Here are five core tools for backing up, reformatting, and finishing off Windows installs.
DriverMax. After going through the install process, the first thing I shoot for is a complete set of functional drivers. Running DriverMax before the format lets you back up all the drivers on a system. It’s a great app, and it even loads drivers for non-present devices – meaning my customers don’t have to fight with a printer or webcam install CD when they get their computer home.
Migwiz. Oh, I can hear the screams. Truth be told, I’ve only had three problems with migwiz, and they were all my fault. Microsoft’s file and settings transfer utility works extremely well, and I’ve never had a problem since changing my method.Copy the USMT folder from the computer’s c:windowssystem32 and save it to a USB drive. Alternatively, do what the wizard wants you do and create a wizard disk. Run the exe from there both before and after the reformat. It’s critical to use the exact same version of the executable to avoid problems.
Nlite. I don’t like being forced to babysit a Windows install, so I’m a big fan of NLite (or VLite for Vista). Extract your CD’s contents to a folder, run N/VLite on it, fill in the blanks, and grab some application addons from Winaddons. Burn your disc and presto, you’ve got a silent Windows install!
WPI. The Windows post install makes post-reformat application installs a breeze. Throw your favorite apps in a folder and set up their silent switches in the WPI configuration page. Reinstalling them is as easy as checking some boxes and clicking a button.The tutorial at the WPIW site is excellent, and will guide you through setting up your first Wizard.
PING (Parition Image is Not Ghost). Now that you’ve got a nice, clean install, create an image so you don’t have to go through that garbage again. Imaging saves all kinds of hassles and massive external hard drives are dirt cheap. Pick one up and reimage instead of reformatting again next time.What about you? What apps help you get from a crapped up install back to a nice, clean OS?