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I frequently reinstall Windows from scratch because it has become to slow. I wonder if I were to uninstall every application, followed by a defrag and CCleaner job, would it be as fast as a fresh install. Does anyone know?

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Having too much stuff installed isn't always what noticeably slows down your computer. Often, It's having too much stuff running. Use CCleaner, or do a Start -> Run -> msconfig and take a look at the programs you have running on startup.

Is you notification area bloated with crap you never use? (I see this alot on computers bought from stores/Dell/Gateway/HP that come "pre-loaded"). Configure some of those applications to NOT start with Windows. (see the previous paragraph)

Of course, there is also a good chance mal-ware (viruses, trojans, spyware, etc) is causing the slow-down (or, IMHO, bloated anti-malware like Norton or McAfee). In this case, I find that starting from scratch is often the quickest path to zen.

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My comp is not bloated :) See my comment to harrymc's answer. But I agree that installing from scratch feels much better. – StackedCrooked May 15 '10 at 18:20

First of all, no app can replace human sanity. Check what you install. You can also use Virtual PC, Virtualbox. Other side, use PORTABLE applications. They will run without messing around with the registry, program files, whatsoever. They can be also upgraded easily.

Something like that. And once you set up a working environment (like every driver, usual apps like firefox, foobar, what do you use), do a full backup of your disk. Much better than always reinstalling from scratch.

To the topic: You won't get a system as fast as the original one if you installed too much... uhm.. dead-weight on it. But maybe you can tear down some fat from your sys. Give it a try. Judge which one takes more time. :)

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Recently I've been reverting to a CloneZilla disk image instead of reinstalling from scratch (you're right that it's much faster). This question is mostly out of curiosity. – StackedCrooked May 15 '10 at 10:34
Well. As I said it depends on what have you installed and the uninstallers. Most of them uninstall everything but some leave some unused files. Revo Uninstaller Pro can remove these leftovers also. (However I don't like Revo since it lists the installed apps so slow and the removal also takes 3x more time) – Shiki May 15 '10 at 10:38

If you uninstall, defrag and use CCleaner, it won't be as fresh as a clean install. Not all the uninstalled apps will be cleanly removed, the effect of defragging is negligible if you're using a decent high speed drive with it's own cache memory and CCleaner won't fix anything in Windows that's been broken through installing, uninstalling and tweaking.

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I'm fairly sure that uninstalling applications can slowly break Windows but I can't find any confirmation for this except for my own experiences with Win98, where after many installs/uninstalls e.g. trying out shareware etc. it was obviously broken. – Rob Kam May 15 '10 at 11:52
That slow down is just an unreasonable tale, a stupid imagination. Check when you install every driver and when you clean your PC or if you keep it clean, after a year. ITS ALL THE SAME. Seriously. I've used many Windows installations, on many PCs, was admin at some places. There is NO difference if you keep it clean or clean it out and between the fresh install. Thats all. – Shiki May 15 '10 at 15:27

If you mean to uninstall every application, defrag & install them again, then just do defrag, there is no reason here for reinstallation.

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Generally, I'd just reinstall Windows. It takes about 10 minutes to install and if you plan a bit beforehand you have a working system in half a day again. (Well, unless you want to install Visual Studio or Adobe CS.)

Odds are that uninstalling every application takes you about as long as reinstalling everything ...

However, I wonder what you do with your system as mine usually survives at least one or two years without degrading too much in performance.

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Defrag and CCleaner can only have minimal impact upon performance, if any at all.
The performance of a properly Windows setup configuration should degrade only slightly with time. I've used computers for periods of years without noticeable degradation of the performance.

The message I'm trying to pass over that you're using Voodoo magic to solve problems that you yourself are creating. Most likely, your machine simply gets infected to the point that it becomes a slave. The hacker that controls it is using up the resources, and Windows is not to blame.

My recommendations are:

  • Reinstall Windows from scratch one last time.
  • Ensure by googling that the products you install do not happen to be viruses.
  • Use Firefox/Chrome/Opera for surfing, not IE.
  • Install a good firewall and an antivirus, or a suite.
    My favorite are Avast and Online Armor Free, but Comodo Internet Security also gets very positive reviews.

Once you have your setup in place, take an disk image of your system on an external disk.
That way, if you get infected again then it will be much easier to restore the system.
Some imaging products are listed below:

Paragon Backup and Recovery Free
Macrium Reflect Free
EASEUS Todo Backup

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When I said that Windows slowed down over time I didn't mean the kind of nightmarish desktops that you see most family computers. Just slower to startup, start applications and shutdown. For the rest my comp stays pretty clean. Recently I've been restoring CloneZilla disk images instead of re-installing, it's so awesome! – StackedCrooked May 15 '10 at 18:17
@StackedCrooked: Very small slow downs are probably related to registry fragmentation. There are products that fix this, like Eusing Free Registry Defrag. But the few milliseconds that you will gain are really not worth the minutes you'll spend doing the re-imaging. – harrymc May 15 '10 at 19:26

The motivation for reinstalling Windows from scratch is that it's usually simpler (especially if you've done it a few times), more predictable in that there aren't unexpected issues that come up which need to be resolved, and lastly because it is guaranteed to fix everything all at once.

It is possible to do all of this by manually uninstalling stuff. It's just that many applications do not uninstall cleanly,leaving behind registry keys, directories, etc... Completely removing programs often involves deleting registry keys manually and looking for leftover directories yourself, it's doable but tedious especially if you plan to do it for a lot of applications at once. On top of that, some applications like AV programs integrate themselves into Windows' core functionality, making it an even bigger PITA to completely remove them without breaking things even more. It is usually these which slow the whole system down and contribute to "software rot".

While it's possible to maintain your system like this, reformatting is just so much easier.

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