Questions

How often should Windows be re-installed?

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Locked

How often should Windows be re-installed?

pctech498
How often would you say a PC should be formatted and Windows re-installed?
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    Mehul Bhai

    If you maintain your PC well, then never.

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    pctech498

    I do understand that if a PC is well maintained then Windows should never need to be reinstalled. However, from my experience, a well-maintained installation of Windows is not too common. End users seem to focus more on accomplishing tasks than performing maintenance. I am interested in find out what technical support people and consultants usually recommend to clients. Just being curious.

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    cmiller5400

    Only after the system crashes. ]:)

    My home Win XP Pro install has been running since 2004. No issues. And I have installed and uninstalled countless AV apps and other software with no ill effects.

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    OH Smeg

    Sorry I don't know what one of those is.

    My current version of XP Pro has been running for 2 years now which is as long as I have had this computer.

    A customer who has a iPod and likes to download Music had his computer back for 20 minutes before he managed to infect the thing and destroy the OS after I had just finished reloading the thing.

    So I suppose the correct answer is anywhere between when they first start using the computer and when it crashes and no longer boots you need to reinstall the OS.

    I just use the guide of when it starts to give problems that can not be quickly fixed. If it takes more than 30 minutes to fix a Windows Install I reload as it's cheaper for the customer.

    Col

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    Churdoo

    Re-install only as a last resort.

    The skillset of the user is irrelevant because when it crashes they would bring it to a tech for repair. So it's the technician's ability or philosophy that governs whether or how often windows should be re-installed.

    I will go out of my way to repair an O/S rather than re-install to avoid several pitfalls
    a. many users do not have proper backups of their data
    b. many users have not maintained CD's or product keys for all if their software
    c. I don't want to cause the user to re-do any/all settings/customizations they may have done to the O/S and/or applications

    I and the rest of my guys will repair the O/S, and it is only the extremely rare case where we shamefully re-install.
    My two cents for what it's worth.
    --C

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    pctech498

    But what if it takes longer to repair than to perform a re-install? For example, I've seen a PC that was so corrupt that it took me about an hour and a half to boot the computer and install printer drivers. Cleaning up the hard drive and defragmenting were pointless. The system was running too slow and had too many errors.

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    Churdoo

    Well I did admit that ... "occasionally" we throw in the towel and reinstall, but the decision is not based on a straight-line comparison of re-install time versus repair time; there are a lot more variables than just time of repair versus time of re-install that contribute to overall value or service to the end client.

    If the computer is relatively new and adequate, between re-install time, punch in updates and service packs, an antivirus, standard freebie readers/players can be done, Office or other productivity software, let's just say about an hour and a half for the sake of argument. Are we suggesting that any corruption or infestation that may take over an hour and a half to repair will result in a re-install?

    In a business environment this could be the case since it's the job of IT in the business environment to be able to withstand failures and to quickly recover from them, whether on a single workstation level or even the whole infrastructure. It's stressed on a biz workstation to adhere to standards and is generally discouraged to overly customize or personalize, and so a re-install or re-image is a viable solution in many biz cases.

    What I'm talking about however is some home user who may call for a one-off repair due to corruption or infestation. What about the state the computer was in before the corruption/infestation; user data, software, settings, personalizations, cached passwords, etc.? Even if you do a pretty good job of copying data from the user's profile ... my docs, shared docs, IE fav's, desktop, OE or Outlook data, even the user's wallpaper, there is still a risk of the user having stored docs in a non-standard location, software that the user may or may not have the install CD's and/or product keys readily available for, a host of settings/personalizations/cached passwords not only in the O/S but in other software that the user has, and there's no way to completely discover everything the user has and restore it to a state just prior to the malady.

    IMHO the job of a good tech when a workstation is brought in for repair is to REPAIR, and the definition of repair is to return the object working and to a state reasonably close to condition it was in just prior to the problem. Returning a workstation in which the O/S is returned to default settings, and other software is either at default settings or missing, is not a repair, and could arguably be a dis-service to the end client.

    We will go through many pains to be sure that on the very few occasions that we're ready to re-install, that we've done everything we can possibly think of to attempt to return the workstation to a state better than it was before the issue originally started.
    --C

    edited typo

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    OH Smeg

    But the Costs involved in fixing the thing. After all there are very few Domestic Users willing to pay 4K to recover those Must Have Pictures of the Grandkids when their HDD fails and they don't have a backup.

    It's the techs fault that they lost these pictures not theirs. Also you have to be sensible here you do not spend 6 Hours at $75.00 per hour repairing something that can be replaced with a new computer for $500.00.

