Reinstalling Windows 10—my process

Trello board for reinstalling software on my PC
Trello board for reinstalling software on my PC

About two months ago, I reinstalled Windows 10 on both my desktop and laptop computers. This post is about what I do to make sure the process is as smooth as possible.

Installation files

Something I have done for years (since Windows 98) is to store most of my installation files in a directory.

I store mostly drivers, plus applications that are either rare or that I have purchased. I don’t store applications that update regularly (e.g. web browsers, WinSCP, IrfanView, etc.).

Within my installation directory I organise the files into sub-categories, like this:

Installation files organised into categories
Installation files organised into categories

This allows me to find drivers and applications more easily. It’s also roughly how I organise the installed applications on my Windows start screen:

My Windows 10 start screen categories more or less match how I organise them in the installation folder
My Windows 10 start screen categories more or less match how I organise them in the installation folder

I store these files on a separate hard drive from the one that I install Windows on; I always install Windows on its own drive. This allows me to quickly reinstall Windows without worrying about overwriting the installation files.

I also backup these files to an external hard drive. I currently use a 2TB Seagate Backup Plus drive (USB 3.0).

Trello board

For each computer, I have created a separate Trello board to guide me through the installation process.

I have boards for my desktop and laptop computers, plus my work computer. I also do the same for my Android smartphone.

Everything I need to know to carry out a smooth reinstallation
Everything I need to know to carry out a smooth reinstallation

Each board outlines my backup routine for each computer, any applications or services that I need to uninstall or deactivate before the reinstall, and then for each driver or application I record the steps I need to take, options to select, or any problems that I’ve encountered, etc.

The first few columns on each board outline the order in which I like to install things: drivers first then essential system applications. Within each column, again the arrangement of cards shows me the order that applications need to be installed, e.g. motherboard drivers, graphics card drivers then Windows updates.

I use images on some cards to make it quicker to identify them.

Images help me quickly identify to what the cards relate
Images help me quickly identify to what the cards relate

And as you may suspect, the column names on these Trello board match one-to-one the sub-directory names in my installation folder.

I then use Trello labels to track the status of each driver or application. I can see at a glance which applications I regard as essential and which I install only the first time I require them.

I use red labels to indicate any problems; purple labels tell me whether I need a reboot after installation; navy labels indicate work-related applications; and light blue labels give me a clue as to where to find them.

Labels help me track type of application plus installation status
Labels help me track type of application plus installation status


The last piece of the puzzle is where I keep any registration or serial keys. I store these in my encrypted password safe, SafeInCloud.

I use my password safe to also store registration keys for software applications
I use my password safe to also store registration keys for software applications


Since moving to this workflow, I have found the process to be very straightforward. I can track everything using my smartphone using the Android apps for Trello and SafeInCloud, and I can easily record any problems or lessons learned meaning that each time I do this it gets easier each time.

Do you have any top tips for reinstalling your computer?

Lessons learned from two months of illness

Anstruther harbour beneath a grey sky
Anstruther harbour beneath a grey sky

This morning, having picked up my latest medication prescription from Brown’s Pharmacy on Anstruther’s Shore Street, I took a walk along the pier deep in thought.

I found myself about halfway along the pier, staring at the beach wondering if the tide was going out or just coming in, realising that despite the fact that my maternal grandfather was in the Royal Navy, I have never been particularly drawn to the sea. I prefer rivers and forests; I grew up on the edge of the ancient Ettrick forest in a town split in two by the Ettrick river.

For the past eight weeks or so, I have been signed off work with a combination of ailments. Underlying it all: exhaustion. I’ve pushed myself too far these past 16 months or so, since leaving home. On top of that, like layers of an onion, a low-grade prostate infection—something that I’ve had before, in 2013, that is likely caused by my kidney condition. And then an upper respiratory infection—a URI but not the ones I encounter in my digital communications day job—that kept returning. Earache, a sore throat, and a chest infection that defied two courses of antibiotics but finally succumbed to the third. What a relief.

This morning I woke up feeling awful, afraid that the URI had returned for a fourth time. It felt like someone had been poking needles into my ears, the glands in my throat felt tender, and I was short of breath.

I’m not one who likes to cause a fuss about myself. I will often go a week in pain just to see if my immune system will deal with it, or to fully test whether it’s viral before I call on the health professionals to wade in with their antibiotics. I have echoing in my head the messages of so many health campaigns: use fewer antibiotics, don’t visit the GP if it’s a mild viral infection but rest, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol. I did that in March. I got worse. Nervously, I telephoned the GP practice. About 20 minutes later the on-call GP phoned me back, listened to my woes and invited me in to get checked out.

