By: Hugo Luis Alberto Repetto Posted date: 4:35:00 AM Comments: 0
During the formatting of your hard drive and/or its partitions, you can choose to format using the NTFS (NT File System) or FAT32 (File Allocation Table) File System. The file system used on a hard drive determines how the drive will store and organize data, so it is an important choice.
You can see a comparison of the two file systems in this Microsoft Article. Windows Vista actually uses an enhanced version of NTFS called Transactional NTFS which allows Vista to perform single and multiple file operations more securely and with greater data integrity. This new version of NTFS also allows other changes, such as Directory Junctions and improved searching - see the Windows Explorer and Windows Search chapters for details.
In general your hard drive(s) should be formatted in NTFS only. The only possible reason for using the earlier FAT32 file system on a hard drive or partition would be for compatibility purposes if considering installing an older version of Windows, such as Windows98. If you want to convert an existing FAT32 drive or partition to NTFS, it is strongly recommended that you reformat the drive in NTFS. However if that is not possible or not desirable, you can convert the FAT32 drive to NTFS using the instructions in this Microsoft Article.
32-BIT VS. 64- BIT
The final choice to make is whether you install Windows Vista 32-bit (also called x86) or 64-bit (also called x64). The following things should be considered when deciding whether to install 32-bit or 64-bit Vista:
Vista 64-bit only runs on 64-bit Processors. Most recent CPUs are 64-bit, but specifically all Intel Pentium D, Xeon, Core 2 and Extreme Edition CPUs or newer, and all AMD Turion, Opteron, and Athlon64 or newer support 64-bit computing. Refer to this CPU List for more details. If your CPU is not 64-bit capable then you cannot install or use Vista 64-bit.
Vista 64-bit requires that all device drivers be designed specifically for 64-bit and that they be signed.
Vista 64-bit cannot use 32-bit drivers, and can only use unsigned drivers with a tedious workaround at each bootup. This can mean that some older or less popular hardware may never receive 64-bit signed drivers, because of the extra costs to the hardware manufacturer of development and having them signed. See the Windows Drivers chapter for more details.
Vista 64-bit can use more than 4GB of RAM efficiently, as the 4GB RAM limit is a technical limitation of the 32-bit architecture. See the Boot Configuration chapter for more details.
Vista 64-bit does not support 16-bit programs, and while it can use all 32-bit programs, there are usually no performance benefits when doing so. Only programs designed specifically for 64-bit computing will have improved performance under Vista 64-bit, and right now there are not that ma ny such programs.
As you can see, it appears the drawbacks of Vista 64-bit tend to outweigh the benefits, mainly due to the smaller user base for 64-bit operating systems, and hence the less software and drivers are developed specifically to take advantage of it. For more details of 64-bit computing see this Wikipedia Article, and also see this Microsoft Article. I recommend that most users install Vista 32-bit for maximum compatibility and performance under a variety of conditions. There are few practical benefits from installing Vista 64-bit, and if anything there is far more potential for problems, especially driver-related problems which are next to impossible to resolve without obtaining newer or better drivers.
Importantly, most editions of Vista do not come with a 64-bit Vista DVD; only Vista Ultimate contains the 64-bit DVD along with the regular 32-bit DVD. You will need to either specifically purchase the 64-bit version of a particular edition of Vista, or order a 64-bit installation DVD as detailed in this Microsoft Article.
At this point you are ready to begin the actual format and installation process for Windows Vista. This section details the procedures required to install Vista, but it also assumes you have read all of the sections above and considered which options suit you best. It is strongly recommended that you take the time to research and consider factors such as whether you want a du al boot configuration, the number of partitions and/or whether you wish to use a RAID configuration prior to starting the installation process. There is no point rushing the installation, only to have to go through it again because you overlooked something.
The official Vista installation options are covered in this Microsoft Article. You can also see more detailed instructions of how to install Windows complete with screenshots using one of these guides:
Vista Upgrade Install Guide
Vista Clean Install Guide
Vista Dual Boot Install Guide
I will still run through the installation procedures step by step below, noting the various options available depending on what particular type of installation you wish to do, and include any recommendations I have:
STEP 1 - START THE INSTALL
There are two main ways to start Windows Vista installation depending on the type of install you want:
Upgrade Install or Dual Boot
An Upgrade Install or Dual Boot installation of Vista will require that you first load up your existing version of Windows and then insert your Vista DVD and run setup.exe on the disk if Setup doesn't run automatically.
This is necessary for Vista to correctly identify your existing version of Windows. If you are going to do an Upgrade Install of Vista over an existing installation of Windows XP or Windows 2000 (not recommended - see further above for details), first check this table of qualifying versions as some editions of XP/2000 cannot be upgraded to certain editions of Vista in this manner.
