Thursday, February 5, 2009

Steps to restore a slow Windows PC

Steps for a fresh install (assuming you're starting over from a current Windows environment) and a zippier Windows computer:

NOTE: These are only steps to remind you of the order or what to do next. They're generalized for that reason.

Step 1

A 4 part consideration:

  1. Back up any user data. This means anything in the My Documents folder and anywhere else on the main drive you may have saved files.

  2. Save any save files in game folders in the Program Files folder. You don't have to back up the entire game programs themselves, just keep track of where the save files go for after you restore everything. Save files include files from saved games to settings files to other saved data you created from within the game. Usually a game will save these things in an obvious place within the game folder in folders either named along those lines or in some sort of folder named something like “Resources” or “Player” or something.

  3. Also some programs, be them games, office suites or other, may have a built in way to back up settings to a file. Firefox lets you back up the Bookmarks.html file from within the browser itself and lets you put the file anywhere you choose (preferably on external storage for later retrieval). Word and other Microsoft programs also have a back up wizard. The massively multi-player on-line role playing game City of Heroes, for instance, now has a way to back up settings files in the options window but saves and automatically loads those files within the game's program folder (as do many other games). Think of all the programs you'd like to save settings and files from.

  4. And be sure you back up any data you purchased. Like music which is usually located in your My Documents folder unless you chose to save your music somewhere else. Fonts as well if you bought those. And eBooks or audio books. If you chose to save and play these files from another hard drive then don't sweat this step as all you have to do is unplug that hard drive before you do all this.

Step 2

  1. Erase the hard drive.

  2. Partition the hard drive.

Step 3

  1. Reinstall Windows.

Step 4

  1. Connect computer to the router which is connected to a broadband modem which is connected to the internet.

  2. Run Windows update as soon as you have the computer connected to the internet. Run it until there are no more updates to be seen. This may require several reboots.

Step 5

  1. Install only the needed software that you use on a daily to semi-daily basis.

  2. Restore any settings you backed up. This is why step 1 is so important.

Step 6

  1. Use a program that clones hard drives to make a clone of this hard drive. Make two if you feel you need it. This involves buying 1 or 2 more hard drives. Use imaging programs like Ghost if you feel you need to. But I recommend just cloning because if anything happens to your main hard drive all you have to do is swap it out with a known good hard drive and you're ready to go. Ghost does both. It images the hard drive partition and clones it.

Step 7

  1. Do regular backups of your user data (as listed earlier in this article). Keep one copy at home for convenience, keep another copy offsite either by way of simply having a relative or friend you trust keep the drive or using an online backup solution like Carbonite or Drop Box (or soon to be released Gdrive from Google). And do regular backups to these solutions. The one or two other drive(s) in the previous step that you cloned to are different from user data backup as they're just used to restore to a known good base/foundational copy of the operating system with preferred software installed and an updated OS. Personally I like to keep this and user data separate to reduce the chance of getting screwed doubly by a bad bootable cloned hard drive and loss of personal data in the same hardware. Restore drives are for convenience and can be kept locally, user data backups are for safety and can be spread out to different locations to avoid catastrophes like flood or fire. You can certainly keep a restore drive offsite as well if you want so you can get up and running on similar hardware right away.

Step 8

  1. Enjoy your peace of mind.

Addendum I

  1. When you do need to swap hard drives then do so and restore your settings from the regular backups. Then when you have everything set up the way you want it clone your hard drive again like in the previous steps. The idea here is to make it as painless AND updated AND complete an all around process as possible.

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