Time to Low-Level format?

Discussion in 'Dell' started by halnjoy, Apr 8, 2004.

  1. halnjoy

    halnjoy Guest

    I have a nearly three year old Dimension 8200, 2.2Mhz, 512m RAM, running XP
    home. Over the last few months it's been getting progressively slower and
    slower, especially when loading programs and web pages.

    I run Norton AntiVirus, Adaware and Spybot regularly.

    After three years, I'm guessing that it's time to start fresh and lose all
    the registry code-gunk that's accumulated over time from software upgrades,
    etc. My question is: what's the best approach to a really clean install?
    Should I be looking to perform a low-level format, should I boot from a
    floppy and format C:\ , or will a simple reinstall of XP automatically wipe
    everything else from the drive and let me start fresh? If there's some
    malware lurking in the registry or elsewhere that hasn't been previously
    detected, will it survive anything other than the low-level format?

    Yes, I know I'll lose my preferences and I need to back-up all my driver
    downloads, email addresses, outlook favorites, etc., before I begin.
    However, how do I "save" the XP Service Pack 1, all the critical XP secuity
    updates, and Norton antivirus definition updates so the computer is
    protected once I've started clean?

    halnjoy, Apr 8, 2004
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  2. halnjoy

    Hank Arnold Guest

    First of all, the idea of "low level format" is no longer valid these days.
    A simple format (not a quick format) is more than enough.

    It's most likely that your Windows is just getting bogged down. It's common
    and the reason many of us re-build our machines once or twice a year. A
    re-install of XP will do nothing to improve performance

    Just set your boot sequence to boot from CD and put in your XP CD that came
    with the Dell. Do a fresh install and let it format the drive you are
    installing on. You will, as you say, have to re-install all your programs
    and restore data files as well as re-do customizations, but I guarantee that
    you will be blown away by how much improved the performance is.

    The subject of drivers will come up in this thread. You need to make sure
    you have the drivers for all the hardware in your system. I have an 8200 (on
    my 4th re-build) and have never had to use the Dell supplied drivers. You
    should download the latest drivers for the hardware in the system before you
    re-build. I've always used the drivers from the manufacturer's web sites.

    Also, write down customization information you need before starting. Note
    any account numbers, passwords, etc.. I'd recommend taking a few days to go
    through the system noting all the information you need to re-construct the
    setup you want. This is actually critical to minimizing the down time.

    If you haven't done it before, you should be prepared for 1-3 days before
    the system is "operational and several more additional days before it's back
    to where you want it. Good luck. Despite the aggravation, it will, I
    guarantee, be worth it.
    Hank Arnold, Apr 8, 2004
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  3. halnjoy

    Ed Wurster Guest

    Make sure you have the boot CD from Dell (and it works) and other CD's with

    The most important thing, IMO, is to have what you need to get online
    quickly. This usually means the ethernet drivers, ISP settings.

    I'm not sure if the Dell CD will allow this, but I would look into
    purchasing a new drive, and installing there. This would preserve everything
    on the original drive, and you could add that as a secondary drive, and
    clean it up as time permits. Make sure the drive is scanned thoroughly,

    Ed Wurster, Apr 8, 2004
  4. halnjoy

    Leythos Guest

    best approach is as follows:

    1 Uninstall any unused software
    2 Defragment the drive
    3 Run a registry cleaner
    4 Set IE to only use 20MB of cache for Temp Internet files
    5 Move the TEMP location to something like C:\TEMP instead of your
    documents and settings folder or the \windows\temp area

    If that doesn't restore your performance then do the following:

    Backup your internet favorites, cookies, email, contacts, etc... Burn to

    Insert the Quick-Restore CD, or the Dell XP CD, reboot, delete the
    partition, create the partition, install XP.

    Low level formatting is not something you want to do to a drive any
    more. It went out with MFM / RLL drives in the old days. Only the
    earliest of the IDE drives benefited from it, and most were trashed by

    Make sure that you download XP Service Pack 1 and any other security
    updates and burn them to CD. Also, if connected by a cable/dsl
    connection, make sure that you are behind a router or have the personal
    firewall software on CD before you connect to the internet.
    Leythos, Apr 8, 2004
  5. dead entries and invalid entries from your registry, and will clean up
    the hard drive of junk and invalid data, and defag the drive AS WELL
    AS the registry...you can dump an awful lot of MB's that way. My last
    clean up netted me over 24MB's of junk! There are several utilities
    available...do some research before buying!
    Michael P Gabriel, Apr 8, 2004
  6. halnjoy

    Richardson Guest

    Another suggestion....purchase SpaceAce IV from RBLevin.net.


    I've used this app for the past five years on Win 95, Win 2000 and XP
    machines. It will safely get rid of much of the junk and temp detritus on
    your computer. In fact, when you first use it, you may recover 80-100 mb of
    drive space. Another option is to consider upgrading to a Macintosh, where
    you'll never need Spybot or Adaware or a Registry cleaner, and your system
    will not slow down just because you are using it over time. Just a matter of
    looking at all of your options :)
    Richardson, Apr 8, 2004
  7. Another thing that I like to do, before a fresh install, is capture screen

    This not only affords you the opportunity to duplicate screen/program layouts,
    it also makes it easier to document various settings.

    I've been using ClipMate, from Thornsoft (http://www.thornsoft.com/).

    Lawrence Glasser, Apr 8, 2004
  8. halnjoy

    mhagen Guest

    Read the reviews on that software before using!
    mhagen, Apr 8, 2004
  9. halnjoy

    Richardson Guest

    I certainly read them before I started using the app in 1998. I've run it
    dozens of times on Win versions from 95 through XP Pro. Rich Levin, the
    programmer, is a very credible tech presence here in the Philadelphia area.
    Richardson, Apr 8, 2004
  10. Wish the Macs I use were like that. Wish I lost as little work and time
    on the Macs as I do the Dell.
    Thomas M. Goethe, Apr 9, 2004
  11. halnjoy

    Richardson Guest

    Wish you knew how to use a Mac....
    Richardson, Apr 9, 2004
  12. halnjoy

    Hank Arnold Guest

    Excellent idea!! I actually do that for things like the OE and Outlook
    Hank Arnold, Apr 9, 2004
  13. halnjoy

    Mik Guest


    You've got a lot of help on this one, all of it good IMHO.

    One thing I would add, though, is that a 3-year old hard disk WILL
    slow down, and will get even slower and slower when it is nearing its
    end of life (anywhere between 2 to 4 years for a hard disk). In my
    opinion, these are warning signs and, if I had your problem and money,
    I would buy a new hard disk and ghost the old to the new, even if I
    intended to re-install from fresh eventually. That's my 2 cents.

    Check also this app, it may identify a lot of things that Ad-Aware and
    Spybot have not. I used to use this site's pages a lot before I
    bought the program, the ultimate troubleshooter, and it is a godsend :



    I still think, though, that the age of your hard disk may be the major

    Mik, Apr 9, 2004
  14. halnjoy

    halnjoy Guest

    Thank you all for your combined advice.

    I think my solution will be to buy a Western Digital 80Gb HD. I'm going to
    install it as the new master, do a fresh install of all the software, and
    keep the original drive unchanged in case we run into bugs with the new
    drive. That way I could reconnect it if we need to and run the machine in
    its current condition. Then, once everything seems to be working properly
    off the Western Digital, we'll make the original drive a slave or shred its
    data and toss.

    Again...thank you.
    halnjoy, Apr 10, 2004
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