With so many laptops out there in the market, it only makes since to buy one a little older to save some coin. Or maybe your Great-Aunt Petunia decided to upgrade and give you her older model. Or maybe you’ve just run your old laptop into the ground and can guarantee a system crash just by looking at it. In this article, I’ll let you know how I approach the issue of the “used laptop” and my three-pronged approach to fix it. (Jah… just like a trident… call me Poseidon).
Before We Even Start…
BACKUP!!! The first two approaches involve formatting your computer. If it’s your own computer, you’ll want that data later. Get an external drive and just copy your entire User profile over to it. If anyone else uses the computer, copy those too. If Windows gripes that you don’t have permission, log in on an Administrator account and tell it to do it anyway.
Also, it is important to note that the first two prongs will include reformatting the hard drive. This means all the programs you purchased or downloaded will need to be re-installed. Be prepared. Gather together all your boxes, discs and keys. I usually go through my Start menu and make a list of all the software I use, so after the rebuild, I know what I need to install. Most are packages I downloaded from the internet. For those, I’ll wait until after the rebuild to download.
Prong #1: The Easy Path (Warning: Data Loss)
Most computers sold in the last several years include a separate partition that contains an image that can restore the computer back to factory defaults. This is the path of least resistance, since you don’t have to hunt down any discs. Depending on the manufacturer, there are several ways to get to this option. Almost ALL of them show up during POST (that brief moment when you turn on your computer and see that first screen with the various Function buttons and their meanings). Watch closely when your reboot your computer and look for the one that says “F(something) – System Restore” or something like that. I usually end up having to reboot twice… once to find out the key, and another to actually get the chance to find it and press it.
Again, there are LOTS of different restore processes out there and I won’t even try to explain them all. As long as you have anything of yours backed-up, go with the option that puts it ALL back to factory defaults. It will likely give you 15 different warning windows and notices to make sure that’s what you really want to do. Be brave. As Nike says… Just Do It!
Let the computer do its work and when it’s done, you should have a brand new computer (with all the crapware and other useless stuff most manufacturers include). At this point, you can skip directly to Prong #2.5: Updates from Hell
Prong #2: The Harder Path (but much easier)
Before proceeding, I will be honest. This is my preferred method.
For this prong, you MUST have a valid Windows installation disc (preferably Windows 7 or 8). You can either boot directly from the disc or run a program on it that will handle the reboot for you. Just follow the instructions and make sure you select the option to install a NEW operating system. Do NOT upgrade.
You will be asked a few questions during the install (software key, location, etc). When you are finished, you will have the cleanest operating system on the block. Depending on the age of the computer and the operating system, you might have to install extra drivers. In almost all cases, Windows will do this for you.
Prong #2.5 (I thought there were only 3!)
If you have followed either of the previous two approaches, you are likely working with a version of Windows that needs a LOT of updates. So, once you are booted and running, open up Windows Updates and see what it has to offer. Chances are there are quite a few. Go ahead and let them run. Depending on your connection speed to the internet, getting up to date could take anywhere from half a day to several. DO NOT try to install anything else while your updates are running. Of course when that is done, and you install your copy of Office… (hee hee)… it’s going to go through a second round. TRUST THE UPDATES!!!!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Randel Consulting will step you through the cleaning process. There is absolutely NO way I could put all the ways to clean a computer other than wiping the hard drive in a single article. I will remotely access your computer (with your permission) and go through a cleaning and updating process. Depending on the age and severity, it should take a day or two. You will only get billed for the time I’m actually hands on (not while waiting for updates).
I will usually rebuild all my computers once every 90 days. I set them all up so any data is always stored on either a separate partition or drive. I like to put it this way… Your computer is like a block of cheese. Every time you install new software, you shove a jalapeno in to it. Even if you pull the jalapeno back out, you are still left with a hole and spice all around. Never be afraid to reformat. Your computer will stay fast and clean.