Fastest Way to Make a Clean Install of Windows 7
Reinstalling Windows is often the best way to get your computer running like new again. Over time, any computer inevitably gets cluttered up with unused programs, old drivers and other data which contributes to falling reliability and lower performance. In order to get the most out of a regularly-used computer and to keep it running to its fullest potential, it is not a bad idea to get into the habit of performing a completely clean installation of Windows around once per year. However, as anyone who has done this before knows, it can be incredibly time consuming. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to save hours of time and get an even more reliable and cleaner job done. The following steps require at least a basic knowledge of Windows and preferably some experience of installing Windows 7 or previous versions of the operating system.
Step 1 – Get All of the Latest Updates
There are literally hundreds of updates available for Windows 7 since it was released, although many of them are included as part of Service Pack 1. However, in order to prepare for making your customized Windows 7 installation disk in step 2, you will need to download them all. Fortunately, there is a quick way of doing this. To make this easy, you will need to download and install a free program called the Windows Updates Downloader. Once you have installed the program, you will need to download the latest updates list from the program’s official website. Open the downloaded file with the program.
A list of updates will appear. Check all of the boxes and click “Download.” This may take some time, since there will be several gigabytes of data to download. Once everything has been downloaded, you will be ready to move on to the next step to integrate the updates into your customized installation.
Step 2 – Create a Customized, Slipstreamed Windows 7 Installation Disk
A customized, slipstreamed Windows 7 installation disk is by far the most efficient, reliable and fastest way of reinstalling Windows. Slipstreaming refers to integrating all of the currently available Windows updates and service packs into your installation media. You can also integrate other programs, drivers and a variety of other things into your installation.
Creating a customized installation disk also allows you to make the installation mostly unattended, so you do not need to go through the process of configuring language settings and other installation preferences when you install Windows. When you customize the installation, you will be able to specify the preferences that Windows installs with. You have probably used such customized installation disks before. Computer manufacturers usually provide their own customized Windows installation disks instead of the original, vanilla copy of Windows.
The software which you need to create a customized, slipstreamed installation of Windows 7 is called RT Seven Lite. Download and install this software and follow the included instructions to integrate the service packs and updates you downloaded in the previous step.
Finally, use RT Seven Lite to compile a bootable ISO image of your Windows 7 installation disk.
Step 3 – Create a Bootable USB Installation Drive
These days, with many portable computers not even having an optical drive, installing Windows 7 from a USB pen drive is more popular than ever. A customized installation disk may also be too large to fit onto a DVD anyway so, for the purpose of this tutorial, we will be creating a USB installer using the free tool from Microsoft, the “Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool.”
Download and install this program. Open it, select the ISO image you created in the previous step and click “Next.” Plug in your USB pen drive and choose it in the next step of the wizard. Be aware that the entire contents of the drive will be deleted! Wait for the program to finish copying the files. You will now be able to boot up from the USB drive and install Windows from it, although you will probably need to alter the boot device priority in your computer’s BIOS first.
Step 4 – Start Installing!
Insert the USB drive and ensure that it is set as the first boot device in the BIOS. When you turn on the computer, the Windows 7 installation will start. Depending on the preferences you set in Step 2, you may or may not need to specify your language and location settings. For now, it is simply a matter of leaving Windows to install. Since all of the updates and service packs are included, the process may take some time but, by the time you reach a workable desktop, you will have a completely up-to-date copy of Windows 7 installed!
Once Windows is installed, download and install the latest drivers for any unrecognized hardware such as graphics adapters, sound cards, card readers and peripheral devices. If you already integrated all necessary drivers into the installation disk in Step 2, then you don’t need to worry about this.
Next, you’ll want to install all of your favourite programs. For this, you should use a free application called “Ninite.” This is an extremely useful program which installs popular software for you without requiring any user intervention. It also prevents the programs from installing any unwanted “bloatware” such as toolbars and adware. Using Ninite is simply a matter of going to ninite.com and selecting all of the popular applications that you want to install and clicking the “Get Installer” button at the bottom of the page. Download and run the installer and all of your chosen software will be automatically downloaded and installed without any further user intervention necessary.
Finally, install any other major applications and/or video games which you use and restart the computer as required. Before you start using your computer as normal, however, it is strongly recommended that you run Disk Defragmenter. This will optimize your hard disk and improve your computer’s performance.