As I mentioned in the newsletter and a past blog post, I felt it was time to reformat my Operating System and start fresh. I was currently running XP Pro SP1, which remained more or less untouched by hotfixes (aside from some of the really critical ones). I’ve always been wary of applying significant Operating System updates once I have everything running smoothly because of two reasons: The mantra of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, and that I’ve had a number of instances where hotfixes and updates have “broken” various programs and Operating System features to the point where the problems were unrepeatable and required program reinstallations, or a complete reformat.
Now, some of the folks that know my maintenance habits on my personal rigs (usually the guys who hang out in the IRC Undernet #pcmech channel) know that I have an insane number of programs installed for any number of tasks–mostly multimedia related (ie, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Poser, Bryce, Premiere, AutoCAD LT, Flash MX, Illustrator…and so on). Long story short, there is *a lot* going on at any given time on my machine.
This point leads me to the core reason for the reformat: quirks. Everybody gets them. They’re little annoying issues that crop up that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get rid of. I had two major quirks that I couldn’t get rid of. The first was that WMP 9 simply “broke”, thus forcing me to revert back to version 8—the original version that rolled out with XP (XP SP2 comes with WMP 9 installed). The other issue that cropped up was that I could not have Dreamweaver 2001 open at the same time as Photoshop CS2. The two programs fought each other constantly, causing all sorts of strange and unusual issues. In any case, I’m planning on upgrading to Dreamweaver 8, so I shouldn’t see that particular problem again. There were also other minor quirks, random crashes, random terminations of the explorer.exe process, random lockups, and whatever else that seemed to make me grumble about things not working right.
So, over the period of two days or so I’ve been messing with an XP Pro SP2 installation CD and trying to make an unattended ISO out of it (An ISO is basically an image of a CD, but in this particular case, it needs to be bootable). I had stop and go success throughout the entire process as the result of what I originally thought was a pretty good guide for this process. In actuality, once I started getting into some of the more “advanced stuff”, the guide tended not to help so much because of numerous “gotchas” that I ran up against.
First off, there are 5 basic parts to this whole process that I eventually broke this project into.
- Making the installation “unattended”, meaning that XP will install and boot to the desktop without you having to do anything between the time you boot from the CD from the time you see the desktop.
- Integrating all the current hotfixes from the last Service Pack up to this month’s regular update cycle. Initially, I thought this would save time from having to download from Microsoft’s servers, and it would have, but I ran up against an interesting snag with WMP (Windows Media Player).
- Integrating drivers with the current ISO. Up until this time, I have been testing my unattended XP ISO within a virtual environment (mentioned below in part 5), so I have no idea if this will work correctly as of yet.
- Automating program installations for many common programs I use all the time and almost always install on every installation of Windows on my lineup of personal computers. This step proved to be one of the most time consuming and trickiest sections, thanks to unclear directions and missing steps. The steps *did* exist in the guide…just not anywhere near a useful spot (ie, under “additional/optional” info sections).
- Creating the bootable ISO and testing it in a virtual environment before actually reformatting my drive and installing it. This was by far one of the best things I could have done throughout this whole procedure and the only thing that seemed to work with the first try.
So, that’s a basic look at what went awry. Now, don’t get me wrong, once I became familiar with some of the procedures and did some digging as to why some things didn’t work (and figuring out which articles were correct when faced with serious contradictions), I eventually got most of the things working that I wanted. However, I think my biggest hang up was that I tried to do a lot of this by hand, and right now I’m at the point where I’m going to give up on some of these things and just try to rely more on some of the automated tools.
In my next blog post, I shall detail some of the procedures I devised, some of the issues, “gotchas”, and my eventual solutions (which will probably simply include using some of the automated tools more, rather than hand-coding).
(Originally published on a now-defunct blog)