Reinstalling Windows on a Dell Dimension E521
My old computer was a 1 GHz machine I assembled myself at least 4 years ago. It only had USB 1.0, and the only working ports were on the back of the machine, which was becoming increasingly annoying. So, it was time for an upgrade.
I chose a Dell Dimension E521 because the price was right, I didn't have to assemble it myself, and it uses an AMD processor instead of Intel. I decided to "repave" the hard drive to get rid of all of the "craplets" that come pre-installed. I don't want AOL, Earthlink, McAfee, Dell Jukebox, and countless other icons on my desktop. Sure, I could have removed them one by one, but you can never be sure that they're completely removed, and that removing them won't destabilize the computer.
Rather than repave the existing hard drive, I decided to buy another one and install afresh on it. That way, if I had a problem, I would have a fallback plan. I almost needed to use this plan, but ultimately I succeeded. Although I did reinstall 5 times in order to get the various devices working. By following these instructions, the next time I repave I'll be able to do it correctly the first try.
One thing that surprised me is that the copy of Windows XP Home Edition that Dell supplies is marked "Reinstallation CD". I took this to mean that it would in some way be less than fully functional, or that it would reinstall all of the craplets that I'm trying to get rid of. Surprisingly, that's not the case. It seemed to work the same as a retail copy of Windows XP.
Here are the steps I took to reinstall and get the machine to a freshly installed state. Every time it asked me to reboot, I did. I never tried to install another piece of software if I had a pending reboot.
- Boot from the Reinstallation CD, answer all of the questions, and install Windows. The network will not be available during the install, because the driver for the motherboard's built in NIC is not present.
- Install the Dell "Drivers and Utilities" CD. I don't know why this is actually required to be installed. I would think I could just install the drivers directly from the CD, but I went ahead and installed. It seems like something you'd want to have on the hard disk, although from what I can tell you still need the CD around to actually install any drivers. Installing this creates the "Dell Resource CD" start menu item.
- From the Dell Resource CD start menu item, install the "Desktop System Software".
- From the Dell Resource CD start menu item, install the "Broadcom 440x 10/100 Integrated Controller" Network (NIC) Driver. It took me 4 installs to notice that there are 2 items on the list of drivers, one says "Network (NIC) Diagnostics", the second one says "Network (NIC) Drivers". I kept installing the Diagnostics, thinking it was the driver.
- From the Dell Resource CD start menu item, install the "nVidia GeForce 6150" driver.
- From the Dell Resource CD start menu item, install the "SIGMATEL STAC 92XX C-Major HD Audio" driver.
- Delete the "c:\dell" directory. This directory is temporary space used to install the drivers. Once the drivers are installed, it is no longer needed.
- I bought my machine with a DVD-RW drive and DVD-R drive. To burn DVD's, I bought the Roxio Creator software when I bought the machine. To install it, use the "Roxio Creator MyDVD Combo Plus" CD. The machine also comes with a "Roxio Creator MyDVD Combo LE" CD, but I assume that is the free software, not the upgraded version. I don't know what the differences are.
- The video playback is way too dark. Open Control Panel, Display, Settings, Advanced, GeForce 6150 LE, Color Correction. Apply color changes to Overlay. Try brightness at 137% and contrast at 106%.
- Install Dell CinePlayer to view DVD's. My computer did not come with a CinePlayer CD for reinstallation. It also didn't come with a CD to reinstall any of the other craplets, like AOL and Dell Jukebox, so I'm not all that upset. I emailed Dell support, and they sent me a CinePlayer install CD overnight, no charge. So that was pretty nice. Unfortunately when I tried to install it, it required the .Net Framework 1.1, so on to the next step.
- Install the Microsoft .NET Framework Version 1.1 Redistributable Package. Surprisingly, this doesn't require a reboot.
- Now actually install CinePlayer.
Here are some issues I haven't addressed yet, but will over time.
- No current outstanding issues.
Other setup tasks
Here are things not related to the default installation, but which I do every time I repave a machine. This is mostly here for my own use, but you might find it useful.
- Set the Control Panel to classic view.
- Configure Explorer.
- Under View:
- Set to "Details".
- Turn on Explorer Bar, Folders.
- Turn on Status Bar.
- Turn on Tool Bar, Address Bar.
- Under Tools, Folder Options:
- Turn on single click, underline when pointed to.
- Under View:
- On: Display the contents of system folders.
- On: Show hidden files and folders.
- Off: Hide extensions of known file types.
