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  1. #1
    New Lounger
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    Advice on clean reinstall of XP with recovery of existing user data and drivers

    I would be grateful for a pointer to a procedure for doing a clean install of Windows XP and the saving of user data and drivers etc which will be needed on the new install.

    I have offered to fix up a widow friend's computer which is pretty badly messed up, runs very slowly and is almost impossible to use. I'm looking for a procedure for identifying user data (such as contents of outlook express email folders, documents etc), drivers for the motherboard, etc.

    I'm hoping the lady will be able to find the original Windows disk, Office disk etc and I will need to upgrade to at least SP2 I guess.

    I don't want to do a repair of the existing install which will preserve existing programs and settings, as there could be malware on the machine.

    I have software which will let me make an image of the existing partition, and restore to the current state if something goes wrong.

    I'm pretty sure I've seen something from Fred Langa on this subject in the past, but my searching so far hasn't found it. There are several references to his procedures for doing a non-destructive re-install of existing setup, but I really want a clean install.

    A step by step procedure might save me from forgetting some important step on the way, and having to start over again.

    If anyone can point me to a detailed procedure I would be grateful.

    John S

  2. #2
    Silver Lounger
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    There are potential problems with a clean install of XP but I won't bother mentioning them until a problem presents itself but an XP disk updated to at least SP2 probably won't bluescreen on anything except a AHCI controller issue (STOP 7B).

    To backup data from an unknown system I would give ClickFree download for PC a try; it'll search and backup all data files it finds on a system drive and I think there's a 60 day free trial. For driver backup I use Double Driver portable, it's free and always seems to work very well for me. I go through each item to be backed up and usually ignore all the Microsoft drivers that will be installed with the clean install and sometimes I can eliminate a set of old video card drivers that don't exist anymore, just back up the present drivers.

  3. #3
    New Lounger
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    Thanks for the suggestions.

    I have downloaded double driver.

    Won't do anything about the 60 day trial of clickfree until I get the computer to work on.
    I may not need it though, as I will be making an image of the system partition, and I will be able to mount the image later if I need to recover any files I've initially forgotten.

    Will still keep looking for the detailed procedure of how to do the job though, as I'm sure I've seen it somewhere.

    Thanks,

    John S

  4. #4
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    John, I do this stuff for a living, like, for the past 33 years.

    If you don't have the original install disks with the hardware drivers on it, your best bet is to first clean off all the junk files, then run scans with a good (FREE) AV program like AVG and a good general Anti-Malware program like Malware Bytes.

    It usually takes me about three hours, to completely clean up and rejuvenate a PC, but it's better than risking all the hardware drivers and the person's personal data.

    It sounds like you don't want to do that, but it's probably because you've not done it before and you're uncertain how to proceed. Eh? But I've done it many times, and it does work, without messing up the persons programs, data, saved email, etc.

    The last time I cleaned up a real mess, I removed over 100,000 temp files, then UN-installed about 20 toolbars and other bogus programs. Then I scanned for Spyware and took out another pile of crap.

    If you decide to go this route, I'll be glad to help you.

    Good Luck!
    the Doctor
    Experience is truly the best teacher.

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  5. #5
    New Lounger
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    Thank You, DrWho.

    I haven't picked up the computer yet, but I'm now thinking that I might try to fix up the existing installation to start with, depending on how badly mangled it is. Apparently others have had a go in their own well-meaning way, and I don't know what has been done.

    I intend to make an image of the partition before I do anything else, then I can always restore everything back to existing condition if things go wrong.

    I guess, if the computer can be made more responsive, that will save many hours of reinstalling and configuring, so it is worth a try to start with.

    Thanks for the offer of help. If I need it and make another post, will you be watching this thread for a while?

    John S

  6. #6
    4 Star Lounger SpywareDr's Avatar
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  7. #7
    New Lounger
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    Thank you,

    John S

  8. #8
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    Think of a person's home, that for years did not have any trash taken out.
    I think we can all agree, that would be a stinky mess, Eh?

    Well our computers are HOME to all our precious doc's, pictures, music, etc. But it's also home to the garbage that is created every day.

