Minimizing the hassle of reinstalling everything?
November 14, 2009 12:03 AM   Subscribe

Help me save time and frustration reinstalling my programs/settings after a fresh Windows install / upgrade / etc.

Reinstalling my system after an OS upgrade, system wipe, or on a new PC always becomes an enormous task -- usually taking several days plus weeks of random annoyances ("oops, have to find that codec, oh gee, I don't have Java installed, oh no I have to re-map all of my keyboard shortcuts, etc. .")

I'm thinking of wiping my bloated Vista 64 system and upgrading to Windows 7, but I don't have the time to go through the whole process. (I use Acronis TrueImage for emergency restores, but this won't help with an OS upgrade).

The problems:

* I use LOTS of software regularly
* I'm a tweaker, and have a lot of personalized settings for everything
* Tracking down install files (some on discs around my house, some downloaded, some need to be re-downloaded)
* Many of my programs have been through several patches and upgrades which will need to be gathered and re-applied
* Many programs require online registration/authorization. Some will need to be re-registered because authorization code is tied to system hardware.
* Many programs have a lot of tweaks, settings, plugins, presets, presets, advanced settings, key bindings etc that I would like to retain.
* All those random things like Flash, Java, video codecs, .NET framework, runtime libraries, etc.

Steps I've taken pre-upgrade:
* Backup all data, obviously
* Keep data on a separate partition from programs/OS
* Use portable versions of programs whenever possible to eliminate the need to reinstall
* Save all purchased program serial numbers in one location
* Whenever updating/patching a program, save the patch installer in a folder called "Program Updates"
* Whenever possible, export program settings/presets into a catch-all folder called "Presets" for easy reinstall. Prior to upgrading, go through all crucial programs and export. Make a note of settings which will need manual re-setting
* Use Driverbackup software to gather all of my drivers into one place for easy reinstall. (Is there a similar program for codecs?)

I'd appreciate any advice on:
1.) How I can reinstall all my stuff as quickly/efficiently as possible
2.) How I can maintain my system from now on to make future upgrades/restores hassle-free (I'm curious about using some kind of VM for all but my most essential programs, but I don't know much about this)
3.) If I get lazy and decide to do an in-place upgrade (from Vista 64 Home Premium to Windows 7 x64 Home Premium), will I regret this? Does a Windows 7 install clean up a lot of system bloat and other issues?

posted by Alabaster to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You want:

I happened upon this while upgrading from XP to Win7-64. Won't help you with your customization to much, but as a way to batch install a bunch of quality apps - it works great, and it's free.

Couple of good tips here:

As for upgrading Vista to 7... I wouldn't. Just asking for trouble. Use the fresh install as a reason to clean house and get organized. It doesn't take _that_ long.
posted by gribbly at 1:46 AM on November 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Dammit, I came in here to talk about as well. I have a really weird habit as well to take screen shots of the Start Menu. I'll look through those screen shots after I reinstall, and make sure the other apps that I don't use every day get reinstalled just the same.

As far as a VM (great idea for browsing the Internet), you can download Virtual PC free from Microsoft, and install Windows XP/Vista/7 on it. This point is somewhat moot if you are using Windows 7 Ultimate, then you get Windows XP mode for free as well. VM's are a great tool, but there is also a lot of overhead in running them. If you've got a fairly well equipped machine, this won't be a problem, but remember, you're running two operating systems concurrently, so processor, RAM, and disk activity is all going on double, so things are not going to run as fast.

If you're using Firefox, consider backing up the whole FF profile with MozBackup, as it handles all the customizations you have made with it.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, as I'm still wearing last night off, but this is a start. Feel free to ask questions, I'll be back.
posted by deezil at 8:01 AM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

How I can maintain my system from now on to make future upgrades/restores hassle-free

Use more free software. I have no philosophical objection to proprietary software. Wherever possible, though, I don't use software that requires "license keys" or "activation" or that has copy restrictions. Dealing with that junk is just too big of a pain. I know it may not be possible for you to always use free programs, but they certainly make life easier when they are available.

Linux distributions also solve a lot of the problems you mentioned, such as easy installation for many programs and a centralized infrastructure for patch distribution. It can also be easier to back up settings on a Unix system: system settings are in /etc, user settings are in your home directory. Again, I wouldn't advocate Linux--it is not good for everyone--but it would solve a lot of the problems you mentioned, although it might create some other ones.

Oh, and there are free software programs that are comparable to Acronis TrueImage, at least for Unix systems.
posted by massysett at 11:08 AM on November 14, 2009

In theory, the 'upgrade' installation of windows 7 will keep all your programs and settings in place - guide here. I haven't tried it myself (did a clean install) but sounds worth looking into for you.
posted by jacalata at 6:34 PM on November 14, 2009

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