Computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system are notorious for slowing down over time. A lot of my customers come to me assuming that PCs get slower as they age, and need a hardware upgrade – perhaps something as drastic as a new PC.
But this is simply not true. The main problem Windows users face is a lack of maintenance. Tiny problems accumulate over time, gradually straining the system until it falls down under its own weight. What’s needed is a spring clean.
But sometimes – just sometimes – something more drastic is required. No more time for pruning and shearing: it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start again. It’s time to re-install Windows.
Why go to that much trouble?
You may have reduced your PC to a quivering pile of electronics through too many dodgy downloads, a virus, an attempted virus removal, a driver clash or a too-great appetite for free software downloads. A clean Windows installation is a chance to start again, without the weight of forgotten programs being a burden.
Performing a clean install also means that you start off with the least amount of extra factory-installed stuff running in the background, taking up valuable resources like memory and storage.
It’s even an option on a brand new PC: as I’ve said before, new computers come with all kinds of things pre-installed. You can try removing what you don’t need, or you can take the Nuclear Option, outlined here.
[Note: using the discs which came with your computer to carry out a ‘factory restore’ is an alternative to what I’m describing. It’s often a little easier to do, but won’t be quite as effective as a clean install.]
Preparing for a re-installation
There are a few essential steps to take before embarking on this little project, so that you don’t lose more than you should:
- Backup all your files: documents, music, videos etc etc, as you’ll be wiping the hard drive. The easiest thing to back up to is probably an external hard drive, but CDs or DVDs are also an option. There’re also online backup companies like SpiderOak.
- Collect any discs or installation files for the programs you’ve paid for, like Microsoft Office or Photoshop Elements. It’s essential you have the license codes for all these, so that they can be used when re-installing them later. If, like me, you’re a fan of Free and Open Source Software, then this won’t be a problem.
- Download any security software you plan to use beforehand, and store it on your external drive or USB stick. If you need license keys for these, make a note of them too.
- If you don’t have one already, you need to buy a Windows installation disk.
Get set, go!
Once you have the Windows disk to hand, your documents backed up, and a spare hour or so, you’re ready to roll.
I won’t go into the details of every step, as there are plenty of good guides online such as the one at About.com’s ‘How To Clean Install Windows 7‘. What I wanted to do in this post is get you thinking about the potential of reinstalling Windows as a way to cut your losses if your PC is really snarled up.
Crossing the finishing line
When the process is complete, and you’re at your new Windows desktop, there are a few things you should do before you carry on with your work.
- Install the security software which you downloaded beforehand, and make sure it’s up to date.
- Set Windows Update to run automatically, so that you’re as safe as you can be. Make sure Windows is downloading updates already, as this will make sure all your hardware works as it should.
- Install your essential bits of software, such as an office suite and printer drivers. This is where your installation disks and license keys might come in handy.
- Restore your documents to their relevant folders.
Have you ever tried reinstalling Windows? Was it worth the time and effort? Let us know in the comments.
Of course, here at Ship Shape PC Repair I can carry out this process for you – see the Services / Prices page for the latest price for this. I can also do factory restores or the ‘Spring Clean’, which is a quicker way to get your PC running to its full potential again. I also offer a full range of computer repairs and services, so get in touch if there’s something I can do or you today.
[Image: Install icon, by Creato937]