To my relief, it turns out there is no sign of any of the infections. The pains I feel may simply be my body returning to normal after weeks of fighting on four or five fronts, like floorboards creaking after an earth tremor. My blood pressure was the most normal it has been for about two months (142/90), and my temperature a little on the high side of normal (37.1°C), but then I don’t actually know what my normal is.

Having thought twice before that the URI had been conquered, only to have it return a few days later, I felt palpably relieved. It was as though the doctor had given me permission to finally relax and now recuperate, build strength and recover.

Lessons learned

What has struck me over the last couple of months is how patient I have been. Most of the time, anyway. Over the years, through various ailments—back injuries, meningitis, shingles, etc., as well as the usual bouts of flu—I have learned that when your body is sick it is telling you something. And so it’s important to listen to it.

When I told the doctor last week that I had been sleeping loads, I realised that by “loads” I meant maybe eight or nine hours a day. That’s a normal amount of sleep but about twice what I usually get.

I have realised just how much I push myself above and beyond what other people expect. I take work home, when I should be relaxing; I work more hours than I’m paid for at hall, when I could hand things over to others. These few weeks have been a good lesson that I am not indispensable: many things can be done by others.

I’ve known for a long time that I need to find a better work/life balance. I’ve known for a long time that I need to make time for exercise and eating properly. A read a few months ago something along the lines of: if you don’t make time for exercise then you will need to make time for illness. That really struck home this month.

I’m signed off until Friday 26 May. For the next week and a half, I’m committing myself to work on a better, more healthy rule of life of prayer, and relaxation, of reading and eating, and plenty of sleep. And when I have a little more strength of exercise too.

Here’s to a healthier and more balanced 2017.

A brief history of Psion PDAs

David Potter is the Psion King
David Potter is the Psion King

Clearing through a number of boxes that I hauled down from the attic, I discovered the following brief interview with David Potter, CBE founder of Psion—the former personal digital assistant (PDA) pioneer.

(Unfortunately, I didn’t record which magazine this was taken from or the year. Maybe you recognise it; if so, please leave a comment below and I’ll update this post.)

Horace and the Psioneers…

The history of Psion PDAs is not quite what you’d expect!

How did Psion get started?

In 1980 David Potter started a software development company above an estate agent’s office in North London. He had one employee, Charles Davies.

So they’ve always made handheld computers?

Nope. They made games for the Sinclair Spectrum. The first flight simulator available for the Spectrum was a Psion product. Later they released Horace Goes Skiing, which was part of a huge series of famous Horace games where the eponymous character fought spiders and dodged traffic.

Er, right. When did the first Psion PDA come about then?

Not so fast! Before the term PDA was even coined, Psion produced the Psion Organiser, virtually creating the electronic organiser industry by itself. Launched in 1984 the first Organiser had 8K of memory, could hold around 120 phone numbers, had a non-QWERTY keyboard layout and lasted a week on its AA batteries. Then came the Organiser II in 1986, which had twice the memory and was the first device to use a solid-state “disk drive” for non-volatile storage. Marks and Spencer adopted it for stock control and British Midland used it for its ticketing staff. There was also a brief attempt at a laptop in the shape of the MC400 in 1988. This was used by British Gas sales staff. Psion was floated on the stock market in that year.

Blimey. But how did we get from there to my Series 7?

In 1990, Psion took over Dacom communications and became Psion Dacom. A year later it released the Psion Series 3, which used 16-bit technology, had 128K of memory and a proper QWERTY keyboard layout. It sold one million units in two years! This success was quickly followed by the Psion 3a with 2MB of memory, and the 3c with 4MB. There was also a ruggedised industrial machine called the Psion Workabout that included built-in short range wireless communications.

In 1996 the Series 5 was born. This device has a 32-bit architecture with true multitasking, 16MB of memory and a better keyboard. 1996 also saw the launch of the Siena, which was a smaller machine, the precursor to the Revo. The Revo itself wasn’t launched until last year, along with the 5mx — an improved version of the Series 5 — and then the gorgeous Series 7, which sports a colour screen, laptop keyboard and PC-card slots.

Where’s David Potter now? Sold up and living in Bali?

No, he’s still Chairman of Psion. And Charles Davies is his Development Director. They now have a £160 million turnover and 1,500 employees worldwide.

Why are all the machines odd-numbered?

The jump from 3 to 5 occurred because the number 4 is unlucky in China. Now that Palm have copied this numbering strategy, Psion says it may release a Psion 16 in the future, just to confuse everyone. Nice.

Source:, page 87

Of course, they didn’t release a Psion 16. Next up was the netBook, which eventually became the netBook CE running the Windows mobile operating system, plus a Revo MX, and then they iterated on the WorkAbout range for business.

I have very fond memories of my Psion machines. They were great.