How do you install a network operating system?

When you install a network operating system (NOS), you have to make some decisions about how you want the operating system and its servers to be configured. Most of these decisions aren't cast in stone, so don't worry if you're not 100 percent sure how you want everything configured. You can always go back and reconfigure things. This is an overview of a typical installation of Windows Server 2003. Although the details vary, the overall installation process for other network operating systems is similar.

The method you use to begin the installation depends on whether the computer already has a working operating system:

* If the computer already has a working operating system, simply insert the Windows 2003 Setup disk in the computer's CD-ROM drive. After a moment, a dialog box appears, asking whether you want to install Windows Server 2003. Click Yes to proceed.

* If you're installing Windows Server 2003 from a network drive, open the My Network Places window, navigate to the shared folder that contains the distribution files, and run Winnt32.exe.

* If the computer doesn't already have a working operating system but can boot from a CD-ROM disk, insert the distribution disk into the CD-ROM drive and restart the computer.

* If the computer doesn't have a working operating system and can't boot from its CD-ROM drive, insert a bootable floppy disk that has CD-ROM support into the A drive and restart the computer. When the MS-DOS command prompt appears, type d: to switch to the CD-ROM drive (assuming drive D is the CD-ROM), type CD \i386 and then type winnt.

As the Setup program proceeds, it leads you through five distinct installation phases: Collecting Information, Dynamic Update, Preparing Installation, Installing Windows, and Finalizing Installation. The following sections describe each of these installation phases in greater detail.

Phase 1: Collecting Information

In the first installation phase, the Setup program asks for the preliminary information that it needs to begin the installation. A wizard-like dialog box appears to gather the following information:

* Setup Type: You can choose to perform a new installation or an upgrade.

* License Agreement: The official license agreement is displayed. You have to agree to its terms in order to proceed.

* Product Key: Enter the 25-character product key that's printed on the sticker attached to the CD-ROM disk case. If Setup says you entered an invalid product key, double-check it carefully. You probably just typed the key incorrectly.

* Setup Options: You can click Advanced Options to change the file locations used for Setup, but you should stick to the defaults. If you need to use accessibility features, such as the Magnifier, during Setup, click Accessibility Options and enable the features you need. In addition, if you want to change the language setting, click Primary Language and make your selections.

* Upgrade to NTFS: If you want to upgrade a FAT32 system to NTFS, you need to say so now.

Phase 2: Dynamic Update

In the next installation phase, Setup connects to Microsoft's Web site via your Internet connection and checks to see whether any of the installation files have been changed. If so, the updated installation files are downloaded at this time. If you don't have a working Internet connection, you have to skip this phase.

Phase 3: Preparing Installation

In this phase, the computer is restarted and booted into a special text-mode Setup program. After the Welcome screen appears, Setup proceeds through the following steps:

* Partition Setup: Here, you're asked to choose the partition that you want to use for the installation. You can reconfigure your partitions from this screen by deleting existing partitions or creating new ones. In most cases, you'll want to install Windows into a single partition that uses all available space on the drive.

* Delete Existing Windows installation: This screen lets you choose whether you want to delete your existing Windows installation or leave it in place. You should choose to delete it, unless you want a multiboot installation.

* Convert to NTFS: If you elected to convert an existing FAT32 partition to NTFS, the conversion will take awhile. This step is a good time to get a fresh cup of coffee.

* Copying Files: Now Windows copies its installation files onto your hard drive. This step also takes awhile.

Phase 4: Installing Windows

Now that the drive has been set up and the installation files copied, Windows Setup reboots your computer back into Windows mode and begins the actual process of installing Windows. You're taken through the following steps:

* Installing Devices: Windows automatically examines every device on the computer and installs and configures the appropriate device drivers. This step can take awhile.

* Regional and Language Options: In this step, you're asked to enter information about your region and language. If you're in the United States, you can accept the defaults. Otherwise, you can change the settings appropriately.

* Personalize Your Software: In this step, you can enter your name and your company name. Your name is required, but the company name is optional.

* License Modes: In this step, you choose whether you purchased per-server or per-device/per-user licensing. You can change this setting later, but you can change the setting only once. If you're not sure, double-check the invoice that Microsoft shipped along with the software.

* Computer Name and Administrator Name: Enter the computer name and Administrator account password here. Be sure to write down the password and keep it in a secure location. You'll be in serious trouble if you forget it.

* Date and Time Settings: If the date and time information is incorrect, you can change it here.

* Network Settings: In most cases, you can select the Typical option in this step to install the network features that are used most often: Client for Microsoft Networks, Network Load Balancing, File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks, and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). If you don't want to use these defaults, you can select Custom Settings and then configure these features yourself.

* Workgroup or Domain: Next, you're asked whether the computer is part of workgroup or a domain. Choose the appropriate option and enter the workgroup or domain name.

* Copying Files: Now Windows copies files, updates the registry, and ties up any loose ends. This step can take a long time, so you may want to go for a walk.

Phase 5: Finalizing Installation

To complete the installation, Setup saves your settings and reboots the computer one final time. When the computer restarts, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to bring up the Log On dialog box. Enter the password you created for the Administrator account, click OK, and you're logged on.