My first Windows 7 build

I rebuilt a friend’s Windows 7 system this week.

The system includes a 30 GB SSD to boot from, and a RAID 1 mirror of 1 TB drives for storage. Aside from the two 1 TB drives, it’s basically a collection of $100 components. $100 Asus motherboard, $100 video card, $100 CPU. It seems like right now, no matter what individual system component you’re looking at, $100 buys you something really nice without going too far over the top. I’m sure certain aristocrats might disagree, but any reasonable person ought to really like using this system.

A little incident with Microsoft Security Essentials (I don’t recommend attempting to uninstall and reinstall it, at least not on a 64-bit system) rendered the system in a state where it made more sense to just rebuild it. By the time it got into my hands, it was giving an error code 0×80070643 upon reinstallation. I researched it, but the usual fixes for that code didn’t work. I could have opened a support case, but given a choice between spending an hour e-mailing back and forth or talking on the phone trying to fix it, or spending an hour babysitting an install of Windows, Office, Firefox, and MSSE, I preferred to just reinstall. If the system had a mountain of stuff installed, I probably would have gone with the support case.

Windows 7′s installation goes a lot more smoothly than earlier versions. I think it asked me a total of five questions: what drive to install to, the product key, the computer name, and a username and password. Once it had that information, it just merrily installed itself, rebooted however many times it needed to, and even pulled down some system updates and new device drivers. I didn’t hold a stopwatch to it or anything, but I think it was done in less than 30 minutes. I just did other things while I waited for it to finish, and checked on the system when I heard the tell-tale reboot beep.

I didn’t hold a stopwatch to anything else either, but Office 2010 installed in 5-10 minutes. MSSE and Firefox were faster.

Once I had everything installed, I installed MyDefrag (www.mydefrag.com) and defragmented both drives. Yes, one is an SSD. MyDefrag has a setting for defragmenting SSDs. I suggest running it about once a year–I think the author’s recommendation of once a month is probably too much. SSDs don’t need defragmentation nearly as much as platter drives, but with a severely fragmented disk, all I/O ends up being random I/O. Defragment the drive, and you get nice, sustained, bus-saturating throughput.

I also ran CCleaner (www.ccleaner.com) to get rid of the residuals from the system updates. Right now that SSD has 13.5 GB free. I suspect that’s not going to seem cavernous for long. When you’re living with Windows 7 and a small SSD, running CCleaner once a month seems like a good idea.

Windows 7 promises not to be as crazy with the system updates as Windows XP was. So far that seems to hold, but it’s impossible to predict the future.

I moved most of the pagefile off the SSD to save space, so there’s no need to run Pagedefrag. The page file is already contiguous. I wouldn’t be inclined to bother with NTregopt, but it mgiht be nice down the line to have it available. If I take the time to install it, I might as well run it and take the likely miniscule and unnoticeable improvement in registry size, memory usage and boot time. The difference is more noticeable on a netbook that you’ve had to uninstall some junkware from than on a freshly installed system.

If I had more time, I would break the RAID mirror, run Spinrite on the two platter drives separately, then RAID them back together. I probably don’t have time to do that.

If you do have to uninstall MSSE on a 64-bit system, I recommend using Revouninstaller rather than Add/Remove Programs. The uninstallation left enough traces behind that the software got confused when I tried to re-install.

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