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  1. #1
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    When it's time to do a total Windows 7 reinstall




    BEST PRACTICES

    When it's time to do a total Windows 7 reinstall




    By Lincoln Spector

    In his July 14 Top Story, "Win7's no-reformat, nondestructive reinstall," Fred Langa explained how you can quickly and easily restore Windows 7 without losing your programs, drivers, and data.

    That was great advice! (I could kick myself for not including it in my April 7 article, "Fix that problem without reinstalling Windows.") But there are times when a complete, "destructive" reinstall is necessary — you just have to know when.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/best-practices/when-its-time-to-do-a-total-windows-7-reinstall/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by Tracey Capen; 2011-08-17 at 18:15.

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    4 Star Lounger Jagworld's Avatar
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    Love the article, anything related to keeping us users running is good!!

    Assuming that we have to slick the disk, partition it and format it ---- then install windows:

    1) We need to know what drivers we need to backup when things are fine; C:\ windows/drivercache/i386 or c:\windows/system32/drivers or c:\windows/system32/DRIVERSTORE or all of them?

    2) We need a CD/dvd disk with a application to preform a zero out of the disk and how to run what-ever the application. Example: we've seen a bert?? CD with odd app names and have no idea how to use anything there.

    3) And then we can assume that we can bootup our Windows dvd to install our version of windows.

    4) Then another possible "How To" on copying these drivers back so the hardware devices work.

    I think this scenario fit's most folks and we need to know how !!

    Regards
    John G
    "Paid Version"

  3. #3
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    Exclamation Windows 7 SP1 ISO file download

    Regarding Lincoln's note on not being able to use an original Windows 7 DVD to reinstall over SP1, note that Microsoft has provided ISO images for Windows 7 SP1 for all Windows versions. See the links here to download your version, then burn the ISO to a DVD (which can be done from within Explorer). The resulting DVD is bootable, and can be used with your current Windows license key for a reinstallation, should you ever get to the point of needing to do that.

  4. #4
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    Cool Reinstall Windows 7 via Upgrade

    The various methods of reinstalling Windows 7 is a great accumulation of info. I've done both way; non-destructive (update) and destructive (complete reinstall) with varying degrees of success. Included below are some emails describing a specific type of problem, i.e., the infamous BSOD.

    My last discussion with Dell's Tech Support did not solve the problem (surprise). TS remotely update the out of date drivers. Worked for five and a half hours then 3 BSOD in two hours. Again they said to reinstall W7 if the BSOD returned, which it did.

    I really liked the info on the update method , although as noted below it did not work for the W7 Pro Virtual XP Mode. Is it me or does it not work for the Virtual mode?


    Selected emails:
    "Well I answered my own question. The answer is no. Re-installing Windows 7 Pro via Update you lose all virtual PC settings. Restored my Acronis backup file and all is well. Virtual XP PC works as before. No one at Dell Tech support has been able to solve my BSOD problem. Last suggestion was to update the BIOS, but it is already updated to the latest version.

    Jack Snyder

    -------- Original Message --------


    Hello Fred,

    Just read your excellent article in Windows Secrets (I'm a paid
    subscriber as I was with Langa List for years) on re-installing Windows
    7 without losing all your settings, programs and data. Exactly the info
    I was looking to find. I have Windows 7 Professional 64 bit installed
    on a Dell Studio XPS. I choose the W7 Pro because I have numerous old
    XP programs which can be run in Virtual XP mode with W7 Pro (such as
    Adobe PageMaker 7). I've been having several encounters with the BSOD
    glitches. Dell's Tech Support's final solution was to reinstall Windows
    7 from scratch. Not a palatable solution.

    Question? Will your re-installation scheme work with W7 Pro and retain
    all of the Virtual XP programs, settings, and data?

    Thanks,
    Jack Snyder
    Santa Barbara, CA."

