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Windows 7: Should you re-install Windows every year?

04 Mar 2011   #31
Microsoft MVP


Carl -

Perhaps you could tutorialize a bit on Microsoft Deployment Toolkit's use here.

Would SysPrepping an installation after setup then saving it's image achieve the same thing any easier or harder?
Windows 7 Installation - Transfer to a New Computer

Thanks, friend.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Mar 2011   #32

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
Scrabble quadruple word score
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Mar 2011   #33

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit

Very old way of thinking. Unfortunately it is a very common way of thinking, especially in the company I work for. If there's a problem, reinstall from scratch. Computer slow? Reinstall. You get the idea. I'd rather spend a solid day getting the system just where I want it, proper drivers, services tweaked, programs installed. Then make an image of the computer in its pristine perfect condition. Reinstalling from scratch is unnecessary these days.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

05 Mar 2011   #34

Windows 8.1 Pro

True however you don't really need to back up drivers on a different flash drive. Just keep them in the "D" or second partition of your hdd. Anything in any partition other than the main usually "C" drive is not deleted after a clean install.
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by DeaconFrost View Post much unecessary work! First off, a complete full install of Windows 7 takes about 10-15 minutes when using a flash drive. Then, the rest of the driver installs, updates, and software installs will take about 2 hours or if anyone wants to claim that it takes them much's time to stop overtweaking and get organized.

2 hours just for a browser install and customizing??? So far irrational that it doesn't even need to be commented on.

As others have said, Windows 7 needs very little done to it by default, unless you feel like tweaking things that shouldn't be tweaked.

I see it as breaking down into two options. First, you realize it doesn't take that long to do a clean install, and you learn to organize your necessary drivers and apps so then can be done quickly, and you learn to leave out the needless tweaks. The second option is, if you really need to hide behind the "it takes me too long to do a clean install" view, then you should have a good, prinstine image configured with all of your *ahem* tweaks, read the be reloaded in 30 minutes or so. Right?

How much sense does it make to complain about how long it takes a person to do a clean install, and then not be keeping system images? That's like complaining about getting wet in the rain when you refuse to use an umbrella.

I have two flash drives. One has my combined, all versions both platforms of Windows 7 to handle the install. I have a second flash drive that stores my latest drivers and software. In two hours I can have my full system back up and running, fully configured. The OS customizations take 5 minutes or less, because very little needs to be done to Windows 7 in order to have it run at peak efficiency. Anything more and you are likely degrading performance and risking stability. This 2 hour window covers my home tower, my work tower, and my work laptop, all with much different software configs and set ups. Why make the process longer than it needs to be?

To answer the OP's question, a clean install should be done when nothing else solves the issue, and shouldn't be done on a schedule. This isn't XP and too many people assume it is the same, where it needs to be reloaded or tweaked to run better. My work tower has been running since Windows 7's release on August 6th, 2009, and hasn't needed a reload at all. It's in use for minimum 8 hours a day.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2011   #35

Windows 8.1 Pro

You should do one thing that scares you everyday
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by seekermeister View Post
That goes back to my original statement...if you can complete all of the facets of doing a clean install in 8-10 hours, you are a better cyberman than me, unless you keep a fairly bare bones OS, with little to install and tweak. I can spend 2 hours, just installing my browser and customizing it exactly the way that I want. When I think about all of the other programs to reinstall and tweak, I shiver at the thought of doing a clean install.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2011   #36

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1

Interesting topic....

I once talked to a Microsoft Application Specialist during a seminar, a few years ago (shortly after the Vista release)...
We had a talk about the exact same subject as this, since i was always skeptic about reinstalling on a routine basis.
He confirmed quite a few of my theories.

- Microsoft has heavily improved the modularity of its operating software through the years.
Windows XP was a major step forward, yet there was nothing that would counter the registry growth (clutter) over time.
This is different since Windows Vista.

- Seperating your data on subject of usage is a good thing (Partion 1: OS + Software, Partition: 2 Data).
For me personally... i use: Partition 1: OS + Programs, Partition 2: Games, Partition 3: Data.
It keeps your "OS Partition" small and if anything catastrophic (read: OS corruption in any way) were to happen, you would lose as little data as possible.
Of course, in case of up to date imaging the setback would be very small.

- Linking your user folder to a different partition or drive is another approach to decrease both size and importance of the "OS Partition", yet at the time it was often the case that data such as Documents and Images were moved, but user data (application settings) still remained on the OS drive.
Those application settings would have been my motive to link the user folder away from my OS Partition but since the OS never did this, it was a lot less interesting.
(I never looked into this after that, so i'm not sure if Windows 7 does it right.... but even in this case... linking away the C:\Programdata folder would be very interesting too).

