Planning a Windows Installation – CompTIA A+ 220-902 – 1.2

| January 14, 2016

The Windows installation process includes an extensive list of options. In this video, you’ll learn about types of installations, disk partitioning, file systems, and other installation considerations.

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When you’re installing the Windows operating system there are number of technical considerations to keep in mind. So in this video, I’ll take you through the process of planning your Windows installation. Before you begin the installation, you’re going to need the installation media. Very often this is provided on some type of optical media, like a CD-ROM or a DVD-ROM.

But you might also be given all the installation files on a bootable USB drive. You have to make sure that the computer you’re installing this on is able to boot from a USB drive. Instead of booting from local media, you can also boot from files that are located across the network. This is usually done through something called PXE, which we call Pixie. This stands for preboot execution environment.

And you not only have to have this PXE server set up somewhere on your network, but your computer also has to be able to support booting from PXE.

If you’re running Mac OS, there’s a similar process for that operating system called net boot. This is booting from over the network, similar to PXE except it’s specific to the Mac OS operating system. If you’re a system administrator that needs to install from many different installation sources, you may put all of those files on a single solid state drive or hard drive, and you can store many different installation media.

Sometimes an external drive makes sense so that you can move from system to system and simply plug in through a USB connection. Some of these external drives allow you to mount an ISO image file. That means when you plug this in it doesn’t look like a single file. It looks as if you’re connecting an entire DVD-ROM. And in some cases, you may want to have the installation media on a separate partition inside of that computer that way you can boot from the installation media partition and install into a separate system partition.

There are a few different ways to install an operating system. One is through an in-place upgrade. That means you already have an operating system in place. You already have your documents. You’ve installed applications. And now you’d simply like to upgrade the application that’s in use.

If the new operating system allows for an in-place upgrade you can simply start the upgrade process while the old operating system is running and it will simply perform an upgrade and keep everything in place. But there are many times when you don’t have the luxury of performing an in-place upgrade and you need to clean everything off the drive and install a fresh version of the operating system. This is a clean install.

One of the things you can also do is use a migration tool to migrate off your data, install the new system on this clean install, and then migrate all of your files back on to this brand new operating system. In many corporate environments, you tend to purchase computers that are identical on everyone’s desk. So in those cases, you may want to build a version of Windows that has been customized with your organization’s settings and with applications that are specific to your company. Then you can take that configuration, create an image of that, and then clone it or deploy it to all of those separate systems.

In some cases though you have different kinds of hardware and you want some flexibility in how the Windows configuration might be installed. And in those cases, you can create an unattended installation. This is where you can create a file called unattend.xml. This file is going to have all the answers to the questions that are normally ask during the installation process. You add that XML file to your installation media then all you have to do is simply turn on the computer with that installation media and it performs the entire install without any user intervention.

If you already have a system that has an operating system installed, but you’re having some problems with the OS you may want to try troubleshooting by running a repair installation. This will run through a Windows installation, but it will simply replace or repair any files that might be bad. This is not going to modify any of your files. It’s not going to modify your documents or your installed applications, but it might solve problems with your operating system.

Many operating systems also allow you to install multiple versions of operating systems onto the same computer. This is called multi boot or dual boot. And in this way, you can start your computer and then decide what operating system you’d like to run during that session. During the installation, Microsoft Windows likes to create a recovery partition on a drive where it installs operating system files that can be useful if you’re running into problems with the primary OS.

This is also very common to see when manufacturers ship their computers with an operating system already installed. And Windows 8 includes two new installation options, a Refresh option and a Restore option. The Refresh option is going to refresh the operating system files without changing anything with your existing configurations. And the Restore option is going to remove everything and reinstall Windows as if it’s a factory-new installation.

One interesting thing about the Windows 8 Refresh and Restore options is these are built into the operating system. You don’t need any type of installation media in order to perform a refresh or a reset. If you were to look at the structure of a hard drive, the first thing you would see is that there are these large logical separations of the drive called partitions. This allows us to keep data separated. We might want to put our operating system on one partition and our user data on another partition.

On many computers, there’s a single partition and it might store both the operating system data and the user’s documents. These separate partitions can also be used to separate operating systems. You might want to have one partition for Windows and another partition for Linux. If you were to see Microsoft’s documentation they often refer to volumes.

Volumes are partitions that have been formatted with a file system. So if you ever see someone refer to a volume or a formatted drive they’re really referring to the same thing.

There are two main ways to partition a drive. One way is to use an MBR partition. This stands for master boot record. And this is the way we’ve been partitioning our drives for many years.

There are two partition types on the MBR partition style. The first is the primary partition. This is a partition that’s bootable. And you can have up to four primary partitions per drive.

Because this is bootable, this is commonly where you would put a computer’s operating system so that you can boot when the system starts up. One of these partitions is commonly marked as active. That means when your computer starts up this will be the default partition that your computer will boot from.

If you need more than four partitions on your drive, you may want to use a special kind of primary partition called an extended partition. This allows you to extend the number of partitions by creating one large extended partition that you can then separate into smaller logical partitions. This means you can have many more partitions than the four primary partitions, but the catch is that you cannot boot from any of these extended logical partitions.

The other more modern way of partitioning your system is to use a GPT partition. This stands for a GUID partition table. GUID stands for globally unique identifier. It’s a way to set a unique ID to components and software that’s inside of your computer.

