Maintaining a Windows XP System

February 6, 2009

This is low level general purpose stuff, which may be off-topic, but hopefully will prove useful to somebody. I have had to re-locate these sites a couple of times, so at least, they remain here as a reference for me.
My adventures began with the purchase of a notebook computer with SATA drives about a year ago. The first thing to note is that the notebook shipped with Windows Vista. I requested Windows XP Professional, because, at the time, ColdFusion was not supported on a Vista system. It was going to cost me extra to get Windows XP, I was told. And, indeed, as I searched on other sites selling systems, they included the option to “downgrade” to XP Professional from Windows Vista. This was just one indicator that Windows Vista was a horrible mistake on Microsoft’s part, something that they would not soon live down. Indeed, a year or so later, on the Dell site, they are offering the option to “downgrade” to XP Pro from the pre-installed Vista OS. It is not special order. It is a checkbox on the order, more than a year after the release of the Vista OS.

clipped from Ad on Dell Site Feb 6, 2009

clipped from Ad on Dell Site Feb 6, 2009

Not that XP is perfect. I wouldn’t be making a point of capturing these links (scroll to the end, they are there, I am sure), if it weren’t for one glaring oddity of the Windows XP installation procedure. The Windows XP standard installation disc (Service Pack 2), does not include support for SATA drive controllers. That’s okay, there is a way to add drivers during install, if there are mass storage drivers which are needed. The Windows XP installer will prompt you to insert the floppy disc containing the drivers into your floppy drive. Fantastic. My notebook doesn’t have a floppy drive. Most notebooks nowdays don’t come with a floppy drive. Well, I thought, no problem, I’ll just put the drivers on a USB drive, or burn them on a CD. The installation is reading off a CD, so it must be able to read from a CD, right??? Wrong. The only way to supply it with drivers mid-install, is via a floppy drive.
The only remaining solution is to add the drivers to the Windows XP installer *before* the install begins. Which means hacking the installer, somehow, or hoping some clever PC techno-whiz has pre-hacked it, and left some nice notes or better yet, some utilities to help with the process… Well, much to my pleasant surprise, the wizards of the world had been hard at work and had done that and more.
First, there is the BART PE site to create a bootable windows CD, or USB stick,
then, using that work is the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows(tm). a bootable Windows CD with a collection of utilities.
Each of these detail the process of Slipstreaming the drivers (and service packs) into the windows install, and provide utilities to assist with the task.
Going beyond the service packs, and including the hotfixes and some custom registry tweaks is Ryans VM.
For a fairly comprehensive set of drivers included in the install package, the driverpacks site is a great resource, and includes a utility to build an installer with (very likely) all the drivers you require.
And finally, for a great reference, the Windows Unattended Install (not unintended install) site is a great source of information.

Really, I hope to not need to refer back to this… but I am sure I will.