Perfect Windows PC Install



Perfect Windows PC Install image

Want a fast, cheap-as-chips, bullet-proof dream machine? Here's how…

The Perfect Windows PC Install may involve a bin, buying a Mac instead and using that. Else installing Linux. Then again, for many reasons a Windows PC is what you need, or rather what you want – ‘the devil you know' and all that. OK, fair play. So here's the guvGuide to installing afresh, and configuring to perfection, your dream machine.

UPDATE Feb 2013 This guide holds up pretty well but bear in mind it's written for XP. If you want to secure a Windows PC, check out Guvnr's sister site pc.wpCop.com or, for Linux, server.wpCop.com covers the bases. guv

For this guide, I'll assume your hardware is all bolted together, and the hard drive is blank. Else,this post assumes that you wish to rebuild the softwares from scratch, deleting everything on the disk or partition. Any of the installation and tweaking stages can be expanded upon with greater detail, but I'm writing a blog entry, not a book. This is a nuts and bolts guide, an essential reference to Windows operating systems. For more detail, google some keywords, else comment and I'll respond. Unless it's called AOL, any software I mention is excellent. (Excepting Windows, that is. Fortunately that's better, post-tweaks.) Righty-ho…

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First steps – BIOS, OS, partition

If the drive is blank, boot the machine and prep the bios. You can generally ignore this bit, but if you have special requirements, or think you may, look into it. If you're not sure, don't bother. If you're reinstalling over an existing hard drive, insert the OS disc and follow the comprehensive instructions.

Install the OS

Insert the disk and let Windows do it's thing. It'll ask you for a few simple details, and in its course will reboot a couple of times. Now you've got the basic Windows installation.

Partition the drive

Why? Because the next time you're machine goes blip and you have to redo this, all your data will be separated from your OS, so if/when you reinstall again, while the OS partition will be formatted afresh (everything deleted), your data will remain safe on another partition. Er, of course, if you follow this guide, you'll never have to reinstall?!! Let's just remember, we're talking Windows here…reinstalls happen.

Ideally, you'll have all your data on a completely separate hard disk, with only your OS and program files on the primary disk. If you don't have a second drive, or don't want to afford one, partition the drive. Then, provided you secure your PC as stepped out below, the only way you can lose your data is if you have a hardware failure or hurricane. Best advice, separate drives; worst advice, don't even partition the single drive.

OK, so we've got something to work with.

Essential basic system security

If you don't follow every step here, in short, you're a very silly billy. If you have a router with internal firewall, you may be excused on some points.

Install a firewall

I use ZoneAlarm; costs nada for the Basic edition, and is terrific. Update the software and set it to update itself daily from then on. And lose Windows firewall – at service level, see below – because it is less secure.

Add some anti-virus software

I use AVG Free which is superb, and besides I'm cheap and it's even cheaper. Don't bother with Norton or anything else that costs; waste of dosh, and often resource hogs. Save your money and buy a pint instead, far more useful. Update the software and set it to update itself daily from then on.

Now the anti-spyware protection

Two softwares. First, Spybot S&D; update it and run it once every week or three. Second, SpywareBlaster or AdAware, which works a little differently, covering your anti-spyware solution. Update each and set to update automatically. They're all free.

OK, so everything is secured from external forces, but now you need to protect against yourself. What if you inadvertently mash up your machine or, say, there's a power outage at a crucial moment? Two preventative steps will generally suffice…

Backup your system

Using Windows if fine – either to a secondary partition or, ideally, to a separate hard drive. Then, set Windows to make ‘incremental' backups.

Install Erunt

Another top-notch freebie, and set it to back up your registry every time you boot your machine. This is a hyper-fast backup procedure providing superb insurance.

And that concludes your system security. Phew, quite a lot of stuff, I know. It gets worse.

Officially safe to surf, almost

“But I've already been online, downloading all these freebies you recommended.”

I know, it's a bit chicken & egg, that last stage. But, if you're firewalled to start with, which you are c/o Windows Firewall, and follow those steps in order – and of course I know you always run every download past your anti-virus, say AVG, before installing (in case it's from a bogus site)…you do do that, don't you? – then you should be OK. But don't get distracted, don't surf yet. I've installed multiple machines, multi-times, and with this procedure, never a hitch. Bullet-proof. Damn, next time…!