    Today many people see computers as White Goods and consider their cost as the Important thing. They do not consider the cost of the Data on the HDD as important because their Time is Free to them.

    Business on the other hand sees the Data as the Valuable thing with any computer system and works on how much it's going to cost to keep that Data Usable.

    OH and BTW there are only 2 types of Computer users those who have lost all of their Data and those who are going to loose all of their data.

    Col

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    Michael Jay

    discover a new religion, called backup.

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    OH Smeg

    Of course they still blame the Tech because they lost all of their Data but at least after the event they Religiously follow the Religion of Always Having a Current Backup.

    Doesn't matter how many times you told them before the accident happened they never believe you so they have to experience the loss to do the right thing.

    Col

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    OH Smeg

    Windows slows down over time. If it's a Commercial App then there shouldn't be a problem as there isn't lots of stuff being added and removed but domestic installations are a different kettle of fish.

    With all Domestic Installs of Windows 12 to 18 Months is about the limit before the OS Starts slowing down to the stage where things get nasty and the Registry gets so crapped out that it needs reloading.

    Of course if you just load the system and then never make any changes except Service Packs and Hot Patches then you can leave the system till a Hot Patch messes up the system so badly that it needs reloading.

    Col

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    seanferd

    Just so you stay in practice.

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    .Martin.

    daily, that way they'll be REALLY good at it.

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    seanferd

    Windows crash?

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    OH Smeg

    Every 2 or 3 hours?

    That way just as it is finished installing you can start again.

    Col

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    Who Am I Really

    will do all that work for you

    with Drive Vaccine, you set it up to restore to a good clean previously setup configuration,
    at every boot, reboot/restart, log off, or after a certain time frame has passed

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    .Martin.

    as reinstalling manually.

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    seanferd

    But I revised my thought and said, "weekly". I guess I should have gone with my initial instinct, eh?

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    .Martin.

    I've seen (large) companies that re-image computers everytime they boot, to companies that only do it when the computer needs it (i.e., 15 years).

    for a home user, I would usually say every 12 months (or when something goes wrong).

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    TheChas

    In reality, the primary thing that you do when you format your system and install Windows is to end up with a clean and compact registry.

    Depending on how often you install, remove and update hardware and software, your Windows system can run fine for weeks or years. As the registry grows, it takes up more physical and virtual memory. Once the registry fills enough RAM that applications slow down, it is time for a clean install.

    Of course, a serious virus or mal-ware infestation can require a full clean installation too.

    A good registry cleaner can help extend how long you can go between clean installs. Just be careful not to over-clean.

    Chas

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    pctech498

    As stated before, time is an issue. For those of you who say that Windows never needs to be re-installed, how much time do you usually spend on repairs?

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    Churdoo

    Your original post was titled "How often should ..." as if to suggest that it's a given that all Windows O/S "should" be re-installed at some pre-defined interval. Although I know there a lot of techs out there that share this belief, I and at least one other poster :-) simply choose not to subscribe to this belief.

    To answer your question about time, our repairs in many cases aren't any higher billable hours than another tech's repair that ends in a re-install, and wherever possible we return the unit with all 3rd party software installed and functional, client data/music/photos/cached passwords intact, IE fav's intact, user themes and preferences not reverted to defaults, etc., i.e. the system is returned as closely as possible to the state it was in before the particular malady began. Our re-call or re-open rate is very low -- a re-call from a client is a cardinal sin and the tech will be harrassed by me and everyone else in the company!

    Note: we don't bill for time spent watching progress bars, and a tech had better grab other work off the shelf and work something else knowing they'll have 2 hours of progress bar while a rig is doing a malware scan. This helps keep the touch time or billable time reasonable, even in the case of a serious infestation.

    The first thing that we do is to set up and educate our clients to minimize the risk of certain corruptions and/or infestations. Second, we have consiously honed our recovery skills to maximize our rate of recovery of a corrupted or infested system. Sure you can't get around a hardware HDD failure (but even here there are techniques to give yourself a window of opportunity for recovery), and I admit that there is an occasional infestation or corruption that kicks our a$$ and we have to re-install, but that path is an absolute last resort and very few and far between for us.

    Occasionally there is a repair that takes an inordinate amount of time, again rare, and the client typically appreciates our efforts to minimize their inconvenience. Our clients don't want their themes/preferences/software/etc. reset to defaults, and our client retention rate speaks for itself.

  • +
    0 Votes
    Mehul Bhai

    If you maintain your PC well, then never.

