The Reinstallation Diaries Episode VI: Final Thoughts and Summary
It was one week ago today that I performed the reinstall on my Toshiba M200 Tablet PC. The majority of my experiences are chronicled in the five preceding episodes. This is a summary of lessons learned, interesting info picked up along the way, and a few comments about the entire process.
The majority of the reinstall process was completed in one day. Basically I succeeded in getting the OS reinstalled and patched, all of my key apps reinstalled and patched or updated, and a few comfort items up to speed as well. This week has been spent living with the fresh install and gradually bringing back a few other things that are nice to have but in essence non essential to getting work done.
So here are some comments about the journey.
Preparation is the key. Making sure you know where your documents AND data are stored is essential so you don’t lose anything. Even when you are extra anal about the process and build in redundancy after redundancy you have a chance of missing something.
This part of the process could be much simpler if developers would just standardize how they store data. As an example, restoring the data from My Documents backup did not bring over the iTrip stations for my iPod. Why? Because they are stored in a folder under the Programs directory and not in the My Documents directory. In reality a minor annoyance, but something that is a pain. Fortunately I was able to grab the info off of the cloned backup instead of having to run the install disk again.
I’d also like to see it easier to grab a user’s complete Documents directory and do a simple copy. Sure, I have backups of these folders that look past some of the hidden and user files imbedded in these folders. However, it is a nice redundancy to be able to compare two file trees to make sure everything is in order.
Printouts of license keys and registration info are great to have as you are going through the process. I highly recommend Belarc Advisor to print out an inventory of your system before you begin. Screenshots of some configuration screens can be a big help as well.
Know which drivers and software you will have to patch before you start the process. I keep a log of any updates I make in daily use. Knowing what needs to be updated, and in some cases, the order can be a big time saver. I tried something new with printouts on this reinstall. Instead of having them printed out on paper I had everything in OneNote on my desktop and used that as my reference.
Establish your priorities and know what you have to reinstall to get there. I’ve still got a few small apps I haven’t reinstalled yet, simply because they are not essential to my work flow. When I need them, I’ll reinstall them. But you do need to know what you need in order to get back to work. As an example, I forgot to put Adobe Acrobat on my 1st tier of priorities. I noticed that pretty quickly when I needed to open an adobe attachment in an email.
I always shut down and restart after installing or updating drivers even if not prompted to. It just makes good sense. It gives Windows a chance to let things settle in before you go adding more.
Test along the way. Make sure things are running well before you move onto the next piece of software. If you run into problems it will be easier to back track.
Use the process to clean house and get rid of things you don’t need. If you haven’t touched an app in awhile send it packing.
A couple of annoyances popped up in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned. Nothing calls your attention to sloppy install routines like going through a reinstall. This ought to be getting easier and more efficient by now. With so much software being purchased online these days, developers that don’t allow a simple cut and paste of license or unlock keys should be forced to reinstall software all day and type in the numbers. Get past that.
An install routine should also clean up after itself. Leaving stuff lying around is just careless and unprofessional in my opinion.
Prepare to spend some time online updating and patching. Too much time, if you ask me. With Longhorn looking like it’ll be awhile getting here yet, I can’t imagine how many trips to Windows Update it will take a year from now to bring a freshly installed system up to date. As easy as it is to update software on line, get disks or make archive copies of updates and patches whenever you can. It will save you time in the long run.
And of course, Toshiba and other OEM’s need to think much more seriously about the recovery process in the future. In Toshiba’s case it is a crime that hardware they certify as a workable solution for performing a recovery is as erratic as it is. As we head down the path of more mobility and smaller devices, these types of solutions are going to need careful thought from both the hardware and the software side.
So those are some of my thoughts. Most of us who enjoy using computers and really getting to know them can look past some of these difficulties pretty easily. When I’m going through this process I think of my mother, a few of my friends, and a few clients who I’ve helped through this process. Sure, I’ve made a little money doing this for some and I know that can be a lucrative business. But it just seems like this should be a much simpler process for those who don’t get to know their machines so intimately.
Was the process a success? Yes. I’ve got a faster, leaner system that is much more responsive. Inking seems to be quicker and handwriting recognition seems to be more accurate, (although remember I didn’t notice any problems before on either of these.)
My final step in this process will be in about two weeks from now after I’ve operated a bit with everything up and running. Although I’ve made several images along the way and feel confident that I could get back up in a disaster, I’ll let things shake out a bit before I reclone the system using Apricorn’s EZ Bus system overwriting the drive I use for that.
Hope somewhere in all of this, you may have found some of this useful.