Windows Update

At Windows' updater page, your machine is searched for what you need. Then, you'll be offered Express and Custom installs. Express is easier. I choose Custom because I don't like anyone snooping around my machine incognito, and I don't like software auto-checks slowing down the work I want to do. I tend to disable auto-checks after installing new software, except for the anti-virus wares above, for web browsers and their add-ons…there may be other exceptions, but generally that's a nice tip.

Service packs

Of the high-priority updates, download these first. It's all prompted. You'll reboot after each.

Security patches

Now back to Windows Update for these (hotfixes that came after the latest Service Pack.) There may be dozens, and some are more important than others but by the time you've read all the details, you'll wish you'd just downloaded the lot. This will take a while so go make tea. For XP, for instance, and even on broadband, you'll have time to grow, pick and dry a crop, then fly to Cuba for the sugar. Last time, I learnt Chinese. The largest of these patches are the .Net framework updates, some huge. I go back after a reboot and download those last.

Internot Bugspoorer

If you must use Bill's browser, upgrade that too. Better still, download Firefox, then bin IE, while laughing demonically. Oh, no, don't bin it, you need it for Windows updates! My opinion, shelve it for anything else (except web development, research into your corporate control thesis and suicidal tendency.)

Driver updates

Another reboot, then back to Windows Lovey-Dovey Update for your machine-specific driver updates, in the ‘Hardware (Optional)' section. Have them, they'll help performance. Guess what. Reboot.

Optional updates

Back again, this time to Windows Update's ‘Software (Optional)' section. Pick any of the non-essential downloads that may be of use to you, such as Media Player 289.

And just when you thought you were ready to draw a pension. You have a secure PC. Seriously, on a broadband connection, all that lot, everything above, comes in at a few hours work, plus the cost of a few tea bags. My tip, do all this while doing something else, like reading a Sunday-sized newspaper, then it's less tedious. I stress, cue underline, all that security stuff is a ‘must do' for a secure machine

Taking control of software, and killing proprietary software

There are a whole bunch of tweaks you can perform on your machine, and accumulatively they make a big difference to performance. They can also take a lot of time and effort to implement. Here I list 4 options, of which the first is the time-consumer. The others are simple enough.

Unwanted services

Now, you will need a couple of hours to spare. Here's the deal; as standard, Windows comes bundled with a whole bunch of generic services, most of which are irrelevant. But they run anyway, in the background, screwing your processor and chewing your RAM. Some are set to manual, which means they only come on when you need them, and that's fine, but others are automatic, and they are the key problem. If you disable what you don't need, or set them to manual in some cases, you gain performance, often considerably. The PC will boot faster too, loading less services. The question is, which ones do you need, and which can you discard? To see these services, do this: START>RUN, type in services.msc. A dialogue box will appear with all the services that come bundled with your PC. On this machine, for instance, I have 100. Of those, after cleaning, I have about 40 started either manually or automatically. I'm not going to list all those services, what they each do and what setings may be best for you…because someone else already has. Check out http://www.blackviper.com. Follow those guidelines and you won't endanger your PC. Just remember Dorothy, and don't stray from the path.

XP-AntiSpy

If you can't be bothered with all that, and even if you can, another way to speed up the machine uses XP-Antispy, a cracking freebie that comprehensively helps you to suspend many useless services, while also incorporating a bunch of other tweaks. Go do.

Proprietary softwares

The scurge of mass-produced PC's, generally, these need killing off. But, when you delete a program, most likely a heap of entries are left cluttering the registry, and possibly other files idling about too. Well, that's just not on. Dunno about you but, when I delete something, I want the darned thing gone. And you can't rely on the Windows uninstaller, total rubbish. Go get Total Uninstall, a few notes but worth it. Now, if you have a PC with a bunch of proprietary software on it – for instance, your OS came on a disc or two as part of a bundle, including secondary programs like AObloodyL or equal resource-hungry, irrelevant garbage – use Total Uninstall and clean out the lot. Saying that, don't get too carried away, make sure you're not deleting something that is important. If in doubt, google the name of the program and, with a bit of research, you can tell what is required and what is not. Else comment this post and I'll reply. If in doubt, don't delete, but most proprietary softwares are pretty obvious. …And they require early death, blood spilt, limbs torn, all that. More demonic laughter.

