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How to keep a windows machine clean?

I just spent quite a bit of money on a new laptop and Windows 7. My previous XP box died of the dreaded OS rot after about 3 years, the old laptop didn't come with anything but a laptop restore disc, and this is why I bought a full version of Windows 7 Ultimate, so that I could repair my installation correctly.

I know that Windows is a poor-choice for an OS, but there are too many good programs that I rely on that only run on Windows so I'm kinda stuck with it for now.

I've made a complete-pc backup-image of the computer in hopes that later when the OS/Registry rots, I can restore this image (hopefully somehow not loosing my files and everything else).

I also use the following PC Tools pay products to try and keep my new laptop healthy:

Is there anything else I should know about re-imaging my PC correctly to defend it from the dreaded OS rot?

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marked as duplicate by Molly, Troggy, Snark, Diago Nov 25 '09 at 5:37

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Closely related: superuser.com/questions/74710/windows-os-well-maintaining –  Troggy Nov 24 '09 at 21:12
duplicate: How to keep a windows machine clean? superuser.com/questions/1435/… –  Molly7244 Nov 24 '09 at 21:14
@Troggy that's good, but I'm using Windows 7. I'm expecting it might take a bit for this one to get answered as nobody probably has OS rot for Windows 7 yet. But I could be wrong... –  leeand00 Nov 24 '09 at 21:18
OS Rot is entirely up to the user. I've ran an XP machine for 4 years here at work and it mostly works the same as day 1. I also don't install crap on it. Also, reinstalling Windows when you do get bogged down takes around an hour or 2 at the most, it's not a huge deal. –  Will Eddins Nov 24 '09 at 21:30
@Will: I'd disagree on how long a reinstall takes. Yes, just reinstalling Windows itself is about an hour, but depending on what else needs to be reinstalled, the "OS enema" can take much longer. (For example, my development workstation takes about 2 full work days to get fully functional again after a rebuild, due to the various tools which are actually required for my job.) –  John Rudy Nov 24 '09 at 22:03
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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Apparently my last answer was completely unreasonable. Fine.

Assuming you believe your computer is some kind of organinc entitiy that can go bad, there are two possible sources of 'rot' within Windows.

  1. Nearly everything you install adds entries to the windows registry. The more software (and fonts) you install, the larger your registry grows and the longer it takes the system to find anything. This seek time has to be at least O log(n) and might be as bad as O(n).
  2. Most software, when uninstalled fails to clean up its registry entries. Over time this adds to cruft in the registry that is difficult to remove & needlessly adds to its size. See item #1.
  3. The master file table in NTFS is a contiguous section in the beginning of the partition. It is the master index all of the files in a single file system (C:, D:, etc). The time takes to find a particular files index is O log(n) for n files on a system, so as the amount of files increase, file access time increases linearly. This type of searching problem is not unique to windows, but it is exacerbated by how FAT & NTFS filesystems are oarganized. A simple way to reduce this problem is to partition your drive. It's pretty common practice on linux, but less common on Windows.

    On my Windows XP box at work, I use the C: drive only for the OS & "Program Files". My user account & %TEMP% lives on the D: drive. It's been 4 years & I have never defragmented my C: drive.

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@Dave +1 This is a much better answer! Thank you! :) –  leeand00 Nov 25 '09 at 2:46
What I don't understand is why every stupid program has to use the registery in Windows. –  leeand00 Nov 25 '09 at 2:47
Your welcome :D - The registry was developed to combat a problem that windows suffered from in the 90's & people would argue that *nix suffers from now - generally inconsistent configuration & (un)install information. The registry did a great job at consolidating a host of information that apps used to scatter about in any number of places, but most often they were turning the C:\WINDOWS folder into a trash dump & program installation clobbering existing files was becoming too common. Some would argue the cure was worse than the disease. –  DaveParillo Nov 25 '09 at 3:19
... Point one and two, I have to say are not really accurate from the way I was taught - The registry is a hierarchy, technically it gets larger over time, but they way it is accessed does not get any slower for the larger it gets... programs navigate from the top down... it isn't like a sql query that has to search for a location... so, number 2... adds to its size correct, but doesn't make it slower. 3 - That is what defrag is fo, and NTFS allocation has become better in recent revisions –  William Hilsum Nov 25 '09 at 6:05
MFT is a B+Tree, which means O(log(n)) –  ptor Nov 25 '09 at 11:43
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I would say Windows is a very good choice for an OS, there are just some bad users who do not know how to use it well.