A Clean Install of Windows Vista will erase all data on the target hard drive or partition - it will not tra nsfer any existing files or settings on that drive. Make sure you have backed up all your data appropriately. To start a Clean Install, go into your BIOS and set your DVD drive as the first boot device, and make sure all your hard drives are correctly connected, configured and detected in the BIOS. Then insert your Vista DVD in the DVD drive and reboot your system, pressing any key when prompted on the screen to boot up via the DVD drive.
Note: If you are using an Upgrade Edition DVD of Vista, normally you can only do a clean install of Vista by first booting into an existing qualifying version of Windows, then selecting either an Upgrade Install or a Clean Install as above. However there is a method which allows you to do a clean install by booting up from your Vista DVD on a newly formatted hard drive. Refer to this article for details and note that it is legal only if you actually qualify to install an Upgrade Edition by owning the correct previous version of Windows.
STEP 2 - INSTALL NOW
On the first Vista Installation screen, if you booted from the Vista DVD you will be asked to select your Language, Time & Currency Format and Keyboard method. Set these correctly and click Next.
Once you've done this, or if you started Vista installation from within an existing version of Windows, the next screen you will see should have a large 'Install Now' button. Click this to start installation.
Note: If you aren't certain of your hardware compatibility with Vista or you want to migrate your settings from your current install of Windows to Vista (See Migrating Files and Settings further above), then click the relevant link. The migration link only appears if you launch the Vista setup from within an existing install of Windows. Alternatively if you booted up from the Vista DVD, the 'Repair your computer' link will be shown instead, and its functionality is covered under the Backup and Recovery chapter.
STEP 3 - GET IMPORTANT UPDATES
You will be prompted to check for importa nt updates prior to installation. If you are connected to the Internet, it is recommended that you get the latest updates now, but this can be done later manually so it is not critical.
STEP 4 - ENTER PRODUCT KEY
You will be prompted to enter your 25 character Vista Product Key. This Product Key identifies the edition of Vista you purchased. If you don't enter your key, you will be able to choose any version of Vista to install, and there is also a method for extending your Activation grace period to 120 days from within Vista such that you can test these other editions - see the Windows Product Activation & Validation chapter. Unless you want to undertake such a trial, or you still expect to make changes to your hardware configuration, I recommend entering your key now and ticking the 'Automatically activate Windows when I'm online' box.
STEP 5 - UPGRADE OR CUSTOM INSTALL
You will then be prompted to accept the End User License Agreement (EULA), which you should read and accept if you wish to continue installation. More details of the EULA conditions are in the Windows Product Activation & Validation chapter.
At this point, you will get the choice to do an Upgrade install or a Custom (Advanced) install which translates to a clean installation. The Upgrade installation option should only be chosen if you want to do an Upgrade install; all other configurations including dual boot should choose the Custom option.
If you do choose an Upgrade install, you will be given a Compatibility Report indicating which of your currently installed programs and drivers may be problematic under Vista, and you can stop installation at this point without any problems or changes to your existing Windows install if you feel there are too many issues identified. If you choose to proceed with the Upgrade installation, the procedure will be simila r to that outlined in the steps below, but not exactly the same, since for starters the target drive has to be the one on which your current install of Windows is sitting. Once again, an Upgrade installation is not recommended, however it should usually not be problematic given Vista's new installation method.
STEP 6 - SET TARGET DRIVE
The next screen is an important one, as it allows you to choose the logical drive where Vista will be installed. You should see a list of all the existing drive(s) correctly displayed in the format: Disk [No.] Partition [No.] [volumename] [driveletter]. If the drive(s) are not correctly identified, or are unformatted, then you will see If you have SATA or RAID configured hard drives, to ensure that they are correctly identified, you will need to click the 'Load driver' link at the bottom of this box, and then insert an appropriate Floppy Disk, CD or DVD containing your SATA/RAID drivers and load all the relevant controller drivers needed. Once done,
click the Refresh link at the bottom of the screen and your drives should be shown correctly. If they still aren't then you may have to abort installation (click the red X button at the top right of the screen) and either get more appropriate drivers from your motherboard ma nufacturer's website and/or check your BIOS to see if the drives are configured correctly. If Vista does not detect your drives properly at this stage you will either be unable to install Windows, or the installation will not work as intended especially if you are attempting a dual boot configuration or using a RAID configuration.
If you booted up with the Vista DVD you can choose to format or partition any hard drives here by highlighting the relevant drive and clicking the 'Drive options (advanced)' link at the bottom right of the screen. Note that this option is not available if you started setup from within Windows, so if necessary abort installation and follow the steps under the Partitioning section further above if you want to partition your drives for a dual boot configuration.
