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10 things you should do before, during, and after reinstalling Windows

There are some very good reasons why you might want to reinstall Microsoft Windows. Alan Norton documents the steps needed to properly reinstall Windows.

There are some very good reasons why you might want to reinstall Microsoft Windows. Whether it is 2000, XP, or Vista, the registry can become corrupted or it can accumulate settings for programs long-since forgotten, leading to sluggish performance. Or you can find yourself with a stubborn Trojan Horse. The only way to be 100 percent sure that you have rid yourself of some particularly nasty viruses is to reload Windows.

I have wanted to document the steps needed to properly reinstall Windows for a long time now. I always end up missing something after the reload and find myself scrambling to find IDs, passwords, configuration settings, or favorite Web sites lost in the reinstall.

Be sure to set aside a large block of time to do the reinstall. Don't do it before a term paper is due or your business presentation slide show. A weekend is a good time.

An OS reinstall is also a good time to decide to upgrade. If you want to upgrade to Vista, there are a lot of options available to you. For more information about these options and the pros and cons of Vista, please read Vista Confusion.

This article focuses on Vista but the concepts apply to all versions of Window. This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

When you run the Windows Vista set-up program, you will see a window with two options: Update and Custom (Advanced). The Update option is not available when reinstalling Windows Vista. Under the Custom option, you will be doing what is known as a Clean Install. Follow these 10 steps and you will, hopefully, not find yourself having to scramble for files or information that you need after the reinstall.

Please Note: I have gone to great care to test and retest this documentation. It is still possible that there are errors or missing information or that I have not covered your specific reinstallation configuration. Please provide feedback in the forum if you find any issues.

Before reinstallation

1. Document your login IDs, passwords, and settings.

If you are using your browser to store the passwords for Web sites, you will be in for a rude awakening after reinstalling Windows -- they will be gone. Your browser is a poor place to keep your Web site IDs and passwords.

One possible option is to store your information in a spreadsheet. However, if you keep your IDs and passwords in a password-protected Excel or OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet, be aware that there are programs that can recover/discover the password for most .xls files. I suggest you use stronger encryption techniques to better protect Excel 2002, 2003, and 2007 spreadsheets.

If you do have Excel 2002 or later, secure your spreadsheet from hackers and then make sure you don't lose your password! Next, add your IDs and passwords. Create a row in your spreadsheet for your ISP, e-mail, Web hosting company, personal Web sites, and any other password-protected logins. This file is also a good place to keep your e-mail POP3, SMTP, and newsserver name.

If you don't have Excel you can keep the IDs and passwords on a piece of paper securely locked away in a safe place or you can choose one of the software alternatives available. RoboForm is a popular way to secure your browser login user name and password but is not freeware. GuardID Systems offers a product called ID Vault that is supposed to be a secure way to store your IDs and passwords -- for a small price. Do not keep your IDs and passwords in a Notepad or Word document unsecured and "in the clear," readable by anyone with access to your computer or to a hacker.

2. Export your e-mail and address book, bookmarks/favorites, and cookies.

You can export your e-mail and contacts from Outlook Express, Outlook, MS Mail, and most third-party e-mail programs. I have a folder called Mail Exports under my Archive folder where I export my e-mail. You can export from the various mailboxes. Select the Inbox, Outbox, Sent Items, and Drafts. Unless you have a special reason otherwise, you can exclude the Deleted and Junk mail boxes.

I don't bother exporting my contacts. If I need a contact, I pull it up from an archived e-mail. You might want to export your contacts though, especially if you have a large number.

I used to always forget about bookmarks for my favorite Web sites. I had to spend time searching for a favorite site after Windows was reinstalled. I made a promise that I would export my IE Favorites and Firefox Bookmarks the next time I did a Windows reinstall. You can also export feeds and cookies.

3. Download the latest applications and drivers.

There is a core set of applications that you know you will be using. One good way to identify these core apps is to take a look at your desktop and Start menu. You can save an image of your desktop to a non-system folder and use that as a guide to reinstalling your core apps. You can also look at your installed programs in Programs and Features located in the Control Panel.

I have a logical drive named Documents and on that drive a folder called Downloads. I keep all my apps and drivers downloaded from the Internet there. These add up in a hurry. To keep it organized, I have a lot of subfolders including one for Apps and one for Drivers.

Once you have a list of your core apps, download the latest versions from the Internet and save them to your \Downloads\Apps folder or a non-system folder of your choice.

Some of your core apps may be on DVD, CD, or even floppy. Pull out your media and set it in a stack ready for reinstallation later.

Download the latest version of your favorite anti-virus software. I like Alwil Software's Avast! The free home version includes real-time protection for e-mail, instant message, Web browser, Outlook Exchange, and four other types of real-time protection. If you can, download a file containing the latest virus definitions.

How do you know what drivers you will need? There are two basic types of drivers. I separate them here because updating them is usually handled differently:

Motherboard Specific Drivers - Auto Update
  • System and Chipset (usually Intel)
  • Onboard Sound
  • Onboard Video (some motherboards)
  • Onboard LAN

Many motherboard manufactures and computer vendors have an application that will check all the motherboard-related drivers to see if they are current. If your manufacturer or vendor provides this type of application, go to their Web site and download the latest version now.

If you don't have access to an update utility, you have to manually identify the motherboard-related drivers that you will need:

Other drivers - Manual Update
  • Sound Card (if your computer has a sound card)
  • Video Card (if your computer has a video card)
  • Modem
  • RAID (Intel Matrix RAID, JMicron RAID, or other if you have a RAID-controller card)
  • Other Unique Devices
If you do not already know the type of video card, sound card, modem, RAID, or other unique devices in your system, you can identify them by opening the Device Manager (Figure A).

