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22. May 2010 07:45 PM

Why reinstall the operating system
I have been reading some of the older posts on Giizmo and I came across one post that stated that it was a general practice of some of the members on this site to reinstall the operating system on a regular basis. This really intrigued me and I would like to know why one would do this 'regularly'. In fact, it was stated that you should do it at least every 2 years (sorry can not get a link to it to work).

I have been using operating systems that go right back to pure DOS and I have never reinstalled an operating system unless I got myself into something I could not get out of .... last resort, all had turned to concrete and nothing was working. In other words, I got in beyond my skill level.

Do the members reinstall the operating system for a specific purpose other than for a last resort recovery and why would one reinstall every 2 years ... is this a maintenance rule of thumb?

george 22. May 2010 09:07 PM

Yes, I do that once in a while fro Windows systems if time and the situation allows.

My experience is that during the time of intensive usage of my Windows systems a lot of slack and orphaned files and registry entries collect. It is nearly impossible to remove all those by hand or with the help of cleanup software. Most of these leftovers just sit there wasting space, others might even influence application behaviour, like dll's or drivers that haven't been correctly uninstalled after testing software.

A fresh install gets rid of all that and gives you a "clean" system.

wdhpr 23. May 2010 12:48 AM

Hello emmjay

I lean to your side on this one. When I Start with a fresh OS, I remove as much crapware that I can find. I then do my updates and start reinstalling software.

At this point I begin periodic maintenance using various apps.
Most of the time, my computer wears out before the OS.


kendall.a 23. May 2010 01:52 AM

I am the one who made that post originally.

I've not always been the best with re-formatting and re-installing my OS, but it makes sense every couple of years. As I said earlier, no amount of using CCleaner and Revo and even registry cleaners can clean out your system and make it run "good as new". (At least in my opinion.)

As I just re-formatted my HD and installed Windows 7 (64-bit), here is my plan. After doing all the windows updates for the new Windows 7 OS, I did an image backup of my system. (I did this before installing any software, including security apps.) I plan on keeping this image around in case I ever want to go back to a totally clean system.

Next, I installed my security apps (AV, HIPS, anti-malware, etc.) and my documents, including MS Office for me (others may choose to use OpenOffice). Then, I made a different image backup. (I have a 500 GB external HD that I save the images to.) I will keep this one around as well.

Lastly, I installed my games and various other non-critical apps. I will not do another image backup (though, others might want to). I don't care all that much if I have to revert back to my image if I lose my game programs and my non-critical apps. I can always re-install those. (Besides, many of my games are several GB's and in total, I probably have close to 75 GB of games. I don't feel a need to do an image backup of these.)

This way, I don't HAVE to do a reformat and reinstall again (unless a new OS comes out); I can just use one of my image backups.

P.S. I back up my documents, pictures, etc. to my external drive and I use Mozy as well. (Some call me a little bit paranoid.....)

Ritho 23. May 2010 08:15 PM

When I was still using Windows as my main OS I used to re-image my OS to disk about every six months. Since the image had all my drivers and commonly used programs in it only took about 10-15min and my computer was back to a pristine state. I did it mainly for performance, and saved my self having to use registry cleaners, and fix-it utilities. I also used Altiris SVS (Software Virtualization Solution) which is now owned by Symatec, to install all the other programs that were not included in my image. This allowed you to install programs in layers and export them to archive files. So all you had to do is import them and you were ready to go. MS Office took about 40sec to "install" this way.

Doobie 24. May 2010 06:18 PM


Originally Posted by emmjay (Post 29306)
I have been using operating systems that go right back to pure DOS and I have never reinstalled an operating system unless I got myself into something I could not get out of .... last resort, all had turned to concrete and nothing was working. In other words, I got in beyond my skill level.

As long as you're satisfied with the operation of your operating system, you need never reinstall the OS. It's hard to believe that you've been using operating systems all the way back to "pure DOS" yet didn't develop an appreciation for the occasional OS re-install during those Win9x days.

25. May 2010 08:50 PM

Doobie, I have had to reinstall operating systems many times ... all due to my meddling where I should not have been. In the early days, with OS/2 and Windows I did get a few of those 'catastrophic error' messages and sometimes my computer would jam up for no reason (Windows was good at this), but I managed to worm my way out of it. I have even ran TOS and Autocoder operating systems (pre DOS) ... am I giving away my age?

I still meddle (thinking I know what I am doing!!!) but I am less anxious about it now. There are so many good freeware apps that you can use to investigate problems, sites like this one where you can get help, and backup apps that allow you to recover all your stuff.

I think Kendall and others have a point regarding 'the clean slate' approach. It has merit and is worth considering. My XP system would be a good candidate (never had to reinstall it ... 8 years now ... after all my interference over the years it must be pretty much approaching hybrid status).

Opus 06. Jun 2010 06:26 AM


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,

J_L 06. Jun 2010 07:03 AM

Hmmn, it seems there is no mention of disk imaging, which I find very valuable in case of emergencies (or any issues really).
It basically backs up your entire system, including everything you've installed and your configurations, anytime you want. After restoring, your system reverts back its previous state.
With a boot/recovery cd, you can restore it while your system is unbootable.

I agree with Opus that schedule re-installing is not advisable, and Google is a great resource for troubleshooting.

Originally Posted by Opus (Post 30250)
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

I don't really agree with the registry cleaning though, is it really necessary? Have you (Opus) noticed any positive change in terms of performance and stability, especially in later Windows OS versions?

Anyhow, I'd personally recommend troubleshooting, it isn't that hard with the power of the internet. If the problem doesn't seem fixable, then you can restore to a previous disk image.

Opus 06. Jun 2010 06:36 PM


Originally Posted by J.L. (Post 30252)
Have you (Opus) noticed any positive change in terms of performance and stability, especially in later Windows OS versions?

This falls more in the realm of stability than performance. When you have a registry that is 25MB, shaving one or two megs does not make much difference. But it is helpful to remove old entries from software installs and uninstalls gone wrong. It is incredible how much gets left behind when you remove some applications--both on disk and in the registry. (Winamp is one of the worst culprits I have ever seen for this.) This is because many installs are written as custom apps or with old or buggy installers that do a great job getting things in but a terrible one pulling them out again.

A few months ago, I needed to uninstall a large database management application by Quest Software. This program's install had loaded numerous individual components of various kinds, but a "full" uninstall only removed most of those components. After running the uninstall, two components that were left behind refused to uninstall. They each complained that they were essential components for the main app, and neither component's uninstall was detecting that the main app had already gone. I finally had to manually remove their files and certain registry entries and then use a registry cleaner to clean-up all of the flotsam and jetsam of the components in the registry. The beauty of the registry cleaner was that it could trace all of the little tendrils of the removed programs in the registry much more quickly and accurately than I could have manually.

Kind regards,

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