Reinstalling Windows XP Professional SP3: Operation PC Forgiveness 2008

Screenshot of Windows XP

This week I’ve been enjoying a holiday at home with Jane: a chance to enjoy peace and quiet together for the last time before the children arrive, and to reinstall Windows XP on my main desktop PC. That’s been the main reason for my lack of recent blogging, and not laziness — oh no! Not that. No way!

Slowdown to upgrade

It’s a common problem with Windows: it gradually slows down over time. I install and uninstall all sorts of software on it, I use it every day for everything from checking emails to coding, photo editing to video creation. I’m not surprised it slows down over time.

But this time it was getting really bad. At times it wouldn’t boot properly (hardware driver conflicts I think). There was a serious issue with my sound card: if I played a Flash movie (e.g. YouTube) while listening to an MP3, for example, it would send my audio player crazy when I closed the browser window, playing any non-Flash audio two or three times too fast. It made everything sound like the Chipmunks had formed a metal band!

I also wanted to upgrade a couple of major pieces of software:

as well as various hardware drivers:

It was clearly time for Operation PC Forgiveness 2008.

Backup

On Monday and Tuesday I backed up everything. I used Second Copy 7.1 to copy the contents of each partition one-by-one to my external harddrive (Freecom 500GB).

I’ve tried various other applications over the years that take either images of the partition, or backup to a proprietary format, or first compress the files before storing them in a zip file, but in the end I’ve returned to a simple 1:1 copy on an external drive. That way I can access these files at any time from any PC without having to first install any 3rd party applications.

Second Copy

Second Copy allows you to create backup profiles that can be run either individually or within groups. So I have groups for:

  • Applications (e.g. Microsoft Money files, Microsoft OneNote data, WeBuilder settings, Windows Boot.ini file, Second Copy profiles, etc.
  • Outlook PST files, backups and stuff
  • WeBuilder reinstallation
  • Ultimate Backup to external hard drive

There are a few backups that I do manually, for example Firefox bookmarks and anything else that needs to be exported.

Screenshot of Second Copy

This way I can make sure that all my personalized settings have been backed-up before I run the “Ultimate” backup group profiles and copy it all to my external drive.

A couple of things that I always do when doing a reinstallation are:

  • Install and take a print out of all my installed applications using Installed Program Printer.
  • Take a screenshot of desktop (for location of icons).
  • Take a screenshot of Start Menu (for labels and icons).
  • Take a screenshot of the Firefox add-ons that I have installed.
  • Backup Programs folders within Start menu (both All Users and my username profiles). This way I can see how I organized my Start menu.

Reinstall Windows XP

With the backup complete it was time to bite the bullet and reformat my C drive. I have 12 partitions on my hard drives so wiping C simply takes out Windows and programs, all my data, images, videos, music, etc. are safely stored on the other partitions (and now also backed-up).

One thing that I forgot to do before I set the Windows XP installation CD loose on C: was to deauthorize iTunes. D’oh!

Essentials for a Windows XP reinstall:

  • Windows XP with SP3 and IE7 slipstreamed into it.
  • Latest hardware drivers, already downloaded and saved to another partition, external drive or CD-ROM.
  • TweakGuides Tweaking Companion for XP to follow advice on best order to install drivers, and various system tweaks to improve performance.
  • Notebook and pen (to write down everything you do, error messages, settings, passwords, etc.).
  • Laptop (or other PC) for looking up advice, error messages, etc. on the Web.

Reinstalling XP and hardware drivers took a couple of hours. Reinstalling the rest of my software took the best part of a day and a half. I have almost all my applications stored on another partition (I:) and categorized which makes it very efficient to reinstall:

Screenshot of Install partition

Reorganize All Programs within the Start menu

Once I’ve installed the bulk of my applications, run Windows (or Microsoft) Update a couple of times to make sure that Windows and Office are up-to-date, and done a cursory defrag I always reorganize the Start menu.

This is how the All Programs part of my Start menu looked after I’d installed most of the applications that I use regularly:

Start menu with three columns of programs

That’s three columns with around 85 entries. Even though I’ve done a “sort by name” on the list it’s still a mess! What it needs is some categorization to group similar applications together.

