Published April 22nd, 2003 by Jim O'Halloran
Scott is experiencing WinRot, that insidious disease whereby Windows starts getting wobbly and eats RAM like a pig after its been used for a while…
Full reboot and even a file system check. That’s two in two days. I know what I need to do:
I’m sure that would probably fix it — at least for a time. This machine is now 2 years old and that means that “winrot” has set in.
WinRot sucks, that it happens at all just isn’t good enough. The fact that it seems to get worse with each successive version of Windows over the years is criminal.
I’ve had the same sort of problems as Scott with Windows installs since Win 95. Over time they seem to rot, and just generally “go bad” for no real reason. The newer the OS, the worse this seems to get too (DOS/win 3.1 just didn’t rot, Win 95 slowly, 98 quicker, NT 4 took about 2 years to rot, 2000 went off in about 12 months).
I’ve got good news and bad news on XP though. I’ve been running it for 9 months on my desktop machine at work, and it hasn’t rotted significantly yet, thats the good news… The bad news is that the OS normally destroys itself catastrophically before it has a chance to rot! In those 9 months its been reloaded 2 or 3 times now. Even this morning my machine took 2 attempts to boot up, and I thought I was up for another reload. No error message, no blue screen, just rebooted mid way through the boot process. The number of times this machine has hard locked (no kb, no mouse, no power switch even) and I’ve lost everything since I loaded XP is unbeleivable.
Anyway, over the years I’ve rebuilt my desktop machines a lot, and I’ve got a few strategies which help…
First, you need two partitions… C: is for programs, D: is for data. Keep documents, code, MP3’s, digital photos, EVERYTHING on your D: (as in data) drive. Install Apps to drive C: and do nothing else with it. Blow away drive C: whenever you like, your data is safe on the other partition. Don’t use the default “My
Next, on drive D: keep a folder structure with all of your drivers… Create a new folder for each OS version and device (eg. D:\Drivers\Win2kPro\Video, D:\Drivers\WinXPPro\Video, D:\Drivers\Win2kPro\Sound, etc). Whenever you download new drivers, extract them into this folder structure and install from there. When you blow away your OS, you’ve still got your driver tree ready for a reinstall. No looking for driver CD’s (which I’ve usually long since lost anyway).
Do something similar with downloaded program files. Create D:\Downloads and file all of your downloaded programs in it. If you download something and get rid of it, delete the installer and forget it. If you keep using it make sure you keep the installer. If you register it and it needs a serial number, create a text file in your downloads directory, and put the serial number in there so you’ll have it when you need to do a reinstall. Ideally give the text file the same filename (with a .txt extension) as the program installer so they show up next to each other in the explorer window.
Treat service packs, hotfixes, etc the same way, download ‘em once and keep ‘em (Windows update makes this harder, but less necessary). When you rebuild, you don’t want to wait while anything downloads.
Burn both D:\Drivers and D:\Downloads to CD periodically.
Finally, before you blow away your OS, log out and log in as the local administrator (or domain admin) user. Back up C:\Documents and Settings\Jim (or whatever your user name is) to your D: (as in data) drive. Its important to do this as a user other than youself so that you can copy the registry file thats sitting in there. If you run roaming profiles on your network, logging out will do this for you.
This folder structure is your user profile, and contains the HKEY_LOCAL_USER portion of the registry where most programs store therir settings, your browser histry, My Documents folder (which I still suggest you don’t use), etc. Copying that onto your new install can save you an enormous amount of time in reconfiguration later,
When you’ve loaded most of your apps, created your normal user account and logged in once to establish the new location of your profile, log in as administrator again and restore the backup. This will get you back all of your program settings, browser settings/passwords/bookmarks, etc.
Copying over the user profile over also gives you back your old start menu which can serve to remind you (via broken images where the icons should be) which programs you haven’t installed yet. Which helps to prevent that old “I used to have that program but I mustn’t have installed it again yet” problem that sometimes persists for weeks after a rebuild.
Hope that helps someone out… Reloading is a pain in the butt, but if you’re a little organised before hand you can get through it a lot faster… I usually rebuild my desktop in about 2 days, and my laptop in about 3 days (more drivers, more reboots).