- Off: Hide protected operating system files.
- Off: Remember each folder's view settings.
- On: Show Control Panel in My Computer.
- Under File Types, Folder, Advanced, set default action to "explore".
- Configure the Explorer Taskbar. Turn on "Auto-hide the taskbar" and "Show Quick Launch". Drag a link to My Computer to the Quick Launch bar. Delete everything on it except My Computer and Show Desktop. Other programs will add themselves to Quick Launch, keep deleting them.
- Under Control Panel, Security Center, Virus Protection, Recommendations, check "I have another antivirus program that I'll monitor myself". This stops the annoying pop-up balloons telling you you don't have any virus protection installed. It's true that I don't, but I don't need it.
- Copy /home directories from backups.
- Set IE's default page to blank.
- Move IE to the pinned Start menu.
- Install Google quick search in IE.
- Configure Task Manager:
- Options: Turn off "Always On Top".
- Select "Show processes from all users".
- Install Microsoft's PowerToys. Of these, I install Tweak UI and CD Slide Show Generator. For Tweak UI, configure:
- Taskbar and Start Menu, Grouping, Group any application with at least 2 windows.
- My Computer, Auto Play, Drives: disable all drives.
- My Computer, Auto Play, Types: disable all types.
- Control Panel, turn on "odbccp32.cpl - Microsoft Data Access - ODBC Control Panel".
- Disable caps lock with disable_caps_lock.reg. Alternately, map caps lock to the control key, and disable the left control key with this registry file. I do this on both my Mac and PC's, to make them more similar.
- Install Firefox. Do a standard install, then these configuration changes:
- On: Tools, Options, Tabs, Always show the tab bar.
- Off: View, Toolbars, Bookmarks Toolbar.
- Import bookmarks to get Quick Searches working. This feature is so useful, I don't know why they dropped it by default. I renamed the Google query to "g", and Wikipedia to "w".
- Right click on the menu bar, select Customize.
- Delete the "Home" icon.
- Put the "Print" icon where "Home" used to be.
- Add the "Print Preview" icont to the right of "Print" (turns out this isn't possible without an extension - bummer).
- Delete the "Search" control.
- Install these extensions:
- Tab Mix Plus. Configure:
- Display, Tab Bar:
- Off: New tab button.
- Off: Close tab button.
- Off: Hide tab bar when only one tab is open.
- When tabs don't fit width: Multi-row.
- Max number of rows to display: 3.
- Display, Tab:
- Off: Highlight Unread Tabs.
- Menu, Main Context Menu:
- On: Close Tab.
- Session, Start/Exit:
- On: When Browser Starts, Restore.
- Web Developer
- Adblock Plus
- All-in-One Gestures
- Install Thunderbird. Do a standard install, then these configuration changes:
- Copy abook.mab from an older installation of Thunderbird. This contains the "discovered" email addresses that Thunderbird displays when you type in an address.
- Tools, Options, Composition, General, Forward messages inline.
- Tools, Options, Composition, General, Return Receipts, Never send a return receipt.
- For each IMAP account, set:
- On: Server Settings, SSL.
- On: Server settings, Clean up ("Expunge") Inbox on Exit.
- Off: Composition & Addressing, Compose messages in HTML format.
- Sent folder to lowercase "sent", because of a BlackBerry requirement for copying email to "user+sent".
- Install the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Be careful and don't select any other downloads, like Photoshop Album Starter Addition, which Adobe likes to tack on to Acrobat reader downloads.
- Install the Flash Reader for FireFox. Do this by finding a page with Flash embedded, and install it through FireFox.
- Install the driver for the HP 2605dn color laser printer. I'm using the "HP color LaserJet 2605 PCL6 Print Driver Package" Remember, despite the fact that this is a network printer, it needs to be configured as a local printer, creating a new TCP port. Windows is so funny.
- Install the Dina font, my favorite font for programming editors. You copy the dina.fon file to the \windows\fonts directory to install it. Despite the fact that Windows acts like you can drag directly from the dina.zip file directory to the fonts directory, you cannot. You need to first extract the .fon file from the .zip file, then drag it to the fonts directory.
- Install Microsoft Office Pro 2003.
- Install Open Office. Perform a Complete installation. I'm not currently setting it as the default for any of the Microsoft file formats, but that may change.
- Install Secure CRT, the best terminal and ssh client for Windows. When installing, use a Personal Profile.