    +
    0 Votes
    pctech498

    I do understand that if a PC is well maintained then Windows should never need to be reinstalled. However, from my experience, a well-maintained installation of Windows is not too common. End users seem to focus more on accomplishing tasks than performing maintenance. I am interested in find out what technical support people and consultants usually recommend to clients. Just being curious.

    +
    0 Votes
    cmiller5400

    Only after the system crashes. ]:)

    My home Win XP Pro install has been running since 2004. No issues. And I have installed and uninstalled countless AV apps and other software with no ill effects.

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Sorry I don't know what one of those is.

    My current version of XP Pro has been running for 2 years now which is as long as I have had this computer.

    A customer who has a iPod and likes to download Music had his computer back for 20 minutes before he managed to infect the thing and destroy the OS after I had just finished reloading the thing.

    So I suppose the correct answer is anywhere between when they first start using the computer and when it crashes and no longer boots you need to reinstall the OS.

    I just use the guide of when it starts to give problems that can not be quickly fixed. If it takes more than 30 minutes to fix a Windows Install I reload as it's cheaper for the customer.

    Col

    +
    0 Votes
    Churdoo

    Re-install only as a last resort.

    The skillset of the user is irrelevant because when it crashes they would bring it to a tech for repair. So it's the technician's ability or philosophy that governs whether or how often windows should be re-installed.

    I will go out of my way to repair an O/S rather than re-install to avoid several pitfalls
    a. many users do not have proper backups of their data
    b. many users have not maintained CD's or product keys for all if their software
    c. I don't want to cause the user to re-do any/all settings/customizations they may have done to the O/S and/or applications

    I and the rest of my guys will repair the O/S, and it is only the extremely rare case where we shamefully re-install.
    My two cents for what it's worth.
    --C

    +
    0 Votes
    pctech498

    But what if it takes longer to repair than to perform a re-install? For example, I've seen a PC that was so corrupt that it took me about an hour and a half to boot the computer and install printer drivers. Cleaning up the hard drive and defragmenting were pointless. The system was running too slow and had too many errors.

    +
    0 Votes
    Churdoo

    Well I did admit that ... "occasionally" we throw in the towel and reinstall, but the decision is not based on a straight-line comparison of re-install time versus repair time; there are a lot more variables than just time of repair versus time of re-install that contribute to overall value or service to the end client.

    If the computer is relatively new and adequate, between re-install time, punch in updates and service packs, an antivirus, standard freebie readers/players can be done, Office or other productivity software, let's just say about an hour and a half for the sake of argument. Are we suggesting that any corruption or infestation that may take over an hour and a half to repair will result in a re-install?

    In a business environment this could be the case since it's the job of IT in the business environment to be able to withstand failures and to quickly recover from them, whether on a single workstation level or even the whole infrastructure. It's stressed on a biz workstation to adhere to standards and is generally discouraged to overly customize or personalize, and so a re-install or re-image is a viable solution in many biz cases.

    What I'm talking about however is some home user who may call for a one-off repair due to corruption or infestation. What about the state the computer was in before the corruption/infestation; user data, software, settings, personalizations, cached passwords, etc.? Even if you do a pretty good job of copying data from the user's profile ... my docs, shared docs, IE fav's, desktop, OE or Outlook data, even the user's wallpaper, there is still a risk of the user having stored docs in a non-standard location, software that the user may or may not have the install CD's and/or product keys readily available for, a host of settings/personalizations/cached passwords not only in the O/S but in other software that the user has, and there's no way to completely discover everything the user has and restore it to a state just prior to the malady.

    IMHO the job of a good tech when a workstation is brought in for repair is to REPAIR, and the definition of repair is to return the object working and to a state reasonably close to condition it was in just prior to the problem. Returning a workstation in which the O/S is returned to default settings, and other software is either at default settings or missing, is not a repair, and could arguably be a dis-service to the end client.

    We will go through many pains to be sure that on the very few occasions that we're ready to re-install, that we've done everything we can possibly think of to attempt to return the workstation to a state better than it was before the issue originally started.
    --C

    edited typo

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    But the Costs involved in fixing the thing. After all there are very few Domestic Users willing to pay 4K to recover those Must Have Pictures of the Grandkids when their HDD fails and they don't have a backup.

    It's the techs fault that they lost these pictures not theirs. Also you have to be sensible here you do not spend 6 Hours at $75.00 per hour repairing something that can be replaced with a new computer for $500.00.

