Laptop / Notebook Configuration Guide
I've been fielding questions regarding how I go about setting up a new laptop, which comes with the operating system already installed. [I have the Dell 600m.]
For more detail along these lines, see the Windows XP Installation Guide. I always recommend the Professional version of Windows XP.
My laptop came with a 60-GB hard drive, so that's the size I'll use here. My laptop also came with a CD burner and a USB floppy.
Image Factory Configuration
Without connecting your new laptop to the Internet (don't plug in the network cable), boot the machine and make sure everything is working okay. You should be able to get to Windows and explore your files. If you have problems here, you need to talk to your manufacturer before doing anything else.
Connect the floppy disk drive and Insert a Ghost boot floppy disk into the floppy disk drive. You will need to make this Ghost boot floppy on another machine (such as your desktop). Put a new CD-R in the CD burner and reboot the machine. You can also boot off the Ghost program CD.
Create a back-up image of the factory-installed system partition (Disk-to-Image). Select your CD burner as the destination. I name this image "factory" (factory.gho). Make sure you VERIFY the image.
Upon the next reboot, install Partition Magic and shrink the partition to 1/3rd it's original size. In our case, the 60-GB partition will become 20-GB. PM allows you to modify existing partitions without destroying the data contained on them (non-destructively). Start by performing this and only this operation.
Upon the next reboot, create another 20-GB partition in the space you freed up by shrinking the original 60-GB partition. Perform this operation by itself. Do not format if it asks. We'll do that later from within Windows itself.
Upon the next reboot, use the remaining space to create the 3rd and final partition. Again, don't format. We could do all these together, but we want to make it as easy for PM as possible. That is why we're doing one operation at a time.
Format New Partitions
You should now have 3 partitions of roughly equal size. Boot to Windows and see if you can see these new logical drives in Windows explorer. Right click on the first new partition you just created and format it as NTFS. This will take a while. After it's done, format the last partition as FAT32. Make sure you don't reformat the original C drive or you will cry.
I use FAT32 for the last partition because that is where I store my back-up Ghost images and Ghost works best writing to FAT32 because Ghost works from DOS and DOS supports the FAT32 file system natively.
With your Ghost boot floppy back in the floppy disk drive, reboot and make another back-up image. This time, select the last partition as your destination. Mine is labeled as drive-letter F, with the CD burner as D: drive. This is our first image to disk. Since space is a consideration with laptops, select "High" compression.
Install your favorite AntiVirus software. If you use Norton AntiVirus, as so many do, download the latest Virus definitions on *another* computer (not your laptop) and burn those virus definitions to a CD and update your virus definitions now (before you connect to the Internet). Personally, I prefer NOD32.
Install you firewall of choice. I use ZoneAlarm. Just the freebie, not the extra stuff. Sygate is also good.
Install Windows XP Service Pack 2. (My laptop came with SP1 already installed.) You can download it here.
Install Adaware and Spybot Search & Destroy. Update the Adaware & Spybot definitions files without connecting to the Internet.
Here is where I tweak Windows to my personal preferences. This takes time, such as setting up email accounts and folder options. I also prefer the Classic look. Most of this info is included in the last two pages of the Windows XP Installation Guide. One I'm using a familiar interface, I can cruise thru the remaining program installations.
Install Small Programs
Install all your smaller programs like Winzip and Winamp. I also update my chipset drivers here, along with any other new hardware drivers. Save your big programs for later, such as Photoshop and Office. Anything that needs most of a CD, waits until later, after we make an image containing all our small programs.
Also, install NO burning and ripping programs until at the end. After installing all your smaller programs, defrag and make another back-up image. I label this image "small" (small.gho).
Install Large Programs
Install all your large programs. All games and multi-CD programs get installed to the middle partition to minimize the amount of data on our system partition.
Install Burning & Ripping Programs
Now is a good time to install your burning and ripping programs. I save these for last as they seem to generate the most trouble.
Nothing but Ghost images go on the LAST partition, but what goes on the MIDDLE partition?
I might've forgot some minor points, but you should get the overall gist of how I do this. Again, the key is downloading all the necessary files ahead of time (while waiting for your laptop to arrive) and burn them to CD, so you can install all the necessary programs without having to connect to the Internet. (And a nice, stiff double-cappuccino doesn't hurt.)