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Digital Wrecking Ball

I think it’s been three, maybe four years since I last reformatted and rebuilt the hard drive of either Vickie’s or my PC. During that time our PCs have been almost entirely replaced. Both Vickie’s and my motherboards and main processors were replaced in early 2005, I upgraded both our video cards a few months ago and I’ve replaced my sound card twice. Oh, and I finally got that CoolerMaster Ammo 533 case I’ve been hankering for six months or so ago, too. In that time, our hard drive builds have been ticking along fairly happily. I was expecting them to throw a fit after the mobo replacement, but they took even those drastic changes in their stride.

Still, with all the hardware and concurrent driver changes we’ve done in that time, I think it’s high time that I scrubbed our hard disks clean and rebuilt them from the ground up. Our PCs have been acting rather flaky over the past few months; every now and again, my DVD combo drive tray will close itself immediately after it opens and one of Vickie’s games – her favourite, in fact – suddenly decided to stop working. Also, ever since we got the Epson Stylus RX430 printer and connected it to Vickie’s PC, my PC has refused to recognise it, even going so far as to crash Word should I have the temerity to print a document. There haven’t been any new drivers for it since 2004, so there’s not much I can do, and product support has been useless.

Yesterday, I created a folder on my hard drive called “Rebuild Essentials” and started filling it with all the apps, patches and service packs I’d need in order to get our PCs back up to spec after cleaning the hard drives off (at least, those not already on a cover-CD – I’m very thankful for my subscription to Australian Personal Computer magazine). I also made sure to create a checklist of everything we need reinstalled once we’re done.

Now, I’m wondering whether my reading public and the IMAGinewS brains trust can make some suggestions as to drivers or apps that’ll improve our PC-use experiences. At the moment, the list of apps we’ll both be re-installing looks a little like this:

  • Windows XP and Service Pack 2
  • Registry Mechanic
  • Kerio Personal Firewall 4
  • Norton AntiVirus 2006
  • Spybot – Search & Destroy
  • MailWasher Free 5.1.0
  • Trillian Basic 3
  • Skype 2.5
  • Paint Shop Pro 7
  • Internet Explorer 7
  • Windows Media Player 11
  • QuickTime

There are also our various drivers; I’ve downloaded ones for my ECS Elitegroup 661FX-M motherboard, my NVIDIA GeForce 6800GS and my SoundBlaster Audigy 4, while Vickie has drivers for her MSI KT3 Ultra (including the onboard sound card) and her Radeon X1300.

Now, is there anything else that you can suggest that won’t cost anything and will help our PCs run quickly/more smoothly?

Oh, and before you suggest new hard drives, the though has crossed my mind (specifically, the thought that I could get myself a decent Serial-ATA hard drive, put my old one in Vickie’s PC and RAID it with hers, they’re identical) but my comment in my last post about how in debt we are still holds; I want to reduce it, not put us further in hock with Christmas on our doorstep.

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Just a common thing that folks forget to do it to backup you email and bookmark files.

Oh, don't you worry, my good man; I place too much value on my life to not back up e-mail and favourites! Isn't that right, Vickie?

I've swapped trillian for Miranda, which is a free alternative, and Windows Defender is a nice replacement for Spybot, it runs all the time if you're more paranoid :)

Naturally I'd recommend Firefox over IE7, the plugins are better in FF and there's less spyware risk.

On the media side I use Media Player Classic + realplayer alternative for most things, although I hear VLC is quite good too.

Hmm. Interesting; I've had someone else warn me off Windows Defender because it creates a lot of needless, system-slowing redundancy. Also, and maybe it's just because I'm not grokking the fullness of Firefox and its plug-ins library, but I've found Spybot regularly identifies more spyware when running Firefox than it does when running IE. Do you have any suggestions, mate?

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