All users

I generally start with the “All Users” folder (right-click START and select “Explore All Users”). I then create a number of new top-level folders to act as my main categories. These are generally the folders that I begin with:

  • Accessories
  • Bible
  • CDRW
  • Fonts
  • Games
  • Graphics
  • Internet
  • Labels
  • Mindmaps
  • Money
  • Multimedia
  • Office
  • PDF
  • Printers
  • Programming
  • Scanner
  • Startup
  • System
  • Windows Mobile
  • WinZip

All Users Start Menu Programs

As it happens, these are also the main category labels that I use on my Install partition (I:). Keeping a one-to-one relationship between the start menu and the install partition makes it really easy to find installers should I need to perform an upgrade or reinstall.

Having a limited taxonomy makes it really easy to find any application that I have installed: all my graphics applications can be found under Graphics, office applications under Office, etc. It sounds obvious but I’ve seen too many users wasting precious time hunting through an unordered list of 60+ applications.

Sort the rest

Having created these new folders, I then move the remaining installation folders and icons into them before performing the rest of the clean-up on the Start menu itself, creating any sub-folders as necessary. For example, within Internet I always create:

  • Browsers
  • Email
  • Firewall
  • FTP
  • Instant Messenger
  • RSS
  • Server
  • Twitter
  • VoIP
  • Web Building

I prefer to use generic terms such as “Instant Messenger” and “Firewall” than “Windows Live Messenger” and “ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm Pro” as I find it easier to find them this way, it also doesn’t lock me into a particular application as I can use the same folder structure regardless of the applications that I have installed.

I also use this arrangement on my PC at work and on my laptop so it allows me to have different applications installed but use the same organizational structure.

Start menu lite

While it usually takes me about 30-45 minutes to sort out my Start menu at the start it must save me hours each month when looking for applications.

My new, slimmed down start menu then looks a bit like this:

Start menu

Now I have a clean installation of XP, with (almost) all my software installed and I can find things on my Start menu. Now I can get on and do something productive!

Other

bought an Oyster card online last week, so that I was prepared when I arrived in London village later today.

The application form asked for my Title. Options were:

  • Miss
  • Dr
  • Mr
  • Mrs
  • Ms
  • Prof
  • Other

Naturally, I selected “Other”.  But there was then no-where to enter my actual title, my “other” title.

So last week I received a letter addressed to “Other Gareth Saunders”.

While I’m here

Who on earth ordered that list?!  How about the male-centric ordering of:

  • Mr
  • Mrs
  • Miss
  • Ms
  • Dr
  • Prof
  • Other

Or the ladies-go-first option of:

  • Ms
  • Miss
  • Mrs
  • Mr
  • Dr
  • Prof
  • Other

Or even the mostly-alphabetical but turns out to be partly hierarchical (by placing Other at the end):

  • Dr
  • Miss
  • Mr
  • Mrs
  • Ms
  • Prof
  • Other

We got slideshow of the day!

Screenshot of Slideshare

Since I posted our presentation on Mind Mapping for effective content management on Slideshare yesterday I woke to discover that

  1. “IWMW 2008, Aberdeen, Scotland” was the first “Spotlight” on our presentation sharing service of choice,

    and more remarkably that

  2. Our presentation was being featured as “Slideshow of the Day” on the homepage!

There have a few more developments resulting from delivering the presentation and posting it on Slideshare, but I’ll share those at a later date when things have been sorted out.

In the meantime, I’m heading to bed. It’s been a long, tiring, incredibly hot but satisfying trip to The Granite City for IWMW 2008.

Mind Mapping for effective content management

I’m currently in Aberdeen at the Institutional Web Management Workshop 2008 conference, blogging this during a presentation by someone at JISC. Because you can do that at a geeky conference without it looking rude!

There are currently about 30 delegates (including one of the joint chairs of the conference) sitting in front of their PC laptops, Macs and mobile devices checking e-mail, Twittering (you can read all the #iwmw2008-referenced tweets at http://twemes.com/iwmw2008), adding content to the conference Ning social-network site: http://iwmw2008.ning.com/ and probably a bunch of other stuff.

Eduroam

I’m just delighted to have connected to the Web via Eduroam, which allows users from participating institutions to connect to the network on another participating institution’s network.

So because Aberdeen and St Andrews both use Eduroam I am now able to connect to the Aberdeen WiFi connection using my St Andrews username and password. It’s a great system and I’m delighted that it works.

