There really is no better way to speed up and optimize your computer than to reformat your hard drive. This process allows you to reset your computer back to square one and, in some cases (such as with particularly virulent malware infections) may be the only way to get your PC up and running again. It’s a double edged sword however because a reformat will wipe everything off your hard drive—virus and wedding pictures alike!
Preparing for a wipe
Before you take the reformatting plunge here are some steps you’ll want to take to ease recovery:
Backup your Data
You’ll want to make copies of all those pictures, uncompleted novels, mp3s, and other bits of data you don’t want to lose. Move them on to a jump drive, external hard drive, or an online storage system (try File Dropper, it’s free). They’ll be safe there and can easily be recovered after the wipe.
Safeguard your Programs
Programs aren’t quite as easy to recover as files unfortunately, and they require a bit more effort. Every program you use, that wasn’t pre-installed to your computer, will have to be re-installed after the reformatting, so you’ll want to plan ahead.
Start by making a list of all the programs you use that will need to be re-installed and make sure you know how to get them back. Most programs only have to be re-downloaded or re-installed from a disk, but some require unique CD-Keys from their developers. If you’re not sure about a particular program, get in touch with the developer’s customer service and ask them what the re-installation process would be like. If they don’t know, ask Google: Google knows everything!
Reformatting your hard drive
This is usually as simple as popping in your system recovery media and following the instructions it provides. If you don’t have any recovery media than you could do the same thing with a standard Windows Installation Disk, insert the disk and follow the instructions. This process will take a while and you’ll have to complete it from beginning to end before your computer will be usable again.
After the Wipe
After you’ve reformatted your hard drive, take the opportunity to start your PC off right!
Adios the Bloatware
Start by removing all that memory hogging bloatware we talked about earlier. Programs like Wild Tangent, Sling Media, and others can be removed with no adverse effects and plenty of positive ones. Try downloading a program called “The PC Decrapifier,” this program will automatically detect which programs can be dispensed with and take care of them for you.
Take the time now and follow the instructions for MSConfig from the “It’s got a lot of junk” section of my post. Learning which processes are which right now, after a clean install, will help you to keep tabs on what’s what as your computer starts to get cluttered again. Remember to use www.ProcessLibrary.com if you don’t know what a process is for!
Choose the right programs
You can keep your freshly scrubbed PC clean by choosing the right programs. Some programs you may have become used to before are actually poor choices for a fast PC. iTunes, for example, is a terrific music player but is much more demanding on your system than it should be—even when it’s closed it’s got a background process running, tying up system memory. Instead try JetAudio Basic or Winamp, these programs offer terrific service and are much better for your system.
Reformatting your hard drive, though it can be a major hassle, essentially nets you a brand new computer—as fast and clean as the day you opened it. Many computer enthusiasts reformat their hard drives and start from scratch at least once a year as part of their normal maintenance schedules. With proper preparation a complete wipe can be a great way to improve your PC’s performance.