Advice for Cleaning out / up a PC

Posted on 2009-05-17
Last Modified: 2012-05-07
I am going take a (small to most people) leap of faith and re-load / re-format our PC that we use for everything, and every day. (we do have another PC so both myself and my wife can surf at the same time - it can be a back up for a little while) It is just getting sluggish, and seems to have a few issues.  I was looking for some advice to follow as far as some kind of procedure, or recommendation to a web site for one. Something that is solid and trusted.  Our Windows XP OS is pre-loaded (wish I would have ordered the disk now).  I am probably going to add one or more external hard drives for some storage of songs and video, so I plan to use one of those to back up / store all of our info before the big wipe.  Any help is very appreciated. Thanks - Smizzong.
Question by:Smizzong

Accepted Solution

johnny_the_knife earned 100 total points
ID: 24409001
The first thing you will need is the installation media for Windows XP.  It's possible your machine has a recovery partiton, which would allow you to easily restore the machine to it's factory state.  The machine should have come with documentation explaining the process if this is the case.

If not, you will need to:

Obtain XP installation disks for your version of Windows
Back up all data you want to keep to an extenal hard drive, DVD/CD etc
Run the Windows XP installation by inserting the CD and rebooting your computer, note, you may need to press a key during boot to enable booting from CD.  The windows installation will be loaded at this point if everything is working.  If your computer just boots windows normally, you may need to change settings in the BIOS to boot from CD, the procedure to do this will vary depending on the make of your computer
Follow the installation steps, making sure to delete and recreate the partitions on the hard drive and format them.
Once Windows is installed, you will need to obtain and install device drivers for any hardware you have which is not supported natively by Windows.
Install any other software you use such as MS Office
Restore backed up data

As you can see, the process is quite involved, so it may be easier for you to take the computer to a computer shop to complete the work if you are unable to obtain recovery media from the manufacturer of the equipment.
LVL 95

Assisted Solution

by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 100 total points
ID: 24409096
Frankly, I would suggest, given the price of new hard drives nowadays, you should just purchase a new (internal) hard drive and install it.  Then install windows on that.  In theory, if anything goes wrong, you can always put back the old drive and return to where you are EASILY.  And you can also buy an external enclosure, install the old hard drive in that, and access any data you may have on it so you know you don't lose anything.
LVL 31

Assisted Solution

by:Wayne Barron
Wayne Barron earned 100 total points
ID: 24409173
I 2nd what Leew has stated here.

Also, please have a look here for an in-depth look into reinstalling the system using
A method that most do not tell you, but all should know.


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Assisted Solution

nobus earned 100 total points
ID: 24409501
here the best guide for installing, repairing XP, and much more :

to backup your data, you will need :
My documents
internet favorites (export them)
your mail ( for outlook, copy the PST file - for OE copy the outlook express folder)
if other programs keep their data in a separate folder, copy that too.

you can also make an image backup of your drive, so you can access your data from it (if you forgot some thing)
a very good soft is Acronis Drive image :
LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:Wayne Barron
ID: 24410199
How you doing Nobus?
good I hope.

You do realize that some of your information in the Center there
Is posted in my link above?
Except for the .pst files.

Have a good one.
LVL 92

Expert Comment

ID: 24410711
yes some is embedded.
i always try to present it in a clear way
Have a good day too  !

Assisted Solution

ilnyc earned 100 total points
ID: 24413626
One thing people haven't emphasized yet is to make sure you have all your third party apps, such as photoshop, video editor, etc, either in the orignal installation form or downloads, with the license keys.

Also think about how you want to new install work so that next time you won't spend as much time reinstalling the OS and apps.  I personally keep all the data (files, music, photos, outlook archives, etc) in separate partitions from the OS and apps.  And I save periodically images of the C drive partition with Acronis. Just something you can do to change a 4 hour project into a 20 minutes one.  :-)
LVL 50

Expert Comment

ID: 24414454
Smizzong--You are going to have problems (like it cannot be done) "reloading/reformatting" if you have no install CD.  If the PC is not too old, you may still be able to buy one cheap from the PC maker.  Like $10-25.
However, you may want to consider the following which might avoid having to reload the OS.
You could have hardware problems.  
Here are diagnostic tools for the better known hard drives
and for RAM
(and many problems of slowness are caused by not having enough RAM for the OS and/or installed programs even when the RAM is functioning acceptably)

Here is something I wrote some time ago, so it will probably mention somethings that others already have
1) Have you scanned the PC for viruses, spyware, etc.?  (Be sure to use programs with updated reference definition files.)  Delete whatever these programs recommend.  And if you did find such malware, you should also probably install and run HiJackThis.  It may find bits and pieces which were left behind
2) Disk Cleanup. There are several ways to reach it. One is Start|All Programs|Accessories|System Tools|DiskCleanUp. That will start a scan of the PC to tell you what files might be deleted or compressed. (The scan takes a while.)  I would certainly delete Temporary Internet Files, Temp files, Downloaded Program Files and probably Compress Old Files. See for details.
3) Then I would run ErrorChecking. (left click on MyComputer||right click on C:\ drive icon (assuming that is your hard drive)|Tools|Error Checking. Check the box "Automatically fix file system errors". Click Start (within the error checking window). You will be told to reboot. Do so. Error checking will then run as part of the reboot. It can take a while.
4) Start|Run|type MSCONFIG|OK|Startup tab.  WinXP actually needs very few thirdparty programs (the ones you see in msconfig) to run at start. Antivirus, Firewall, Antispyware, programs associated with wireless connections such as mouse, network, etc. would be among the few.  Uncheck the box to the left of any program you feel you do not need at startup.  Click Apply.  This site will help you make decisions what you do and do not need
5) Run Disk Defragmenter. ((left click on MyComputer||right click on C:\ drive icon (again assuming that is your hard drive)|Tools|Disk Defragmenter|Defrag Now click Analyze) Unless the analysis shows defragmentation is not needed, proceed to run Defragment. That also takes a while.

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