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

SafeInCloud

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

Conclusion

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?

Time for some PC forgiveness

Blue screen of death parody
Not a real blue screen of death (BSOD) but I’ve seen too many worrying ones this week.

It never rains but it pours, so the saying goes. On top of a chest, throat and ear infection and general exhaustion (more on that, perhaps, in a future post) my desktop PC has now started to play up. It’s time for some PC ‘forgiveness’, reformat the C drive and start again.

With most other versions of Windows that I’ve used (98 second edition, XP, 7, 8 and 8.1) I have performed a full ‘factory reset’, a clean install of Windows, every nine to twelve months.

For me though, Windows 10 has been the most stable version of Windows to date—at least, this side of Windows 3.11 for Workgroups. I have had very few issues with it, and until last week very few blue screens of death: fatal system error messages that suddenly bring your workflow to a crashing halt.

Backup

So, when my PC started acting up a few weeks back I reached for both my trusty Trello board that documents for me what software I have installed, what order things need to be installed, and notes about any installation woes, and my external hard drive to check that everything was backed up okay.

Then my external hard drive died.

Over the last three or more years I’ve been running a nightly back-up, using SecondCopy, to a Seagate Backup Plus drive (1TB USB 3.0).

I have extracted the 3.5″ SATA hard drive from the enclosure to check if the drive itself has failed or just the power supply. But in the meantime I ordered myself a Seagate Backup Plus Slim portable drive (2TB USB 3.0) and have spent the weekend progressively backing up everything: drivers, application files, game progressive backups, music, videos and photos.

As I write this, I’m currently virus-scanning the backup on my laptop to ensure data integrity.

Once that is done I can start the reinstall.

Reinstall

Here’s my general order of doing things:

  1. Reformat the hard drive(s).
  2. Install Windows 10.
  3. Motherboard drivers (including chipset driver, Intel management engine interface, network card, and diagnostic tools).
  4. Graphics card drivers.
  5. Windows 10 updates.
  6. Google Chrome.
  7. .NET Framework.
  8. Soundcard drivers.
  9. Keyboard drivers.
  10. Mouse drivers.
  11. Webcam drivers.
  12. Scanner drivers.
  13. Laser printer drivers.
  14. Gamepad drivers.
  15. Install software…

I generally start with a few system tools and accessories before moving on to the bigger guns like office applications and graphics, multimedia, web development, and lastly games.

Essential tweaks

Over the years I’ve learned a lot from Koroush Ghazi’s TweakGuides tweaking companion documents. But Windows 10 is the most complete Windows operating system that I’ve used to date. I now have to make very few, if any, tweaks at all.

I still rely on the following applications to give me additional functionality:

  • Agent Ransack
    I use this instead of the default Windows search. It’s much faster and more configurable.
  • allSnap
    This makes windows snap together and to the edge of the screen, as though they are magnetic.
  • f.lux
    F.lux adjusts the colour of my monitor depending on the time of day. It helps me sleep better at night by reducing the blue light in the evening, which is what keeps you awake.
  • Pixel Ruler
    This allows you to measure stuff on your screen, in pixels.
  • PrintFolder Pro (paid)
    This allows me to list folders within a directory. It can be really useful.
  • PureText
    This converts any text on the clipboard to plain text, removing all formatting. It’s the quick equivalent to pasting something into Notepad, then selecting all and copying it back to the clipboard.
  • TED Notepad
    This is my Notepad replacement of choice. It has some really nice features like sorting, case changing, trimming spaces, etc.
  • TreeSize Free
    This is really useful for checking the size of directories, say for backing up or pre-zipping.
  • WinSplit Revolution
    This has been discontinued, but I still use the old version. It allows me to quickly move windows around my desktop, for example, align two windows side-by-side, or one to be one-third and the other two-thirds.

I’ll see you on the other side (unless I blog before then from my laptop).

Using TreeSize Free to increase disk space

A couple of days ago, when I switched on my PC and opened My Computer I was presented with a bright red drive tile icon, indicating that it was running short of free disk space.

Drive C is red and reports 10.0 GB of 111 GB free
Drive C isn’t looking very healthy

I was puzzled as I had only recently run CCleaner to collect unused files, old browser caches, un-required file settings and bin them all. I was sure that I had over 13 GB of free space.

TreeSize Free

I turned to TreeSize Free to help me identify what was taking up so much space. I first blogged about TreeSize Free in 2011 in a post called My top free Windows 7 add-ons.

Once installed, all you do is right-click a folder (or drive), select TreeSize Free from the context menu and after running for a moment the application will tell you how large that folder and all its sub-folders are.

This is what it looks like.

