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 Preventive Maintenance

Starting Over
July 2002

Russell James is Operations Manager at BJ Associates of San Antonio. They are an authorized service center for Toshiba and Sony systems. They are the laptop specialist and also handle system builds and parts for desktops. They can take care of any IBM compatible hardware or software problem that you have.


Has there been a time when you felt like your system was so messed up that you would like to start from scratch with a clean install? Maybe you got struck by the Klez virus and did not get the system cleaned before it totally messed up your Windows installation. Maybe you have installed so much software that you no longer use and your hard drive is filled to the breaking point. Maybe you have all the software and decide to install a new larger drive so you wonít have to worry about running out of space.

Do you have any idea of what you need to accomplish the task? Let’s take a look at what it would take to wipe a drive clean and install Windows 98 from scratch.

If you have a working operating system installed, there are a few things that you can do to prepare for the operation. The first and most important item would be the Windows 98 CD. Insert the disk into your CD drive and reboot your computer. Most of the systems will boot to a bootable CD by default. Look closely at the bottom of the screen for a message that asks you to press any key to boot to from CD. This would give you an indication that your CD disk as well as your system will support booting from the CD drive. If you do not get the message you might want to go into the bios of you system to see if the option is available. There should be a section that will allow you to change the boot order from the floppy drive, CD drive and hard drive. If the section is not there then you will most likely not be able to use a bootable CD to run your installation.

If your system boots to the CD drive, you will see the beginnings of the setup process. If Windows is still running on your machine you will want to exit out of the installation and reboot back to Windows. If the CD or system does not allow booting to the CD, you will need to take a few more steps to prepare for the installation. After you get back into Windows you will want to first look at your Windows 98 CD. Take a look inside the win98 folder from within Windows Explorer. Look for the file setup.exe. If this program is not present, you will need to find the floppy disk that came with the CD. This floppy will contain the setup.exe file as well as some other files that you will need to have to make the installation work. 

If the setup.exe file is present but your system does not boot to the CD, you will need to have a Windows 98 startup disk. You can create one by opening the Control Panel, Add Remove Programs and clicking on the last tab labeled Startup Disk. Click on the button to create the disk that will have the files that you will need to start your computer. After the disk is created, reboot your computer with the disk in the floppy drive to be sure that it is working properly. After the boot is finished you will be at the DOS prompt. The startup disk should have tried to load CD drivers that will allow you to use your CD drive in DOS. If the load was successful you will see the drive letter listed as one of the last items on the screen. If you have one drive in your system, the CD drive should be E. Type e: and press the enter key. With your Windows 98 CD in the drive type dir and press enter. You should get a listing of the files that are on the CD. If you are successful looking at the list of files on the CD, reboot back to Windows. 

If the CD drivers did not give you a drive letter or you were not able to list the directory, you will need to investigate why and correct the problem before you will be able to proceed with your installation. Start by rebooting to the floppy and keeping a close eye on the screen to look for error messages that might come up. You can also press F8 while booting to bring up the Windows 98 Startup Menu. This will allow you to choose a step by step boot that will allow you to see each of the steps as well as the results.

For those of you that have a bootable CD or were able to boot to your floppy and look at your CD, we are now ready to proceed with the installation preparation. Go into Device Manager and make a list of the key hardware components that your system contains. The key components would include the IDE controller, Display Adapter, Modem, Network card, and Sound card. You should be able to print the entire list but the names of these key devices as well as the resources would be sufficient. Now you need to know how you connect to the Internet. You have two choices in how you load the drivers on your clean install. I have other computers available to download drivers with so I usually will wait until after I load Windows to see what I need to get. I will make notes for the key components so I will be able to download drivers if needed without opening the case to find out what is installed. If you have drivers that came with your system, now would be a good time to get the disks out to check to see if they are the latest versions. There is usually a readme file included on the disk that will give you a web page to look for later drivers.

After you have gathered any drivers that you need and backed up any data that you do not want to lose, it is time to begin. Insert the Windows 98 CD and the floppy disk if needed. If the CD is bootable, the setup process will begin. You will want to format the drive to remove all of the files so you will have a clean install. If you need to boot to the floppy first, you will need to change into the win98 folder on the CD and type setup to begin the installation. Follow the prompts and type the information that is requested. If there are questions that you do not understand, accept the defaults that are given. If you get some hardware installation dialog boxes, click next until Windows decides that it cannot find the driver or the driver is installed. After the installation is completed you will need to go into Device Manager and load drivers for any Unknown devices that Windows was not able to install. Some of the items that you may be confronted with will be PCI Communications Device (Modem), PCI Ethernet Controller (Network card), PCI Multimedia Device (Sound card) or even some that are simply listed as Unknown Device. Click on the Drivers tab and install the drivers to enable the use of these devices. You will also want to check to see if the video drivers were installed correctly. If Windows does not have the correct driver for your video card it will load a standard PCI video card driver. If you look at device manager, it will look like it is working correctly, but you may not have all of the features, resolution or colors that should be available by using the correct drivers.

After the drivers are installed, I would suggest that you go to the Windows Update site and install all of the Critical Updates, Recommended Updates and any Device driver updates that are available for your system. This will insure that you are protected against some of the viruses that use Internet Explorer exploits to get into your system. After the updates are completed you can begin to install any additional software programs that you have. You will need to reconfigure any Internet dialup or email programs and restore any data files that you backed up before beginning the installation process.

Be sure that you have a good working knowledge of the programs that you need to use to complete the installation of Windows before beginning. If you remove the partition from your hard drive with the fdisk program, you will have a very hard time recovering any files that were on the drive. Same thing with the format program, everything will be gone for good. If you use fdisk to prepare a new drive, be sure that your system will see the entire drive. Some of the older systems will not see a drive over 8GB without a bios update or overlay software. Overlay software would allow your system to use some of the larger drives by translating the size of the drive for the bios of your machine. This overlay software is available from the hard drive manufacturer web sites and usually needs to be installed before the operating system.

There are a lot of problems that can occur when installing Windows. You need to have the experience to be able to know the answers to the questions beforehand in order to undertake such an operation. It is not rocket science but it does take a bit of experience to do the job correctly. If you have an old hard drive, try installing it in your system and practice on it so that you can learn as you go and still have the option to reconnect your current hard drive and get back to where you were. It is always a good idea to learn when you donít have to because then you donít have as much pressure on you. Take your time and have fun with it.


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