Tricks to make your reinstalls quicker

Lets face it. No matter what Microsoft (and Apple by the way) says, there are times where you just need to completely wipe your machine for everything thats on it, and start over.

In fact some people who are not afraid of messing with their pcs do reinstalls fairly often. Reinstalls are good for your pc. Reinstalling cleans up your mess. Reinstalling forces you to make a backup. Reinstalling cleans out bad things like virus and malware. And as an added bonus your pc will often feel like it got a speed boost as well because a lot of all that crap you just installed for fun is gone after the big clean up 🙂

A typical excuse, of why not to do a reinstall, is that it takes a long time. Luckily there are a few simple things you can do to greatly speed up the time it takes for you to reinstall a pc.

Buy your OS instead of using a pirated copy

This one is trivial. Really, who wants to spend hours looking for cracks, downloading and doing manual updates over and over again, just to save a little money? I whine about the prices of Windows too… and it really is too expensive. But then again… how many hours does it take to earn that money? Compared to how long you’re going to spend playing around with cracks, and updates. What happens that day where you DON’T get that important windows update and your pc gets infected?

When you buy an OS you’re probably going to be using it almost every day for several years. When you look at the “daily running costs” of your OS they are so ridiculously low that you’re probably wasting more money on a daily basis somewhere else.

Buy the full version and not the upgrade

This follows the same line as above. I wonder why the hell people want to save a fraction of the price, and then bother with validating old media, or do various other tricks, every time they need to install. I don’t even know why Microsoft even provides such a stupid option of buying an upgrade. They should just save the development and administration costs, and lower the price of the full product. If they lower it enough people won’t even bother to ask for the upgrade version.

Use partitions on your hardddrive(s)

Having more partitions on your harddrive makes life a lot easier. Use one partition for your Windows installation, and don’t put anything else on it. (A lot of important files will end up here anyway, for example everything you throw on the desktop, but as a main rule keep your stuff separated from the system partition. It is possible to reconfigure the document/music/pictures and desktop folders to be on another partition, but I honestly don’t think its worth the trouble.) As mentioned in another article you should not rely on this method to back up your important files but having them on a separate partition will save you the trouble of moving them back after the reinstall.

A partition for your games

If you keep your games on a separate partition they won’t be deleted when you reinstall. Lots of games don’t mind being on another partition and will work fine right after the on the new partition. The only problem is that desktop shortcuts and startmenu entries will be gone. Instead you should be able to start them you’ll have to find the right exe file or shortcut inside the game folder.

Unfortunately this does not really work for newer games with some of the more heavy DRM annoyances that publishers throw onto games these days. These games are heavily dependent on misc. crap that they install on the system and will probably fail to start. Remember that this is the game publishers way of thanking you for actually paying for the game :-p

Valve‘s delivery platform Steam is a great exception though. Valve was quick to realize this problem and Steam works even if you move it around between partitions, reinstall, delete some of the files or what ever you do. Simply find the steam.exe and double click it. Steam will figure out what needs to be done to make it work again and then fix it automatically. If Steam does not seem to do this, try to run it in administrator mode (right click the exe and choose “run as administrator”) and if this does not work, delete the file ClientRegistry.blob that resides inside the Steam folder and restart Steam. This has worked for me every time for serveral years, during at least 20 reinstalls… from XP, over Vista to Windows 7.

A partition for media

Picture, music and video files do not care where they are stored so these are an obvious choice to put on a different partition.

A partition for software that don’t need reinstall

Lots of nicely written software does not need to be reinstalled, it simply works. This goes for the so called portable apps and as well as a lot of other programs.

I personally keep a folder with these on a separate partition.In this folder I currently have VLC, Filezilla, Notepad++, Billy and Foxit reader. These applications are available right after the reinstall and enable me to watch any videofile, do FTP transfers, write notes and code, listen to music (without using the bloated windows media player) and read Adobe PDF files… without lifting a finger to install anything to do these tasks. There is no no searching online for them, no download and no installation needed. This is a huge timesaver.

Don’t reinstall all your programs again just after the install

A lot of people I know go completely crazy when they have reinstalled their pc. The first thing they do is to start filling it up with software again. Often they even install software that they rarely use.

The rule here is … just dont do anything 🙂   Just wait, and If you need the software then install it when you need it. Of course this means a few minutes extra every time you need something that you haven’t installed already, but those minuttes would have been wasted anyway. This rule will save you time because:

  • Software thats is not installed won’t slow down your pc.
  • Software is updated constantly. If you install it right after the reinstall you might even need to install a new version of it again when you actually need it.
  • You’ll be amazed at how little software you actually use on a daily basis.

Use the applications that are already built into windows

Perhaps related to the problem above some people install a lot of redundant software. I’ve seen people install WinZip on Windows XP… I’ve seen them waiting for a download of a huge image viewer program because… “How else would you be able to see the pictures?” Instead of doing this, familiarize yourself with the tools that are already built into Windows.

  • The built in WordPad will and Notepad will work fine for your text editing needs as long as you don’t write anything major. You don’t need Microsoft Word to write a list of phone numbers or a shopping note!
  • Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 can all open and create zip files without installing additional software. You can even add passwords. Just open the zipfile after you create it and look in the file menu.
  • Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 all have an excellent image viewer with zoom, rotation and great options for printing.
  • Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 all have built in support to burn CDs and DVDs. (And really who stores data on those expensive ancient round discs anyway?)
  • Windows 7’s media player will play pretty much any videofile and also DVDs.

Have another pc close by

Sometimes during a reinstall you’ll run into problems in various forms that require you to go online and look for a solution:

  • It’s not fun to find and download a display driver if your screen is stuck at 640×480 in 16colors.
  • It’s a royal pain in the a** to play around with SATA drivers in the XP installer… and having to switch between installer and booting the still working system to figure out which drivers are needed.
  • It’s impossible to download a driver for a network interface card… when the card is not working.

Have another pc next to the one you’re reinstalling and use it to look for solutions. Have a USB stick handy to transfer files from the working pc to the installing pc. You might even save time by downloading drivers, antivirus, etc. on the other pc while waiting for the first to complete the basic install.

Reinstall often 🙂

This may seem like a crazy tip, but really the more often you reinstall a machine the more experience you’ll get. You’ll quickly learn where to get drivers, software and how to set things up just the way you like it. Soon you’ll be able to do it while doing something else at the same time… thus almost eliminating the time wasted for the reinstall.

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