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My last couple computers have been name brand laptops with OEM installations of Windows. Of course those installations come with each manufacturer's system utilities, help files, and recovery tools, and this annoys me. Is there any way to clear everything except the vanilla OS off the HD after installing from these OEM discs?

My best solution as a not-so-superuser would be to install Revo Uninstaller and CCleaner, then go to town on uninstalling and registry scrubbing. Of course this misses a lot of the miscellaneous files sitting in little nooks on the HD, like sample videos/pictures, old drivers, etc.

Thanks for the help.

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Especially with name-brand laptops, you need to be careful what you remove. There's some odd software on some of them (support for special function buttons, etc) that you don't want to lose. – Michael Kohne Nov 3 '09 at 21:00
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Get a utility such as PCDecrapifier and after doing your restore from the OEM disks run it. After running PCDecrapifier, use one of the many HDD imaging tools available to snap an image of your system in pristine condition and burn that image to a disk. When you next need to restore your system, pop in your image and away you go.

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You could try to use a key finder utility (there are lots) to get the install key out of your windows installation then use a non-oem (read store bought/borrowed) real Windows install CD. If you look your product key may even be attached to a tag on the computer.

The only problem with this method is occasionally the keys are tied to a specific install media so there is a slim chance it would not work.

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What I have seen in the past is that the a dll key will work with dll hardware regardless of the install medium. Ymmv. – Jeremy Roberts Nov 3 '09 at 20:58
Agreed but I like to err on the side of caution. But you are correct normally the checks involve the key vs. the hardware. – Matt Nov 4 '09 at 13:42

You could use Nlite to customize and clean your Windows before installing.

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Unfortunately the branded computers usually provide recovery disks not real install disks so you can not really mess with the image. – Matt Nov 3 '09 at 20:49

My best solution so far has been to get the thing setup the way I want it (remove the pre-installed garbage as best I can), then boot Linux off of a CD and take a full HD image to an external drive. That way, I can return to the 'clean' image any time I need to, AND I can safely delete the recovery partition (because I have a good image of my own).

This is also helpful in cases of full drive failure or upgrade (cases often hard to deal with using the manufacturer's existing recovery solution) - restore image to new HD, expand the filesystem to fill the new disk, and go.

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Better still, keep the OS on its own, smaller, partition to the documents. Quicker to image and can be recovered from without losing docs. – bobince Nov 3 '09 at 22:08
So I could partition my drive into 2 parts - a smaller one for just the OS and the larger one for everything else? Then if there are OS problems, just rewrite the OS partition only, correct? – NoCatharsis Nov 4 '09 at 13:47
I'm personally a fan of one big partition per drive. Whenever I've tried to make smaller partitions, I've always found that I get it wrong - either I don't have enough space for apps or docs or whatever. And I've had enough bad apps that wouldn't work if not on C: that I never install apps on another drive. If you can properly guess the partition sizes, you're probably better off splitting, but I never could. – Michael Kohne Nov 4 '09 at 14:12

for highest efficiency, any uninstaller should be installed BEFORE any other software for proper logging.

your best bet as a "not-so-superuser" (your words, not mine :) would be the PC Decrapifier, which will take care of the bloatware added by the manufacturer.

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I don't believe that Revo "misses a lot of the miscellaneous files".

So I wouldn't go to such lengths as reinstalling the system just to save up to the last tiny megabyte. Hard disks are really cheap today, no reason to break a working system.

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