Wednesday, March 4th, 2009


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Some tips for doing re-installs frequently…

1) Always keep your hardware drivers for any computer in C:\HARDWARE\computername\hardwaretype\hardwarename

For example:
c:\hardware\Hades\video cards\ATI\ for your video card drivers.

And of course, make sure this folder is copied onto 2 computers, or part of your backup process. This is very helpful. For one thing, install CDs are often lost. For another thing, personal research allows you to leave little notes like “Use the install CD, then upgrade to this version, but NOT the latest version, it sucks”. Information that’s not used frequently and often forgotten can save you if you put it in a place where you can’t miss it.

2) I always keep my basic non-installable command-line tools in C:\UTIL\, which is replicated to every computer every reboot. Lots of my tools thus work, automatically. I copy my command-line, 4NT, from another computer as well. So out of the box, most of my “ClintIsms” work without any form of installation.

3) I find it helps to make a folder called \RE-INSTALL\ somewhere, with numbered subfolders, to deal with those programs that require pesky installation:

U:\RE-INSTALL
├──1 (do before bringing online)
├──2 (daily use programs)
├──3 (near-daily use programs)
└──4 (weekly or less use programs)

For me, folder 1 just includes WinZip (so I can unzip my other programs), my antivirus (EZ AntiVirus), my firewall (SyGate), and my settings tweaker (X-Teq Pro).

Before going to folder 2, we must bring the computer online safely. This involves fully patching the machine without connecting to the internet — which is a catch 22. The updates are on the internet, but you need them to safely be on the internet. How do you solve that? Answer: CTUPDATE. CTUpdate is a command-line script that can first be set to download every patch for an OS. You do this once ever, and add it to your backups. You now have all the patches in an offline form. CTUpdate can then apply them without ever going online. It also reduces the total reboots to about 3 or so instead of 10 or so, and runs without you having to click or do anything! Unfortunately, it fails if you don’t make sure these 4 files are deleted, so I had to make a ctupdate.bat to run ctupdate.cmd by deleting th ese 4 files:

C:\bat>cat ctupdate.bat
if exist c:\recycled\SetOSEnvVars.cmd *del c:\recycled\SetOSEnvVars.cmd
if exist c:\recycled\wsusscn2.cab *del c:\recycled\wsusscn2.cab
if exist c:\recycled\update.txt *del c:\recycled\update.txt
if exist c:\recycled\MissingUpdateIds.txt *del c:\recycled\MissingUpdateIds.txt
c:\util\ctupdate\client\Update.cmd
REM note that if it’s XP, it’s c:\recycler\ and not c:\recycled\

Folder 2 includes my daily use programs, which are different for each person. For me, they are AudioScrobbler, Winamp, EditPlus (text editor), Firefox (but having a new version is tricky; still, an old version is better than nothing), MSCOMCTL.ZIP (a DLL I always end up needing), TweakUI, WinZip Command-Line Addon, VLC Player, John’s Adventures Desktop Background Switcher.

Folder 3 includes things I use not quite daily. ActivePerl, EvilLyrics, VNC server, Winrar. IT’S IMPORTANT TO PUT VNC SERVER IN YOUR STARTUP! If you mess up your video card such that your computer can’t display anything, you can VNC in and fix it. You could also use Remote Desktop in this situation.

Folder 4 are my more esoteric tools that I only occasionally use. CoolEdit audio editer, Acoustica audio converter, ImageMagick, Xing mp3 encoder (which I only use for CBR encodes; I use c:\util\LAME.exe for VBR encodes).

Anyway — being able to install windows in only 3 reboots, and get most of my drivers and programs installed without having to hunt them down and download them (or find the install cd) really helps take away a lot of the stress of the process. And repositories that can be backed up are helpful too. But my last tip has to do with those programs you only use rarely — once a month, once a year. Make a C:\INSTALL-FILES\ and make separate folders for util-net, util-video, util-sound, util-diagnostic, games-misc, games-tetris, etc. This repository will grow to be several gigs big, but it’s really nice to be able to install any program you’ve ever installed in the past without having to connect to the internet.

And for God’s sake, don’t leave your EXE files exposed. Zip them. This protects them from a virus better than running antivirus, as most virii wont look inside a ZIP file. I lost thousands of EXEs in my c:\INSTALL-FILES\ due to the w32.licum virus — but 0 of my zipped ones. (more…)