Screenshot of TreeSize
TreeSize shows me that I have 5.4 GB of music in the Amazon Music directory

What I learned the other day was that four items were taking up the most space:

  • Podcasts (14.8 GB)
  • Amazon Music (5.3 GB)
  • XAMPP Apache server (2.9 GB)
  • Adobe CS4 applications (2.7 GB)

I deleted the podcasts and music—I keep the music I listen to on another drive, this is simply where I download them after purchase.

Then I uninstalled Adobe and XAMPP, and reinstalled them on a larger drive.

Now I have a much more healthy 36.0 GB of free drive space.

Drive C now shows 36 GB free
That looks more healthy

If you are in a similar situation, I thoroughly recommend TreeSize Free. As they say: if you don’t measure it, you can’t control it.

Getting my Logitech F710 wireless gamepad to work with Windows 10 (and 10.1)

Logitech F710 wireless gamepad
Logitech F710 wireless gamepad

UPDATE: I’ve updated this post a little to also include information about getting this to work in Windows 10.1.


Last night I took the plunge and upgraded my desktop PC from Windows 8.1 Pro (64-bit) to Windows 10 Pro (64-bit).

The whole process took less than an hour, and as far as I could see most of my peripherals were still working after the upgrade: laser printer, scanner, webcam.

Of course, the one thing that I forgot to test were my pair of Logitech F710 wireless gamepads, which my three boys use most to play LEGO games. The controllers couldn’t be detected.

I downloaded the latest drivers from the Logitech website, which they claimed were Windows 10-compatible. That didn’t work.

There are instructions below for both Windows 10 and Windows 10.1.

F710 not working Windows 10

Here’s what I did to get them to work; I found the official Logitech forum to be very useful when I originally encountered this issue with Windows 10.

  1. Remove both nano receivers from the PC (I have mine marked 1 and 2, so I know to which gamepad they belong).
  2. Switch the gamepad to D mode.
  3. Insert the nano receiver.
  4. Windows 10 installs drivers for Rumblepad 2.
  5. Remove the nano receiver.
  6. Switch the gamepad to X mode.
  7. Insert the nano receiver.
  8. Windows 10 installs drivers for Wireless Gamepad F710.
  9. Press Windows key + Pause/Break to open System screen.
  10. Click Device Manager.
  11. Locate Wireless Gamepad F710.
  12. Right-click and select “Update Driver Software”.
  13. Click “Browse my computer for driver software”.
  14. Click “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”.
  15. Select Xbox 360 Peripherals.
  16. Select Xbox 360 Controller for Windows.
  17. Click Next.
  18. On the Update Driver Warning dialog, click Yes.
  19. Allow the driver to install. You should now see Xbox 360 Controller for Windows listed.
  20. (Optional: if you have more than one controller, keep the working one plugged in but now do the same, starting at step #1, for the other controller.)
Device Manager listing the Xbox 360 Controller for Windows
Device Manager listing the Xbox 360 Controller for Windows

The controller now works perfectly for me in the LEGO games. Obviously, I’ll report back if there are any further issues.

F710 not working on Windows 10.1

I also found this post, “Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710 Not Working with Windows 10“, on Superuser to be useful when trying to get this working on Windows 10.1. Their advice was as follows.

Make sure your controller is turned off and the wireless receiver is plugged-in to your PC before proceeding with the steps below:

  1. Press Windows key+X (or right-click the start menu icon).
  2. Click “Device Manager”.
  3. Find any listings of “Unknown Device” in the list of devices, likely under Human Interface Devices or Other Devices, or devices that have a yellow “!” warning icon on them.
  4. Right-click each unknown device device and select “Scan for hardware changes” and then “Update Driver Software” > “Search Automatically for Updated Driver” options before the next steps, especially if you have more than one “Unknown Device” listed.
  5. Right-click on “Unknown Device” and click “Update Driver Software”.
  6. Click the option “Browse my computer for driver software”.
  7. Click the option “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”.
  8. Near the bottom of the list, select the option that looks something like “Xbox 360 Peripherals” and click “Next”.
  9. From the list, select the driver option “Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver for Windows” and click “Next”.
  10. A warning will appear about the possibility of the device or your computer not working properly and likelihood of system instability. Disregard it and click “Yes” in the bottom right corner of the panel.
  11. A message should appear within a few seconds saying that the device has been correctly installed. Click “Ok” and exit out of all device manager windows.
  12. After performing these steps, power on your controller if it is not already powered on.
  13. Then press Win + R to bring up the run dialog and type in joy.cpl and click OK.
  14. This brings up the Game Controllers control panel applet. You can use this to check whether the game controllers have been identified, and if you select the game controller and click “Properties” you can test it: it will demonstrate which joysticks and buttons are being pressed.

Good luck!