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recommendation: do not reformat!

By jobeard
Oct 10, 2005
  1. over and over again we see users with the scenario
    I've got this problem ... xyz ... and decided to reformat and reinstall the OS.
    Now when I try to ...abc... it doesn't whatever.​
    Please, do yourself a big favor, don't take this route too quickly. This is an
    act of desperation and will lead you into a major time warp and lost effort.
    In my opinion, this is the software equivalent of 'buying a new computer', there's
    just a ton of work to do and you are likely to have losses of data or programs
    you would really like to keep.

    Even in a corporate infrastructure, some at the 'help desk' tend to use this
    approach to problem solving; not! This is problem creating (again imo).

    Problems are a cause->effect condition and the root cause can be difficult to
    find, but it is there and can almost always be resolved without a reformat/reinstall.

    edit/
    IF you must reformat, AT LEAST be sure to get copies of your hardware drivers
    from the vendor and load them to a USB Thumb Drive. Then you will only have one problem,
    getting a driver for your USB.
    /edit
     
  2. Blakhart

    Blakhart TS Rookie Posts: 353

    Hi
    When you're ready to Nuke and Pave (format), do a av and spyware search of the system (if you can) before you back anything up. Then backup and check it to make sure that you're not overlooking something, and then format the drive. Nuke and pave is called for when the system has been running the same os install for longer than a year, been victim to power failure or software/hardware crashes, or been hacked/infected by spyware or virii. Sometimes the time taken to remove unwanted registry items by hand almost equates the time taken to install an os and apps. The benefit of a fresh system/apps install outweighs the cost in time it takes.
    I use :http://dban.sourceforge.net/ to zero (zero = write zeros to every writable area of the drive, removing all data whatsoever not related to the drive's low level structure as laid down by the drives maker) the drive so the drive is as new.
    Fast and does the job completely. If you don't have a floppy, you can get dban on the ultimatebootcd: http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/ wich I find to be an indispensible tool. Simply outstanding.
    Ok then after the drive has been zerod, install your os and apps, set the ui to your taste, chill, and serve.

    My thoughts on the subject
     
  3. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    writing all bits to zero REALLY isn't usually needed. It takes hours, and formatting is pretty sufficent for a re-install. Also, writing all bit's to 0 with DBAN doesn't eliminate all data. That's why it has data destruction methods. Writing all bits to zero still leave data recoverable, by people who know more about it than I do.

    Anyways, a little story.

    My mums husband was having trouble wit a computer. AVG was telling him that newly updated definitions were out of date, and the BTinternet provided browser wouldn't start. I took a look in the event log, saw that crypt32 was failing through invalid certificates, and so naturally, I checked the Time setting on windows, even though the time itself was correct.

    The Year was set to 2082! Setting the correct year fixed the problem. He was going to spend I don't know how many hours reinstalling everything if I hadn't looked at it. As it happened, fixing it took about three clicks of the mouse and 4 numbers pressed on the keyboard.
     
  4. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,351   +622

    Blakhart write:

    Sometimes the time taken to remove unwanted registry items by hand almost equates the time taken to install an os and apps. The benefit of a fresh system/apps install outweighs the cost in time it takes.​
    this is very true. there's always the question of diminishing returns for the effort.
    Nuke and pave is called for when the system has been running the same os install for longer than a year, been victim to power failure or software/hardware crashes, or been hacked/infected by spyware or virii. ​
    Maybe. IMO, the age of the installed OS is specious. I currently have three systems and only the laptop is less than a year old. The other two have be faithful servants with maintenance updates along the way. Remember
    "if it isn't broken, don't fix it"? Sure works for me.

    There's always the question of how the system is used and the importance of the data on it. If the system is primarily Internet access or gaming, then there may be little worth saving and the short path to getting it up may be to recycle it all. However, business use, consulting, engineering systems tend to have a lot as risk - - and the obvious need to ensure adequate backup. But attempting to restore a backup over a reformat/reinstall is fraught with pain getting it all squared away.

    Other systems (Mac OS/X, Linux, Unix) make disaster recovery straight forward, in that bootstrapping a new install so as to restore a backup is common practice. The Windows Registry complicates this and there's often a lot of pain associated.

    The recommendation is don't get too hasty! If it's the only path out of the woods, then by all means, get it running again :)
     
  5. Blakhart

    Blakhart TS Rookie Posts: 353

    Hi
    True that some systems have gone years before a format was needed, I read abt a netware system that had been bricked up under a stairway at a university for like 4 or more years, still running when they found it. On a 486 no less. Some servers on nix have gone for years sans formats, or even reboots, but sometimes a typical end user such as me wants to start fresh. Thats where zeros come in.

    I have seen performance diffs between drives that got zerod and drives that just got formatted or repaired by xp. The zerod drives always win.
    Dban is mentioned because it is probably the fastest app available that does the zeroing, takes nowhere near as long as a typical oem ute.

    It is true that you can use an electron microscope to go down a few layers of molecules into a drive platter's surface to recover data from the drive, but what I posted isn't meant to hide data at all but rather to reduce it sufficiently for performances sake. There are also software alternatives to the electron microscope method, cheaper but not as thorough.

    If a problem can be resolved by a simple datechange or similar, there you go, no reason to go to the extreme of nuke and pave.
     
  6. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,351   +622

    low level reformatting will always improve performance, but there's less drastic means to that end - - defragmenting the drive. Why use a hammer when a fly swatter will do? :approve:
     
  7. sw123

    sw123 TS Rookie Posts: 595

    What if you get a message at startup saying:


    Windows could not start because the following fil is missing or corrupt:

    <Windows root>/HAL.dll


    ??????
     
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,351   +622

    you're at the hardware interface layer -- the HAL is the Hardware Abstraction Layer -- usually provided by the manufacture.

    get a copy, boot a dos system, copy it to \windows\system32 and then reboot

    you might be able to copy \windows\i386\hal.dl_ with a rename to the location above
     
  9. smore9648

    smore9648 TS Rookie Posts: 697


    Hardware Abrstraction Layer



    This DLL is used to recognize your hardware. If this is gone you will need to copy it from another PC or from you Windows OS installation disk
     
  10. sw123

    sw123 TS Rookie Posts: 595

    What if you're BIOS sux, cant boot from anything but the hard drive(except from recovery disks which reformat, f*** emachines) and you have no way to boot from anything except to reformat. What should u do then???????
     
  11. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,351   +622

    get a better machine is a good choice, but being more practical,
    when you're in hole, you have to find a way to climb out and yours sadly
    appears to be reformat/reinstall.

    once it's all running again, investigate creating a recovery CD -- every bios will
    boot from it.
     
  12. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 17,244   +234

    I keep backup files, documents and program install files on another drive installed in my system. It is extremely easy to format and reinstall the OS and all my data, on the (new) C drive. I work on a lot of older systems, and most of the time, it is much faster to FDISK and FORMAT these older drives. An all zeros write has restored many of these bad drives...
     
  13. Blakhart

    Blakhart TS Rookie Posts: 353

    "An all zeros write has restored many of these bad drives..."

    I agree. many times I have been given a "bad" drive that just needed to be zerod.
     
  14. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 17,244   +234

    It really amazed me at first. I reformatted, and reinstalled the OS only to still see errors. Once I wrote all zero's, the drives worked perfectly. I've had one in my system for over a year now
     
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