Windows XP Clean Install?

Steve Davis: After being a PC geek for 20 years now (got my first PC in ’85) I’ve learned a LOT over the years. First thing I do when getting a new PC is make a backup. I use Norton Ghost but there are a lot of tools to do this with – some even free. Now contrary to some previous suggestions I always divvy up my HD into 2 sections, about 5-10 gigs OS and the rest data. I then get just the basics on it, things that I will always need and the few tweaks I always use. I then back it up again and call it BASICXX where XX is the OS, be it XP, 2K or even back to NT and 98/95. I keep this image handy and usually write it to a CD (now DVD).

I then go hog wild and put all my goodies on it. I keep a folder on my data drive with all my current apps, ISOs of apps and downloaded files and updates. I keep this mess current along with a paper LOG of what I install and UNinstall. I also use MS’s TweakUI to move nearly all the Special folders to my D: drive under the heading of ‘My Documents,’ that is my desktop, send to, Favorites, My Pictures – nearly anything that can be moved I stick under ‘D:\My Documents’. I even have my Firefox and Thunderbird profiles under ‘My Documents.’ I use a tool like Synchback to copy this DAILY, sometimes several times a day to several “backup” sites, my laptop, a server and a backup folder. This assures this data doesn’t get stale or messed up.

I back the OS dir up with Ghost weekly and the data daily to tape, but the time comes when bit rot sets in and it’s time to roll it back to the beginning. I double check my data, save anything that need saving and go back to my BASICXX image. I then chug through al the installs and TweakUI hacks to bring it back to a good state. I just had to do this yesterday (12/19/05) and was back and running pretty much as I was – albeit MUCH faster and steadier. When the time comes that I switch OSes, the whole process begins again – but I have the foundation of my data partition and all the installed apps. Hope this helps someone stay out of “Restoration Hell.”

John Belanger: “A ‘Clean Install’ is a totally foreign concept to the modern computer user if not unheard of. Most columnists today tout the system restore or quick reinstall features. Sadly no body takes into account registry corruption or crappy software. Even Microsoft doesn’t have the savvy on how to clean / fix the registry. Add to that a crap program like Zone Alarm which used it be a great firewall but since it got sold it’s probably one of the most troublesome programs you can put on a computer. Even Zone Alarm’s uninstaller can’t undo the damage done by Zone Alarm.

The only answer in these situations is a complete nuke ‘n pave. If you wipe the OS and its associated registry you’ll get rid of crappy programs and yes it’s a lot of work, especially on newer machines with huge hard drives and tons upon tons of software. It is however the only way that things can be put right many times.

I’m getting ready to do that myself actually. Since Zone Alarm got sold to a software selling company with little or no support I’ve tried to reinstall it three times with the same errors popping up. Zone Alarm’s online support claims the programs that are affected are what’s causing the problem yet when I turn Zone Alarm off all the problems go away. Reinstalling Zone Alarm does no good. Downloading a new version of Zone Alarm does no good. Hours of editing the registry does no good. Zone Alarm even interferes with trying to install a different firewall when Zone Alarm is supposedly no longer on this computer. I mean using an Uninstaller, doing file and folder deletions and numerous registry edits.

Obviously the only cure for a problem like this is a nuke’ n pave. Getting rid of Zone Alarm is like trying to get rid of a virus, maybe even harder; at least virus writers know what they’re doing – seemingly more so than Zone Alarm. Zone Alarm used to be a great firewall app when it was Zone Alarm. Ever since CheckPoint took it over, ZA has become complete crap with no help available from them whatsoever unless you want to pay for it. That must be this century’s way of managing software. Pay to buy defective software then pay again to make it work.

I’m getting ready to do a nuke and pave so I can restore control of my computer to me. It’s my computer, I paid for the parts, I built it, I configured it. I won’t let some other program rake it over. Not AOL, not Zone Alarm. I spend a lot of time with AV apps and spyware apps to make sure nothing like that happens. It angers me though when a security app I paid for takes over my computer and keeps me from using my computer for what I want to use it for.

Don’t let your readers or SysOps be bullied into reimaging by the likes of companies like CheckPoint. A nuke ‘n pave is the only way to get rid of nefarious crap like that once the initial mistake of installing it in the first place has been made. The OS makes no difference. ancient Win9X, 2000, or XP. The registry remains and the corruption within will continue to plague any reimage on any computer.

[tags]windows,ghost,backup,norton,reinstall,partition,zone alarm[/tags]

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • Anthony Butler

    In January 2004, I bought Norton Ghost 2003. I used it relentlessly on W2K, and it was flawless. All things come to an end, and I now have a new computer – dual core CPU, maximum RAM, Mirror RAID, and Windows XP Pro x64. Before I make a mess of the new system, will the GHOST 2003 work with the 64 bit system?

    Thanks AB