Having to do a clean install of Windows can be a good thing â€“ it gets rid of amazing amounts of accumulated junk on your system. But if youâ€™re not prepared, it can be terrifying – you can lose all of your work and personal files if you’re not careful.
Just recently I installed XP Pro on a new motherboard and to prepare myself, I wrote up a checklist of things to check, save and print before getting started. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me.
- Open up Windows Explorer, navigate to C:/Program Files and take a screenshot of all your currently installed software. This was integral to making sure I reinstalled what I really needed, and also let me know what I could afford to get rid of (approximately 3/5 of what was in that folder). Print a copy or two so you can mark it up, and save it to CD-ROM.
- Take a screenshot of your desktop â€“ this will help you remember what icons you had and where they were placed (if you donâ€™t care, donâ€™t bother. But if youâ€™ve carefully arranged your icons, take a screenshot). Print it and save it to CD-ROM.
- Get a free program like drivercontroller.exe, which will let you save all of the drivers on your machine to CD-ROM in one folder so you don’t have to go hunting them down later.
- Pull out the CD-ROMâ€™s for all the boxed software you want to install (including your Windows XP disk). Note â€“ if you purchased Windows with a computer from a manufacturer and are installing to a non-manufacturer computer, be prepared to go buy a new copy of Windows. Yours probably wonâ€™t work.
- Pull out the CD-ROM’s that came with your printer, graphics card, sound card, speakers, monitor, wireless networking card and any other hardware you’ve installed.
- Put registration keys, licenses or serial numbers for downloaded software into a text file and save it to CD-ROM.
- Obviously, save all of your documents â€“ spreadsheets, word processing files, photos, music files, etc. either in a backup set or to an external drive that you can access later. Preferably both.
- Export favorites from your web brower(s) â€“ Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. â€“ and save them to CD-ROM.
- If youâ€™ve downloaded fonts in addition to what comes standard with Windows, zip them up and save to CD-ROM.
- I recommend you save the following to CD-ROM by folder, and put a little text file in each applicationâ€™s folder reminding you where to install this information on the newly-formatted hard drive. You may need to visit the software manufacturer to find out how to do this:
- Export mail and contact information from your mail software (your profile if using Thunderbird).
- Backup financial files from Quicken/Quickbooks or Money.
- If you use planning software, make a backup.
- If you use project management or time tracking software, make a backup.
- If you use FTP software, save the profile if you can.
- For any specialty software you use (in my case itâ€™s HTML, server and Adobe Creative Suite), save your settings if possible. You will probably need to check out the manufacturerâ€™s site to find out how to do that, but itâ€™s worth the time if you spent time getting your software configured just right.
- Any other databases, like a client management system â€“ make a backup.
- If youâ€™ve made a number of Exceptions in your firewall software, save them by taking screenshots. Print and save to CD-ROM.
- If you have a complicated home network, consider taking screenshots of the settings screens. Print and save to CD-ROM.
- Anything youâ€™re not sure of, if you can back it up or take a screenshot of it, better safe than sorry.
Note especially the need to defragment your hard drive after getting XP up and running. Itâ€™s good advice; I checked my new hard drive before starting to reinstall software and it was 27% fragmented just from all the XP updatesâ€¦.
Good luck! Reinstalling your operating system is a pain in the neck because of all you have to remember, but hopefully this checklist will save you some time and worry.