On purpose!

It was actually my wife’s laptop.

This laptop had been having issues for months. The issue that worried us the most is that it couldn’t install new Windows Service Packs. The computer would install smaller updates, but not SPs. None of the troubleshooting advice we found worked. It would download the SP update, but fail in installing it — without providing much helpful error diagnostics.

So it was time to wipe the slate clean. The first step was making sure that all the data was backed up off the laptop. I’ve talked to plenty of people over the years who reformated their drive and/or reinstalled Windows, then realized that they had not pulled critical files from the drive beforehand (e.g., QuickBooks company files.) Didn’t want to do something like that.

This laptop was running Windows Vista. I know a lot of people don’t like Windows Vista, but I do. I like how it watches out for your security better than XP, yet has fewer compatibility issues than Windows 7.

So I dug up my Vista install DVD, and popped it in the DVD drive. After failing to get a good reinstall, I figured out that you have to boot up from the DVD to be able to format the hard drive and reinstall fresh. That makes sense — if you booted up Windows from the hard drive, then it can’t destroy the copy of Windows that is running.

So while the laptop is turning on, you have to press the F12 key (on this particular laptop) to get into the startup selection screen. There, you can specify where you want the laptop to boot from.

So it booted up from the Vista install DVD, and I specified to format the hard drive. I didn’t want any residual problems from the previous OS installation to carry forward.

Success. Windows Vista reinstalled and booted up fine. Now, there was only one problem: The wi-fi on the laptop didn’t work anymore. I had wiped out the device driver for it, of course, when I reformatted and reinstalled Windows.

So I had to get on a different computer and download the wi-fi driver from the manufacturer’s website. I installed the driver on the laptop and…it worked! Whew!

Now, with internet access, I downloaded Windows updates to the laptop and installed them. All 80 of them. Without a hitch!

At this point, the laptop is lean and clean, free of crapware, registry problems, and whatever else was giving problems in the previous OS installation.

Reformats/reinstalls always take longer and have more problems than you think they will, but sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and get it done.

Have you ever gotten to a point with your computer where you had to wipe the slate clean and reinstall Windows? How did it go?

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