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How often do you reformat your personal computer?

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Stephen Wheeler

Reformatting the OS disc is a huge job, so I avoid it like the plague! Re-installing the OS means:
- Cleaning up (e.g. deleting outdated and duplicate files), then backing up user(s) data (>1 hr. per user)
- Backing up application data (e.g. browser settings and bookmarks - 1/2 hr. per user, not including the time taken to persuade other users to get on with it. Thankfully this activity is becoming obsolete as the price and capacity of laptops has improved so much and application writers have made backing up simpler)
- Cataloging all frequently used applications and extensions - then making sure you have the latest versions on removable media (6 to 8 hrs.) - or licence information and download locations if you want to download
- Cataloging all drivers and making sure you have the latest versions on removable media. The last time I did a OS re-install I assumed that a printer driver would be available on-line. Wrong! The manufacturer had withdrawn support for the printer and I could not find a replacement - cost: 1 new printer! (5 to 6 hrs)
- Re-format disc and partition if wanted (highly variable depending on size and speed of disc(s), but lets say 2 hrs)
- Install operating system (>2 hrs last time I tried)
- Configure OS (>2 hrs last time).
- Instal security apps. (Firewall, Anti-V, Anti-S,) and configure (1 to 2 hrs).
- Instal major apps. (Browser, Office Automation, Media Player, programming tools, mail extension, softphone, Adobe readers / players, etc. (again highly variable but the last time I had to do this it took at least 3 hrs)
- Launch each major application and re-install extensions and settings (last time this took me, on a single user system, about 4 1/2 hrs).
- Instal frequently used minor applications and drivers such as printers, external drives, Scanner, MP3 player, Dig. Camera, etc. and test all hardware (about another 5 hours).
- Put back data (about an hour per user).
- Optional: Scan & Defrag - another 6 to 8 hours.

I therefore, conservatively, estimate that it will take me 40 hours to re-instal my OS. Some people will say that this can be reduced by good housekeeping - which is true, but not by much in the overall scheme of things.

As my last re-instal demonstrates, it must be done properly or you can find yourself shelling out for some serious costs (lost printer driver = new printer and ink).

Some of my times may seem a little long to some people - I think my HD may be underpowered for the number of apps I ask it to run, but otherwise I stand by them.

Also, like most people, I don't always fully document and re-instal every setting and application. Usually this is because time is too short. I (therefore) always end up losing productivity (or leisure) time in addition to the above. This lost time later - when you have to try and remember how you did it before - sometimes means finding and re-installing some obscure minor app.. These are particularly bothersome because they take so long and you always find out when you have a deadline!

If you keep your security software up-to-date, and scan and defrag your media on a regular basis re-installing the OS should really only be necessary for tech guys who need to experiment with OSs, and people recovering from virusi or cack-handed users.