To-Do List After Reinstalling Windows


For me it is pretty chaotic after formatting my laptop and I usually end up installing a lot more applications than I need and often forget some more important stuff.

So here is a comprehensive list I compiled that shows all the steps you should take after a clean install of Windows. Don’t forget to install these when reinstalling Windows.

  1. Change resolution: Right click on desktop and select Screen Resolution to switch to a higher resolution.
  2. Add desktop icons: Right click on desktop and select Personalize. Then add your most used desktop icons, such as My Computer or Network. I also add a shortcut to Add & Remove Programs that resides in Control Panel.
  3. Folder Options: Go to My Computer, Press Alt+T and select Options. Customize the settings in view tab. I change settings here to show hidden files and folders and show extensions for known file types.
  4. Disable UAC: Type UAC in the Start Menu and select User Account Control. In this screen, bring the slider all the way down to disable the annoying confirmation messages.
  5. Taskbar and Start Menu properties: Customize it to remove Default Programs, Games, Help shortcuts in Start Menu. Also uncheck Highlight newly installed programs, add Network, Run, System administrative tools shortcuts. Finally, uncheck Use Large Icons and increase the number of recent programs to 20. These are up to personal preference.
  6. Set up Wireless/Internet Connection: Configure your internet connection. In my case, I’ve set up the wireless connection during the Windows installation.
  7. Windows Update: Type Windows Update in Start Menu and start Windows Update. In the following screen you can select the update settings, which I change to “Ask me before downloading and installing updates”. Afterwards, select the updates to install and let Windows do its job.
  8. Google Chrome: Go get your browser. Alternatively, download Firefox. Download plugins/extensions later.
  9. AVG Antivirus: This is up to personal preference. Some people like Avast, NOD32 or Kaspersky instead. Don’t forget to update it.
  10. Driver updates: Download latest drivers from your hardware vendors.
  11. Add/Customize Users: Type Add User Accounts in Start Menu if you need to add more users to your system – I only change my user picture here.
  12. Restart: Finish updating Windows by restarting your PC as many times as needed. I continue this process at least until I have Windows 7 Service Pack 1.
  13. Change power settings: If you wish to have your own power settings, open Power Options and customize. I usually disable screen dimming.
  14. 7-Zip: I used to have WinRAR as a data compression utility. However after seeing a few reviews comparing the two, I decided to go with 7-Zip. It has better compression rate when compressing uncompressed file formats and it also doesn’t clutter your right-click menu as much. And it’s free.
  15. µTorrent: My go-to application for torrents. Light, fast, reliable and free.
  16. Ad-aware: Great tool for spyware removal. Also update it. You can also have Spybot S&D.
  17. CCleaner: A very efficient utility that deletes temporary files, fixes registry and more.
  18. Daemon Tools: Get this to be able to mount ISO files. Make sure you do an advanced install otherwise it will install a toolbar to your browser, among other stuff. You can also have PowerISO instead if you prefer.
  19. Foxit Reader: Great lightweight PDF Reader. Alternatively get Adobe Acrobat.
  20. Notepad++: My favorite text editor. Great for programmers.
  21. Java Runtime Edition: Needed for Java applications. Programmers can get the JDK version instead (which includes JRE, yay for us)
  22. Pidgin: For your instant messaging needs. Alternatively get MSN Messenger, Skype, X-Fire, Meebo (browser-based), Trillian etc.
  23. DirectX: Needed for most games and even for some video playbacks.
  24. Irfanview: Lightweight graphic viewer that is better than Windows Photo Viewer. Associate it with image files.
  25. CCCP: I used to have VLC Media Player but decided to give CCCP a try, which includes Media Player Classic – Home Cinema and ffdshow.
  26. Customize notification icons: Right click to right part of taskbar to customize which icons will be visible. You can also make all icons visible.
  27. Indexing: Search for Indexing in Start Menu to open Indexing Options. You might want to disable file indexing if your system is slow. However having indexing leads to faster search times for files and folders. You can also modify which folders to index.
  28. Disable sounds: Type Change system sounds in Start Menu to change Windows sounds to your liking. I disable them.
  29. Disable sticky keys: Type Make your keyboard easier to use to open the Ease of Access center and uncheck the single checked option.
  30. Customize page file: If you are an advanced user and you know how big your page file should be, you can configure this.
  31. Disable error reporting: Type gpedit in Start Menu to open gpedit.msc. Then Navigate to Computer Configuration – Administrative Templates – Systems – Internet Communication Management – Internet Communication Settings and enable Turn Off Windows Error Reporting.
  32. Disable system restore: You can set up how much space Windows can have for this feature. I disable it since I never use it.
  33. Change Default Folder Locations: You can change the locations of folders under your user folders such as Downloads to another partition by right clicking the folder and choosing the Location tab.
  34. Office: Install OpenOffice or Microsoft Office: Up to personal preference and situation.