  5. #5
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    There is another good reason to perform a full format and clean reinstall every so often, that wasn't mentioned;
    The winsxs folder, (created as a means to mitigate the infamous "dll hell" issues of previous operating systems) will accumulate over time
    with every software addition, update, and driver updates.
    This adds hundreds of MB's of extra code, that even if the original software or update was uninstalled, will continue to be present in this directory.
    And there is currently no other way to remove this extra stuff without doing a full format & custom clean install.

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    bethel95:
    It may be just me, but I find your last statement not true in my case. Days before reading Lincoln's article came out, I had gone to the site your download link points to; and had burned the ISO; and had done the clean reinstallation of my W7 Home Premium set-up.
    Then, nothing I did, would recognize my current Windows license key.
    I probably could have called Microsoft; but neither Fred's subsequent qualification that Microsoft would provide another key if you explained what you were trying to do to the rep on the 'phone; nor had Lincoln's article come out at that time.

    So, I'm glad I had uo-to-date images, and I quickly restored my system to where it was before I went down the reinstall path.

    Bethel95:
    Have you successfully done what you mention above: the reinstall and the acceptance of your current Windows license key?

    Thanks,
    Dick

  7. #7
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    Moved my Windows 7 Ulitmate from my old computer to a newer one. Windows did't validate via the web. Used phone activation and they validated it via automatic phone response. Just had to answer 1 to the question how may computers is this copy installed on.

    Jerry

  8. #8
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CLiNT View Post
    There is another good reason to perform a full format and clean reinstall every so often, that wasn't mentioned;
    The winsxs folder, (created as a means to mitigate the infamous "dll hell" issues of previous operating systems) will accumulate over time
    with every software addition, update, and driver updates.
    This adds hundreds of MB's of extra code, that even if the original software or update was uninstalled, will continue to be present in this directory.
    And there is currently no other way to remove this extra stuff without doing a full format & custom clean install.
    I don't recall the thread where this occurred, but sometime not long ago, frequent Lounge visitor -- "DrWho" -- outlined his Windows maintenance scheme. He says his scheme (which involves specific cleanup steps) does control the growth of the WinSxS sludge. If anyone can dig up that posting, it might save a few folks from doing periodic clean reinstalls of Windows 7.

    From my own experience of over one year of using Windows 7 home Premium 64-bit, I find no significant permanent WinSxS of SysWOW growth. Those areas have grown, sometimes dramatically if frequent updates occur, then shrink back to nearly their original sizes.

    I guess folks experience different WinSxS and SysWOW effects, depending on how we use our computers, how much legacy (Compatibility Mode) software we run, how we clean our computers with various utilities, and a host of other variables.

    I know a fellow who treats his Windows 7 laptop like a media jukebox, and he has experienced large and permanent WinSxS and SysWOW accumulations, and he has resorted to a couple of clean reinstalls. So clearly, Your Mileage Will Vary.
    -- Bob Primak --

  9. #9
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dick-Y View Post
    bethel95:
    It may be just me, but I find your last statement not true in my case. Days before reading Lincoln's article came out, I had gone to the site your download link points to; and had burned the ISO; and had done the clean reinstallation of my W7 Home Premium set-up.
    Then, nothing I did, would recognize my current Windows license key.
    I probably could have called Microsoft; but neither Fred's subsequent qualification that Microsoft would provide another key if you explained what you were trying to do to the rep on the 'phone; nor had Lincoln's article come out at that time.

    So, I'm glad I had uo-to-date images, and I quickly restored my system to where it was before I went down the reinstall path.

    Bethel95:
    Have you successfully done what you mention above: the reinstall and the acceptance of your current Windows license key?

    Thanks,
    Dick
    Dick, you may be onto something here.

    Bethel's web links lead to pages which are definitely not official Microsoft sites. This concerns me greatly, as there are many "cracks" out there which may cause unpredictable results if installed, even when activated with legitimate Microsoft license keys. Most of the folks who use "cracks" do not intend to use Microsoft for their updates, and have never paid for legitimate licenses. This issue is especially prevalent in East Asia and South America, according to some folks who have posted in other forums (like Infoworld.com comments threads). But the "crack" sites may be hosted in any country. And they do not always advertise their lack of official Microsoft reselling or redistribution licenses. Anyone could be fooled into believing that these are legitimate download sites.

