Even if you are planning to use a system recovery disk, it always takes a long time to reinstall Windows. While the installation procedure of Windows itself only takes around half an hour, there’s a whole lot of preparation you need to make as well as all of the things you need to do afterwards such as install drivers, programs, updates, personal files and more. If the time has come when your computer needs a software overhaul to get it up and running like new again, then it’s time to reinstall Windows. However, before you continue, you may want to follow these important tips lest you forget anything important.

1: Backup Your Files

This, of course, should be obvious to anyone. When you reinstall Windows, you will lose absolutely everything stored on the hard disk partition where you install the operating system. However, while most people automatically back up their personal data, be it stored in the Documents folder or elsewhere, there’s a few other things which are often overlooked. Consider the following checklist:

-          Internet favourites (Their location depends on the browser you use)

-          Saved games (Often somewhere in the Documents folder, but can be anywhere depending on the game.

-          Downloaded files and programs (Typically in the /Downloads folder)

-          Personal photos

-          Movies

-          Music

The above might just give you an idea, but everyone’s situation is different. Make a list of all of the things you want to back up before beginning and check each item off once you’re sure it’s safe. Double-check once again before continuing to reinstall Windows.

2: Download Drivers

Make an inventory of all of the hardware in your computer which requires drivers. You can download most of the drivers after you reinstall Windows, but it’s far more convenient to get them all before you begin and copy them to another hard disk, partition or flash drive. It can also be a little risky if you leave the drivers until after you reinstall Windows. For example, if after you reinstall Windows, you can’t access the Internet because you don’t have your network card drivers, then you have quite a problem on your hands. Fortunately, with later operating systems and common hardware, many components don’t require drivers. In spite of this, you should always download the following just to be sure:

-          Motherboard drivers (includes drivers for network card, chipset, on-board sound, on-board graphics, Bluetooth and any other integrated devices).

-          Graphics card drivers (if you have a dedicated graphics card). Get the latest ones from nvidia.com or ati.com depending on your card.

-          Sound card drivers (if you have a dedicated sound card).

-          Drivers for any peripherals such as printers and scanners.

-          Drivers for any other add-in cards such as TV cards, card readers and controller cards.

Once you’ve got all your drivers, copy them to a safe place. Now, when you reinstall Windows, you’ll have all your drivers handy for when its complete.

3: Slipstream Windows Service Packs, Updates and Customizations

This one is a little bit more advanced, but if you want to reinstall Windows, it’s worth doing and there are plenty of guides on the Internet to help you. Slipstreaming refers to integrating all of the latest service packs and updates into a customized Windows installation DVD. It’s possible with all current versions of Windows.

The main advantages of making such an installation disk are that it saves a lot of time and minimizes the risk of problems. Keeping  an updated version of your Windows installation DVD is very convenient. When you reinstall Windows from your original disk, you’ll no doubt find that you have to download hundreds of megabytes of updates and service packs as soon as you log in the first time. Not only is this highly inconvenient -  but there’s always a good chance that something can go wrong.

Making a customized installation DVD is ideal for anyone planning to reinstall Windows, since you can also integrate other Microsoft software into the installation or specify which software and component you want installed. Don’t want Windows Media Player  or Internet Explorer being installed automatically when you reinstall Windows? Make a customized installation DVD.  You can even specify themes, desktop wallpapers, system OEM information, language settings and much more. Your custom installation DVD will also work unattended – when you reinstall Windows, you simply need to boot up from the DVD, configure your hard drive partitions and start the install. The Windows Setup utility will do the rest for you.