Answers To Windows Questions

Maristel Got A "Restore Disk" - Wants To Buy A Full Windows CD-ROM - But What About Drivers?
Hi I just love your newsletter and am also a proud member of the C8 forum as well. I'm asking about a post in your Issue 164 Premium of December 8, 2006 and the comment made by Jim regarding Restore Disks vs. Full Operating Disks. I have the same problem. I have a HP Pavilion Desktop PC and I ranted to them about not having the full CDs and all the junk they put on it when I have to reformat. Your answer is perfectly right because you can't get the CD unless you pay the full price. Thanks for that informative answer C8. Now what I would like to know is if I were to purchase a full version of Windows XP so I could have it on hand for the next goof up of my pc, how would I go about finding my drivers so I can save them somewhere if needed or back them up to another DVD or CD? Thank you kindly for your most informative newsletter. Maristel :)

Our Answer
Hi Maristel. Thanks for your support and for your nice comments. Some computer manufacturers do allow you to buy (as an option), the full Windows CD at a substantial discount. We purchased two new Dell computers last summer, and we were able to get the optional full Windows CD for around $10.00 - they also included a driver disk (free).

But, you're right - buying a new Windows XP CD will not ensure you a smooth, trouble-free experience should you need to format your hard drive and reinstall Windows. Finding the right drivers for your particular computer can be a painful, time-consuming adventure. While, you will probably find that the Windows XP installation disk contains enough "generic" drivers so you can use your computer, some of your devices most likely either are not going to work or they're not going to work correctly.

On the bright side, if you format your Windows drive (the hard drive or partition on which Windows is installed) and install Windows from the Windows CD-ROM, you won't have to spend the next two weeks removing all the junk that your recovery disk would have installed. And, since we've been down this road many times, we can tell you, with 100% certainty, that your computer will be noticeably faster and more responsive after doing a clean install with the Windows XP CD-ROM.

Windows does not store all drivers in the same location and devices you've added to your computer may store drivers in other locations than Windows. So drivers are store in a helter-skelter sort of way and as long as Windows knows where to look for them, you're fine.

But formatting your hard drive removes everything - including your drivers, and the Windows installation disk installs generic device drivers, because they're needed to complete the installation of Windows. If Windows didn't install some generic drivers, your CD-ROM or DVD drive wouldn't work and you wouldn't get too far reinstalling Windows. So there's a good reason Windows installs generic drivers: to get you through the installation of Windows. But these drivers are not intended for use after the install, but formatting and reinstalling Windows without having all your device drivers backed up can leave you using generic drivers until you have time to search the Web for every device driver you're missing - a time-consuming and sometimes ultimately frustrating experience.

So, you should install a driver backup utility. There are many of them around. Most cost between $29 - $39. But, we found a free one that will backup all your drivers to a location you specify. This free utility does not automatically "restore" them for you like the commercial versions do- however it's quite a simple process to "point" Windows to the folder where you stored the drivers you backed up. Windows will "look" for the drivers for each device - and all you have to do is "show" Windows where they are.  So store the device drivers on a CD or Flash Drive. Don't store them on your Windows drive - if you do, they'll not be there when you need them.

You can download (and learn more about ) the free "Driver Magician Lite" from this link. If you don't even want to go through the process of pointing the driver locations out to Windows, you can buy the full version of Driver Magician here. We've looked at the light version and feel it would do the job for you if you don't mind a little extra (but not hard) work. If you don't like either of those options, simply google "Windows Drivers Backup Software" and you'll find a dozen others.

Some final notes: When you purchase a Windows XP CD, you only need the "Upgrade" version, you do not need the "Full" version. The difference? About $100 extra for the full version and the "Upgrade" version will require that during installation you "prove" to Windows you are eligible to use the "Upgrade". You can "prove" this by inserting your HP Recovery Disk (or an old Windows 98 or Windows ME CD if you have one) when Windows asks you for it.

Unless you have special network requirements - Windows XP Home or Windows XP Media Edition will work just fine for you. You can save another $100.00 or so by not opting for Windows XP Professional.

If your computer is capable of running Windows Vista (you can find out here) you might want to wait a bit. Microsoft is releasing Windows Vista to the public on January 30, 2007. You could upgrade to Vista, instead of XP, but if you're considering this option, please do make sure that your current computer is powerful enough to run Vista.

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