    Digital River is a licensed Microsoft reseller, by the way, but the Digital River links which appear in the reference page linked by Bethel, do not appear to be officially sanctioned Microsoft downloads intended for general distribution to the public. I don't know how the web site where the links are posted got the Digital River links. And therein lies the problem -- we do not know the actual origin of these downloads. The lack of ability to activate these downloads when installed leads me to believe that they are meant to be run as Virtual Machines, which are not complete versions of Windows.

    I would not trust any unofficial download of any Microsoft product. The only way to get a legitimate copy of Windows (any Service Pack) is to get it through the correct channels, from a licensed reseller or from Microsoft itself, through their official download sites, or by ordering a DVD from Microsoft or a licensed reseller. None of these downloads is ever offered for free to the general public. Even the stand-alone Service Pack DVDs are offered only by direct download from Microsoft (or by paying for shipping and handling for a physical DVD to be sent). Other sources are unofficial or worse.

    I hope I am wrong in my suspicions, and I know Bethel would never knowingly post a link to a "crack". I am making no accusations of wrongdoing on anyone's part. It's just that there are things which even the most informed among us may not always know.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-19 at 20:51.
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  11. #10
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jagworld View Post
    Love the article, anything related to keeping us users running is good!!

    Assuming that we have to slick the disk, partition it and format it ---- then install windows:

    1) We need to know what drivers we need to backup when things are fine; C:\ windows/drivercache/i386 or c:\windows/system32/drivers or c:\windows/system32/DRIVERSTORE or all of them?

    2) We need a CD/dvd disk with a application to preform a zero out of the disk and how to run what-ever the application. Example: we've seen a bert?? CD with odd app names and have no idea how to use anything there.

    3) And then we can assume that we can bootup our Windows dvd to install our version of windows.

    4) Then another possible "How To" on copying these drivers back so the hardware devices work.

    I think this scenario fit's most folks and we need to know how !!

    Regards
    John G
    "Paid Version"
    John G --

    You raise a very important point about reinstalling Windows. It is necessary to be able to reinstall your drivers when you have finished.

    Backing up drivers is actually very easy if you have the right software.

    I use DriverMax (free, but with upgrade nag screens). It makes a Folder containing all the drivers it can find, or whichever subset you select from the list before making the backup Folder. And DriverMax can find almost any driver, no matter where it has been installed.

    The paid (Pro) version of DriverMax only adds the ability to download from their own archives, as many drivers per day as you want, and install them when and where you want, as long as each computer has a paid DriverMax Pro license. I do not recommend the paid version, but it might be convenient if you need to overhaul an old laptop, for example. (You might need new drivers because of manufacturer updates. These updates may be needed for compatibility with the current Windows Service Pack for the laptop.)

    Then, once Windows is reinstalled, any program which can pick up drivers and put them where they belong inside of Windows, can go into the DriverMax MyDrivers Folder (which should be copied to an external drive or burned to a CD) and fetch the needed drivers, just like when Windows updates a driver by using the "I have the disk" option. The DriverMax MyDrivers Folder is your "disk", and in most cases, Windows (or any other utility) can find and restore the correct driver or drivers. Or you can reinstall DriverMax and do a full driver restoration, if Windows will launch.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-19 at 21:08.
    -- Bob Primak --

  12. #11
    4 Star Lounger Jagworld's Avatar
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    Thanks and i'll get drivermax, it sounds like something we all need to have.

