A. Have a game plan. Don’t touch your system until you’ve done your homework and detailed your system strategy.
Decide which operating systems you’ll run, both now and in the near future, which applications and hardware devices you’ll use from each environment, and which document files you’ll need to share.
This will tell you how many disk partitions of which sizes and file systems you’ll need (see sidebar “File Styles”), as well as which device drivers are necessary for each environment.
B. Make sure you can get there from here. Verify that you have all necessary device drivers before you install a new operating system, and that they’re really usable.
This can be a problem with Windows NT, because of its smaller set of available drivers.
Check the Windows NT Hardware Compatibility List (available at Microsoft’s FTP site,
in the directory \BUSSYS\WINNT\WINNT-DOCS\HCL), as well as the device manufacturers’ online information, to ensure your hardware is supported.
C. Back up everything you care about. Back up all critical data before you perform any major surgery on your computer.
This includes installing or removing an operating system, and changing or formatting disk partitions.
And make sure you can restore your backed-up files from all relevant operating systems; there are few things worse than finding you have to rebuild a working system just to read your backup media.
D. Boot disk and reference book handy, if you don’t have a boot disk make one. In case of emergency, you can boot the system and gain access to the system.
At the very least, you’ll want copies of all relevant device drivers and tools on the disk, plus ATTRIB.EXE, FORMAT.COM, FDISK.EXE, CHKDSK.EXE or SCANDISK.EXE, whatever DRVSPACE or DSKSPACE compression files your system needs, and a basic text editor.
E. Reinstall applications from within each version of Windows. Don’t try to save minutes by reusing the application installation from multiple versions of Windows. In most cases it simply won’t work, especially if you try to share 32-bit programs between Win9x and NT.
Nearly all current applications burrow very deeply into your system; they replace or add DLLs, create and change Registry entries and INI files, and some even create new subdirectories in your main Windows directory.
By reinstalling from each Windows version, you force the setup program to make these changes within each version.
Make sure that you reinstall into the same directory each time, so you’ll have only one copy of each application on the system, and that you use the same options.
F. Keep good notes. When upgrade, the last thing you want to do is slow down and take notes.
Yet it can save considerable time and frustration if things go wrong and you have to repeat some step or seek technical help.
You don’t have to write War and Peace; just jot down enough information to retrace your steps, including all options you select and which prompts the system displays.
Once everything’s running perfectly, summarize your notes.
G. When all else fails … try, try again. Weird application and Windows problems often disappear if you shut down and restart the program or reboot Windows.
And if that doesn’t help, you can sometimes “magically” fix the problem by reinstalling the application or Windows.