First we need system information. In windows XP, we click Start>My Computer>view system information>hardware>device manager (if I'm going to fast I'll type slower). We'll only deal with what's important so this will be as painless as possible. Click "display adapters". Note what it say's (mine say's "NVidia GeForce 6200"). Next, click "network adapters". Mine say's " D-Link DFE 530 TX + PCI adapter". Make notes! Okay boy's and girls, if you have it, click "SCSI and RAID controllers". Mine says "Silicon Image SiI 3114 SATARaid controller" (side note: SCSI is pronounced "scuzzy", and RAID is not a spray that kills bugs). Lastly, click on "sound, video and game controllers". Your looking for a clue here folks, it's not always clear. My hardware is " NVIDIA(R) nForce(TM) MCP Audio Processing Unit" (a different computer has "MPU-401 Compatible Device"). Notes! One last thing. Click on Processors. If it say's "Intel blah, blah, blah, you're in good shape. Me? Not so good. Mine is a "AMD Athlon(tm) XP 2400+".
So, the list so far:
- display adapter: NVidia GeForce 6200
- network adapter: D-Link DFE 530 TX + PCI adapter
- SCSI and RAID controller: Silicon Image SiI 3114 SATARaid controller
- sound, video and game controller: NVIDIA(R) nForce(TM) MCP Audio Processing Unit
- processor: AMD Athlon(tm) XP 2400+
Let's get the easy part out of the way. For the display adapter(video card), network adapter(NIC) and SCSI and RAID controller(sata) there's no problem. We simply go to the respective websites and look for "support" and "drivers". NVidia, D-Link and Silicon image all provide what we need(sometimes you need to look under "legacy" if your hardware is old like mine). Sound, video and game controllers(sound cards) are a little trickier and one of reasons it's a pain to downgrade from windows vista to windows xp (but it can be done). Sound cards are more varied but following these methods should provide you with some success.
Okay, here's the problem with my processor being AMD. It's the chipset, baby! They work fine and you never know if you have one untill it's time to reinstall your operating system. With an intel cpu, you generally have an intel chipset or maybe ATI (if I'm wrong, tell me) and with AMD it could be Via, Sis, Ati, NVidia. With Intel, just go to their website and look for support. With Amd, it might be better to pick up some numbers off the motherboard and go google.
Why all the fuss about chipsets? The CPU talks to the chipset and the chipset talks to everything else. It's the main link between ram, the cpu, the video card and hard drive(s). So, it's important, and, it seems, easier to install or reinstall if it's intel based. I am not biased in any way, but have had some trying times installing some NVidia or AMD related hardware.