Installing WinXPI spent the la …

Installing WinXP
I spent the last few days trying to get Windows XP onto a machine. It’s my first time installing XP, but I’m an old hand at installing older versions of Windows.
First of all, XP would die mysteriously with cryptic error messages about “DMA”, or “paged memory in unpaged something”, and IRQ errors which all came up at random. That had me stumped for a while, but I suspected a hardware fault as the machine is an old one (over 2 years old).
Sure enough, when I removed a SIMM, and my sound card, the errors went away. I’m going to throw the sound card back in, and the machine has enough memory to be usable.
That’s an error *any* installer on PC hardware would have trouble diagnosing so I won’t hold that against it.
I will not forgive the installer’s total lack of warnings or intelligence when dealing with partitions.
I was hoping to put Linux on the machine too, and I had 2 partitions setup for it ( linux and linux swap) and the WinXP installer let me choose the partition I wanted to install to. Unfortunately, the FAT partition I had prepared earlier was the third partition and I had forgotten that any bootable partition needs to be close to the MBR of the drive. (or in English, “it should have been the first partition”)
Any time I made this mistake while installing Linux, be it Red Hat, Mandrake or other modern distribution, the installer correctly warned me that the partition might be unbootable. Windows XP did not.
So, after copying lots of files onto that partition the machine rebooted. (only after several goes did I realise it wasn’t supposed to boot off the CD the second time.. it did only say “remove bootable floppys”, not CDs..)
When the machine booted off the harddrive, a nice, informative message, “NTLDR missing” popper up on the screen.
I even booted into DOS and checked the drive, and yes, the NTLDR file was there..
I gave up at this stage, and gave a friend, Gearoid, a ring. He reminded me of the partition problem.
After all that I made one big partition of the drive, went through the install and it worked. All that trouble because of non-existant error messages..
So, Linux is easier to install than Windows.

  1. Linux warns the user about bad things.
  2. Most Linux installers are graphical now with text alternatives
  3. The Red Hat and Mandrake installers take care of interactive portions of the install right at the start. The WinXP install pauses at least twice so I couldn’t go out for a cup of coffee..
  4. Linux installers only reboot once at the end, WinXP has to reboot at least twice. (my machine doesn’t reboot properly, it has to be turned off for up to 50 seconds before it’ll boot again..)

It’s a good thing Windows comes installed on machines, if people had to install it they’d be lost.

Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

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