Figure A

The expanded items in the Device Manager show the devices installed on my computer requiring a manual driver download and install.

If you aren't running RAID, you should not need to identify any Storage controllers. If you are running RAID, you will need to have the driver file available on a floppy disk or CD if installing XP or previous versions of Windows. You also need to know the exact driver/controller name -- Intel 82801 GR/GH SATA RAID for my system. Unlike previous versions of Windows, Vista recognizes your hard drives during setup and you can get your RAID drivers from there.

I don't have a sound card in my system, but if you do, expand the Sound, video and game controllers item to determine the sound card installed in your computer.

Mike Smith has put together a handy Windows Reinstall Checklist (PDF) that you might want to print and use.

After identifying the drivers you need to install, download them and save them to a non-system logical drive. Do not pull them from old floppies or CDs unless you are sure that new drivers are not available.

4. Housecleaning and backing up your data.

Now is the time to clean up your hard drive by deleting unneeded or unwanted files. Cleaning up years of accumulated files that you no longer need or want is no fun. If you want to make it less of a chore, you can start a week or more in advance of the reinstall. Spend one or two hours each day deleting the files you are sure that you want to send to the great bit-bucket in the sky.

This is also an excellent time to do a thorough anti-virus scan of all your drives. You don't want to back up infected files.

Then do a full backup, which is easy for me to say, right? You can spend hours doing a full backup, but this is a good investment of your time. Back up anything that you don't want to lose. It is especially important if you are one of the unfortunate ones without a Windows OEM disc or a vendor reinstall disc. Many computer vendors put the Windows setup and installation files on a separate partition or folder on the hard drive. If you have a vendor built computer, Windows Reinstall - OEM Computers is a must-read.

If you will be reinstalling Vista on a different partition, you will need almost 15GB of free space minimum on a logical drive/partition to load Vista. I like to create a partition of 30-40GB for the 32-bit version of Vista and 40-50GB for the 64 bit version. Do a full format of the logical drive/partition that will be your new system partition so that you will have a clean Vista-ready partition.

Warning! If you will be dual booting using XP and Vista, do not use XP to create the partition that you will install Vista on. For a very helpful guide to issues dual booting XP and Vista please read Dual Booting Windows Vista & Windows XP by Bert Kinney.

5. Service packs

As of October 2008, the latest service packs are SP3 for XP and SP1 for Vista. There are five ways to retrieve and install the latest service packs. Some of these methods reduce or eliminate your risk to security vulnerabilities. Some are alternative methods you can use if you are having problems installing the service pack from Windows Update. If you are not concerned about either of these two issues, you can skip this section entirely and move on to item 6.

There are five ways to get the latest Windows service pack:

  • Download it via Windows Update
  • Download it from the Microsoft Web site
  • Order it on CD/DVD disc
  • Order the latest copy of Windows that includes the latest service pack (should be noted in the product description)
  • Install Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or the System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) if available and if the computer is networked on a local Intranet

The update is much smaller when done through the Update utility found in the Control Panel. I planned to recommend that it is best to download the latest service pack and install it manually. Doing this would install important security updates in the service pack before connecting to the Internet. After a request for information from Microsoft I received the following response as to why that is not recommended:

"Microsoft strongly recommends using Windows Update to download and install Windows Vista SP1 on single PCs.

If a customer prefers to install Windows Vista SP1 from a DVD and has Internet access, they should first visit Windows Update and install all recommended and optional drivers and updates (the SP1 DVDs will have this advice on their packaging).

Customers should know that the install program on the DVD does not include the same logic that Windows Update uses to check for device drivers prior to SP1 installation. To make this change, the installer would need to be substantially modified, which would take a significant amount of time. Additionally, one of the benefits of Windows Update is that it can dynamically add or remove filtered devices over time, as is necessary. If the DVD were to ship with the set of filters included, they could not be added or modified as the driver landscape changed over time.

We also want customers to know that if they have any problems during or after installing SP1, they can call Microsoft Customer Support Services (CSS) free of charge with questions or for help."

Note the emphasis added. Both options require connecting to the Internet before installing SP1.

I spoke with a Microsoft technician specializing in Windows Update. He informed me that there are two primary reasons why you might want to manually install SP1. I added reason three as my reason for a manual install.

  1. You cannot download SP1 from Windows Update or it will not install properly.
  2. During high demand times SP1 may not be available to some users for up to a week or possibly longer due to a limitation placed on the number of downloads.
  3. You want the security updates included in SP1 installed before connecting to the Internet.

The technical representative understood why I might want to install SP1 so that my system would be more secure before connecting to the Internet. He said it was possible to do this. However, SP1 does not include all the security patches since its release, even if you download it today. You will still have to start Windows Update to get these security updates.

In case you were wondering, SP1 installs 23 important security updates and 551 hot fixes, and some of those security updates are cumulative. If you want a closer look at the details, you can review Hotfixes and Security Updates Included in Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

The service packs for Vista are large -- 434.5 MB for the 32-bit version and 726.5 MB for the 64-bit version. If you are still using dial-up you might be able to download the 32-bit version, but it would be easier to have a friend with broadband download the 64-bit version for you. Read the knowledge base article KB936330 carefully before installing the service pack.

I downloaded the Vista 64 bit SP1, and it took approximately 42 hours over four days. Oh the sacrifices I make for you, my patient reader! Use a download manager if you want to download the Vista service pack. I don't recommend you do this over dial-up. At $3.50, just order the SP1 CD or DVD.

