is any support information posted about known issues with Windows XP, and check for any updates to the software. If you still have problems, access Windows XP Help and Support, and select the Fixing a problem link under Pick a Help Topic. There you will find help in solving application and software problems.
Next up is checking your hardware. For this, you need to open Device Manager (Select Start, right-click on My Computer and choose Properties from the menu. Select the Hardware tab, and click the Device Manager button. Check that all of your hardware was detected and is working. If there are any problems, you'll see a next to the device name. First, right-click the device, and choose Update Driver, this will launch the Hardware Update Wizard.
Ensure that the Windows XP CD-ROM is in the CD-ROM drive, and click Install the software automatically (Recommended). If this doesn't work, visit the Web site for the hardware and see if there is an updated Windows XP-compatible driver. If there isn't, you could also try installing a Windows 2000 driver. You will get a warning that the driver you are about to install has not passed Windows Logo testing to verify its Windows XP compatibility, select Continue Anyway. I had to do this for my old ATI Rage Pro Turbo drivers, as the Windows XP driver wouldn't let me use my dual displays. It works fine with the Windows 2000 driver though!
Next visit the Windows Update Web site. You'll find a link to Windows Update on the All Programs menu, which you can access from All Programs at the bottom of the new Start Menu. Once the Windows Update site has loaded, you need to press the Scan for updates link near the center of the page. It is expected that a number of updates will be listed on the Windows Update Web site shortly after the October 25th launch of Windows XP.
Defrag your system drive. All this installing of software has probably fragmented your drive substantially. Disk Defragmenter can be accessed via Start > All Programs > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools
On the last page of this installation guide we list some Microsoft Knowledge Base articles dealing with setup issues in Windows XP. You should have XP up-and-running by this time, so it's time to check out some customizing options