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Lessons Learned from another Reinstall

I am 80% done with a total reinstall of my OS and PC. I did it when I had a hard drive crash (see my post here).  Here are hard lessons learned:

  • among free download managers, Orbit downloader is probably the best.
  • I learned how easy it is to forget to turn on ClearType font effects on XP Professional. If you haven’t turned it on, you’re really missing out. Go to Desktop –> Properties –> Appearance –> Effects –> Use the Following Method to smooth edges of Fonts –> Clear Type. I assume it’s turned on by default on Vista. (From  my article on teleread about Cleartype fonts and Vista, remember these stats:
    • performance enhancements: improved speed of recognition accuracy: 17% more accurate
    • more natural tasks: sentence comprehension: 5% faster with cleartype; 2% more accurate.
    • when people read an article lasting more than 5 screens, they read faster with cleartype, with a speed advantage on every page.
    • finding/searching tasks in the real world: 7% increase in speed in real world tasks.
  • When Windows search says it can’t find a *.pst file on a hard drive, don’t believe it. (It was located in an Applications directory which was hidden).  I am definitely going to use google search on my desktop from now on.
  • when you experience problems with OS installation and you’ve already tried installing it, if it fails you need to install it once more just to be safe. (I ended up bringing it to the shop only to have the service people tell me it was not a motherboard problem but was easily solved by a new install).
  • The tech guy at Directron suggested keeping the OS partition for 2 OS on separate partition and then switching via bios (instead of using a boot loader). That way you don’t have to mess with command line boot tools and it’s easy to move hard drives onto other PCs.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to.
  • I learned that accidents happen in threes. In addition to losing a hard drive, I had a OS boot problem totally unrelated to the hard drive failure (I think). Then I had a wifi card fail. How lucky is that?
  • Annoyingly, the PC repairman who reinstalled XP ended up demolishing the partitions and creating ones of different sizes (totally at odds with my instructions).  I had written down what needed to be done, but he still forgot/didn’t notice it. You can’t count on servicemen to know what to do with your data.
  • there are costs associated with turning on logging. I turned on logging for my wifi connection on my laptop and it rendered the machine unusable. The laptop was so slow as a result of it that it took 30 minutes just to reach the setting to turn logging off.
  • You do not need to activate your Windows OS every time you reinstall. (Microsoft scans the hw arrangement and remembers).
  • When something is out of warranty, Dell is horrible about providing support. I had some questions about a Dell Axim X51v PDA (simple questions, like: how do I download the latest firmware release), but the Dell site didn’t make this information available. I ended up finding good information on a private bulletin board.
  • It’s a bear keeping track of licenses and CD media.  Often you are given custom downloads with your customized license, but here are the problems:
    • what if you lose the download?
    • Even if the license is only a string of alphanumeric characters, you are still stuck if the company doesn’t keep older versions of its software on their website.
  • I’m really happy with the Ilium PocketPC suite of products. You install it both on the PC and the PocketPC, and syncing is absolutely pain-free! Their newsbreak software (for reading RSS on the PDA) is first class; I also depend on their Ewallet Password/Account Manager; in fact, when my PC failed, I literally could not pay bills! (because I had lost my pda also).
  • gparted is a unix-based utility for resizing partitions. I used it once before and generally heard good things about it. I also used it today to resize a partition (to correct the mistake of the service tech). I never realized that it would take 1-2 hours to finish the job (and I never realized that just partitioning a 1 terabyte drive could take 2-3 hours).
  • When you’re in one of these installation funks, it’s good not to try to fix any special dinner dinner that day, and to have good relaxing music.  I tried cooking my famous chili and totally couldn’t pay attention. I ended up burning the beans and by the time I had the concentration to cut the vegetables, it was 12:30 in the morning.

Generally I gave up on having a simple user account for my Windows install.  This time I used an Administrator account. Several applications didn’t work right, so I said, to hell with it.

Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be working on my new Zune.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • eCover Engineer 5/30/2008, 6:02 am

    I was so mad when I had to install my OS. All that time spent adding & configuring programs, emails, settings were all lost.

    2 years ago, I was working on a piece of software that messed up big time my printers. It did it so badly, that after a few days I had to reinstall Windows. So, searching for a solution, I found out about Norton Ghost. I backed up my System partition, and using an older version that requires a boot CD, I just restore the whole partition. I works like a charm, and in 15 minutes I have my brand new OS.

    email me if you need more info about this.

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