During reinstallation

6. Load Windows.

Tip: When installing Vista in Windows, the installer takes over the entire screen. But you can still have access to Windows and features like Disk Manager by clicking on the [Windows] key. I have not had problems doing this when stuck and needed information or wanted to delete files on the target partition or format the target partition, but it might be dangerous to do while the installer is busy.

Don't forget to have your product key handy. If you have a RAID setup you will need to load the RAID drivers (be sure to get the right driver -- 32 bit or 64 bit) and know the RAID controller name. For more information about installing Windows on a RAID system see Want Speed and Data Safety? Consider RAID. Rarely, you may have to have drivers for a device where Windows will be installed. As an example, some older motherboards require that you load SATA drivers in order to recognize SATA drives.

Perhaps the best way to reinstall Windows is the simple and straightforward "insert Windows disc into optical drive, format target partition and install to target partition" method. You should, if you can, start with a nice clean partition to install Windows on.

You can reinstall Vista from within your current Vista installation in addition to the traditional CD/DVD bootup install. If reinstalling from within Windows, connect to the Internet so the installer can check online for the latest installer updates.

You can replace your existing installation, even from within the existing installation, or you can load Windows onto a different partition that you prepared in item four. If you do reinstall Windows in a different partition, the original installation must be removed per the EULA. You cannot format the target partition if it is the same as the one with the current Windows installation.

Starting with Vista, the system boot files and boot manager are located in a folder called Boot. Gone is boot.ini, and replacing it is something called a Boot Configuration Data store(BCD). If you are running a dual-boot system the Boot folder may not be located on logical drive C:\. The boot files are system files and will be hidden unless you have unchecked Hide protected operating system files when configuring Explorer. If you want to load Windows onto a different logical drive, be careful that you do not delete the Boot folder when removing the original Windows installation. You also do not want to format the logical drive where the Boot folder is located.

Tip: Microsoft includes a comprehensive help file called Installing Windows. It is a good idea to read this before reinstalling Windows.

After reinstallation

7. Reconfigure personal settings.

I have a routine that I follow -- one that I developed over the years. Personal settings are, well personal. I have a list of my personal settings that I like to make immediately upon Windows startup. I offer these changes as suggestions and not recommendations.

Read How to Personalize Windows Vista for a step-by-step how-to guide or click on the specific topic below:

For those of you who are Vista experts, you might notice that there is something conspicuously missing from my list. I do not recommend changing the default settings that leave User Account Control (UAC) turned on, but this is how to turn it off if you must.

If the Windows personalization aren't enough for you, there is a freeware version of TweakVI for Vista. You can easily spend the better part of a day going through all the tweaks available, and some of them are even useful. If you have kids and they have a computer, there are some tweaks that are useful for hiding administrative tools that you don't want them to access. Lo and behold, you can even get your Vista product key plus lots of other detailed information about your system.

You no doubt have a list of your own, many of which have long-since been forgotten that you suddenly remember after reloading Windows. You might want to keep a list of these personalized setting so that you will have it the next time you have to reinstall Windows.

8. Enable previous versions and create a "clean install" restore point.

You will need to enable Previous Versions if you are using this feature in Vista Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise for a specific logical drive or folder. If you aren't using Previous Versions, you should be, especially if you are a programmer. For information about how to turn this feature on in Vista, see Previous Versions in Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise in the #2 Give examples section.

I always like to immediately create a restore point once Windows is installed and personalized. You can create a restore point in the same Window that Previous Versions is enabled.

Warning! If you are dual booting XP or Server 2003 and Vista or Server 2008, XP / Server 2003 will delete the Vista / Server 2008 restore points. If Previous Versions is enabled, the shadow copies of your files will also be gone. There is no simple solution for this. Be sure that Vista is installed properly before booting into XP in case you need to use a system restore point.

XP users with SP1 or greater and Server 2003 users need not feel left out. They have a similar feature called Shadow Copies.

9. Configure network, install service packs, patches, and security updates.

There are other security updates and patches that may be required. For example, I had a Micron Millenium PC that had an atapi.sys patch that had to be installed immediately after installing Windows.

Install all security updates, patches, and fixes before connecting to the Internet.

How you install SP1, your modem drivers, anti-virus, malware, firewall etc. (items 9.a - 9.e below) depends on which method you choose. Please use the instructions column of Table A to get the right order for the method you have chosen. If you skipped item 5, use the instructions for method one.

Table A -- The Five Vista SP1 Installation Methods

Method

Instructions

Notes

Method One

Windows Update

9.a Install anti-virus, anti-virus definitions, malware

9.b Install modem drivers and set up network connection

9.c Run Windows Update

9.e Create Restore Point

The Windows Update installer will have to download files to update itself, and then it will have to restart.

Method Two

Firewall Application

Blocking

Windows Update

9.a Install anti-virus, anti-virus definitions, malware, and firewall9.b Install modem drivers and set up network connection9.c Run Windows Update

9.e Create Restore Point

Comodo Firewall ProThe Windows Update installer will have to download files to update itself, and then it will have to restart.

Method Three

Windows Update

Manual Install

9.a Install anti-virus,  anti-virus definitions, malware9.b Install modem drivers and set up network connection9.c Run Windows Update

9.d Install SP1 manually

9.e Create Restore Point

The Windows Update installer will have to download files to update itself, and then it will have to restart.

