Performing a fresh install on your PC or Mac can be one of the “ultimate troubleshooting techniques,” that is according to ZDNet, and we agree.
If you are inclined to do so and have the technical skills or help to do a fresh install we think it should be considered. Systems that have been installed for over 6 months, a year, or even sooner can get overwhelmed with malware, bad software installs, slow application starting, etc… So why not make it like new again? We do.
Why Refresh Your Computer?
- Computer runs slow
- Virus Infection
- Applications or settings are broken
Imagine, making your computer like new again. There is only one way to do this and guarantee results. By reinstalling your operating system your computer is guaranteed to allow you to start from scratch on your computer.
A clean install is an operating system (OS) installation that overwrites all other content on the hard disk. Unlike a typical OS upgrade, a clean install removes the current operating system and user files during the installation process. When a clean install finishes, the hard disk only contains the new operating system, similar to a computer that is used for the first time.Credit: PC.net
How Does My Computer Get Refreshed
- Backup all data and settings as necessary (2-3 backups even better)
- Boot from external media (e.g. USB or Network) and Repartition and/or Format the Hard Drive to ensure all old data and boot sector information has been cleared
- Reinstall operating system
- Update the operating system
- Restore data and settings
Biggest Challenges With Computer System Refresh
- Not having backups of your data
- Not knowing what or how to backup
- Not having Software available for re installation
- Not having Activation Codes and Serial #’s
- Not having passwords to E-Mail or Other accounts
Not All Computer Refreshes Are Equal
Some technicians that charge for computer repair will charge you to refresh your computer but will not actually perform a clean install. We feel this could lead to overcharging. We learned from working in enterprises that if you were spending too much time fixing or troubleshooting a PC or Mac, it would be more cost effective to just wipe the computer clean and restore the data and settings.
System Imaging For Enterprise
Some technicians have been refreshing computers for years, businesses and organizations have also standardized to allow IT staff to create Imaging techniques to automate the re-installation of operating systems and applications. What this means is that if you are in a small organization you might re-image your computer manually or one at a time.
In a larger organization this may be automated to save time by creating images for each type of computer and having the computers re-image themselves over a computer network either one at a time or many at a time.
There are different system imaging techniques for Mac, Windows, and Linux in the enterprise and some of the common tools for mass system imaging are part of RMM (Remote Management and Monitoring) tools such as offerings from Solarwinds and ManageEngine. Open source tools like Clonezilla can still be used to deploy in a network environment but may not scale as well.
How To Prepare For A Fresh Install
- Backup all your data to 3 different places (ok, at least 1)
- Backup your settings
- Confirm you have passwords to any important websites or services you use
- Confirm you have software available for re-installation and the serial numbers or activation codes are available.
- Have printer settings and print drivers considered especially if you plan to upgrade your operating system to a new one. This is an often overlooked issue.
If you are upgrading to a newer operating system that you have not tried or tested, consider that some applications may not work. In this case the application should be checked or tested for compatibility with the newer operating system.
There are more options than ever for backing up your computer. From USB hard drives to cloud based backups to NAS (Network attached storage) there is no lack of backup options. For complete imaging of a PC we still prefer Clonezilla. For Mac OSX we recommend Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC.)
- USB Hard Drive or Flash Drive
- NAS (Network Attached Storage)
- Cloud based backup (like Amazon S3 or Backblaze)
- Complete image backup with CCC or Clonezilla
Full Clone Backup For Mac
For Mac users, while Time Machine can give you a full backup of all your files we do not consider this a full image backup. Consider Carbon Copy Cloner for a full image backup on Apple OSX.
Full Clone Backup For PC
PC Users used to rely on Norton Ghost, but that is no longer an option. The Open Source Clonezilla is still our favorite for imaging Windows or Linux systems. It could in theory also clone a Mac OSX partition.
A system image or clone of your computer hard drive could allow you to move it to another PC, or put this install onto another drive or virtual system/virtual machine (VM.)
This type of clone could allow a full restore of your system exactly the way it was on the old drive or system having everything preserved with a “bit for bit copy.” In this case you would not have to reinstall your old applications, although some applications may ask for you to re-enter your activation code or serial number. In many cases it can be worth the effort. If you have an old POS (Point of Sale System) or some old database using Microsoft Access, Filemaker Pro, MySQL, or some proprietary app, this could be a way to preserve the system in its exact state.
The bottom line is a clean install can make your computer system like new again. The decision whether to do it or not may depend on your backups. but if you have nothing do lose and could gain from the benefits, just do it.