Mind you I had to install a piece of software from St Andrews that automatically configured my networking settings before it would work properly, and I was relieved that I’d been long-sighted enough to have saved that application to my flash drive just in case I ever needed it.

Today I needed it.

  • Install.
  • Reboot.
  • Connect.
  • Happy user.

Glorious Aberdeen

The weather is glorious! Too hot for me, I must admit … is it always like this in Aberdeen? I thought “Aberdeen … cold!” so I packed two jumpers and a couple of coats. It looks like I’ve come for a month, to the land of the Polar Bears.

I’ve been in shorts (and kilt) since I arrived.

Workshop presentation

Yesterday my colleague and I gave a 90 minutes workshop presentation entitled “Mind Mapping for effective content management” which introduced the concept of mind maps, showed why it was a good tool for use with Web projects and then gave a case study on how we used it in our university project to migrate 3,000+ Web pages into a new information architecture.

The slides are now available online at SlideShare: Mind Mapping for effective content management (and embedded above).

The workshop was really well attended, we had nearly 30 people packed into a small, stiflingly-hot tutorial room, and we both enjoyed sharing our experience and getting great feedback and questions from folks. But then it’s quite easy talking about something that you love doing and are passionate about.

On reflection, both during and after, we realised that we could have presented some of the concepts much more clearly, or at least in a more step-by-step fashion. Particularly when we made the leap from auditing a website structure using mind maps to auditing the content of a Web page.

However, with only 90 minutes to play with I think we managed to pack in as much as we could, as well as we could. We even finished bang on time, not a second before or after.

And then we could relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Update: You can see Mike Whyment’s photo taken during our session on Flickr.

Projects

Pebble beach

The antibiotics appear to be beginning to work, although I’m predictably now feeling a little rougher around the edges and more tired. But nothing that a handful of pills and a month in bed won’t fix!

Sadly, that’s not going to happen though.

Job satisfaction

Work is incredibly busy just now. (When is it not?) But I’m still loving it.

I was chatting to another Web developer today as we walked back from a meeting through St Salvator’s Quad. He works in Development — that’s the Alumni Office to you and me … that’s folks who’ve graduated from the University … oh, never mind! — anyway, he was saying just how much he loves his job too.

What’s not to love. We’re situated in St Andrews for one, which is one of the most beautiful towns in Scotland (after Selkirk, of course!), even on the dreariest of days. Every day is different, working with great people on exciting projects.

Folks often ask if I mind working in a job where I sit at a computer all day. But it’s not like that. The Web is about communication, which is about people. Most days I spend about as much time meeting with folks face-to-face, or speaking on the phone as I do sitting in front of a monitor. I actually get out-and-about more now than when I was in the parish!

Projects

I’m often asked what I do at work, so without trying to give away any industrial secrets here’s a list of the 17 projects I’m currently working on (in order of deadline):

  1. Finish RSS feeds
  2. Collaborate on Web strategy and policy documents
  3. Create pages for Deans and Pro Deans information
  4. Rework Staff Development ordering of courses, and develop podcast feed
  5. Organise Scottish Agricultural College and University of Aberdeen visit to St Andrews
  6. Career Bridges (Managing Operations) homework
  7. Lunch time Web feedback sessions
  8. Migrate Business Improvements website into content management system
  9. eVision (portal) categorization and redesign
  10. Library website design tweak
  11. University Website CSS – rewrite as modular framework
  12. Assist in restructuring of Erasmus site
  13. Plan migration of Freedom of Information (FOI) Publication Scheme
  14. Re-design School of Divinity website
  15. Create documentation / video guides for content management system training
  16. Write presentation for IWMW 2008 conference in Aberdeen
  17. Organize content management system developer training

Whew! Just as well I have Outlook and my PDA to manage and keep track of all these projects.

In other work-related news: my new work PC was ordered today. It’s a Dell Precision 690 — Dual core Intel Xeon processor, 4 GB RAM, twin graphics cards, 250 GB SATA2 hard drive: fast, solid and won’t crash on me every couple of hours. It should arrive tomorrow or Friday, seemingly. Yay!

There’s no place like http://127.0.0.1

Back home I’ve got two major Web projects that I’m working on: one for a client in Edinburgh, the other for my mother-in-law’s enneagram business.

I’m still getting my head around Joomla! 1.5 for the former; this evening I was working on graphics for the latter. For one of the images I settled on the beach scene above — I just hope that it’s close to what she was hoping for.