Welcome to Accidental IT, a series of technical how-tos for people whose job descriptions don't necessarily include tech support but who often find themselves doing just that for their co-workers.
Most computing environments have their share of laggard PCs. That is, those computers (or users) that have been functioning just fine, thank you, on Windows 2000 and its applications for several years. But even though those computers continue to function properly and the applications run on the old operating system, it's probably time to upgrade them to Windows XP.
While Windows 2000 may work well, Microsoft has moved support from mainstream to what it calls "extended support," which means that new software releases are not necessarily guaranteed to be compatible with the older OS. In addition, newer software from other vendors may rely on some functions that are components of Windows XP.
Just do it
There are two options to upgrading from Windows 2000 to Windows XP. The first is to "Upgrade" the current installation of Windows 2000 by installing the new OS over the existing installation. The advantage to upgrading is that the applications and settings that have accumulated through the years of installing, using, and tweaking will be carried over into the XP installation. Unfortunately, the disadvantages are exactly the same. The general result of upgrading is that any problems that existed in the Win2000 setup are inherited by the XP setup.
The second, and preferred option to upgrading is to perform a clean installation of Windows XP on a newly formatted drive. While this may seem to be overkill, the end result will be a much cleaner installation, and an essentially "new" PC. A little planning and collecting is necessary prior to performing this upgrade, but the result will be worthwhile.
The first few steps are the same for both the upgrade and the reformat option. When the “Setup for XP” step is reached, you will make the decision to delete the partitions and reformat the drive or upgrade the existing installation.
Backup: For both options, backup your system first. Of course you already have backups of the user's system. But go through the additional precaution of copying the user's data in addition to the normal backup procedures. If your backups don't include all the drives on the PC, check the drives manually to ensure the user doesn't use some unmapped drive space for portions of their work, then make a backup of any you find.
Collect applications: Gather the installation CDs for all the applications that need to be reinstalled on the computer. Check the version information of each for compatibility with Windows XP and get any updates required prior to reinstalling.
Check minimum requirements: Determine that the computer you are about to upgrade is capable of supporting Windows XP. Usually, this isn't a problem; XP will run on most computers that support Windows 2000, and the list of minimum requirements looks anemic compared to even the lowest priced computers available today:
- 300 Megahertz or higher processor clock speed (Intel Pentium or Celeron family, or AMD K6, Athlon, or Duron family) - 128 megabytes of RAM - 1.5 gigabytes available hard drive space - Super VGA monitor and adapter (800 x 600) - CD-ROM drive - Keyboard and Mouse (or compatible pointing device)
Run the Setup for XP: Insert the CD into the drive and restart the system. When asked, select the option to boot from CD. Once the setup application has loaded, it will announce that it has located one or more existing partitions.
Decide to upgrade or start fresh:
To start fresh (recommended): Select the option to delete the partition that contains the existing Windows 2000 installation. This is normally the first partition if there are two or more.
When the partition has been deleted, select the option to create a new partition, then select the option to set up Windows XP on the new partition, and follow the installation wizard to complete the setup.
To upgrade the existing installation: Select the option to upgrade the existing version of Windows. The wizard will begin to copy files and lead you through the remainder of the process.
Install anti-virus and firewall: Before you go online, install a current anti-virus suite along with its current anti-virus library. Enable the Windows firewall, or assure that your corporate firewall is functioning properly. Tests have shown that an unprotected PC can be infected after being connected to the Internet within 15 minutes.
Install updates: Download and install any and all required patches using Microsoft's Windows Update service found in the Start menu. It may be necessary to run the update scan several times in order to bring the computer completely up to date.
Update drivers: During the installation process XP installs drivers for any devices it finds. In most cases these drivers are adequate, but may not be the most current. Use the Device Manager (Control Panel / System / Hardware tab / Device Manager) to review the devices found during the installation process. If any of the devices are marked by either yellow or red indicators, double click each, go to the Drivers tab, and select "Update Driver" to find the most recent version of the device's driver.
Install applications: Use the installation CDs you collected before beginning the OS upgrade and install each. Use the applications' update services, usually found under the Help menu, to check for updates. Load the user's data: Restore the user's data to the computer and verify that it is available for use by the appropriate applications.
Any network setup, drive mappings, and special settings you may have developed for the user will need to be re-established before the upgrade can be considered complete, but at this point you should have both fresh operating system and applications. And with any luck you won't need to upgrade the operating system for a few more years.