Today, almost all new software comes to your PC from one of two sources: a CD or the Internet. The era of floppy-disk installers is over; you’d need a wheelbarrow to hold all the floppies required to install the average program these days.
Modern software usually comes with an installer program that’s designed to transfer the software files to the correct places on your hard drive. The installer also adds the new program’s name to the Start→All Programs menu, tells Windows about the kinds of files (file extensions) it can open, and makes certain changes to your registry (Section 16.10).
You can often get away with blindly installing some new program without heeding the checklist below. But for the healthiest PC and the least time on hold with tech support, answer these questions before you install anything:
Are you an administrator? Windows XP derives part of its security and stability by handling new software installations with suspicion. For example, you can’t install most programs unless you have an administrator account (see Section 17.3.1). (The exception: You may be able to install new software if you upgraded your PC from a copy of Windows 2000 on a corporate network, and your account was in the Power Users group.)
If you have only a normal account, most attempts to install new software crash and burn with some kind of error message. (If it’s a relatively new program, the message might make sense: “To install this program, you ...