When your computer is not behaving as it should, re-installing Windows is sometimes the only way to go. Just insert the installation media and follow the wizard. That being said, the problem starts after installing Windows. For instance, you cannot connect to the Internet due to driver issues or you forget to install some applications, lose application settings and configurations, etc. If you have a plan beforehand, the reinstallation procedure will be much smoother.
Before Re-installing Windows
Here are some simple things you need to do before reinstalling Windows.
1. Back Up Files, Application Settings, and Configurations
This is the first thing you need to do when considering a re-installation. Skim through your C: drive and back up any personal files like images, videos, and documents. Especially, look in general folders like Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Downloads, etc.
After that you need to back up the settings and other data of your favorite applications. For instance, if you are using the Thunderbird email client, you can back up the profile folder. This helps you restore the Thunderbird application without manually adding all the email accounts again. Each application has its own way to export settings and configurations, so take your time and back up those settings. Since you can easily import those settings and configurations with just a few clicks, it helps you save a ton of time after re-installing Windows.
2. Make Sure You Have All the Product Keys
To activate some premium software like Windows, Office, etc., you need to have product keys. It is a good idea to have those products keys beforehand. This lets you activate the software as soon as you install it. You can use free software tools like ProduKey or Belarc Advisor to quickly find and copy the product keys of different software. One thing to keep in mind is that you might not get the product keys of all your premium software. If you find that the you are missing a product key for premium software, you can try to recover it from your email inbox or simply contact the developer.
3. Download Drivers
Device drivers are a big issue for Windows systems. Though Windows 10 tries to install generic drivers automatically, it is good to have all the required drivers beforehand, especially video and network drivers. Head to your laptop or motherboard manufacturer website and download their latest drivers. The drivers contained in the CD/DVD you get when you buy the laptop or motherboard are usually outdated and may sometimes cause unnecessary problems.
4. Make a List of All Installed Programs
This is one of the most overlooked parts, but it always helps to make a list of all the software installed on your system. Besides the installed software, also note down any portable software you are using.
5. Make Sure You Have Up-to-Date Installation Media
Unlike Windows 7, Microsoft is updating Windows 10 twice every year. So before you proceed to reinstall, make sure you have the up-to-date installation media. If you are unsure, you can download the latest ISO from the official Microsoft website and create a bootable USB drive.
After Re-installing Windows
1. Install Device Drivers
The first thing to do after installing Windows is to install all the drivers you downloaded earlier. This will ensure that all the hardware devices work properly and that you can connect to the Internet.
2. Update Windows
After installing hardware drivers, you need to install Windows updates. More often than not these updates contain bug fixes, security patches, and feature updates. To update a Windows 10 machine, open the Settings app by pressing the keyboard shortcut “Win + I,” navigate to “Update and Security -> Windows Update” and click on the “Check for updates” button.
3. Download and Install All Your Software
Next, download and install all the required software. Use the list you created earlier to make sure that you are installing all your favorite applications. For general purpose software like browsers, media players, image viewers, etc., use Ninite. This free software automates everything and installs common software with just a single click.
4. Configure Windows and Application Settings
After installing all the required software, it is time to configure the Windows settings. When I say Windows settings, I’m talking about common settings like unhiding file extensions, disabling unwanted startup items, setting up Windows Hello, changing default apps, etc.
Restore all the backed-up application settings one by one. Every app has its own way to import the settings and configurations. For instance, to restore Thunderbird all you have to do is copy the profile folder to the “AppData” folder and you are done.
5. Create a Backup Image for Future Use
This step is optional. However, creating a backup image after installing and configuring your system is always the best thing to do. This backup image lets you quickly restore Windows if anything bad happens in the future. Of course, you still have to update Windows and other software after restoring Windows, but that is much better than actually re-installing and going through the whole process.