Tear it down, build from scratch

Walt Mossberg writes a follow-up article to last week’s rant on new PCs being bogged down by useless trial programs ("craplets," in his words) in the 04/12/07 edition of the Wall Street Journal ("Ways You Can Avoid Getting Junk Programs On Your New Computer"; Page B1). In it, he addresses the issue I raised in my blog post – namely, wiping your hard drive and re-installing Windows:

Some techies wrote me to say that the first thing they do with a new PC is to wipe out the hard disk and reinstall Windows so they start with a clean machine. But I can’t recommend this for average users. For one thing, many new PCs no longer come with disks for reinstalling a full, clean version of Windows. Some have special sections of the hard disk from which you can perform a "recovery," but these recoveries may not be complete or may reload the craplets along with Windows. You could, of course, buy a fresh copy of Vista to reinstall, but that could cost hundreds of dollars.

Also, wiping out and rebuilding an operating system can be tricky for nontechies. Dell told me, "It is not advisable for nontechie consumers to wipe the hard drive and reinstall. … This is intended as an emergency backup or for the technically sophisticated." Sony and Gateway sent me similar warnings.

Hmph. Well, it’s hard to get around the whole "no Windows setup disk" issue, although I’d like to know who the brainiac was that thought of that one ("Let’s make people even more dependent on our tech support!"). If you have a setup disk, though, it’s really not that hard. Here are the steps:

  1. Backup all of your important data (read: all the stuff you want to keep around) to an external hard drive. Honestly, if you’re not keeping backups of some kind around, you’re just asking for trouble. Especially with the abundance of inexpensive storage media these days. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.
  2. Insert the Windows setup disk into your CD-ROM drive. Do not install anything, but restart your computer and press F12 on your boot-up screen and select the "Boot from CD" option.
  3. Follow the prompts to format your hard drive and completely erase your data.
  4. After that process finishes, Windows will install itself on your machine.
  5. Install the latest drivers for your hardware components (I highly recommend maintaining a folder with the latest editions of all the downloadable programs and drivers you use on your computer, so you don’t have to worry about accessing the Internet to get them again).
  6. Install the programs you actually want to use.

It’s a little time intensive, but if you’re properly prepared the whole thing will be much less painful than you think.

You could also buy a Mac, which doesn’t come with all that annoying third-party junk. Or . . . you can just ignore the problem. Different strokes for different folks and all that. That’s just not me, though.

One Response to “Tear it down, build from scratch”

  1. [In reference to my not receiving an e-mail announcement regarding the birth of their baby – see http://natperry.blogspot.com/2007/05/sophie-details.html for details.]

    Sorry you didn’t get one! i would like to pass the blame over to Steve who compiled the send list from both of our address books. my guess is that he didn’t have your address. if he did i’m sure it was an embarrassing oversight. i’m glad you hacked it from cassia :)

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