If your drives are partitioned and formatted the way you want them and are detected correctly, highlight the relevant drive or partition to which you want to install Windows Vista. Remember that if you want to create a dual boot configuration, your existing version of Windows and Vista must be on separate partitions or hard drives, so select the drive/partition on which your current install of Windows is not resident otherwise you will simply wind up overwriting (deleting) your existing Windows install.
Once the suitable logical drive is selected, and you are certain you want the installation to proceed, click the Next button. Any existing contents of the target drive or partition will be lost as Vista installs over it. Note that Vista does allow resizing and repartitioning from within Windows, so you can alter your partitions to some extent in the future without having to reinstall - see the Computer Management section of the Control Panel chapter.
STEP 7 - AUTOMATED INSTALLATION
From this point on, no user interaction is required for some time as Vista begins to copy across the
compressed image of itself to your target drive, expands it and configures the required features and updates.
Your PC will then restart and will complete installation before rebooting again.
STEP 8 - BASIC USER SETUP
Vista will then commence on the final phase of the installation which requires your input. Each section is
User Account details: This is quite important. You will be asked to enter your preferred Username and
Password for the first User Account on this system. This User Account will have Administrator privileges -
see the User Accounts section of the Control Panel chapter and the User Account Control section of the PC
Security chapter for details. The User Account Username will also be used to label the root directory of your
personal folder, so choose something relatively simple but descriptive. If you share this PC with others, want
to have multiple user accounts, if the PC is physically accessible by others you don't trust, or you simply
have security concerns, then enter a password. If this is not the case for convenience's sake I recommend not
entering a password (leave the Password fields blank and click Next) for the moment. You can always
change these settings later. Select a user picture, and note that this too can be easily customized to any image
of your own choice later. These details are covered under the User Account section of the Control Panel
Computer Name & Wallpaper: The computer name is primarily for identifying the PC in a network of
computers. As such you should not need to change this, the default of [Username]-PC should be fine for a
home PC. You can also select a background wallpaper for your Windows Desktop here. Once again this can
be easily customized to any image of your choice later as covered under the Graphics & Interface chapter.
Important Updates: You will be asked to configure Vista's basic security and online update settings. To
maintain good security during the initial startup period I recommend clicking the 'Use recommended
settings' option at the top, as we will modify all these options later in the guide anyway.
Time and Date: Set your correct time zone, time and date, and also I recommend ticking the 'Automa tically
adjust clock for Daylight Saving Time'.
Computer's Current Location: This screen asks you to set your location for networking/Internet connectivity
purposes. The options are Home, Work or Public Location. However ironically, for the average standalone
home PC connected to the Internet the best choice is actually 'Public Location' not Home, as this allows you
to connect to the Internet with full functionality but maintains tighter security. You can customize these
settings later as covered under the Network & Sharing Center section of the Control Panel chapter.
STEP 9 - WINDOWS EXPERIENCE INDEX & STARTUP
Vista then launches into its final setup phase, which may take a while, during which your system
performance is measured by the Windows System Assessment Tool to determine your hardware's Windows
Experience Index, and hence whether certain features will be enabled or not - see the Performance
Measurement & Diagnostics chapter for details. You will eventually reach the Welcome Center, which you
can browse or close immediately as it is not a particularly necessary feature. You will be able to disable the
Welcome Center from running at startup each time by unticking the small 'Run at startup' box at the bottom
left of the Welcome. If the box is unavailable it should be there upon the next bootup.
At this point you can continue with the rest of the guide, but a few things to keep in mind:
Make sure to go into your BIOS and reset your hard drive(s) as the first boot device if you had set your
DVD drive as the first boot device for installation purposes.
Make sure to remove the Vista DVD and any floppy disks from your drives before rebooting.
Limit any Internet browsing or other online activities until you've gone through the PC Security chapter.
Don't Activate your PC straight away if you plan to make any major physical changes to the hardware
configuration of your PC, or if you believe you'll be reinstalling Vista again within the next 30+ days;
wait until you've bedded down your configuration before activating. This is because multiple activations
within a short period of time are viewed as suspicious by Microsoft - see the Windows Product
Activation & Validation chapter for details.
Since this guide has been designed to cater to both those who are doing a new installation of Vista, and those
who are using an existing installation of Vista, it follows a roughly sequential order as to the types of things I
would recommend configuring after doing a new installation, but any chapter can also be read by itself if you want to focus on a particular topic first. I would however strongly recommend becoming familiar with the contents of the Windows Explorer and PC Security chapters as soon as possible, along with (re)reading
the Vista Usage Notes chapter at the start of this