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    Arrow Wrong ISO, or else MS messed up

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick-Y View Post
    It may be just me, but I find your last statement not true in my case. Days before reading Lincoln's article came out, I had gone to the site your download link points to; and had burned the ISO; and had done the clean reinstallation of my W7 Home Premium set-up. Then, nothing I did, would recognize my current Windows license key.
    I have three guesses:
    1. The ISO you downloaded didn't match the Win7 version of your license key.
      .
    2. You've changed your hardware configuration enough since your original installation that it failed validation.
      .
    3. MS messed up the installer so that it doesn't recognize your license key.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick-Y View Post
    I probably could have called Microsoft; but neither Fred's subsequent qualification that Microsoft would provide another key if you explained what you were trying to do to the rep on the 'phone; nor had Lincoln's article come out at that time.
    Probably the only way to untangle this would be a call to MS support, since you used the ISO image to successfully install Win7 and only the validation step failed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick-Y View Post
    Have you successfully done what you mention above: the reinstall and the acceptance of your current Windows license key?
    Nope, so I may someday be in the same position as you (though I hope it never comes to that). If so, I'm no worse off than I would have been without the SP1 disk (and maybe that call to MS would do the trick--I've heard from many users over the years that they're pretty responsive to re-validation problems).

  14. #13
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    Cool Direct download link for Win7 SP1 from Microsoft

    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    Bethel's web links lead to pages which are definitely not official Microsoft sites...Digital River is a licensed Microsoft reseller, by the way, but the Digital River links which appear in the reference page linked by Bethel, do not appear to be officially sanctioned Microsoft downloads intended for general distribution to the public.
    Bob is right to be cautious about sources with which he's unfamiliar. For everyone's info, Digital River is an official MS electronic distribution partner, generally servicing corporate and educational institution accounts. For example, see this official MS download help page for a student purchase program for Win7--check the URL, and you'll see it's Digital River. You'll also note that ISOs are one of the download options.

    Who released the direct links to the SP1 ISO downloads on DR's server is something that I don't know, but they've been fairly widely published on tech blogs without any complaint from DR or MS. Nor would I expect that either would complain, as these ISOs require a genuine MS license key (i.e., they're not "cracked" versions of Win7).

    For those of you who aren't comfortable with downloading via DR, however, it's possible to download the SP1 ISOs via this page on MS's website. The downsides to this route are that you have to go through a Windows validation routine and the "click path" isn't that obvious (click <Continue> to get started)--that's why I provided the direct download links in my original post.

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    Cool Freeware driver backup

    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    You raise a very important point about reinstalling Windows. It is necessary to be able to reinstall your drivers when you have finished. Backing up drivers is actually very easy if you have the right software. I use DriverMax (free, but with upgrade nag screens).
    I use a similar freeware utility called Double Driver for backing up my driver set. It includes the option of creating a self-extracting .exe file, as well as a simple "folders" backup. Backups are saved in date/time-stamped folders, so it's possible to keep multiple historical versions of your driver set (if you have some good reason for wanting to do that).

    Here's a PC World review of the current version of Double Driver.
    Last edited by bethel95; 2011-08-29 at 11:19.

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  17. #15
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bethel95 View Post
    I use a similar freeware utility called Double Driver for backing up my driver set. It includes the option of creating a self-extracting .exe file, as well as a simple "folders" backup. Backups are saved in date/time-stamped folders, so it's possible to keep multiple historical versions of your driver set (if you have some good reason for wanting to do that).

    Here's a PC World review of hte current version of Double Driver.
    Good reference. I've been looking for a truly ad-free alternative to DriverMax. But I think I'll stick with DM just for continuity purposes.

    The advantage to a simple folders approach is that the Windows does not need to be available to run the .exe for driver restoration. Plus, you can selectively restore only those drivers you really need.

    By the way, thanks for the clarification about the Digital River downloads. I knew you would never post a "crack". Still, there is a slight mystery about the failure of the ISO burn to accept a Windows License Key.

    Going through Windows Genuine Validation is indeed a pain in the neck, but if it produces a download which accepts the official Windows License Key, I'm thinking this is a small price to pay. Just saying...
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-23 at 16:01.
    -- Bob Primak --

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