Method Four

Manual Install

Windows

Update

9.d Install SP1 manually9.e Create Restore Point9.a Install anti-virus, anti-virus definitions, malware

9.b Install modem drivers and set up network connection

9.c Run Windows Update

 

Method Five

(Stand-alone)

Manual Install

9.d Install SP1 manually9.e Create Restore Point

 

9.a Install anti-virus, malware, and firewall (optional)

Install your anti-virus, spyware, and adware. Restart the computer if prompted before connecting to the Internet. Don't forget to configure the anti-virus app to set the scan sensitivity. Set it to High or maximum for a thorough scan and set the real-time protection to High. If you have a file containing virus definitions, load these now.

If you have a third-party firewall you want to use instead of Windows Firewall, install it now.

9.b Setup and configure network connection.

Install your modem/network drivers. Create and configure your network connection(s).

9.c Run Window Update to scan for new drivers and updates.

Next, connect to the Internet and use Windows Update to scan for drivers and updates. Use Windows Server Update Services or the System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) if available and if the computer is networked on a local Intranet. The discussion below is centered on those using Windows Update.

It had been so long since I started Windows Update manually that I had completely forgotten about its strange behavior. The Windows Update Window will show that it is looking for updates, and then it will close. It took me awhile to remember that although it appears that Windows Update has died a look at the notification icons on the taskbar shows that Windows Update is busy downloading updates (Figure B).

Figure B

Task Manager shows Windows Update process wuaudt.exe running.
When I ran Windows Update after installing SP1, there were 28 important updates (Figure C) and thirteen of those were security updates (Figure D). I asked if there was a way to get the security updates created after SP1 in a downloadable cumulative security update file and was told that they are available only via Windows Update.

Figure C

Windows Update Window shows 28 important updates, totaling 159.4 MB after manually installing Vista SP1.

Figure D

Clicking View Available Updates reveals the 28 important updates since the release of SP1 -- already marked for update.

9.d Install SP1 manually (optional).

Install the service pack from either a disc or a file. A manual install of Vista SP1 (Figure E) requires about 7GB of free space for the 32-bit version and 13GB for the 64-bit version.

Figure E

These updates are installed after manually installing Vista SP1.

9.e Create a new Restore Point.

After SP1 is successfully loaded, I immediately create another restore point manually and call it Clean Install with SP1 or a similar identifiable name. I do this before installing any drivers and apps. I know I will be installing a lot of drivers and apps and some of those, like video card drivers and apps, may be problematic. If I begin to have problems after loading numerous apps and drivers, it is nice to be able to go back to the Clean Install with SP1 point and restart loading the apps and drivers.

Please read Remove All Remnants of the Windows Vista SP1 Installation by Greg Shultz for instructions about how you can recover disk space gobbled up by the SP1 installer.

10. Reload your drivers and apps.

One thing is almost certain now that Windows has been reinstalled -- some of the generic drivers that Windows has installed are not optimal. If you are lucky enough to have an auto-update utility from your motherboard manufacturer, install the latest version that you downloaded earlier, connect to the Internet, and fire up the update app.

Do NOT update the BIOS. This option may be available in your motherboard update app and it may be called a BIOS update, but it is more commonly known as a BIOS flash. A BIOS flash is not a driver update. You also want to avoid any option labeled Update All.

Next, pull out your list of drivers requiring manual installation and install them now.

I keep my apps on a separate logical drive labeled Vista x64 Apps. It is a good idea to now go to the logical drive/folder where you keep your app files and wipe it clean. This is the fastest way to clean out the deadwood files that you will never use again. If you have all your apps on one logical drive and nothing else is stored there, it is best to format the logical drive before reloading your apps. Some programs like your newsreader usually store information like group messages on this logical drive. Export this information to your \Archive folder if you don't want to lose it before formatting the logical drive.

If you are running Intel's Matrix RAID, install the Intel Matrix Storage Manager.

It is finally time to reload all your applications. Take a peek at the desktop JPEG you created earlier or use a list of your core apps to determine what apps you want to install. Install to a fully formatted non-system logical drive.

There are two basic strategies when reloading your apps. You can reload the apps you use the most and load additional apps when needed or load a full list of apps up front. I prefer to load the core apps and load additional apps only when needed.

Take it from experience -- it is not a good idea to load a lot of apps requiring a system restart and postpone the restart. Install a few at a time, restart the computer, and see if all is still well. If you do find a problem, you can return to the last known good restore point or uninstall the offending app. If you find no problems, consider manually creating a new restore point.

Don't forget to reload your e-mail messages, e-mail contacts, browser favorites, and other data that you exported earlier back into your newly reloaded apps.

The final word

Even a casual glance at this list reveals that loading Windows is the easy part of your reinstall project. The prep work and configuration will occupy most of your time; plan the actual date and time of the install accordingly.

There is one more final bit of housekeeping to do. If you reinstalled Windows in a folder with an existing installation of Windows, you should decide what to do with the Windows.old folder. You will not find this folder if there was insufficient space on your system partition during the Windows setup.

If you are reinstalling Vista, the Windows.old folder will be too large for a single-layer DVD but may fit on a dual-layer DVD. You can archive it to a backup drive, or if you have followed the steps carefully in this article and are satisfied that you have all your Windows-specific data, simply zap it into oblivion.

Congratulations! By completing the 10 steps outlined here, you have prepared your computer for years of maintenance-free service. You have also protected yourself from data loss due to a hard drive failure.

Author's Note:

I would like to thank:

  • Microsoft for their technical help with my Vista SP1 questions.
  • Michael at Comodo for his advice and "sanity check" of my firewall rules.