At this point you can install some extra programs that you often use such as image editors. You can also make a backup image of your system to an external hard disk using Acronis True Image. Here is an additional optional list of programs you might need:

  • FTP Client (Filezilla)
  • Photo editing software (Gimp, Inkspace, Photoshop)
  • Download manager (I use none)
  • CD Burner (ImgBurn)
  • Defraggler: A good alternative to Disk Defragmenter.
  • Folder Size: Shows folder sizes in Windows Explorer.
  • Process Explorer: Replacement for Task Manager
  • Music Player (FooBar, Winamp)
  • Everything (lightning fast file searcher)
  • Screen capture (Greenshot)

You can also disable the Windows Features that you do not use through Add or Remove Programs such as Games, Windows Media Player or even Internet Explorer and save space.

What other steps do you take after reinstalling Windows? Do you prefer other programs? Let me know.

10 thoughts on “To-Do List After Reinstalling Windows

  1. A few months ago, I was at war with my computer for close to 22 hours. I ended up having to reinstall Windows 7. It was a very strenuous experience, both mentally and physically.

    Ultimately, it was because of my gpu. I was running an nvidia GTX460, and it clashed with my motherboard. At first, I thought it might be the most recent drivers alone, but after installing the rollback drivers, the problem I was having still persisted. Apparently, a lot of people are having issues with their 400 series.

    I ended up trying restoration, but that didn’t help, so did a reformat, and a complete reinstall of windows, plus another graphics card. I ended up having to send in my GTX460 as an RMA.

    This is a great list. After a few days of reformatting, I remembered some important drivers, and programs that I had forgotten to install.

    1. Sorry to hear, hope you were able to back up stuff at least.
      Indeed. This way you don’t forget anything and it’s almost automated.
      I’ve been formatting in the weekend and the list didn’t help me that much now but it probably will next time. Even if Windows 8 gets released by then it could be similar to 7.

  2. After reading your post, I had a déjà vu. I walked through this process numerous times in the past 15 years with new PCs and old ones that needed to be reinstalled.

    Last year I switched to a Mac, and I can tell you that reconfiguring a new or old Mac is far easier as long as you use Timemachine as your backup mechanism. Just do a clean install of OS X, start Timemachine, restore your backup and you’re ready to go.

    I have to honest here: I haven’t gone through this process myself yet, but after reading and hearing about this process from friends and on the Internet, I am glad that I am a Mac user now. This will save me numerous hours when I need to reconfigure my Mac or buy a new one.

    1. I think even without Timemachine you don’t really need to wipe the system as much in Mac. And in Windows you need to take special care if you want to have good performance for a long time. I also use Linux a lot.
      I could continue without a format really, didn’t have much problems with my old system but I guess it’s a habit now. Left some partition but I wanted to wipe the programs too. I also backed up the system with Acronis so that’s good, as long as I don’t get Win8. In total it lasted around 4-5 hours to install all the stuff & update, though it took longer to write and edit this article.
      It’s up to what you want really, I enjoy PC games a lot and using Wine just isn’t enough sometimes^^ Never tried Wine on Mac but on Linux.

      1. I use Parallels Desktop on the Mac if I need to do something that really can’t be done on OS X. This works very well but don’t expect to be able to play games with it. I stopped playing games on a desktop machine anyway about 8 or 10 years ago.

  3. I skipped step #16-32 hahahaha. I know what the page file is for, ad-aware, etc, yet I prefer to stay with my basic system as simple as I can, and leave my desktop pretty clear without cluttered and messy icons. I use windows 7 home premium as a built in OS from my laptop manufacturer.
    For protective purposes, I prefer to rely on windows update (including SP update/grade), windows firewall update, IE/WM player update. Even I don’t have Winamp LOL…coz conventional classic media player (with some extra installed codecs) is sufficient for playing from flv up to matroska. I’m not a programmer so I dont find notepad++ is necessary. The UAC and system restore are still active in my OS. Overall, my softwares are:
    Built-in (I have the original CDs packed with my laptop so it will be easier if I need to reinstall them later): OS, Roxio burn, Acrobat reader, drivers. Extra: Office, AVG, Chrome, Gimp, classic media player, file splitter/joiner, Skype, YM, BB PC suite.

    1. Indeed, I also use Windows 7. The reason for the page file is that I tend to not trust Windows for everything, but leaving it alone should be mostly alright. The latter steps are pretty much optional anyway. And before formatting I also didn’t have Ad-aware and only used AVG and it was pretty much enough, but decided to give it a try and see what it could do now 😛 But 10 something steps are enough for a minimal to-do list, with a couple extra stuff you would need.
      True, I added music players as optional since some users could like having their favorite players and plugins.
      Notepad++ is a good replacement for the regular notepad in any case, but depends on if you use notepad or not, looks much better and have tabs. And more^^
      I used to have Acrobat reader too but switched to Foxit some time ago.
      Overall, your system isn’t cluttered, so yay ^^
      Actually, there isn’t even CCleaner in the list, not sure why I didn’t put that, I might update it a little.

  4. Forgot: I’m a chemical engineer so I also have these engineering softwares: ChemCAD student version, Scilab (Open source version of MATLABtm), and free unit converter (people think it’s a file extension converter, nope, it’s a pound to kilogram converter thingy LOL). I don’t need FTP client coz I never send or receive files using FTP, and my download manager is Chrome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *