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1) install windows... and setting the framework can make a big difference in future performance... take a sec to set it up right!
NTFS or Fat 32. One is faster the other more stable, respectively I believe. Partitions? Multiple HD's? You want to get your root windows directory on a fast seperate HD so the pagefile can be accessed by windows independently from the games files, this will increase performance significantly. Also, to keep fragmentation to a min on both the root XP and games directories, I like to partition the non XP drive into a game and work partitions. The game only is modified for installing and uninstalling games... followed by a defrag. The work partition is a nightmare of fragments, but is not accessed by XP or the game, so it doesn't matter.

other recommendation... if you have the space... once the drivers are in and before you install applications and games... back it up. The next time you get frustrated and want to reinstall, you can just refresh to the clean install you've just completed instead of taking valuable beer consuming time to redo it all again.

Lastly... once you turn online (after the anti mal ware, firewall and virus protector are up), get your virus updates and click windows update to update everything.
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