Take your PC back to the day you bought it

If your system is like mine at the moment – long periods spent waiting for things to happen and the odd frustrating ‘glitch’ that you somehow just live with. In my case, Windows XP has been installed for a couple of years now and as I frequently install and uninstall software – often to test it out – I know the registry has grown like Topsy and there’s a lot of ‘junk’ in the works.

It’s overdue for a fresh reinstall or in my case, a reload of the XP image that I created after the reinstall and the majority of programs I use had been loaded on. I can easily take it back to July 2007 or whenever I last re-imaged the system – I just need to ensure I’ve backed up everything I need before I do it!

I am doing this kind of work more and more these days – backing up customer’s systems and reinstalling Windows and restoring applications etc. after serious malware infections mainly. It can be a tedious (and costly) exercise, but it doesn’t have to be if you have a little technical ability and are prepared to put some time and thought into the process.

Here’s some tips to get you started in the process – sure, I may be doing myself out of a job, but there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of this kind of work, even from more ‘tech-savy’ customers. I think they just can’t spare the time to do it. Fair enough!

What you will need –

1. A way to backup your documents, files and photos to. An external hard drive is the easiest method to use. A good size external drive will cost you around $100-$150.
2. The set of CDs that came with the PC – either a ‘system recovery’ set or the Windows CD plus driver and application disks for all the software you need to reinstall after the procedure.

How to do it –
1. Backup everything you require (including your email, address book etc – under XP this is contained in the ‘Documents and Settings’ folder for the various user accounts if there is more than one.
2. Put the recovery CD or your Windows CD into the drive and ‘boot’ from that – you may need to press F9 or a similar key to choose to start from the CD rather than the hard drive – and follow the procedure to reinstall Windows. Choose the option to install a fresh copy rather than repair and I choose the ‘fast format’ method as it takes far less time to complete on the large hard drives that are common nowadays.
3. After the reinstallation of Windows you will need to install all the hardware drivers from the CDs you have (unless you have a recovery disk set that does this for you).
4. If you have any Service Pack CDs (XP currently has 2 available, SP2 and SP3) I suggest you use these to update Windows rather than wait for hours while Windows Update downloads all the patches and updates (not to mention the amount of broadband data you will use!).
5. Finally, reinstall the printer and applications from the CDs you have and restore the backup data. Import the email and address book etc as well.

Now, I have made it sound relatively simple and it isn’t too hard, but it takes time and if you don’t have the necessary drivers and application CDs it can certainly be a lot harder than that – so this is where a good PC tech is worth his weight in gold! It might cost you $120-$150 but the process is a lot less painful.

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