Preparing The Drive
Whether you are installing for the first time, or reinstalling an operating system, there are some important steps to take in preparing the hard drive. Many people believe all that's required is to format the drive and start the install. Nothing could be further from the truth. I use a combination of different tools and software depending on the situation. On a used hard drive, if I want a truly clean installation, I use a program called KillDisk. Designed to wipe all information from a drive in order to secure it, this program also comes in handy for wiping away past mistakes. If you've ever installed Linux and then uninstalled, you might have found out how difficult it can be to remove the grub or lilo boot loader. Easy Bios is another program that can be a pain. KillDisk solves that problem for you. On the next few pages, I'll show you how to use it safely.
For a new drive, you'll need to at least format it before it's useable. If it's going to be your master, with an OS installed on it, you'll need to make sure it's set as active and primary to make it bootable. You may be able to do this with manufacturer supplied software, however I prefer to have greater control over how the drive is setup. Powerquest Partition Magic is the most popular tool for this. In the server environment, Powerquest Volume Manager does the job nicely. I prefer to use the latter in all cases. It supports a wider range of file systems and I haven't had the failure problems with it that I have had with other products.
The trend lately is towards "bootable" CD's. While this is convenient, I am still a purist and prefer to stick with original install media. One reason for this is the many defective upgrades Microsoft has been releasing lately. Once these are burned to disk, the problems may not be discovered until it's too late. At least keep an original disk around to fall back on in case of need. I collect OS's and an altered install is of no use as a historical item. The more people alter the disks, the less possible it will be for anyone else to complete their collections. Keep this in mind when you pass something along. In any case, the boot files are available for both. Bootdisk.com is an excellent source of information and software. Betaplace is a good resource for creating a bootable install CD. They also have information on "slipstreaming" service packs into your installation. Again, please respect the original media if you do this. You may regret it later if you aren't happy with the patches in the service pack.