TechRepublic's Windows Vista Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista development, as well as a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

171 comments
mrs4mis
mrs4mis

One "gotcha" to include is to decrypt any locally encrypted files as the SID used to encrypt them will no longer exist if you reformat and reinstall. Messy.

tonycopp
tonycopp

pick the highest price that anyone has ever paid for Vista ultimate, double it, and pay me; it still wouldn't be worth my business use changing from either my Win 2k or XP systems...after ibm and cisco gets through with their respective server scenarios, micro$oft will be heading to being a penny stock. ibm has some serious issues paying mr. gates and his eula cruelas after their early 80's deula ..five years after I bought an IBM t23 at a computer show from a vendor, they bother to tell me that my XP may not be genuine...thanks for the timely tip..I'll go back to get my money back and stay right there! I'll be getting out my checkbook when his clears. pathetic business practice.

bodhitree2
bodhitree2

One of the most critical things to remember is to either 'return' the licence key or use a program's 'activation uninstaller' where the program originally required online activation and has this feature, e.g. Adobe products, Window Blinds, etc. This will prevent your fresh installation of the application being viewed as an additional installation (which may not be allowed by the online activation process).

abookcliff
abookcliff

RE and RE is the most expensive hoax perpetuated on dumb consumers in history. You say 40+ hours for you, and you are an experienced professional, most people would take more time.(TOOK ME CLOSER TO 100 HOURS UNTIL IT WAS WHERE I WANTED IT) In most instances that is worth more than a whole new computer system - poor economics at best..Where else but in the computer industry, is the consumer epected to pay big bucks for something and then every year or so pay more than the original purchase price just to keep it working?????INSANITY!!! Do the numbers -40+ hours times between $15.00 and $50.00 per hour= a just case for telling msoft and their cohorts, where to shove this expensive luxury. At that rate they should be giving the equipment and OS away for free.What happened to fix it?

reisen55
reisen55

I have created GHOST images of three operating systems for my primary system and Vista proved the most troublesome, both to create and then restore XP from. My solution is simple and elegant. When ready to GHOST Vista, just go to DOS and run three commands as below..... bcdedit /set {bootmgr} devuce boot bcdedit /set {default} devuce boot bcdedit /set {default} osdevice boot Then GHOST vista, corporate edition works best. 2. To image XP backup, just use an old WIN98 boot floppy and FDISK target drive. Works like a charm.

jwcnky
jwcnky

I have had computers since the Tandy TR3 and Deskmate software you loaded and ran on a floppy. I have backups on multiple hard drives and CDs. While I have had to wipe and reload a few times, having a backup sitting by the computer or in a cabinet would not do a bit of good in case of a fire in this trailer as it would only take about 5 minutes to destroy everything including the backups. So having a backup copy at a different location is a #1 must! Consider it.

cquirke
cquirke

"Just re-install Windows" is often used as a magic fix for undiagnosed problems. When these problems are caused by flaky hardware, the result is likely to be (at best) temporary relief followed by bit-rot, or (at worst) an unbootable mess due to barfed code. On the topic of "just" re-installing Windows, see... http://cquirke.mvps.org/reinst.htm ...which is general and fairly dated, and... http://cquirke.blogspot.com/2008/07/xp-repair-install.html ...which is more specific to XP in modern times.

samjco
samjco

I found that if you partition your harddrive before installing to a C: (atleast 14-20 gb) and D: (left over GBs)and install windows on the C: but set your programs to install to the D: (registry hack) , then you system become more optimize and doesn't slow over time as new programs or updateds are installed in future.

mcedwards57
mcedwards57

DEFRAG - you should do this after you have reinstalled windows, and before you reinstall all your apps because the installation process leaves your OS drive badly defragmented. The windows defrag program will not properly rectify this if you go ahead and just reinstall everything without defragging during the process.

Tharg
Tharg

"If you are still using dial-up you might be able to download the 32-bit version, but it would be easier to have a friend with broadband download the 64-bit version for you". 434.5 MB download over dial-up? That would take about 24 hours assuming the connection doesn't get reset (which it will). Anyway, assuming you want the *32-bit version* and have dial up....why is it easier to ask a friend to get the *64 bit version* for you?

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

"Install anti-virus, malware, and firewall" is optional? I don't think so. You don't need to export contacts and other stuff in Outlook. It's already part of the single data file (.PST). You may want to use the "Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard" in Office 2003 to save your settings and then import into the new Office install. SAve yourself plenty of time. Create 2 partitions. Chang the default path of My Documents to the second partition and make sure you save everything to that drive.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

If I reload a ghost image or a acronis image, I'm typically using outdated drivers. I'm a driver fanatic ad I always use the latest versions from nVidia/Intel?AMD/whoever. The time I spend load a ghost/acronis image PLUS the time spent uninstalling old drivers and reinstalling new drivers is essentially just as time consuming as starting from scratch. Of course in my corporate enviroment I reinstall via windows imaging services with xp sp3 and I depend on microsoft updates for most drivers and updates.

reisen55
reisen55

I am writing from a medical office in Orange County, NY wherein I have just tested a SERVER CRASH. Weekends are great for such work and my plan was, and verified to work as, using GHOST to image a small business server (two SATA drives), Drive 0 (os) and Drive 1 (data). This has been a careful project, but this morning I confirmed proper backups of all data, downed the Dell PowerEdge 1800 system and pulled Drive 0. Set aside. Installed it's twin drive from approx 2 weeks ago and rebooted. Then copied appropriate staff data to the new system and tested - beautiful. WORKS LIKE A CHARM. So not only with Windows XP Pro will I endorse GHOST but also, where appropriate, Windows Servers. You must know your backup and restore procedures in full. I commend this to any independent technician who fears a BSOD on a server at 2am. I can restore this office in 20 minutes flat.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

I will just bring out my system image that I create for a clean system and reinstall everything in 20 minutes flat. Edit - Mind you don't need to that often.

