Looking back at 2014, it was a bad year for botched patches, major corporate breaches, and new forms of cyber attacks.
As we start a new year, ensuring that our PCs are secure should be a top priority. Here’s some helpful information for that task.
Cleaning house by completely rebuilding
I had to make a tough decision the other day. One of my PCs was getting slower and slower. It seemed generally out of sorts. To get it running smoothly again, I had two choices: I could either clean out the accumulated detritus or reinstall Windows from scratch.
Thoroughly cleaning the existing system would retain my apps and data but might take a significant amount of time and effort. It would also require cleaning the Windows Registry. I’m not a fan of Registry cleaners: they often go too far and can potentially damage the system. Moreover, machines that have been upgraded from an older version of Windows — like this particular machine — can have leftover Registry keys that cause problems down the road.
Here’s a case in point. As noted in a TechNet blog, some Windows 8 machines could not install KB 3000061, a critical October 2014 security patch, due to a Registry key that wasn’t properly updated during the OS upgrade. (Microsoft had to recall the update.)
After some consideration, I went with the second option. Reinstalling Windows from scratch is the tried-and-true method for creating a truly clean system. It will also ensure that no malware remains hidden within Windows.
Before starting the process, I made sure I had the original media and proper product key at hand plus all the installation discs and keys for my applications. Keeping a good record of your application keys is especially important these days. In the past, you could use a utility such as The Magical Jelly Bean (site) to recover lost application keys. But Office 2013 encrypts the product key in the Registry, so it’s critical to either keep the key in a safe place or have it associated with your Microsoft account ID.