Friday, March 25, 2011

Resintalling Windows - Do's and Dont's

 

When reinstalling Windows, there are rules, standards and personal opinions. The first two are simple and easy, the last will require a good bit of self restraint.

 

Preparation:

Backup all your/your customer’s files (if they haven’t). Try not to leave any of yours behind or you will be cursing yourself under your breath for quite some time.

 

Get all the drivers together.

For the noobs, they are what’s required to make the different part work at their full potential or work at all in some cases. The can be found at your computer manufacturer’s website under the support section. If you have a custom built system, open the side panel and look at the individual parts and do a Google search for the model numbers on the parts. You should find a link to the manufacturers site and the link to download the driver should not be too far off.

(While you’re in there you could dust it out with a clean soft brush or can of compressed air, your choice. I do it for my customers, I don’t charge but I do mention it so they get a sense of value for money)

 

Installing Windows:

Install Windows, plain and simple.

For the noobs, insert the Windows install disc, use the boot key and boot into the disc and follow the setup. The boot key on different systems varies. Dells are F12 HP’s are F11. You will need to do research on others. Normally on the boot screen when the computer is now powering up, it’s usually written somewhere on the screen for a few seconds. Be quick :D

If you want to segregate your windows from your personal files on separate partitions or hard drives, there is a program that does that, but requires a few small steps before you start installing drivers and software.

Windows Profile Relocator

After Windows is done installing, install those drivers you downloaded. Make sure you get all of them. You can tell if you missed any by “right clicking” on “My Computer” and hit “manage”. Select “device manager” and there will be a yellow triangle exclamation mark by any hardware that didn’t have its drivers installed.

Next step, install all available Windows updates…. ALL OF THEM. Don’t give the bad guys an opening to blackball you.

Avoid and hide the Windows Activation Technologies update if you are running a pirated copy of windows.

Concerning an antivirus, Microsoft Security Essentials is the go to AV for me. The definitions are updated a few times a day and there are no heuristics but this also means you almost never see false positives like AVG and Avast!. It does deal with rootkits which the other free AVs do not. It’s also ridiculously lightweight and did I mention it’s free? It’s also based off of the engine behind Microsoft’s Forefront enterprise class, near bulletproof security platform.

 

The hard part:

Different technicians like to do installs a little differently but there is one golden rule, LESS IS MORE. Don’t install every ROM you have collected in the last 20 years, don’t install 10 different calculator application. Don’t install 8 different media players.

We have the internet, ROM encyclopaedias are pointless.

You get the idea.

Pick the best of the best and install that.

Two or three web browsers are a good idea in case the others stop working. Java, Flash install them and make sure they are set to auto update.

Media Players are Awesome, but for the average user, Windows Media Player is just fine. Install a basic codec pack like Win7 Codec Pack or Vista Codec Pack (also works on XP) by Shark007 and this will allow every file format know to geekdom to play back in Windows Media Player.

Ask what services the person uses, Yahoo, Windows Live, Google, and install the corresponding suite.

Context menu items, disable as many of them where they don’t make sense. The Nvidia ATI and Intel graphics managers, put the icon in the system tray and disable the context menu entries to launch them. This keeps context menus clear and helps them appear faster. Use a program like “Shell Extension Viewer x86/x64” to do it for programs that don’t give an in program option to disable context menu entries. I recommend you do this especially for apps like Winzip and 7-Zip that add nearly 10 extra item to the context menu for their one program.

 

What’s in your startup?

Hit the “Start Orb” type “msconfig” right click on the result and choose “run as administrator”. Go to the “startup” tab and deselect any programs that you don’t want to run on startup. If you don’t know what it does, Google the file name and you should find out. Some of these are necessary for windows to run so don’t disable them willy nilly. This should reduce the time it takes for Windows to go from the Welcome Screen to being usable.

There are one or two other apps you can install for the user’s benefit such as Paint.NET, a good simple free video encoder like Freemake Video Encoder. A simple DVD/CD burning program like Nero Burnlite Free. Install a pdf reader that doesn't have all the hooks for the PDF format to mitigate the chance of a malformed PDF exploiting the PC. Sumatra, Foxit are good ones among some others. If you know that your customer is interested in certain things, like say video gaming, install Steam and teach them about it. If they like video editing, sit for 5 mins and show them how to use Windows Live Movie Maker (an excellent piece of video editing software)

As a technician, there are things you need to do for your customers that will keep them coming back to you for all their computer needs.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Putting the User Profile Folder for Windows on another Partition

We all know that Windows is one OS, that, if it decides to die, it really dies and usually takes all your data along with it. That said, wouldn’t it be brilliant to have Windows and all your programs on one partition/hard drive and all your user data (Desktop, Documents, Music, Pics etc) on a separate drive? If you did that, then if Windows died, you simply format the partition with Windows on it and reinstall Windows while leaving all your data safe on the second partition.

With Windows XP you could right click on the My Documents folder and relocate it somewhere else but it still left the Desktop Folder on the Windows Partition. In Vista and Win 7 you could do the same with each User folder (My Docs, Music, Pics, Vids ETC) the only problem being it got really boring and monotonous really fast and still didn’t move the ‘AppData’ folder

Now, Profile Relocator to the rescue. This nifty lil program does all the dirty work for you on XP (x86), Vista and 7 (x86 and x64). It’s best used with a  fresh install of Windows for best result. The steps are pretty simple.

  1. When installing Windows, make sure you create a partition for Windows and another for your user data.
  2. During the Windows setup when you are asked to put in an account name DO NOT put in the name you want for the account. For the initial setup use a temporary account name like “Temp” because we will have to delete this account after we use Profile Relocator.
  3. When Windows is up and running, go to the second partition and create a folder there. Any name would do but i recommend you name it “Users”
  4. Now run Profile Relocator (Be sure to Right Click and choose “Run and Administrator”)image
  5. Agree and click ‘Next’image
  6. Remember that folder i told you to create on the second partition, now point the Profile Relocator to that folder to move your user folders and files there. Hit ‘start’ and wait for the magic to happen.image
  7. When it is done, go to ‘Control Panel > User Accounts’ and create a new account with the user name you want for your account.
  8. Restart the computer, and when it boots back up to the login screen, login with your new account.
  9. If you go to the new location for your user folder on your second partition, you should see a new folder there with the name for the new user account on it.
  10. You can now delete the old Temp account from the Control Panel and now rest assured that all your files are safe on your second partition,
  11. As an added bonus i recommend an imaging application like Macrium Reflect Free/Norton Ghost etc to image your Windows Partition with all your main programs already installed (please avoid imaging games and user files to keep the image size down, thus speeding up the recovery time) to another location so in the event Windows decides to give problems, simply restore Windows to the Image taken with the imaging program and everything should go back to when you made the image allowing you to get back working with minimal downtime.

Cheers Peeps!!

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One point I should note, when you do this move, the indexing library may get corrupted or may still point to where the user files were on the C drive. Thus the Windows 7 libraries feature which relies on the indexing system to work may not function properly anymore.

  1. In the event that happens, simply type “indexing options” in the start menu search,
  2. click it,
  3. tell the indexing too where to index, i.e. the new user directory location,
  4. then choose rebuild index, and the windows 7 libraries will begin to work as before.