- Now, since the above improvements the latest OS'es don't even measurably suffer from aging or "registry rot" as some people liked to call it back then. We both agreed on this.
I once tested this extensively with a group of people from another community and we all concluded that even in Windows XP the "aging" process did not influence responsiveness of the OS.
(We once used 2 cloned machines, with a 1,5 year old install and manually cleaned the entire registry on one of those... there was simply no performance difference noticeable or could it be measured).
A good defragging tool as well as crap cleaner seemed to make the difference sometimes on machines that no longer felt snappy (of course a few important arguments for this are: - The harddrive still has to be in prime condition and - There should be no unnecessary software running in the background to influence "CPU Time" and cloud your judgement on this).

- Another important feature which Microsoft worked on (and has been somewhat present since Windows XP) is modularity in terms of hardware.
Nowadays (which i think is awesome), you can just switch out any hardware and the OS will keep running fine after you install the new drivers.
I have seen some rare cases of where going from a old AMD platform to a newer Intel platform (upgrading motherboards) would cause issues. After seeing a few of these occurances we noticed that it was often some funky BIOS option that was on during installation on the AMD platform (think of, non-standardised SATA optimisations etc).

You could in this case (changing some hardware or even switching platforms) decide to use something like a driver sweeper or crap cleaner to remove any files that would still be present after uninstalling old drivers (this is meant procedure wise but does nothing to the performance since it remains unaffected, except for some rare cases like going from nvidia to ATI graphics...which in this case the nvidia driver setup simply was to blame for improper uninstalling).
Some files get cross linked, are no longer used after a driver update of the same device or are generated by the driver or its software post installation, so they get left behind.

I used to be second in charge at a Microsoft certified builder company and we have seen a lot of this stuff go right.
Sure, in the past things have gone wrong once or twice...but this was all in the era of Windows XP (I'm simply not threading into details with older OS'es since those were simply not as advanced as the one we use today).

In conclusion, both the Application Specialist and me agreed that routine reinstalling is a total waste of time.
But, the exception of the rule is that you should prevent it from ever happening (think of a decent Backup imaging procedure).
Its always a good thing to create a 'vanilla' image (they are usually so small they can be put on a DL DVD or so).
But the most important one, is the image right after you are done configuring all your software and installing your hardware etc. It is vital that no 'infected' software gets used in this process as this often happens, which messes up the 'quality' of your system state at this point.
A good example of this is, someone installing his OS and when he gets to installing third party software he starts looking for a newer version on the net which contains a crack or keygen that is malicious.
(I've seen people downloading torrents for newer software in the above situation, thus compromising the entire integrity of their system right at the can be quite amusing to watch during LAN Parties).

These are the 2 key points of where long term OS integrity is comprimised: performance registry tweaks and malicious software right from the start.

Also another funny thing to take into account.
Like some people here said the term tweaking is loosely adapted to actually 'configuring' the OS and your software.
When someone says tweaking i immediatly tend to think of registry modification and whatnot.
That said, i have not had to do a single registry performance tweak ever since i started using Windows Vista (and now Windows 7) .
In the long run, these are just potential risks to compromise your OS integrity.
(Of course for Power users, this does not mean changing TCP settings or some default windows settings that are hard to find yet accessible in the registry is a bad thing).
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2011   #37

Win 7 Pro x64 SP1 OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7

I have never reinstalled Windows - well except once (from a malware which was near impossible to get rid of it...)
If you are concerned about your data and software getting lost - you should make a backup or an image - preferably both.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2011   #38

W10 Home 64 bit

Try the sfc/scannow. It will repair what it can of corrupt files in windows that might be causing the OS problems. If there are files that Windows can't fix it will let you know.

Start menu/accessories/right click command prompt/run as the prompt ">", type in sfc/scannow.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2011   #39

Windows 10 Pro x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
Carl -

Perhaps you could tutorialize a bit on Microsoft Deployment Toolkit's use here.

Would SysPrepping an installation after setup then saving it's image achieve the same thing any easier or harder?
Windows 7 Installation - Transfer to a New Computer

Thanks, friend.
Check my blog, posts starting in August 2009. For home users, yes - for enterprise and businesses, though, creating images is considered a bad thing - it makes it harder to troubleshoot issues when you use an image versus doing a flat install, especially images that have been re-sysprep'ed over and over.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Mar 2011   #40

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1

Clean installs can be time consuming and sometime frustrating if you have paid software that needs to be deactivated then reactivated. I don't see the point unless you absolutely need to.

I keep the following (generally with both Windows & Macrium)
1) Image after core software installed.
2) Subsequent staged images over the last 3 months so I can always go back to a "good" one. I keep a simple log file of any significant changes (eg SP1 installed xx/xx/xx at xxpm. If I conclude for example SP1 is causing problems go back to an image date pre SP1.
3) Backup personal data regularly

4) I keep a cold standby HDD made from a reliable image. Trivial to make, cost $60 (1TB Sata), 10 minutes to install. I would consider this essential if I was using the PC for a small business.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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