    My own computer generates about 2-3 megabytes of temp files daily. If I didn't do daily maintenance on my own PC, it would slow to a crawl and probably choke and die in less than a year. And those are just the known temp files in well known temp folders. Not the garbage files generated by AV software, browsers and other programs that I run every day.

    When I do a tuneup on a new customer's PC, after all the cleanup is done, I put a little Cleanup batch file in the Startup folder, so they get a little "free Maid Service" every day, when they boot up their PC. With that done, I'll never again have to clean 100,000 temp files out of that PC.

    Good Luck!
    The Doctor
    Experience is truly the best teacher.

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  9. #9
    New Lounger
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    Hi DrWho,

    Yes, that makes sense. I do something similar with my own computer (Win XP).

    I back up a dozen folders every day (including Documents & Settings) using a batch file and an archiver (Power Archiver) which can be run via command line. Before backup I open up a nice little file manager (XYPlorer) where I have eight tabbed folder windows permanently on display showing the contents of various cache and temp type locations. I empty these manually and take an interest in how much rubbish I have collected.

    Cheers,

    John S

  10. #10
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    In my experience, cleaning out temporary files have little to no effect on performance. The only time I clean out temp files now is if the disk is running out of room.

    Jerry

  11. #11
    5 Star Lounger
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    I know you are receiving a lot of very good info and that's great

    Although this isn't a fix it solution, may I recommend the following strategy?

    What I have done a few times when a computer was really messed up, I asked the computer owner to allow me to have the computer for at least a week to include about an hour of hands on training when returning the computer based on their questions and needs.

    Then ask for a followup a month later. The idea is to take time to track the computers performance while I could. Usually when a computer is pretty well messed up, chances are a future mess up is still in the making; by doing what I did worked out very well because the person became familiar with their computer on how they were handling it.

  12. #12
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    Point of order:

    In a well oiled PC, every file in the PC is accounted for every day. All directories have to be read by the OS on every boot up. Then when there are AV and AS scans, every file has to be scanned.
    Then in the event of a Defrag, again, every file has to be dealt with.

    With all this activity, having 100,000 junk files, or sometimes many more, on the hard drive, just serves to make all the above operations take that much longer. A clean PC is going to be a much more efficient PC and it will have a happier owner/operator.

    I just can't feature, anyone saying to just let the crap collect, and that it won't impair efficiency.
    That's absurd!
    Experience is truly the best teacher.

    Backup! Backup! Backup! GHOST Rocks!

  13. #13
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrWho View Post
    Point of order:

    In a well oiled PC, every file in the PC is accounted for every day. All directories have to be read by the OS on every boot up. Then when there are AV and AS scans, every file has to be scanned.
    Then in the event of a Defrag, again, every file has to be dealt with.

    With all this activity, having 100,000 junk files, or sometimes many more, on the hard drive, just serves to make all the above operations take that much longer. A clean PC is going to be a much more efficient PC and it will have a happier owner/operator.

    I just can't feature, anyone saying to just let the crap collect, and that it won't impair efficiency.
    That's absurd!
    "All directories have to be read by the OS on every boot up"
    Not true. Give me any citation that states this.

    "Then when there are AV and AS scans, every file has to be scanned."
    This is only true when you do a full scan. Most AV's perform a quick scan on a regular basis. A full scan is only normally done when you suspect an infection and has no impact on normal operation.

    "Then in the event of a Defrag, again, every file has to be dealt with"
    In Windows Vista on up, automatic defrags are done when the system is idle, again causing no impact to performance.

    "I just can't feature, anyone saying to just let the crap collect, and that it won't impair efficiency.
    That's absurd!"
    I have examined many PCS for performance issues and have yet to see a single case where cleaning temp files has a measurable impact on performance. On my own Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs, I rarely clean out temp files. (No more than once or twice a year) I can't remember the last time I did it and both PCs boot and perform very well. There certainly is no harm in cleaning them out if it makes you feel better but no great advantage either.

