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Old 06. Jun 2010, 06:26 AM   #8 (permalink)
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 6
Default Counterpoint


I have been a Windows and UNIX system administrator in my workplace for many years, and I have used almost every version of Windows since 1.0. Operating Systems are not something that ought to re-installed on a regular basis. Catastrophic problems that require an O/S reload are pretty rare. I emphasize "require" because I am aware that many people use O/S reloads to solve problems that they are unable to tackle at their level of expertise.

Modern operating systems are extremely stable and reliable. If you install an O/S on a computer and never anything else, it is unlikely that there will ever be stability or performance problems with it. But for some odd reason, people generally like to install other programs as well, and this is where the trouble begins. Computer vendors also like to load-up their O/S images with applications in an attempt to get users productive as quickly as possible. Every additional program that is installed increases the complexity of the system and multiplies the number of bugs and other problems that are likely to manifest.

This is not to say, however, that operating systems themselves are bug-free. It is not possible for any software to be altogether bug-free, and operating systems are no different. Of course, bugs in operating systems can have much broader effects than those in application software, but very often O/Ses are blamed for problems that were actually caused by applications. Some of the most difficult problems are those that arise from an accumulation of faulty interactions among many programs including, sometimes, the O/S.

I never have to re-install operating systems on computers that I am working with unless I need to change the system's low-level configuration--switching from individual drives to RAID, for example. But, computers and operating systems are my profession. I never have any system problem that cannot be resolved by specific troubleshooting with less time and effort than re-installing the O/S. This is just as true for Windows workstation operating systems as it is for server-class Windows and UNIX O/Ses that I work with on a daily basis.

The problem that most users have, however, is that they are not computer professionals, and they do not have--nor should they have to have--a technical expertise with computer hardware or software. As a result, many believe they have no choice besides an O/S re-install when things have seriously degraded. There is also this widespread notion that O/Ses just need to be re-installed from time to time, but I have not found this to be the case. Routine re-installation because some install anniversary date has passed is not an advisable practice. Either way, there are always alternatives.

I have and use a registry cleaner. Certain ones work very well, and it is advisable to clean the registry at least once a month and after uninstalling a major application or a group of apps. Performing a disk cleanup is another useful activity as it deletes accumulated temporary files that are stored in many different places in Windows. Defragmenting the file system is helpful, but it is not something that should be done very frequently--no more than, say, once a month. In extreme situations, a Windows repair operation can be helpful though this is just one step short of re-installing the O/S. I recently had to do this when a new version of a low-level Intel motherboard firmware update was preventing Windows Vista from booting.

One of my favorite troubleshooting tools--one which I use very often--is Google. The wealth of troubleshooting information that is available on the internet is staggering, and there are few problems that I google without success. It is often especially helpful to google the exact text of error messages. This often results in a useful hit on the first page.

The re-installation of an operating system is not a trivial undertaking. It requires planning and sustained commitment to see the project through. It is helpful to work from a baseline O/S image that allows you to get a head start, as it were, by quickly laying in a working O/S, but you must also go through the effort of restoring your data and re-installing your applications. There are short-cuts for these steps as well, but there is still an effort to it.

In any event, you should do what works for you. What you do not need to bother with is routine re-installation of the O/S regardless of what O/S it is just because of the passage of time. Uninstall, cleanup, do maintenance, but do not re-install the O/S unless you really need to do so.

Kind regards,
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