Unlike the MBR partition style that only allowed us to have four separate primary partitions, with GPT we can have 128 primary partitions. But we have to be running a UEFI BIOS inside of our computer. So you don’t need separate extended partitions or logical drives. You simply keep adding partitions all the way up to 128 primary partitions on a GPT partition style.

Before you can install an operating system, you have to select a partition. And if that partition has not been formatted, you have to then decide how you would like to partition and format that drive. Sometimes the drives you’re using have already been partitioned. They might even already have a format on them.

But sometimes the partition that’s already on a drive may not be compatible with the operating system you’re installing. For example, you may have a drive that previously had Linux installed. And its file system and partitioning may not allow you to install Windows on that same partition. In those cases, you’ll need to remove the partition and re-partition and format the drives so that it’s compatible with Windows.

At that point, you’ll need to decide how you’d like to partition your system. Would you like to use master boot record or would you like to use the GUID partition table method? Remember that an MBR style disk can have up to four partitions, but a GUID partition table allows you up to 128 partitions.

But if you’re going to run with a GUID partition, your system must have a UEFI BIOS and you have to be at least configured to run with the UEFI BIOS or in BIOS-compatibility mode. Remember that if you turn on BIOS-compatibility mode you will not be able to run in what UEFI calls their secure boot mode, which may limit what operating systems you can run on this computer.

In most cases, you’re only going to have one partition on your drive so you may want to follow Windows recommendation of using the GUID partition style if you have disks that are larger than 2 terabytes. Adding or removing partitions from a drive is not something you do every day. And if you don’t know what you’re doing you can absolutely lose data. So be very careful about what you’re doing and make sure you have a backup before making any changes to these drives.

Now that you’ve created these partitions on your drive you need to format these partitions with a file system that your operating system can use to store data. This is usually something that’s a FAT32 or NTFS file system. And it’s usually something that’s dictated by the operating system that you’re using.

Many operating systems give you some options. You might have the option of installing file system as FAT32 or NTFS. So you want to be sure to make the right decision when installing the file system.

One of the very first file systems on computers was FAT. FAT stands for file allocation table. We’ve updated FAT through the years. You may see FAT32 on a number of Windows systems. This allowed us to have very large volume sizes and it limited the maximum size of any particular file to 4 gigabytes.

If you’re using a flash drive in Windows it’s probably using a file system called exFAT. It stands for extended file allocation table. It allows you to use these large drives. But more importantly, allows you to store files on these drives that are much larger than 4 gigabytes.

Because of the limitations associated with FAT, Microsoft created their own file system called NTFS. This stands for the NT file system. And it has been around since Windows NT and is still supported on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and later.

This provides some additional features over file allocation table systems, like file compression, encryption, some security features, and much more all built into the file system of the OS. If you’re using optical drives those drives are probably written with compact disk file system or CDFS. This is an international standard called ISO 9660 and it’s one where all operating systems can follow the same standard so that no matter what OS you go to they can all read that optical drive.

If you’re running the Linux operating system then you’re probably not using a Microsoft-related file system. You’re probably running something like ext3, which is the third extended file system or you could be running ext4, the fourth extended file system. This is very common to see in Linux and Android operating systems.

And a file system that many operating systems can run across the network is called NFS or network file system where you’re able to share files across the network and read and write to those files, like they were a local drive except, of course, you’re accessing them across the network. Microsoft adds an additional layer on top of partitions and file systems called storage types.

The fundamental storage type is a basic storage type. This allows you to have basic and extended partitions. You can have separate individual basic disks inside of your system, but those disks don’t have any additional functionality. They act as independent standalone devices.

Modern Windows versions allow you to define a disk as a dynamic disk. This allows you to do some interesting things, like spanning multiple disks together and have it look like one large volume. Or you can split data across physical disks so that you’re striping information or maybe you’re creating a mirror information, which effectively is duplicating exactly the same data across separate physical disks.

Not all versions and editions of Windows support all of these different features within dynamic disks so you’ll need to look at your documentation to see what options are available for you. When you’re installing Windows and creating a partition in a file system it will perform a quick format on that partition. This is creating a brand new file table.

If there was a file table there originally it will simply overwrite the file table that was there. It doesn’t erase any additional information on the drive. It doesn’t change any other files on the drive and doesn’t perform any additional checks. It simply overwrites the existing file table.

In fact, during the installation a quick format is your only option. If you need to perform a full format of a partition then you want to run a program like diskpart to be able to do that. A full format as the name implies is much more thorough. It’s not only going to overwrite the file table, it’s also going to write zeros into the entire drive. That means if you have any data on that drive you will not be able to recover anything once that drive has gone through a full format.

This also goes through every sector on the drive and makes sure that you can write information to that sector and then read the information off again. This obviously means it’s going to take a lot more time to go through that entire drive and perform a full format.

There’s other considerations you may want to keep in mind during the Windows installation. For example, if you’re installing using third party hardware you may want to have those drivers available so your installation is able to see the drives inside of your computer. You’ll also want to know whether you’re installing this system as a workgroup or if you’re connecting to a domain. You may have to check with your system administrator at work to see how to configure this system and add it to your Windows domain.

During the installation, you’ll also be asked for time and date, time zone settings, language settings, and anything that may be regional. So if you’re setting up this computer for someone else make sure you know that information before you start the install.

If you have specialized hardware on this computer or there’s software that needs to be installed make sure you have the driver disks or the installation disks available to install after Windows has been put on the system. And you might also want to check and make sure that the installation has created a recovery partition that way if you have any problems in the future you’re able to fix those without having a separate piece of installation media.

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Category: CompTIA A+ 220-902

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