Tuesday, 4 January 2005

short diversion : Dell Dimension 4300 Windows ME to XP upgrade

yes I know its not MINI related but I thought I would get it down here so that anyone else attempting the same knows its possible....
Heres what I did to a friends PC , who wanted XP (for IPOD connectivity) but also to get rid of an unreliable ME setup

Clean install of Windows XP Pro onto a previous Windows ME Dell Dimenson 4300.
Current Bios Version A02
Current System ID Dimension 4300
Operating System Windows Millennium
Audio Driver Game Port for Creative SB Live!
Audio Driver Creative SB Live! Value (WDM)
Video Driver 16MB ATI Rage 128 Ultra

I chose a clean install , as ME is known to be tenacious in upgrade scenarios and the host machine was full of viruses/trojans and lots of other rubbish. I also wanted to got to NTFS rather than retain FAT32.

First off do a web search for XP upgrades or clean installs . Upgrades are possible but generally not advised. The only problem is that there is no way back with a clean install past a certain point (unless you image the original OS using something like Norton Ghost)

I did a fair amount of research because Dell machines tend to be different!!! (Ive been here before when the PSU fried a year and a half ago)
The Dell website provides a web based tool which lets you initially know if an upgrade is possible, in addition they also have a small program which you download and run which tells you what your system may need for the changeover.
It replied saying a BIOS update was needed , along with some incompatible software.
Oh dear ...... OS changes can be difficult , but BIOS updates (IMHO) are a last resort if absolutely /definitely required.....

I also ran the Windows Compatibility Checker from the CD (remember to make sure the machine boots to floppy then CD before HD in BIOS setup , which was F2 during startup on this 4300) , which promptly hung while building the database EVERY time!!! mmm Not a good sign... I also downloaded it from the windows site (just in case the cd version was corrupt) but alas still no joy....
This was in SAFE mode (in ME) with only the explorer process running!!!!

To cut a long story short (and with a little 'o what the heck from a certain Mr Welsh') I just dived in (confident that the PC spec was relatively new) and performed a BIOS update (using the download from DELL site) and a bios boot disc from ww.bootdisk.com

Updated from version A02 to A06 , the machine even rebooted into ME again :-) result.
(Incidentally Windows Compat Wiz still hung after the BIOS update , go figure)

Then onto XP clean install, started machine to command prompt (using startup disc) and using fdisk command ,removed the primary partition. NOTE : At this point you're commited to a new OS install...
Turn off machine and pop XP disc in , then reboot and press any key when it asks if you want to boot from CD. You should then see the XP install start...
I didnt need to install any drivers , and when I looked in device manager all was well.
Not only that its pretty quick (even more so than ME).
At this point I also installed XP SP2 from a cover disc , then also AVG Antivirus and ZoneAlarm from a disc. REMEMBER , NEVER connect to the internet without a firewall and antivirus installed and RUNNING.
Now all I need to do is plug in the cable modem and install the Ipod software.
So far it all looks good , and certainly not what I expected when the compatibility wizard wouldnt even run.
Any questions you can contact me via my email address on my website.

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