JV711
JV711

Every go browsing thru the registery? That crap never gets cleaned out when you un-install apps. And they are many dishonest spyware apps, like Macromedia that do not even have uninstall icons in control panel. So, the only way to be fast, clean, and free again, is to FDISK and re-install from scratch. I don't even use imaging s/w like Norton Ghost - why would you want to pour that same old corruption back in? Make a list of your favorite apps, and if you can't remember them - you don't need them. If you try this tehnique, you might discover that your old 32 bit, 2GB of RAM system runs Windows XP just fine and you dont have to buy new HW all over again every 18 months. Unless you love to (I do)... that's another post...

husserl
husserl

Why not image the drive, and regularly restore when MS release a service pack or major security update, and then re-image? I cannot understand why people inflict so much pain on themselves, really I cannot.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Well don't get me wrong as I'm not defending M$ here in the slightest but lets look The Auto Industry you buy a new car and then have to pay for the services and parts that get replaced as well as an Expensive Mechanic and the Workshop full of Specialized tools that they require to do their work. If you look at the cost of Auto Parts you could buy up to 10 complete new cars for the cost of the Parts to build one. Not to mention the Labor involved in building it. The Building Industry where you build a new House and then pay Rates on the Land it is sitting on not to mention constantly needing to repaint the thing or replace anything that breaks. The Air Conditioning Industry where you buy an expensive Split System take it home and then when you open the Boxes and that it's not only incomplete but that you have to pay a Professional Installer to install it. Then when it is installed you pay through the nose to run it in Electricity Bills. The Pool Industry where when you get a Domestic Swimming Pool installed you then need to buy a Creepy Crawly to keep it clean not to mention the weekly swath of chemicals that you need to pour into the Pool so that it is Usable or the cost of the Electricity to run the Pumps to keep it clean. Medicine where when you go in for an Operation you are getting bills from different people for anything up to a year afterward. Not only do you pay the Surgeon but you also pay the Hospital the Nursing Staff employed by the Hospital in the Theater and then the Recovery Wards after wards. The Guy pumping the Gas to keep you asleep so you are unaware of what is going on [b]Hopefully![/b] The Surgeons Assistant just in case something happens to the surgeon while you are opened up. Cleaning of the Instruments used that are owned by the Hospital to begin with. The Pathology done while you are on the Table opened and latter. The Drugs that are pumped into you while in the Hospital and on and on. :) When it comes to Computers it's not the computer you are trying to protect it is the Data contained on the Computer that is the only thing that has any value to people at all. The Piece of Silicon and Plastics can be replaced in a few minutes but the Data on the System can never be replaced when it is lost. Col

reisen55
reisen55

Vista tends to lock the hard drive it is installed on and GHOST cannot really deal with that, at leat the versions I have. Using an old old DOS boot and FDISK at least totally blows everything away. DOS is still good for a few tricks these days. So when I am ready to dump Vista and return to XP, I just temporarily let DOS do what it is good at and then GHOST back up. Tomorrow I am visiting two major accounts with a colleague to perform my annual GHOST pilgrimage and create images of every single computer in their office.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You haven't got backups unless you've made arangements for an off-site backup storage. Bank safe deposit boxes are good for the small to media businesses. ;)

dreron
dreron

True; defragler from piriform does it nicely and is free

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Everyone has their own comfort level for how big a file they will download over dial-up. For me, if it will fit on a CD it is fair game, but I only download 100+ MB files if they are a necessity. I use Free Download Manager. It is a bit flaky initially with IE integration but once working it does an excellent job. I haven't had a problem with any file downloads being reset on Microsoft servers. I'm guessing here but the 32 bit version of SP1 should be in most people's comfort zone since it can be downloaded in two days. If you are running 32 bit Vista and are on dial-up, downloading the 32 bit version of Vista is reasonable. If you are running the 64 bit version of Vista, most people would be better off ordering the disc or asking for a friend or family member to download it for you. I have to admit - it is a little bit crazy trying to download a 726.5 MB over dial-up.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I think that you are exactly right, especially with a new OS like Vista. If an image of Vista had been made one year ago with some basic apps, most of the drivers would be two or more versions old and you would be imaging Firefox 2. The image ages with time. Also, once you start uninstalling and reinstalling drivers and apps you are prematurely aging the clean installation.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But when you are [b][i]Helped[/b][/i] it often takes considerably longer. I've seen several places who use the Cloned Drive to get back up & Running and then trash the OS again and then complain when it takes you ages to rebuild the OS. Col

husserl
husserl

The point about using a bootable imaging device is that you don't need to install the parent software in windows. It has to be bootable of course, because it and not windows has to be responsible for locking down files. IOW, if you run from within windows you are not imaging windows as a static item. Ghost? Well it is a part of the bloatware corporation. Isn't it? Even the free alternatives are leagues ahead, Linux rescue discs included with respect.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Make the image immediately after the installation, not just before the re-install. Then you don't "pour the same old corruption back in". Personally, I've run my XP Home system for six years without a single reinstall or drop in performance.

