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The complete guide to reinstalling Windows XP

Reinstall Windows XP!
The moment is here: it's time to wipe your hard drive clean and install a sparkling new version of Windows XP on your PC

Why reinstall, and how hard is it?
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Prepare your PC
Don't reinstall until following these steps
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Reinstall Windows
Your plain-English guide to the process
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Post-reinstall steps
What to do after you've reinstalled
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Keep your PC clean
Maintain your new installation correctly
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Fix common reinstall- related problems
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hen it comes to physically reinstalling Windows XP, the key is to make sure you format your hard drive so that you can start afresh. There are two types of reinstallation available: a full reinstallation, which is what we're covering in this feature, and a repair installation, which is explained here.
    If you haven't already twigged, the full reinstallation involves wiping all the data from your hard drive (or Windows partition if you've just partitioned it). All of your files, settings and programs on that partition or drive will be destroyed, but if you've followed our advice so far you should be fine.
   Remember: you should have a backup of your key files and settings on a separate drive or partition to Windows itself - that backup should have been verified. Also, if you have space to spare, you'll have taken a drive image of your entire C drive as a secondary backup, just in case you forgot to include something with the original backup.
   Once you've confirmed all of this, you're ready to reinstall Windows XP proper. If your PC shipped with a recovery disc instead of an installation disc, check out the box for more advice; otherwise read on.

Reinstall from a recovery partition or disc

Reinstall Windows
The walkthrough reveals how to kick the whole reinstall process off. Although you can start the set-up process within Windows XP itself, it's a lot easier to start your PC with the CD inserted and run the set-up process from there. The step-by-step guide below reveals how to get started with this.
   Once you've successfully got your PC to boot from CD, the process can be split into two halves: the first is a basic text-heavy series of menus; the second is a more user-friendly graphical experience. We step you through the process below, but if you'd like a visual guide to accompany each step of the feature, click here to download a PDF document you can print out.

Step-by-step: Starting the reinstall process





Once the Welcome to Setup screen appears, press [Enter] to select the option to set up Windows. Read the user licence agreement carefully and press [F8] to agree to its terms and conditions. If you're installing from an upgrade version of Windows XP, you'll be prompted to insert an earlier version of Windows on CD here. Do so and press [Enter].
   The next option lets you perform a repair installation of Windows XP - we don't want to do this, so press the [Esc] key. Next, a list of all available hard drives and partitions will be presented to you. Select drive C - the drive with Windows XP on it - and press [D]. Read the warning - this is your last chance before you wipe everything from this partition or drive - and press [Enter] followed by [L].
   You'll see that drive C has been replaced by unpartitioned space. Select this and press [Enter]. When asked how to format your drive, choose NTFS (not the quick option) and press [Enter]. If you had to insert an older Windows disc, you'll now be prompted to replace it with your Windows XP CD.
   The drive will now be formatted, your disk checked and then Windows XP will start copying files to it. Once complete, your PC will restart - this time, ignore the option to press any key to boot from CD.
Setup options
During the second half of the installation process you'll be prompted at certain points. You'll be able to set UK English as your default language and keyboard layout, input your name and organisation and provide the Windows XP product key.
   If you're on a network, you can give your PC an identifiable name. Windows XP Professional owners can also password-protect the master Administrator account that you use to log on to the Recovery Console or Safe mode.
   You'll need to change the time zone of Windows XP from the default (Pacific Time) to GMT. Once the networking components have been installed you can - if you're a power user - manually configure them from here. Most people should just skip this step. Windows XP Professional users get the option of naming their domain or workgroup, and then everyone can sit back for around 25 minutes while Windows XP completes the installation process.
   Once this is complete, Windows will reboot again and you'll be asked to resize the screen to 800x600 pixels. It's not perfect, but better than the default, so click OK to launch a wizard that will guide you through some initial steps.
   If you've installed Windows XP with SP2 or SP3, you'll be prompted to switch on Automatic Updates first and foremost. We recommend you do so before clicking Next. This version of Windows XP will automatically switch on the Windows Firewall too.
   Windows XP will then attempt to see if your Internet connection has been automatically detected and set up. It will ask you about your Internet connection - choose Yes only if you connect through a router or home network.
   You'll then be invited to activate Windows - select Yes if you think your Internet connection is up and running; otherwise click No (do it once you've got your Net connection back over the page). Windows XP Home users will then be invited to create up to five user profiles - you must create at least one, but can leave the others for later if you wish.
   The wizard will then reflect on what you've managed to do - click Next to boot into Windows XP proper. The job's not finished, though - jump to the next page in this feature to find out what to do next.

Five quick tips

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