- Change the global mapping of the backspace key to delete. Chose Options, Global Options, General, Default Session, Edit Default Settings. Then Terminal, Emulation, Mapped Keys. Select "Map a Key" and press the backspace key. Chose "Send String", with a value of "\177" (without the quotes). Select Yes when you're asked if you want to apply this to all of your sessions.
- Copy Secure CRT to the pinned start menu.
- Install cygwin, in c:\opt\cygwin. Install for all users, using Unix /binary as the default text mode. Use C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Local Settings\Temp for temporary files. Although it's not obvious, there is a way to find out which cygwin package contains a specific file. I add these packages:
- Configure the HOME environment variable, in My Computer, Properties, Advanced, Environment Variables. Make it a user-specific value. This is needed for cygwin to find dot files.
- Edit the password file (vi /etc/passwd), and fix the home directories to by /cygdrive/c/home/<user>.
- Copy (via right-click drag and drop) a link to the bash shell to the pinned start menu.
- Launch a bash shell. Under Properties, Options turn on Quick Edit mode. Under Properties, Font set the font to be Lucida Console 12 point. Under Properties, Layout set the Window Size to be 132x50, and set then Screen Buffer Size Height to be 2000. Under Properties, Colors set the Screen Background to be dark blue, and the Screen Text to be bright white. Save, and select "Modify shortcut that started this window". I'd like to find a way to make the font Dina, but I've been unable to get that to work, yet.
- Configure the Cygwin X Server to automatically start.
- Install the fullbin version of GNU emacs in c:\opt\emacs. For emacs 21.3, this will create a directory c:/opt/emacs/emacs-21.3.
- Under C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\SendTo, create a shortcut to C:\opt\emacs\emacs-21.3\bin\runemacs.exe, named "emacs".
- Install ActiveState Python version 2.4 into c:\opt\python24. Accept all of the other installation defaults.
- Install the Unicode version of windirstat in c:\opt\windirstat. Under C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Start Menu\Programs, create a link to windirstat.exe, named WinDirStat.
- Install the Sonos Desktop Controller. Depending on the configuration, go to Music, Setup Music Library, Add a Share. Answer Yes to the firewall question.
- Install the Rhapsody Player. Log in to Rhapsody, then select Reinstall Rhapsody. De-select Rhapsody as default player for all audio file types. When you reboot, Rhapsody will launch, ask you to log in, and ask to install an Adobe viewer. I'm not sure why it needs to install this, but I let it.
- Install the BlackBerry Desktop Manager. I installed an older version from T-Mobile. I'm not sure if newer versions from BlackBerry itself would work. Perform a typical installation. Select BlackBerry Internet Service. Do not run automatically on system startup. Configure Options, Connection Settings, Connection to be USB.
- Install iTunes. Edit, Properties, Advanced, General, disable "Look for remote speakers connected with AirTunes". Edit, Properties, Advanced, Importing, set Import Using to MP3 Encoder, set to Highest Quality (192 kbps). Edit, Properties, Parental Control, select "Disable iTunes Store".
- Configure rsync to allow a dirvish backup:
Create an rsync service:
cygrunsrv --install=rsyncd --path=/usr/bin/rsync.exe \ --args='--config=/etc/rsyncd.conf --daemon --no-detach' \ --disp='rsync daemon' --desc='Fast incremental file transfer' \ --type=auto
- Configure rsync service in /etc/rsyncd.conf (c:/opt/cygwin/etc/rsyncd.conf):
gid = users read only = true use chroot = false transfer logging = true log file = /var/log/rsyncd.log log format = %o %h [%a] %m (%u) %f %l %b hosts allow = <local network address>/24 hosts deny = 0.0.0.0/0 strict modes = false [drive-c] path = /cygdrive/c/ auth users = <some-user> secrets file = /etc/rsyncd-drive-c.secrets ignore nonreadable = true
- Create the password file /etc/rsyncd-drive-c.secrets (c:/opt/cygwin/etc/rsyncd-drive-c.secrets) , it must match the corresponding password on the dirvish server. XXX Set this as readable only by localsystem: how to do this in XP?
- In Control Panel, Windows Firewall, Exceptions, Add Port, add an exception called "rsyncd" for TCP port 873.
- Configure the system to use NTP for setting the local time:
net time /setsntp:<ntpserver>
- Install Trillian Basic. Configure for MSN and IRC.
- To allow creating of PDF files from all Windows programs, install PDFCreator.
- XXX: /usr/local/bin? /home/local/bin?
- XXX: plone, diyplonestyle
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