A common fix for many computer problems, is formatting a hard drive, and reinstalling the operating system. And, to help protect from future problems / be sure that all drivers are installed, I always update a computer after reinstalling the operating system. This is a various tedious, time-consuming process, especially when you have more than 3 computers to be repairing. I'm wondering if there's any way to have windows update from a local server / from a removable storage to save time, power, and bandwidth.
yes, it's called WSUS (short for Windows Server Update Services). Once you install it on a server and specify products you wish to manage, it'll download all updates for said products. after that you have to route all your machines to use the local server instead of windows update. Beware though, this process is far from sreamlined and can be very resource and network intensive. I'd only recommend using it if you have over 20 pcs to maintain, maybe even more.
you could also create a master image. When windows asks for your name and the pcs name, press shift + F3, which will land you in audit mode. there you can install software and update everything. once you're finished click "reseal" on the dialog that appears at boottime (sysprep( and turn the pc off. then boot into a recovery cd with imaging tools (norton ghost, acronis true image, winPE + imageX( and image the HDD. after that you can deploy your new install onto the rest of the pcs you need to format and they'll be fully updated from the start. If you used imageX you can also manipulate the image with Windows AIK and do network deploys with WDS and PXE
Downloading Service Packs may speed things up a lot. You can have them on a pendrive or CD and install them first, before any other updates. SPs contain all previous updates, so they can save you few restarts and a lot of downloading. You can download Service Pack installers from Microsoft.
Note: for XP you need only the latest Service Pack, as it contains previous ones (but using XP isn't a good idea). This is not the case for Vista, you have to install SP1 manually before SP2.
I was just about to post about Norton Ghost (absolutely excellent solution) but Nicolas got there before me. I think that Norton Ghost will only be a solution if all of the computers were the same make/model, otherwise you'd have to create an image for each new machine you come across. If you're dealing with the same PC, create an image, then use Norton Ghost to deploy the image onto another PC and you should be good to go.