Tearat
Tearat

I use image files Is for quick recovery from a virus infection I have not had to do that yet because I take care and have been lucky It can happen to anyone no matter how careful you are Another reason is to test software I like to back up to an image Then if I have a problem with the new software I can restore everything in a short period of time

Tearat
Tearat

An existing system Is testing some new software that you wish to add to or install on a working PC It will allow you to recover to where you were before the test/trial I did this before I applied SP3 to this computer I am using You can image the clean install so you can go back and use that to setup your computer if/when you start to have problems But you need to create another image or backup all your files before you setup your computer again Also it is good to have another image that contains your latest changes, up dates and data You can have lots of image files that are from different times It depends on the space you have to work with For safety the image files should have a backup on disk or another PC There is no need to keep the images on the same computer in a different partition or hard drive But that depends on what network, backup device or method you use You may all know that husserl But other people who read these forums may not Cheers Steve

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But using a existing Install to Clone from is never a good idea. Once you start to alter the OS from it's [b]New Clean Install Status[/b] you have changes things like Lost files and Registry Bloat have started and all you are achieving then is to copy the problems. I don't have a problem with creating an Image after a Clean Install of everything but making an image from a used working OS like Windows just isn't a very good idea. For that reason alone I would avoid using Images made for altered OS's. Col

Tearat
Tearat

That looks a lot like two wrongs make a right But that was not the point You just listed most of the rip off industries As for the software industry and software screw-ups I would compare it to the publishing industry It would be a shame if the document with all the spelling errors and other mistakes was the one being used to fix the safety equipment in your car or any other vehicle you use for transport The shame is on the companies who keep making the same types of mistakes over and over Want to take a guess on when we can expect the software corps to finally stop screwing up Because they realise their production methods actually do need to improve Improvement is not how to do it for a lower cost

JCitizen
JCitizen

I have with XP in the past; but then I was dealing with cheap Maxtor hard drives too. Just wondering. Thanks for all you input to the discussion!

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

You can't beat a standard hard drive, an esata cable and your desk drawer at work! :)

reisen55
reisen55

I keep the offsite backups for my clients, on SATA drives that are stored on my desk and thus OFF-LINE almost all of the time. Best security going at least in so far as internet access is concerned. PERIODIC RESTORATION testing too. DO NOT store over the internet, at least for small business. I have over 140 gb of eye images for one account and to copy that up and, worse, restore back at 2am (and if there is no internet, guess what really does not work) is idiotic and insane. NEVER use a USB key either. Easy to lose. How many men bend over to tie their shoes and have stuff fall out of their shirt pocket? Nope, I use 2.5 or 3.5 drives and keep them in my care, redundancy on my home network too.

reisen55
reisen55

I got hit by a little worm last month, bratsk.exe and that experience = a reinstall, but I thought about and used the opportunity to build a PERFECT CLEAN Windows XP Professional build, fully patched, with all basic software installed and THEN made and saved that ghost image. So should I EVER have to reinstall again, I can do so in 10 minutes. I keep the ghost image on the secondary hard drive for fast access. I don't like doing so, but sometimes it is necessary. By the way, running XP for six years without a reinstall????? Either you are very lucky, very well managed or blind to the stuff that could be tucked away inside of it.

husserl
husserl

Which leads us to another point; backup to more than just onsite HDs, but there is a problem with the IT equivalent of stone, supposedly an optical disc; whereas stone weathers, the same is true of the chemicals in optical disc foil. I used to use a tape drive, and felt happy with it. Now I don't feel comfortable with the offsite stored opticals that I have, and newer high density formats, well... ...plus I have 18 years of files backed up, and the storage space needed for each new generation has increased massively.

husserl
husserl

That's why I always back track to a 'clean' install. I do my installation in a single session, applications included. Thereafter I revert whenever necessary and continue the building process. Purism in this instance would not work, since there is no such a thing as an unaltered OS, unless you install, reboot, then image, which is folly because there are no updates (though it merits bearing in mind that SP1-3 can be streamlined), there is no security worth speaking of; a host of secondary matters, such as file explorer options, viewing options and so on remain irritatingly as Microsoft intended. The destruction takes place from the moment of installation. There is no such thing as a clean, fully functional registry. A careful look shows conflicts from the earliest moment... ...because MS don't sort their act out properly.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Good points all. You are absolutely right about imaging a clean install. If you are going to create an image, create several after a clean install. Create one with Windows and your personalizations and create one with Windows, your personalizations and all the important security updates and any service packs. I have downloaded and tried a copy of Acronis True Image Home and I am dissapointed. The 'Bootable Rescue' CD it creates doesn't recognize my Intel Matrix RAID volumes and there is no way to load the RAID drivers. That makes it totally useless to me. I'm not going to try streamlining as a solution either. Downloading a product like vLite and the 1.37 GB Microsoft WAIK isn't going to happen on dial-up.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I've read articles bragging how fast USB 2.0 is compared to IDE, but I haven't really looked into it; the convenience of just pluging the HP drive module into the front of the machine is tempting. Last time I got into that unit, I didn't even see an IDE connection on the mobo. With all the media hardware and cable ready crap I got in it, there is barely room to breath! I'm surprised I don't have heat problems! It already has a terabyte of storage between two SATA drives, but with high definition video, I think that can be eaten up quickly. I really appreciate you'all and your input!

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Is that they are cheaper to fit into USB Enclosures and for some reason the USB IDE Enclosure seem more reliable than the SATA ones do. At the moment at least. I've had 2 SATA Enclosures fail in under 3 months for the Part Time use that I give them once a week to run a backup while the IDE ones have yet to fail. Not the cheap nasty ones either than cost $5.00 but the expensive ones that I'm still waiting to be replaced since the beginning of December. Seems that the Wholesalers don't have stocks of the SATA enclosures either. :( The only thing I could see wrong with the 2 that I returned was that some Silicon Glue had come off where the SATA Data Lead enters the Circuit Board but I didn't test anything especially hard. :) Col

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

but yeah, why would one buy less than sata now unless they where limited by an old motherboard.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Yeah, I finally read my manual and these "pocket" and "personal drives" are just modularized USB boxes. :( Oh Well, the internal drives are SATA at least. Nobody sells anything less nowdays I'm sure. They will certainly make good back up alternatives.

reisen55
reisen55

My sanity check for backups is a layer of three, no more, no less. I have discovered that I can mentally manage three locations or areas without conflict. Thus: Primary storage location = Tier 1 Primary Backup Location = Tier 2 Redundant Backup = Tier 3. Any level beyond three destroys your ability to effectively manage. The only tier 4 level I consider is burning to DVD for long term storage.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I started with the family machine in highschool then every machine since until I move to SATA drives. Stuff the hard drives in removable boxes then swap in whichever bootable OS you want to load. VMs provide the same flexability today but being able to use SATA drives like removable media would be handy; if only when capturing an image of a failing drive during a recovery attempt.

