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Over the years I often had to reinstall Windows. I have all my data on a separate hard drive, so I can format my C drive and start from scratch. But this takes a lot of time, and then I also need to reinstall the drivers and often used applications like Google Chrome, Windows Live Messenger, uTorrent, etc... Then I also loose all my program data like iTunes playlists, uTorrent metadata (download progress etc), chat transcripts, ...

I'm looking for ways to make this a smoother process. Any recommendations or hints?

Btw, I'm currently still using Windows XP.

Edit
The killer app seems to be "disk cloning". And as for me, the winner is most definitely Clonezilla! It's the only one I tried actually.., but I can make disk images using LZO compression, which means that restoring an image is super-fast!

Ninite is very helpful as well. It's like synaptic package manager, but for Windows, and with a web-based UI.

I'm not sure about DriverMax. Exporting your drivers sounds like like a cool feature. The coolest feature would be the driver update manager, but brings you to a webpage that is loaded with ads, and the driver downloads require some sort of account and if you don't have such an account you must wait 30 seconds before the download starts. This is the kind of software that I usually stay away from. Still the features are very attractive so I may delve a little deeper.

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3 Answers 3

Ninite will help a lot. It installs a bunch of popular programs that you select automatically.

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That's really great, thanks! –  StackedCrooked Dec 28 '09 at 23:29
    
Yeah, great! Thanks! (+1 for this nice advice) –  dag729 Dec 29 '09 at 0:40

this helps a great deal:

DriverMax is a new tool that allows you to download the latest driver updates for your computer. No more searching for rare drivers on discs or on the web or inserting one installation CD after the other. Just create a free account, log in, and start downloading the updates that you need.

You can also export all your current drivers (or just the ones that work ok) to a folder or a compressed file. After reinstalling Windows you will have everything in one place!

and of course, a drive image is always handy to have, restoring a 'good' image in a few minutes beats "reinstalling the lot" hands down, have a look at EASEUS ToDo backup or DriveImage XML (both are free and work with BartPE).

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You could use Ghosting software (such as Norton Ghost) to clone the freshly set-up partition to another drive, or other medium. Once you have the master image deploying it to replace a messed-up/old installation of windows is trivial. You can even use that method to set up multiple PCs, subject to licence restrictions.

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why would you "clone the freshly set-up partition to another drive"? this will render the entire drive rather useless (unless you have hard drives in abundance). a compressed drive image is a: much smaller, b: easy to explore (without jeopardizing the integrity, in case you want to restore possibly infected or otherwise damaged system files) and c: it can be stored anywhere. –  Molly7244 Dec 29 '09 at 1:08
    
I did say "...or other medium". I don't understand your explore comment. I said "drive" as the only person I know who does this keeps a read-only hidden partition at the end of his drive with his OS clone on, which is a reasonably sensible approach given how cheap storage is and how small OS drives should be. –  RJFalconer Dec 29 '09 at 1:40
    
+1 for making backups using disk images. I've had good experiences using Clonezilla today. –  StackedCrooked Dec 29 '09 at 19:18
    
well, here's the scenario: let's say you have the drive cloned to another drive, your system gets infected and you want to replace some infected system, you may not want to hook up a perfectly good system drive to an infected system, but if you do have an image file, you can explore it and recover the files you want without jeopardizing the integrity of your backup. –  Molly7244 Dec 29 '09 at 19:38
    
In such a situation you could either format the infected first drive first, then clone over, or mount the drive as read-only. I also do not see how restoring from an image file eliminates the possibility of reinfection compared to copying a partition (which would be done at boot time). –  RJFalconer Dec 29 '09 at 22:13

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