What do I need to do before I format my HD and reinstall windows?
June 17, 2004 9:23 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to do before I format my HD and reinstall windows? [more inside]

After only six short months, my computer has accumulated some stuff that didn't completely uninstall, mucked up the registry, etc. Even though performance isn't notably suffering, the machine isn't what it once was. So far, I have:
1. Save old emails (Can't find where Thunderbird keeps them).
2. Save old bookmarks.
3. Find and save all .xls, .rtf, .txt, and .doc files.
posted by trharlan to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you using a straight-up windows disk like XP or w2k? If so, make sure you have all necessary driver- usually downloadable from the computer co's web site. But if the reinstall disk came with your computer, shouldn't be a problem.
If you have a burner, I like to save useful programs I've downloaded like OO, aim, winamp, and all my mp3. Just that much less I have to download upon reinstallation.
If you play games, I suggest saving your saved games.
Also, if you use e-mail a lot, be sure to save your contacts information in addition to your old e-mails.
posted by jmd82 at 9:47 AM on June 17, 2004

address book?

backing up and restoring thunderbird
posted by rhapsodie at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2004

Take your time and search through all your folders. Deleted = gone forever (relatively speaking).

If you've got the space on a second HD/partition, you could just copy as much over as you can, leaving out only the stuff you're *absolutely certain* you don't need, and then give it a month or two before you sort through that lot and delete what you don't need.

It seems like a pretty good idea to me to keep as much stuff off the partition/hd you install Windows to, as possible.

Anyway - pr0n; MP3s; downloaded program files you've kept for re-installation purposes; any settings files for programs (like your firewall, etc); your hosts file (if you use it); profile backup for your browser(?); any specialist shortcuts ...
posted by Blue Stone at 10:02 AM on June 17, 2004

I would, instead, run a registry cleaner. RegScrubXP is a freeware that does a fantastic job.

You can do a bit of manual cleaning as well. I use Registry Crawler, where I search for, say, the company name of the software I uninstalled. It finds all the keys, and you can Ctrl-A and Del them away.

Then defrag the drive with Diskeeper Lite and see how the system looks after that.

Formatting and reinstalling the system is a last resort when the system is in such an awful way (crashes constantly, missing drivers, doesn't boot) that you have no other laternative.
posted by linux at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2004

I usually skim through all my folders quickly and make a list of all the software (esp. freeware/shareware that I use every-so-often but can never remember the name of it).

Sometimes there's stuff I would forget about--fonts, photoshop actions and brushes, etc. When I setup a fresh start of Windows, I use tweakui and try to put all my default documents, favorites, mail, etc. in directories on one drive, so it's easy to find.
posted by gramcracker at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2004

When starting up a new HD, I also find it convenient to place all of my necessary files in one directy should I need to reinstall my HD. That way, I can easily back up all of my important data by burning just one folder and its subdirectories instead of having to scour for hidden files and inevitably forgetting something. Also conenient in the backup regard in case my HD randomly decides to jump bail on me.
posted by jmd82 at 10:59 AM on June 17, 2004

I have done this procedure enough times to have a 100-step checklist to reinstalling my systems (give or take 20 steps).

The basics are: backup, reinstall, restore.

  • Email - export into an importable format
  • Bookmarks
  • Address Book (if separate -- Outlook bundles all this together)
  • Important documents
I also like to put together a DVD of programs in ready-to-install directories, sorted by use (General/Graphics/Internet/Video/ ...)

Don't forget to have copies of any drivers that Windows might not recognize (important for older machines or laptops)

Nothing much to this part.

This is the bitch. There are at least a dozen things I have to do once the system is up just to make the "look and feel" correct. In XP, that means:
  • Turn off themes
  • Win2000-style Taskbar, Start Menu
  • No personalized menus
  • Show entire system tray
Then after installing Outlook, Turn off the damned auto-hide menu features.

There are a lot of details I'm leaving out, but the general point is that it's a good idea to draw up a checklist before dropping the hatchet.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:21 PM on June 17, 2004

If you're using WinXP, be sure you back up the "My Documents" folder for each profile - I think there should be one for "default user" and one for your main account. I reformatted about a year ago and forgot to check both of them, and lo and behold, I lost several years of stored email and some term papers I had planned on saving.
posted by UKnowForKids at 7:45 AM on June 18, 2004

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