JCitizen
JCitizen

and as soon as I saw it I was thinking of ordering one. I just can't decide which size, this crazy PC has two of them! When at A+ school year ago I learned the value of such gizmos. The dock is mounted internally but you pull the HD out the front of the PC, when taking it out for safe-keeping.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've been looking at them for a while and with the slide-in SATA bays in my NAS, it would be handy to be able to pull one of the mirrored drives and just plug it into a dock attached to my workstation. You can't have too many backup images.. provided they're kept securely.

reisen55
reisen55

I find your points interesting. I do it for a living. Welcome to the club. "Once one understands that Windows requires additional security" ... well, no brainer there. Where did you discover this nugget of basic truth? A bit of arrogance showing. Not difficult to keep it clean? You are kidding, right? It is a challenge to keep it clean, and there are new threats out there every single day. Take a look at the SANS institute. Shutting your computer down is a good thing. I do it too. Does not contribute to problems when it is on the internet. ... But as an IT professional, in the real world, how many CORPORATE COMPUTERS are connected to the internet when not in use??? I would say 0.000000005% if that. Judging by this standard, your system is indeed remarkably clean because you are living in a tech paradise. Real world is something else again. If you do this for a living, you have much catching up to do.

Tearat
Tearat

The service packs I am interested to know how you handled them What you wrote reminded me of the Windows ME computer owned by the mother of a friend Never been reinstalled once since it was sold All she uses it for is to read emails from friends and family It?s on dial up and hangs up after send and receive I had to replace the power supply last year I have not been back yet for any other problems But I think she is still using it Just win ME drivers and anti-virus I added some other anti-malware software

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

After all, I do it for a living. Once one understands and accepts that Windows requires additional security applications that other OS may not need, it isn't difficult to keep it clean. I also shut my computer down when not in use; it isn't connected to the Internet around the clock regardless of whether I'm using it.

husserl
husserl

Very witty but, clearly, you haven't lost your dissertation and experimental report in one fell swoop! :-) My Jumbo tape backup from the night before lost only my originality. Central Point undelete didn't find the strangely missing file, but their tape drive software saved my happy arse. I still have those cartridges in this office somewhere.

Tearat
Tearat

If it can be erased or altered that can happen If it can burn you have a risk The same thing happened with photos The chemicals affected the life of the photo I have not checked to see if the new chemicals are still ok But they could solve the problem with the disks You just have to do the best you can and keep the risk to a minimum Some solutions Could be a low cost disk maker that creates a physical disk pattern in the plastic or any other mechanical type recording High-powered lasers etching steel or something else Crystals may be the solution Vacuum or inert gas or liquid storage of the media Frozen maybe but that could cost too much Not sure where I heard about those Anyway if the bombs start going off you wont have to worry All that wonderful IT equipment could be scrap or only useful as art If you?re lucky and have lots of paper it could keep you warm and cook you a lovely pie So there you go something to smile about Same with this lovely recession Power costs too much The company?s going bust Move into the fuel market Paper firelighters Who knows the Husserl firelighters could be a huge hit Don?t know if anyone will want some with rat in the name I know Trat firelighters totally safe no rats or mice Something for people to remember Just for home or small business Trade backup copies with some one you trust You give them a copy and they give you a copy Both of you find a safe place to store them You can use a lockable container or safe There are lots of ways to keep them safe and secure You can always talk to your insurance company to find out about some of the better methods If anything happens it is unlikely that you will both be affected It works best if you both live a long way apart But remember that you may need them in a hurry It is cheaper than a lot of other solutions I just wanted to let people know that And I forgot to put it in my other reply

husserl
husserl

Well life's a bitch... ...I installed another HD on this machine yesterday and windows had a hissy fit. Because of the well known problem windows has with more than a specified amount of extra hardware items I'll take this opportunity to put a completely new installation in, and thus slim my backup volume down from 110 Gb to some 20, of fresh sequentials. See you next month. :->

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But you don't need to make things harder than necessary. To me a New Clean Install is the System ready to work after a reload. If we where to go out on a Limb and chase the Perfect Windows install it just doesn't exist anyway but it would require a new build every time that it was necessary to blow away the existing one and starting from scratch on a Wiped Drive just isn't a feasible alternative as I wouldn't have any time left to do any work and even worse no customers left after I bill them for all of the hours required to wipe and load from scratch. Personally I like to be economical with my time where possible it's cheaper for the customer that way. :D Col

husserl
husserl

Some people rate the freeware alternatives to Acronis but, for sure, given the fast moving changes to hardware there are always going to be problems. I have had them, but your and my problems (however irritating to us each) are anecdotal and do not necessarily reflect the broad market experience. To determine the truth of the matter it would be necessary to conduct a properly sampled survey.

Tearat
Tearat

I replied before reading your reply But I see I expanded on what you wrote People need to remember Backup Backup the backup Then if in doubt backup the backup of the backup Thanks for Article