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You need to become a master at properly reinstalling windows. A clean wipe fresh install of windows can fix most non-hardware related problems, speed up your system and get rid of all kinds of weird annoyances.
- Make a new Google Doc of your specific Windows Reinstall Procedures. Even after reinstalling windows for decades, you will still refer to this to make sure you are not forgetting anything.
- Make a new folder called “software” or “windows reinstall”. Put everything you will need to setup a fresh windows install in this folder for ease, organize it up proper. This will include all your saved preferences, links to software downloads, links to your motherboard’s driver page, the CD/DVD images, other exported settings files, etc. Make sure include your latest Ethernet/wifi drivers so in case windows doesn’t have those drivers innately, you can still get back online and download the rest. Keep this folder and this document updated if you add any new software that you know you are going to want in the future. I like to number each folder in here so I can reinstall with a specific order of operations.
- Make sure your Windows Activation Key is tied to your Microsoft Account. (You can now transfer non-oem licences to other computers) This makes activating and upgrading easier. You should have your key written down in your Google Document. If you don’t know what it is, you can use Speccy or MagicJellyBean and it will tell you. Make sure you have all other keys as well written down in your aforementioned Google Doc. (Office, Adobe products, Games, other software, etc) If you haven’t upgraded to 10 first, do so.
- Open up a list of of your programs and games (Control Panel > Programs and Features is a great way to see everything you’ve installed) and make sure the settings and preferences are backed-up. Write all these down in your google doc. Some programs & games cloud your saved preferences, some don’t. Things you may forget are scripts, firewall preferences for white/blacklists, address books, custom fonts, display or hotkey settings, Google Earth location markers, saved games, desktop shortcuts, background wallpapers, etc. If you can’t figure out how to export or save, google is your friend.
- Now go to your browser and make sure you have backed up any RSS feeds, bookmarks, AdBlocking white/black lists, Password Manager Passwords, etc. Google has a feature called “takeout” which I recommend using to backup all your Google Drive stuff. While this is a proper backup, you don’t actually have the contents of any of the google documents on your computer, they are just links to the cloud. Using Google Takeout will actually backup the contents of the files to your computer in Microsoft’s formats (doc, excel, etc.)
- Uninstall the programs that require online activation, this releases the licence so when you install it again, it won’t get upset and think you are installing it on multiple computers. Once you are all done, from a Command Prompt (admin) type this command: slmgr.vbs /upk This uninstalled the product key which frees up the license for use elsewhere.
- Now you can download the latest version of windows here free and legit. Download the ISO and then use Rufus to help make an install USB Thumb Drive for your new computer. (Microsofts tool is sometimes buggy)
- Go over to your new computer and install windows. You may need to enter bios to change the boot order to USB first. OR Most computers have a “Boot Menu” you can press a function key (Like F11) to enter that and just manually select the USB thumb drive to boot off of. This is easier and faster and better than changing the boot order (because you don’t have to change it back) but not all motherboards have this.
- It’s best to do this the first time with the old computer (or HDD, unplugged) sitting there, so you can go back to it and get that setting/saved game/preference you forgot to backup. You will forget stuff as you setup your new computer. After you’ve done it a dozen times you will start to innately remember “I’m making changes/adding software to windows that I’m going to want to backup these settings/files to”. Remember to add it to your Google Document and files and links in your folder for next time. There will be a next time.
- Now you can restore and Setup Windows Proper and then restore your personal files and preferences.