    Today many people see computers as White Goods and consider their cost as the Important thing. They do not consider the cost of the Data on the HDD as important because their Time is Free to them.

    Business on the other hand sees the Data as the Valuable thing with any computer system and works on how much it's going to cost to keep that Data Usable.

    OH and BTW there are only 2 types of Computer users those who have lost all of their Data and those who are going to loose all of their data.

    Col

    +
    0 Votes
    Michael Jay

    discover a new religion, called backup.

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Of course they still blame the Tech because they lost all of their Data but at least after the event they Religiously follow the Religion of Always Having a Current Backup.

    Doesn't matter how many times you told them before the accident happened they never believe you so they have to experience the loss to do the right thing.

    Col

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Windows slows down over time. If it's a Commercial App then there shouldn't be a problem as there isn't lots of stuff being added and removed but domestic installations are a different kettle of fish.

    With all Domestic Installs of Windows 12 to 18 Months is about the limit before the OS Starts slowing down to the stage where things get nasty and the Registry gets so crapped out that it needs reloading.

    Of course if you just load the system and then never make any changes except Service Packs and Hot Patches then you can leave the system till a Hot Patch messes up the system so badly that it needs reloading.

    Col

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    0 Votes
    seanferd

    Just so you stay in practice.

    +
    0 Votes
    .Martin.

    daily, that way they'll be REALLY good at it.

    +
    0 Votes
    seanferd

    Windows crash?

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Every 2 or 3 hours?

    That way just as it is finished installing you can start again.

    Col

    +
    0 Votes
    Who Am I Really

    will do all that work for you

    with Drive Vaccine, you set it up to restore to a good clean previously setup configuration,
    at every boot, reboot/restart, log off, or after a certain time frame has passed

    +
    0 Votes
    .Martin.

    as reinstalling manually.

    +
    0 Votes
    seanferd

    But I revised my thought and said, "weekly". I guess I should have gone with my initial instinct, eh?

    +
    0 Votes
    .Martin.

    I've seen (large) companies that re-image computers everytime they boot, to companies that only do it when the computer needs it (i.e., 15 years).

    for a home user, I would usually say every 12 months (or when something goes wrong).

    +
    0 Votes
    TheChas

    In reality, the primary thing that you do when you format your system and install Windows is to end up with a clean and compact registry.

    Depending on how often you install, remove and update hardware and software, your Windows system can run fine for weeks or years. As the registry grows, it takes up more physical and virtual memory. Once the registry fills enough RAM that applications slow down, it is time for a clean install.

    Of course, a serious virus or mal-ware infestation can require a full clean installation too.

    A good registry cleaner can help extend how long you can go between clean installs. Just be careful not to over-clean.

    Chas

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    0 Votes
    pctech498

    As stated before, time is an issue. For those of you who say that Windows never needs to be re-installed, how much time do you usually spend on repairs?

    +
    0 Votes
    Churdoo

    Your original post was titled "How often should ..." as if to suggest that it's a given that all Windows O/S "should" be re-installed at some pre-defined interval. Although I know there a lot of techs out there that share this belief, I and at least one other poster :-) simply choose not to subscribe to this belief.

    To answer your question about time, our repairs in many cases aren't any higher billable hours than another tech's repair that ends in a re-install, and wherever possible we return the unit with all 3rd party software installed and functional, client data/music/photos/cached passwords intact, IE fav's intact, user themes and preferences not reverted to defaults, etc., i.e. the system is returned as closely as possible to the state it was in before the particular malady began. Our re-call or re-open rate is very low -- a re-call from a client is a cardinal sin and the tech will be harrassed by me and everyone else in the company!

    Note: we don't bill for time spent watching progress bars, and a tech had better grab other work off the shelf and work something else knowing they'll have 2 hours of progress bar while a rig is doing a malware scan. This helps keep the touch time or billable time reasonable, even in the case of a serious infestation.

    The first thing that we do is to set up and educate our clients to minimize the risk of certain corruptions and/or infestations. Second, we have consiously honed our recovery skills to maximize our rate of recovery of a corrupted or infested system. Sure you can't get around a hardware HDD failure (but even here there are techniques to give yourself a window of opportunity for recovery), and I admit that there is an occasional infestation or corruption that kicks our a$$ and we have to re-install, but that path is an absolute last resort and very few and far between for us.

    Occasionally there is a repair that takes an inordinate amount of time, again rare, and the client typically appreciates our efforts to minimize their inconvenience. Our clients don't want their themes/preferences/software/etc. reset to defaults, and our client retention rate speaks for itself.