    Jerry

  14. #14
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    I have offered to fix up a widow friend's computer which is pretty badly messed up, runs very slowly and is almost impossible to use. I'm looking for a procedure for identifying user data (such as contents of outlook express email folders, documents etc), drivers for the motherboard, etc.
    Assuming that when you get the computer and there really isn't much that can be done by simply cleaning the thing up, as you say others have also tried and presumably failed, your next step would be an attempt to preserve the user's data.

    Remove the drive from the computer and connect it to yours.
    Depending upon the age of the computer and that of your own, you may need an IDE to SATA, or IDE to USB cable
    in order to connect the drive.

    Perform a thorough AV/AM scan on the entire drive.
    You don't want to contract anything from the computer in question, nor do you want to backup something you shouldn't.

    Locate all the user's personal data, including email.
    This will be the easiest part as most of the data will be located in the user profile and other areas.
    It will be just a simple matter of searching once you get the drive connected to yours.
    Places to look:
    \Documents and Settings\[user name]\My Documents\ (alias %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\)


    Make a detailed list of all installed programs & versions from the root program tree directory.
    If anything, by having a list of all the installed programs & versions you might be able to re-download them, or look
    for fully contained program executables in their respective folders.
    Look in C:\Programs as a starting place. You may also look in the user profile.

    Research and locate drivers from the manufacture's website first.
    Locating Windows XP drivers
    If that is not possible you may be able to locate and extract their executables from within windows explorer, usually
    under; "C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS and DRVSTORE".

    Locating Email files & folders
    C:\Documents and SettingsusernameLocal SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook
    C:\Documents and SettingsusernameApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook

    http://www.tweakhound.com/xp/installxp/installXP1.htm
    One of the best clean install article on the internet for XP.

    Not every fudged computer can or should be "cleaned up".
    There may be serious corruption to the OS necessitating a full format and clean install.

    Get together with the computer's owner and realistically discuss what can and cannot be preserved based on
    what you find when you finally do get your hands on the machine.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

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  15. #15
    New Lounger
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    Thanks everybody for your advice.
    It's great to get this kind of support to fix a problem.
    In the meantime, I've had the computer now for three days and it's almost ready to go back to the owner.
    For anyone interested, here's what I found and did:-

    1) On starting the computer I found that the HDD was almost full (It's a 40 GB drive with about 4 GB recovery partition)

    2) I made an image of the C: partition and stored in on her external HDD.

    3) Used several free software utilities to check for rootkits, and other malware.
    To finish off, I used Malwarebytes to purge the system of what it defined as undesirable stuff.
    There didn't seem to be anything really nasty.

    Used CCleaner to get rid of lots of temp and other trash files.

    4) Made a list of all the stuff installed on the computer, and consulted the lady owner about which items she normally used, and which could be removed. There was a lot of stuff installed years ago by her late husband, so I had plenty of items to remove.

    5) The computer has 1 GB RAM - seems to be OK for what she will be doing. Monitoring with Process Explorer shows that RAM is rarely used at more than about 50% level. However, it does show that the processor is often maxed out at 100%, especially in the first couple of minutes after boot up. This seems to be mainly caused by the AVG antivirus installed, but this slowdown can be lived with.

    I have installed xxcopy and set up a small batch file she can use to backup the contents of her "Documents and Settings" folder to her external HDD, just by double-clicking a desktop icon.
    This is a blunt instrument, but will save the stuff that's important to her, including Outlook Express mailboxes.
    I've also suggested she buys a second external HDD for additional security (not being dependent on just one external drive), and backs up twice a week, using them alternately.

    Had to re-install Office 2007, as it wasn't behaving properly (fighting with Word 2003, which I had removed)

    6) The computer is quite useable now. Not lightning fast, but it's an old machine, and I think it will be as good as it's ever been. Now about 7 GB of free space on the C: partition, which should be OK for the time being.

    Again, thanks everybody for your ideas (especially as you persuaded me to give up the idea of doing a clean install and setting up everything from scratch).

    Regards,

    John S

    PS - what I now need to research is whether I can safely get rid of some of the stuff in c:\Windows\Installer.

    There's about 8 GB of files in there. Don't know what they are or how to identify them or discover if they're still needed.
    My own Windows XP computer has only about 34 MB of files in that folder.

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