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Upgrade Report [Hardware Tips: Prepare for a Windows Reinstall - 09/06/2005]

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      09-08-2005, 06:02 AM
September 6th, 2005

Hardware Tips: Prepare for a Windows Reinstall

by Contributing Editor Kirk Steers

Sometimes the only way to rid your PC of rogue software and other
maladies is to revamp your Windows installation. Follow these four
tips to keep your hardware on good terms with your reinvigorated
Windows setup.

Get Your Discs in a Row

Before you begin, gather the CDs containing the device drivers Windows
will require to run your computer, printer, and other hardware. Almost
every component in or connected to your PC needs to have its own
device-driver program installed in Windows. This includes printers,
graphics cards, network adapters, and even individual chips on your
system's motherboard.

All of the drivers your PC needs may or may not be included on the
Windows CD (or on the restoration disc) that came with your system.
After recently reinstalling Windows XP on my Dell Dimension, I found
that the machine's OS CD failed to install my network drivers and
other key hardware drivers, which meant that initially I had no
Internet access. Since I had lost the disc holding my network card's
driver, I had to use another PC to connect to the Web and download the
necessary program from the maker's site. Many drivers--such as those
for equipment you bought separately--may have to be installed from
their own discs, so keep all of your software CDs handy.

If you're reinstalling Windows from a standard Microsoft Windows CD
rather than from the disc that shipped with your PC, don't assume that
the generic Windows CD will have all of your system's current drivers.
Visit the support sections at the Web sites of your PC and peripheral
manufacturers, download up-to-date drivers, and save them on removable
media (the reinstallation will likely wipe these updates off your hard

Check Out an Overview

Stan Miastkowski's December 2002 "Step-By-Step" provides a
start-to-finish look at the Windows-reinstallation process:,tk,urx,00.asp

To transfer all of your current Windows settings to the new
configuration, consult Lincoln Spector's September 2003 "Answer Line":,tk,urx,00.asp

Avoid Hardware Activation

Every time you reinstall Windows XP, you have to phone home to
Microsoft to reactivate the OS. Avoid this annoyance by copying the
existing hardware signature file that Windows creates from your
computer's configuration and pasting it back into the freshly
installed version of Windows XP.

Open the C:\Windows\System32 folder in Explorer and copy the files
"wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" to a floppy disk, CD, or other removable
medium. At the end of the XP reinstallation, choose not to reactivate
Windows. When the reinstallation finishes, reboot your PC in Safe Mode
by pressing F8 before Windows launches. Once Windows has opened in
Safe Mode, copy the two files over the new versions in the
C:\Windows\System32 folder.

Note: This works only on the PC where the "wpa.dbl" file was
originally created; it won't bypass Windows XP activation on other
computers. And if you made significant hardware changes to your PC
before reinstalling Windows XP, you'll probably have to reactivate the
OS anyway.

Do a Driver Check

Finally, check Device Manager to confirm that all of your drivers were
installed. In XP and 2000, right-click My Computer, click Manage, and
select Device Manager on the left of the screen. In 98 and Me,
right-click My Computer, select Properties, and click Device Manager.
Any entry marked with an exclamation point (!) in a yellow circle (or
a white question mark in a green circle in Windows Me) has a problem;
if you're lucky, a new driver will fix it.

For more ways to keep your PC humming along, go to PC World's Upgrade
Center and scroll down to the "Tips & Tricks" section:,tk,urx,00.asp

Send your tips and questions to:
kirk_steers at

Read Kirk Steers' regularly published "Hardware Tips" columns:,tk,ur,00.asp

"People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents."
-- Andrew Carnegie, 19th-century robber baron
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