Friday, February 24, 2006

Time To Take A Dump

I'm procrastinating - big time. I'll explain more in a minute.

My wife and I have very simple computing needs. If it were up to us, our PC would have just the basics installed on it: email, "Office" pro
ducts, Quicken, system tools (antivirus, spyware protection etc) and some photo software. And in my fantasy world it would run fast, boot up instantly and never crash.

But alas, I'm not Mr. Rogers so I don't get to live in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Therefore, there are two major reasons why my computer will never be like this:

1. I have teenaged children, and kids like to load every
piece-o'-crap utility they can find on your computer. This includes games, "shareware", media devices and instant messengers. However, when they're not looking, dad likes to uninstall every piece-o'-crap thing they put on. This of course leaves tons of uninstall "residue" all over your computer, which eventually piles up and starts to eat away at its performance.

2. I use Windows XP. But because it's well documented that Windows sucks, I fortunately don't have to expound on it here.

So what am I procrastinating about - and what's with the disturbing title of this post?

What I'm referring to is a phenomenon that all Windows users eventually have to deal with - the need to reformat your hard drive, or sometimes known as "dump your computer". This is when your computer finally becomes so sluggish that you're left with no other choice but to wipe it.

It all starts very subtly, around year 3 or so. You notice it takes a little longer to boot up every day. Then gradually, week by week, it continues to get worse, like a slow-growing mold. Eventually everything on your PC begins to crawl at a painful snail's pace.

Oh sure you try the usual fixes - run your virus scan, Ad-Aware and Spybot. Run a defrag on your hard drive. Skinny down your startup processes in the System Configuration Utility to the bare minimum and delete your temporary files. But eventually you just can't win. There's simply too much pollution in the registry and your PC is choking to death.

This is when it's time to raise the white lid in defeat and surrender to the inevitable - dump your computer and wipe it clean. Oh, it's a pain in the ass for sure (but so easy to make an analogy between the process of running Windows and taking a crap), but a pain that must be dealt with - like hemorrhoids. Unfortunately, Preparation H won't do the trick here. Preparation "F", as in "Format c:", is the only cure left.

So "boo hoo" you might say. What's the big deal about dumping your computer anyway? Reformat the drive, reinstall the operating system and you're on your way!

Wrong. Why? Because there's a LOT of things you have to do to prepare for a total reinstall. You don't just wipe your PC and then go, "Oops, now what did I have on there before and how do I get it back?" Nope.

Here's a little list of the steps I'll be going through:

Software and File Audit This is where I find out what I actually have on my drive. I have an audit utility program that scans my PC and reports all the stuff that's on my harddrive. It came out 220 pages. I'll be using this list to determine what I'm going to keep and what I'm going to delete. I'll be using this list to remind me how much I'm going to hate this project.

Hardware and Device Audit Do I have all the drivers necessary to make everything function again? What about that old Palm Pilot Hot Sync from 5 years ago? What about that Zip Drive? What about that creepy Interactive Talking Winnie the Pooh doll thing?

Email Am I going to save all my current Inbox crap and restore it? All my address entries? Am I going to fry up the Spam and serve it with hashbrowns?

Downloads What about all the software I purchased through downloads? Do I know where all the original file programs are? Do I have the installation keys? Does the company I bought it from 6 years ago still exist so they can validate my registration and let me finish my damn install!

Upgrades These are software products that are installed as an upgrade from an earlier version. Do I still have the original? Should I go out and get drunk right now?

Windows XP This is my favorite one. This is the one where you reinstall XP but it makes you call some woman in India who tries to make you feel guilty for possibly reinstalling a pirated version on another computer. The conversation goes something like this:

Microsoft Support: "Can I help you?"

Me: "Yeah. I need a key to reinstall XP."

MS: "Sir, why are you trying to reinstall your operating system? Do you already have Windows XP installed on another computer?"

Me: "Uhhhh, No?"

MS: Is there something functionally wrong with your computer? Is there something functionally wrong with you?"

And so on. The bottom line is, this is not an easy or quick undertaking. I'm completely stressed that everything that can possibly go wrong will, and I'll lose all my children's birth pictures - even though they're not even on my computer!

So thank you Bill Gates. That's right, I blame you. I blame you because I now have to forfeit an entire weekend (if I'm lucky) dumping my computer because your crappy operating system is too stupid to keep itself clean.

I just hope my dump doesn't plug the toilet.


Technorati Tags: × Slow Computer ×

2 comments:

Chris said...

Hi, My name is Chris and I work at Help.com. One of our site members sent me a question that asked: what's the precedure for reformating a hard drive? Not being too technical myself, I wonder if you could you lay out the steps you took for this guy? Thanks very much!

Harmonica Man said...

Chris, there's really not a whole lot more to it. Sure, the steps I listed above are tongue-in-cheek, but they are real steps that I do take before a reformat.

The only other advice I have before executing the irreversable FORMAT C: command is to make sure you have EVERYTHING you want to keep backed up - if that's possible.

Good luck, and feel free to email me if you have any specific questions.