Maintenance with Auslogics Boostspeed

This costs a few bob too, but again is worth it. The best general maintenance tool I have found. For instance, it can stop unnecessary start-up services that are installed as standard with many softwares, clogging up the machine. (To be clear, these are not spywares, they are modules that come bundled with legitimate software that you want; the problem is that they start at boot up, running in the background, before you decide to execute the actual program, doing things like checking for auto-updates and, in that case, also hogging your internet connection. Yuk.) Boostspeed sorts that, and does other things, loads of stuff, from safely cleaning your registry to deleting old junk files, from defragmenting your hard drive to offering a whole fresh bunch of Windows tweaks. There is also a one-click option to perform basic maintenance. All very simple, takes seconds – just get it and be happy. Run the one-clicker once a fortnight, more or less.

If you've done everything above, your PC is meticulously fine-tuned, and faster, maybe way faster, than the day you bought it. Celebrate with another cup of tea.

Extending your PC

Now you can install the software you really need, like Firefox or OpenOffice (no, not Microsoft Office, bin that – it's huge, an inexcusable waste of money and slow…already bought it? You have my condolences.) Or Foxit Reader (Adobe Reader, you've got. About 15millionMB. You must be joking!!!) I can feel another post coming on, but I need to get to the heart specialist for a quick check-up. Must be all the tea.

Perfect Windows PC Install, installed

And that's it. You've probably grown a beard by now, else it fell out, but gee whizz your machine is now ‘less box brownie, more digiCam'. Probably, you have fallen in love with it, a sort of techy fixation. But stop drooling. Get a life, shut it down, and for Pete's sake go get a beer.

If this guide was useful, you can thank ‘John'. Had he not recently given me an old PC (he did bin it for a Mac 😉 ), I'd not have had to rebuild it, and note down my steps so I could punch out this post. John, your machine is running like a charm, famous last, so thanks m8. John's coolest claim to fame, by the way, is that his internal work number is 999.

By way of small print, if you do all this and, say, your PC blows up, what can I say, you should have read a different guide. In short, don't blame me…but really you should be safe as sausages, following the above procedure. Tell you what, blame John, call “999”.

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About the Author:

Olly Connelly (yeah, that's me) blogs at guvnr.com, polices WordPress security at wpCop.com and helps noobs build web servers at vpsBible.com, so if you've got sleeping problems you know where to come.

Discussion

  1. Ranessa  July 20, 2011

    Great common sense here. Wish I’d thgouht of that.

  2. yamaplos  March 10, 2010

    don’t forget to defrag. After installing windogs the machine is horipfully fragged

  3. the_guv  May 17, 2009

    LOL Dan – tx for that.

  4. Dan  May 15, 2009

    Good ideas. It’s sad that MS can’t build a solid operating system. Imagine an OS that would protect the system files, not have a single point of obfuscation/failure called ‘The Registry’, efficiently use resources, not require knowing the esoteric click stream to find settings, network well, have a simple user setup process that provided flexibility and security. I think I will create one and call it UNIX!

  5. the_guv  January 22, 2009

    @jester, truth is, it’s fear of the unknown, starting all over with the software. took years to get to grips with a pc. peripheral and software compatibility too. if i moved, i’d go linux…am dual-boot to ubuntu these days.

  6. jester  January 21, 2009

    Still saving up? Yup, me too!

  7. the_guv  January 6, 2009

    @jester, Jan & VicRam – many tx folks. Er, I’m still saving up for a Mac 😉

  8. jester  January 5, 2009

    better off with a mac but this is the best article I’ve read about this. youre fully comprehensive, guv!

  9. Jan T  December 28, 2008

    good pointers…am using them right now.

  10. VicRam  December 22, 2008

    many thanks, mighty useful

  11. the_guv  November 7, 2008

    er, well…probably yes! thanks marc. O.

  12. Marc  November 7, 2008

    … or just install UBUNTU – Linux for human beings… easier, faster and it just works

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