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Repave your computer

August 20, 2011

I’m inviting comments on this article and will update with useful suggestions.

As a software professional I’m approached by people all the time asking what to do about general computer problems.  Most of the time it’s malware or that windows has become corrupt in some way.

I’ll leave this space blank for all the Microsoft-haters to insert their own, “Get a MAC” type of comment here.  <BLANK SPACE> All done?  Great.  Most people want this problem solved for close to free and buying a new computer isn’t always an option.

What I often suggest is to “Back it up and Repave it” – meaning copy all the files you want to keep, format the hard drive and install windows from scratch.

The reason I suggest this is because I know it will work 100% of the time.  There are many anti-spyware products that might work.  I might be able to google the specific problem and find a solution.  I might be able to reconfigure windows to not use the thing that’s causing the problem.  However – each of these techniques has at best a 50% chance of working – and I have no idea how much time each one will take.

Backing  up your data is usually the roadblock here for most people – and I’m here to tell you that you should have been doing this anyway.  There are many ways to do this, but here’s my suggestion: Use Carbonite. It’s $60/yr.  It’s what I use, it’s really easy, and it’s pretty cheap compared to lots of other options.  Also in Carbonite’s favor is that its now a very established company.  I don’t work for them – but if you decide to use it ask me for an invite and I’ll get a free month or something, or use the link above.

There are MANY backup options out there, you want something you don’t have to think about.  You cannot be trusted to run a backup every night. 

After ensuring you’re backed up, boot from your window’s CD and choose the option that warns about “this will format your hard drive.”  You are not doing an upgrade and you might be asked about partitioning etc – but the good news here is it’s difficult to anything wrong because you’re all backed up and can always do it again.

You’re going to have to re-install any software you use – but now you’ll probably be getting the latest versions of the free stuff – and you won’t be wasting space and resources on all the stuff you installed years ago and no longer use.  You’d be surprised how many applications install something that runs all the time “for your convenience.”  Getting rid of all of these utilities is probably the #1 thing that will make your machine run faster. 

For the most part – the bad guys write really good code, and the stuff they sneak into your system has almost no noticeable effect.  If it did more people would be getting rid of it faster.  Their main goal is to not be noticed on your machine.

After you’ve reinstalled everything you really need, make sure your backup is still working. 

Again: Please comment with your experience etc.  I plan on pointing people to this article in the future.  Feel free to critique spelling and grammar as well.

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