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I have a 4-5 year old PC running Windows XP for software development at work. It struggles to run all development tools I need at the same time. Management feels I need to reimage my computer to "speed it up". The last time it was imaged was about 3 years ago.

What resources books, websites, blogs, articles, etc are out there that supports/debunks this well known belief that reimaging an old PC running Windows XP will make it faster once again?

A resource I remember reading is from Lifehacker.com:

UPDATE: I just wanted to add that the PC runs 1-2 programs (SQL Management Studio and Visual Studio 2008) just fine, but having more programs open (say Outlook or Chrome) significantly brings down the performance. It's obvious to me that the machines are old and outdated. They have never been upgraded as far as I know.

Update #2: Further description of the situation: the PC isn't cluttered with toolbars, plugins, and/or widgets from the web. The startup folder is empty, every single program that is installed, is used for development. It is not a play computer, every program has it's purpose/use.

So, for the PCs/workstations out there that is used properly for work/development, what evidence/resources out there point to support/debunk that reimaging a work PC actually makes it faster? If management's plan is to do this for every single PC that is 'slow', is it really worth the time? Imagine there's not just 1, but 10, 50, 100, or even 500 PCs that are like this. Obviously it's impossible to say that every PC install is squeaky clean already or is only used for 'work'. Maybe then, reimaging is the default thing to do as a first step before replacing the PC?

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Just a note: even if you're time is worthless, it's probably still more than the cheapest Dell out there... Oh and this question is somewhat argumentive, so please support the answers with some 'evidence' –  Ivo Flipse Apr 26 '10 at 13:31

3 Answers 3

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While I don't have any written resources besides my own experience to add, I can advise the following:

The LifeHacker article you linked links to another article which goes into more detail about how to mitigate the dreaded WinRot. All of the tips it gives are 100% valid, and I leverage every single one of them daily.

For example, I'm typing this from inside a virtual machine that hosts my web browser, for security segmentation's sake -- additionally, I can install whatever questionable applications in this or another virtual machine sandbox, so as to not clutter up my host machine.

However, these tips are only really useful if you've been following them all along (with the exception of the CCleaner plug, that thing is always useful.) A well-used Windows desktop machine will invariably have some junk piling up in the Registry and elsewhere, and a reformat, coupled with the adoption of proper app installation routines, will hugely mitigate WinRot. [citation needed] :P

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I too read that article link and think it's great. I'd love to have any resources/links that supports and really makes the points argued '100% valid'. Benchmarks, numbers, figures, etc. Lifehacker tends to point to opinion articles that support their main idea, but doesn't necessarily prove it. –  spong Apr 26 '10 at 14:07

The short answer is yes reimaging a PC generally tends to speed it up. However, the reasons behind this is what you want to look at.

Re-imaging a pc puts the PC back into the state in which you created the image. At that point, you probably had a somewhat fresh PC, with little, if any, spyware or bloatware. As time progresses, and you surf more and more websites, install more software, and put more things into your startup programs, the system begins to slow down.

So yes your PC will seem to run faster after re-imaging it, but that's because you wiped your startup programs, and other bloatware out up until the point where you created your image. Less programs to run usually equals less time to run them, giving you the illusion that your PC is running faster.

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I agree. Reimaging starts the PC with a relatively clean install. But once it's installed with the commonly used programs, and regular use resumes, any illusion to performance gains disappears. –  spong Apr 26 '10 at 13:53

Well, first you'd need to find out why your PC is getting slow. Then you can decide whether you can fix it by a reimaging. I don't think blindly reimaging is a good idea.

See e.g.

http://superuser.com/questions/59399/why-windows-becomes-slow-as-time-goes-by/59412#59412

and

http://superuser.com/questions/55218/why-does-hardware-get-slower-with-time

for why PCs can get slow. Then decide which applies to your situation, and whether it's easier to reinstall/reimage, or maybe remove programs one-by-one.

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I agree. Investigating as to why a PC is slow is important. But for management to spend resources (people) on investigating why can be costly. Maybe 1-2 PCs isn't much, but if the policy is to applied to 50, 100, or 500 PCs, it would take a lot of time. –  spong Apr 26 '10 at 16:21
    
@sunpech: True. But reimaging 100 or 500 PCs also takes a lot of time. Particularly if it then turns out that it didn't help... –  sleske May 2 '10 at 14:35

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