I have over the last three days been rebuilding my MS-Windows XP desktop. I normally do this once a year, around Christmas/New Years time, but this year I am running a bit late. I have found that MS-Windows XP eventually gets very unstable and no cleanup utility tool is ever going to fix it.

Every time it is a BIG chore and very stressful; more than flying or a divorce (more to loose?!). I have to find all the master install files of my programs, record application settings and plugins, find all the invoices for the applications with the original serial numbers and print them out or write them down.

Then, it’s time to go a ghost of each hard drive to another one. Last year, I make one big mistake and one clever move.

I purchased a new motherboard which had SATA-II 3GB capabilities and I added four 250GB drives in a RAID 5 configuration. Big mistake. The speed was not that great and the redundancy was not quite there. If I removed the first drive, the BIOS, on boot up, would complain of reduced RAID capabilities, but MS-Windows XP would not boot as there is no boot information. OK; the boot track is outside the RAID. If I remove the last drive, the BIOS, again reports a reduced RAID and MS-Windows will not boot again, as there is a file missing. So, I may be able to rebuild the RAID system via the BIOS if one hard drive fails, but I can not run the system in this reduced mode. Not quite what I expect of RAID. Time to remove it.

The good thing that I did do was partition the resultant 700GB (4×250-formatting) RAID disk into three primary drives: a C: for MS-Windows XP, a H: for My Documents and a V: for my VMWare virtual system files.

So, I purchased a new 750GB SATA-II 3 drive to use as my new H: and I used two of my old 250GB drives for C: and V:.

I ghosted my C: and V: drives to the new 750GB and did a straight copy of my H: to a new folder. Ghost will compress the VMWare files to less than 50% which is nice. My H: (My Documents) is full of pictures, mp3’s and video, so it does not compress that well and not worth using Ghost on. I Ghost’ed C: so I can restore it and still boot if I need to back-track.

So, off I went. I removed the old drives and put them in a nice, safe pile in the cupboard so they will not get damaged or mis-used. They are my recovery/escape route if the re-install goes wrong. I did take the last drive to use as my new C:, knowing (assuming) that I can put it back and rebuild my original system.

I installed MS-Windows XP Pro with no problems. It has SP1a already slipstreamed in. But, as I connect to the internet via WiFi using WPA I have a problem. WPA was not implemented within MS-Windows XP until SP2. But a friend of mine had sense some time back and requested a SP2 upgrade on CD from MS. So , I borrowed the disk and it worked a treat. I installed the WiFi drivers and then spent two hours trying to find the WPA password/key. This was to be a continuing theme throughout the whole process. The downside of auto-remembering passwords on web sites, applications and such is that you forget them or where you wrote then down. Once found, I was on the net and ready to download the hours and hours of MS updates, patches and security fixes.

I have rebuilt my MS-Windows XP system so may times now, that when I attempt to validate it fails and I have to ring someone within MS to get another number. Last year, in Miami, I had to do this. This year the validation worked first time. Great!

Some hours later and many reboots and repeated visits to the MS-Windows Update web site, I am ready to install the rest of my applications.

Before I start with that, I changed the directory of my ‘My Documents’. This is done by right clicking on the ‘My Documents’ menu item from the Start menu. Then you select properties and from there, can move the absolute path to where ever you wish. I moved mine to the new H: drive.

The big test to see if this works is installing iTunes. iTunes can be a cow when it comes to handling your folders of music. I have, in the past, had iTunes just go mad and move all my music to another set of folders, so I have double entries for each track within iTunes. This becomes a major task to fix when you have 50GB of mp3’s! But this time, iTunes actually found everything, including all my podcasts and finished. I did a sync with my iPod and all was well! Great!

I have almost finished installing all of my applications now. I did a screen dump of the installed applications from the control panel and also all the plugins within Firefox. I am getting clever now…

Overall, the system is now more stable and faster. This has to be good…