Basically, just don't install rubbish that you want to see what it is like, if you really want to, use virtualisation for testing.

And I would highly recommend against using the tools you listed - Windows itself with defender and Microsoft Security Essentials are sufficient protection for your machine.

A serious amount of call outs I am involved with is because of people who think they are doing good by using a bunch of programs that are just not needed - I always advise against tools such as Registry Mechanic which are meant to "tidy up" things... just don't let it go bad in the first place!

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+1 I'd like to add that running Disk Cleanup and Defrag every couple months is usually enough to get rid of any "rot" not caused by installing lots of crapware on a computer, whether it's XP, Vista or 7. –  Will Eddins Nov 24 '09 at 21:32
Concur. Much software out there that claims to help solve these problems don't do much. In some cases, the cure is worse than the disease. –  DaveParillo Nov 24 '09 at 22:09
But I don't think most people who have this problem are 'bad', just unaware of the consequences of their actions. –  DaveParillo Nov 24 '09 at 22:10
I am not saying that at all and sorry if it came across like that - just think that the original poster's words were strong of calling Windows a bad OS when he is using a bunch of tools that in my view, make the system worse... I will change the post to be a bit more friendly! –  William Hilsum Nov 24 '09 at 22:20
@leeand00, six of one, half a dozen of another!... And linux programs can leave traces of themselves all over the system if they wish whilst some well written programs on Windows go without leaving a trace of themselves anywhere... This is up to a developer and whilst I wish there were a few changes in the way Windows works in some places - third party developers leaving traces everywhere really shows how open Windows is to developers and isn't really a fault of Microsoft. –  William Hilsum Nov 25 '09 at 3:08
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OS's don''t really become 'rotten', the machine tends to get weighed down by software installed sometime ago, and is now forgotten and / or no longer used. Plenty of software just doesn't need to be installed in the first place. If you machine is starting to bahave a little more sluggish than usual:

  1. Add / Remove programs. Remove old just you're not using. It's amazing how it adds up.
  2. Look at the continuously running applications in your task bar. Java console, print monitors, every developer on the planet thinks their cheesy program is the most important thing you'll ever run & feels like it belongs permanently running with a little blinking status icon on the taskbar. Printer software is the worst. Don't install printer software unless you can't print without it.
  3. Startup programs. Seek & destroy anything you don't need. In over 20 years running windows, I have found that I don't need anything.
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I think that there needs to be a way of finding out what's crapware and what's a legitimate working program. –  leeand00 Nov 24 '09 at 22:18
How is this -3. There's nothing wrong with it. +1. (Although the answerer could delete it for a badge now) –  Macha Nov 24 '09 at 22:46
lol, I was going to say that about the badge :P –  SevenT2 Nov 25 '09 at 5:46
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lock the machine's state with Deep Freeze, voilá, no more "OS Rot", as simple as that.

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I would suggest that most rot is caused by software people wanted to install, not through intrusion. @leeand00 'thaws' his system, installs some crapware and, voilà, rot ;-) Plus, Deep Freeze is exactly one of those programs Wil & I were railing agiainst: difficult to remove completely from your system. –  DaveParillo Nov 25 '09 at 3:30
Question: Would you run Deep Freeze on your home computer? –  DaveParillo Nov 25 '09 at 3:38
i would and i do, at least on some of them. :) –  Molly7244 Nov 25 '09 at 10:39
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