If you have ever taken a vacation, you can appreciate how smoothly things go when the trip is pre-planned, meaning tickets are booked, hotel accommodations are reserved and sightseeing trips organized. For those of you who prefer to fly by the seat of your pants, I am sure you have run into problems (that are avoidable with some pre-planning).

Installing an operating system is in some ways similar. Before rushing into the installation, you should take a bit of time to plan the process and complete some of the pre-installation tasks. This ensures that the installation process goes more smoothly.

One of the things you should do before installing any operating system is to assemble all the additional software that you might need. Aside from a copy of the operating system, you should consider obtaining the following software components so they are on hand after the installation:

  • Latest service pack (although not applicable to Vista at this time)
  • Important drivers
  • Operating system accessories
  • Essential applications

Service Packs
When a vendor releases an operating system, users quickly find all the problems and issues. While each individual bug can be resolved through a software patch, a service pack will usually include all the fixes for the issues identified since the release of the operating system. Service packs can also include other components such as security fixes.

Microsoft releases service packs for its operating systems to distribute updates for an operating system to its customers. Users can visit the vendor’s Web site to download the service pack for installation or order the service pack on CD-ROM.

The purpose behind service packs is to fix known issues with an operating system, keep the product up-to-date, as well as introduce new features. Service packs can include any of the following:

  • Updates to the operating system
  • New administrative tools
  • Drivers
  • Additional components

It is common for vendors to release multiple service packs over time for a single operating system. Usually the service packs are cumulative so any new service packs will contain the fixes within a previous one along with additional updates.

Most people choose to install the latest service packs on their computers. It is an important step in maintaining a secure computer. You can download service packs from the Windows Updates Web site or you can use Automatic Updates to automatically download and install it for you.

Gathering Important Drivers
It is generally easier if all the latest drivers for your hardware are readily available. If your hardware components are older than Vista, the drivers may already be included with the operating system. However, it is best not to take a chance so you should have the CD that came with the device on hand in case you need the drivers.

Manufacturers frequently update drivers for their hardware components. Even if you have the drivers that came with the device, it does not hurt to visit the manufacturer’s Web site to see if a newer version is available. Important drivers may include:

  • Motherboard chipset
  • Network adapter
  • Audio
  • Video
  • USB 2.0
  • FireWire
  • Modem

[tags]Windows, Vista, OS, Microsoft, install, installation, Windows upgrade[/tags]