Let’s face it, installing Windows is a real pain in the ass. Drivers never load properly, things get whacked out of order, nothing ever goes as easy as it would seem.

I recently switched my old Athlon XP mainboard (Soyo junker) for a new nForce 430 with built-in nVidia 6150 graphics (The Asus A8N-VM CSM) and nVidia SATA RAID. I put in 1GB of RAM and a Athlon 64 3200 to complete the package. The board is slick, in addition to the built-in video, it also has 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 1394 ports, gigabit ethernet, and a host of drive connections.

At the same time, I put four (4) Seagate 250GB SATA drives in a RAID5 array. Why? Because I’m seriously tired of drives failing (read: Maxtor crap) and I have too much data that is worth keeping alive. This is where things got interesting.

Booting Windows XP from a raid system is a chore, particularly when the drivers are unsigned and not part of the base Windows installation. This is where nLite comes into the picture.

nLite lets you customize your Windows installation, add drivers, remove crap you don’t want, etc. In the end, I created a single CD with a full installation of Windows Media Center Edition 2005 and the required nVidia RAID drivers. I now have a system that boots from a 200GB partition with a 500GB data partition, all RAID5 protected.

With an external 300GB Seagate for backups, I think I’m all set for data security. Now I just need to find a reliable off-site, on-line data backup facility to ensure complete data redundancy and life will be worry-free as far as data is concerned.