Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sometimes You Need to Reload Your PC

I wrote this post last December and thought I would update it a bit since SP 3 was released by Microsoft. So here is my updated posting on ‘Sometimes, You Need to Reload’.

Sometimes, you run across a PC that has been so mucked up that trying to clean the machine would not guarantee that all the malicious bad stuff can be removed. So you decide you have to reload your machine from scratch, then update all the software. What steps should you take before you actually delete the hard drive. Here are steps I take when I reload my PC’s. It’s not a bad thing to reload. I do it at least once a year.

Here are the steps in the order that I use and then we’ll go over them .

1. Backup your files that you want. Pictures, documents, browser shortcuts, iTunes songs, etc. Also go out to Microsoft’s website and download the SP3 service pack ISO Image. Once downloaded, burn the image to CD so after you’ve completed the step 5, you then will insert this image CD in and this will patch your XP operating system and make the updates you will go and get from Microsoft a bit quicker. Click here for the Windows XP Service Pack 3 - ISO-9660 CD Image.

2. Take an inventory of what applications you have downloaded. AOL’s Instant Messenger, Adobe Reader, etc.

3. Gather all your restore CD’s that you got when you purchased your PC.

4. Review steps 1 through 3 and double check the details of each step.

5. Start the reload process.

6. After step 5 is done, then insert your MS XP SP3 CD that you created. When the window pops up, just click Install. After this has completed, then there is the process of going out to Microsoft’s site and download all the updates.

7. Take the files that you backed up, transfer them to your PC. Keep this CD full of all your valuable data.

8. From step 2, you will need to go and download all those applications that you or your kids use.

9. This step is optional, but after backing up, and you either purchase imaging software, or use some of the freeware out there, you can take an image of your clean system before you release it to all the rest of the members of your family. This will save you many hours next time you want to do a reload. Instead of going all the way back to your original restore disks that came with your PC, you can just copy your image back to your hard drive and you can do it in less than an hour.


Now let’s cover these in a little more detail. Backing up files means any pictures, documents, favorites from browsers, and don’t forget your iTunes songs. A good starting point is to back up your My Documents. This should get your documents that you may have created with any Microsoft Office products, and your iTunes songs. If you’ve saved pictures in the My Pictures folder, this is also included in your My Documents folder. If you have other applications and they save files such as your tax preparation programs or others like that, just make sure you are getting all your files. One easy way I save my browser Favorites this way. I use Firefox as my browser of choice. In Firefox, click on your Bookmarks>Organize Bookmarks and this will open up another window titled Bookmarks Manager. From there you just click on File>Export and then you choose the location that you want to save this back up file. I pick the Desktop so it is easy to find. Then I open up my e-mail and attach it to an e-mail I send to myself.

Next, we’ll inventory what programs we’ve downloaded and use. This includes your Adobe Reader, AOL’s AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and it may also include your firewall, spyware removal and anti-virus programs. Take a look at your Add/Remove programs to see what all is installed and that could help you not miss something. If you want to, prior to your reload, just download all those setup programs and write them to a CD. Then when you are all done reloading, you can install your firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware programs so you can get those installed before connecting to the Internet.

Step 3 we really don’t need to go over too much. When you bought your PC, the manufacturer also gave you restore disks so if something were to happen, you could reload your PC. Get these all gathered up and ready. We’ll even cover step 4 in this paragraph also. Double check steps 1 and 2 and make sure you are ready.

OK, step 5 is the actual reload. Just follow your manufacturers instructions. Now after that, you can run your setup programs for your firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware and get those installed. Then connect your PC to the Internet and download your current signature files and then you will be ready to go through the Microsoft Update process. This is Step 6. This process may need to run several times. It just depends on how long ago you bought your PC.

That leads us to Step 7. You can now take all those files you backed up and move them back to your PC’s hard drive. This step is pretty easy to do. To get those browser favorites back on your PC, just open up Firefox and go to that Bookmarks Manager where you backed them up, but instead of exporting them, you will import them. So you’ll have to go get that e-mail you sent yourself with the attached file and download it to your Desktop. Then you can import them from there. Pretty simple. It is here where I would suggest that you back those favorites up every once in awhile and e-mail them to yourself. Then you can go and get them if ever something goes wrong.

Wow, we are already on Step 8. This is where we go get all those other applications like your Adobe Reader and any other software you may have downloaded. If you did this prior to your restore, you can get all those setup programs that you downloaded and wrote to a CD. Then you have all those applications installed quickly and your machine is almost ready to go.

Now Step 9, I throw you a suggestion. From this point, your system should be about as clean as it will ever be until you reload your machine again. So if you want to save a lot of time the next time your machine, you can purchase an imaging program like Symantec’s Ghost. I don’t personally use it but it would allow you to restore from this point if sometime in the future your PC gets hosed again, you won’t have to go through all these steps.

Step 10….YOU DID IT! It really isn’t hard, but it is time consuming. This is actually a process that I go through at least once a year. Reloading your PC shouldn’t be a huge process. Anyone can do it but it takes some time. So next time you have to do this, go check out the price that the Geek Squad charges, then do it yourself and take the money you save and take your family out to dinner.

Everyone stay safe and take care.

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