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Reinstall Setup: Best Practices For Eventual Recovery


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#1 davec1000

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 03:19 PM

I'd like to reinstall my Windows XP on my older laptop. It's been 3 years and it's gotten crusty, slow and clunky. This time around I was thinking of segregating not only the data, but the applications as well, so ideally I would only have to do a periodic "refreshen" of the OS and reinstall a backed up registry, leaving everything else intact. Since I've never tried this I have no idea if it would work.

Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson (on the Security Now podcast) have talked about how they're "always" reinstalling Windows from a pristine backup which they create everytime they add a new driver or program. This seems like a lot more work. Does anyone have experience with this approach?

My new laptop has Vista, which from what I've read so far shouldn't have this problem (yeah, Bill, I'll believe it when I see it.) Does anyone know if I should try such segregation on a Vista computer?

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#2 Klinkaroo

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 03:45 PM

Not an expert but by doing this wouldn't that just beat the purpose of reinstalling the OS...

Like normally I do it to help clear out all those unused programs and clean out the registry and stuff... but if you keep all that stuff won't the computer run at the same speed as before?

#3 davec1000

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 05:08 PM

I see your point there. I guess what I'm after is trying to avoid the constant "bit rot" that the OS seems susceptible to. Certainly the more programs that run, the slower things get. And it gets harder and harder to ride herd on those programs. When I open Task Manager I'm just amazed at some of the stuff that gets loaded without my being asked. And that's the stuff I understand, like ipod helper and quicktime. Even stuff I explicitly say "don't run" and they still load.

"Bit rot" is a term I've heard before and I don't know if it's a real phenomenon or not, but it seems to imply that after time there is some degradation in the system files of the OS. How the OS can function when this happens, I don't know. Perhaps it has more to do with fragmentation of system files that defragging doesn't fix. Perhaps the OS slows because of trojans or spyware that has crept into your system. The idea would be to have a pristine copy of the OS that you know is uninfected and can be loaded without fragmentation. You would do this regularly. You have a new program you want to load. Instead of loading the new program (game, Photoshop, whatever) onto your current OS, which you, say, loaded 3 months ago, you first reinstall the pristine copy of the OS over the 3 month old version. Then you install your new program. Then, I guess, you would now backup the OS with it's new registry information and this becomes your new pristine version. I'm trying to think this through as I write, which is not always a good idea, so I don't know if this would work or not. The goal would be to know that you always have a clean version of the OS, no bit rot, no corrupt files, no viruses or spyware. Always up to date with the latest patches, always recoverable at a moments notice if the hard drive fails, and recoverable without having to reinstall every bloody program you've ever loaded.

I guess partly what brought me to this is the number of times my total system backups have failed me. They take forever to do, and never seem to work when I need them. And if you've backed up a crappy system, then the best you can do is restore a crappy system. I want something better, even if it is more work.

#4 usasma

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 07:07 PM

I don't know if 'bit rot' is an accurate description - but XP does get a bit sluggish after a couple of years of use. What I believe that Mr. Laporte and Gibson are talking about is a disk image of a fresh install of XP.

An image of XP made just after it's installation (and the installation of all drivers and "essential programs") is an easy way to restore XP to it's initial performance. Then all you've gotta do is install the Windows Updates and the programs that aren't on the image (along with your data). It takes about 20 minutes to restore the image - versus several hours to reinstall Windows.

For this purpose I use Acronis True Image - it's payware, but it's worth it to me.
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