I just spent the past few hours reinstalling my laptop in an attempt to squeeze a little more life out of it. Having done this on a near annual basis for the past too many years I thought I’d document the process for future reference and in case it’s of use to anyone else. I always go for a full format and re-install, I have no faith that a plain old repair or upgrade will be adequate and I’ve found this to be the case on Windows, Mac and Linux machines in the past (I’m currently on Windows 7 which is what this post will focus on).

Preparation

The first thing to do is make sure you’re not going to lose anything you needed, this process is MUCH easier now that we all live in the future but still worth being sure and maybe taking an old fashioned backup just in case. If you find yourself not so in the future check out the following services and bring yourself up to speed:

  • Dropbox – Folder sync to the cloud for all your docs
  • Github/Bitbucket – The best in source control for your development projects (you ARE using source control right?)
  • Evernote – Forget notepads and text files strewn all over the place keep EVERYTHING here where it’ll be sync’d to the web and your mobile
  • GMail – Email by G, no mail client: no problem
  • BackBlaze – Everything backed-up with no need for you to remember to do it, cheap too!

Even with all that it can also be convenient to make a backup to an external hard drive, these are cheap as chips these days and can save you time having to re-download the things you know you’ll need straight away.

Drivers

With everything backed up you’re almost ready to go, one vital step not to forget (especially if you don’t have access to another computer) is to download your required drivers from your computer’s manufacturer website. If you want to deal with this later, as a bare-minimum you should get your network card/wifi driver. At least then you can get back online and get whatever else you need later. Remember to put these on your external drive or USB stick!

OS

One final rather obvious thing to remember is your Operating System and License key. Make sure you have that handy and you’re good to go.

Kill it

Restart your computer and press the relevant key (F2 on my Toshiba Tecra) to get into your BIOS settings. Here you’ll need to set your DVD drive to boot first. Stick your OS Disk in and reboot and you’re off. When prompted choose to format your main drive and follow the rest of the installation as standard.

Fresh and new

Once the OS has installed you should have a bare-bones set up with no manufacturer/store crap hogging disk space and system resources. It’ll probably be looking a little rough though as you won’t have your display drivers installed. Now’s the time to install your network card/wifi driver and then get hunting for the latest drivers for your machine (typically you’ll want to start with graphics and sound drivers).

Install-a-rama

Here is the list of software that I’ve just installed on my machine to get me going, there’ll no doubt be more that gets added in due course but for now this gets me up and running and productive again:

  • Windows (duh)
  • Wifi Driver – gets me online to be able to download anything else I need
  • Display Driver – gets me a decent resolution
  • Touchpad Driver – this is a laptop and without this the trackpad speed was painful
  • Google Chrome – After the first two downloads in the default IE8 that came with Win7 Chrome accelerated my web browsing tenfold
  • Evernote – I’d made a list of other drivers and software I’d need in an evernote note so this was a good time to install it
  • Visual Studio – my bread and butter and a bit of a beast so got the install going
  • Dropbox – retrieves all my documents as if by magic
  • Web Platform Installer – handy tool for grabbing any other MS dev tools needed
  • Backblaze – backups sorted off the bat
  • Git – I can then start to retreive my projects from Github/Bitbucket

Done

That’s me back up and running, my machine is much faster than before and I can get productive again. No doubt there are some applications I’ve forgotten (and some I’ve not but will avoid installing for as long as I can ahem-office-cough-flashbuilder).

Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything or want more details @dannyt 🙂