Tuesday Technology: Reinstalling Windows

This past week, I re-installed Windows on two different computers.  I’m not talking about some sort of “reload” where things are patched and fixed.  I’m talking about a burn-it-to-the-ground reformatting of the C drive Windows install.  Out of those two projects, I picked up a couple of tips to share.

The re-formats and re-installs were necessary because both of these Windows 10 computers were running very “clunkily” and programs were constantly freezing.  My office mate and I consulted with our “computer repair guy” and he thought the problem was likely caused — or made worse — by Windows 10.  He recommended a reformatting the drives and rolling back to Windows 7, or re-installing Windows 10 without going through the upgrade process from Windows 7.

With all of that said, here are those tips:

  • Most all computer guys would rather re-format your hard drive and re-install Windows than find and fix your problem.  First off, they are probably busy and finding a lot of our problems usually takes a lot of their time.  And even if they find the problem, fixing it may also take a lot of time — and then that may not cure all of our problems.  So, the easiest, and often the cheapest, thing to do is to re-format the hard drive and re-install Windows.
  • This is one more reason why you should always have a back up of your data, or store your data in the cloud.  During these two projects, there was only one file — a Quicken backup file — that I had to make (and this is because the Quicken backup didn’t want to play nice with Dropbox).  It’s too easy nowadays to back up data for us to leave data not backed up.
  • It’s always a good idea to keep a system re-boot CD handy.   If you have no idea what this is, you probably haven’t had to use one, but if you have used a re-boot, you know this is important.  This CD lets you start your computer without using the system files on your hard drive.  Being able to boot this way is key for a re-install project or if you have to fix certain problems.
  • Don’t forget to have a copy of your drivers handy!  If you buy a computer from a company like Dell, the computer will usually ship with a CD containing the drivers needed for your machine.  Keep this CD!  If you don’t have something like this, make sure your drivers are backed up to a CD or stick drive before you re-format your hard drive — because re-formatting your hard drive deletes your drivers!
  • Make a list of your applications (also known as programs for us old people) before you wipe out your computer and make sure you know how to re-install the programs once your system is re-installed.
  • Make sure you have access to the internet while you are in the midst of your re-format / re-install project.  Basically, without Google access, I would have never completed these projects.  All of my problems had previously been experienced by someone else and with internet access, I could find easy answers to my problems.
  • If you know a computer repair man, make sure you are on good terms with him before you start and keep his number handy.  To be sure, he doesn’t want to spend two hours on the phone with you walking you through this.  He’d rather do the project himself and get paid.  But on the other hand, if you can do this project yourself, you are keeping your guy away from a nuisance.  Keep in mind, though, that you may hit a brick wall and need help.  If you do, try Google first an then give your guy a call.

This isn’t your typical list of “how to re-install Windows,” but these things are important to know if you do try this project for yourself.  I hope they help.


“Tuesday Technology” is a weekly series devoted to providing technology tips that help you figure out ways to do things or ways to do them better.  You read through the entire series by clicking here.

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