Optimizing a brand-new PC

Dell offering PCs free of bloatware and crapware reminds me of the ultimate optimization tip, the thing you should do on Day 1 immediately after unboxing your PC.

Reformat the hard drive and start over.Most PCs get shipped with lots of garbage you don’t want or need. It used to primarily be signups for online services, but there are plenty of applications you’ll never use, trial applications that aren’t fully functional unless you pay for them, and who knows what else.

The reason this stuff gets bundled generally comes down to money. The manufactuer loads this stuff, and the company who made it pays a small fee. The software company is hoping you’ll sign up; the computer maker uses the money to subsidize the cost of the hardware (computer hardware is a very low-margin business).

Software that you install but don’t use slows your computer down, because it chews up disk space, bloats the registry, and it may keep some components loaded at all times. Get rid of that garbage, and the computer speeds up.

When I started working in desktop support way back in 1995, this was standard procedure. We squeezed far more life out of computers than anyone could reasonably expect us to do. But we had to do it–we had virtually no budget to work with.

So, assuming your PC comes with a real Windows CD (not just a system restore CD that reloads the factory image, junk and all), insert that CD when you power on, format the hard drive and install fresh. Better yet, use another computer to set up Nlite so you can install Windows with exactly the components you want. That way, if you don’t want or need, say, Media Player, you don’t have to have it. (Personally, I like to watch videos and listen to MP3s on my servers, especially seeing as they don’t have sound cards.)

If you haven’t ordered your new PC yet, be sure to ask when you buy whether it comes with a system restore CD or a real Windows CD.

If a new PC doesn’t come with a real, bootable Windows CD and I don’t have any other means to get one, I wouldn’t buy the PC. Period. That’s how important this is.

3 thoughts on “Optimizing a brand-new PC

  • July 13, 2007 at 7:48 am
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    Actually, I was just about to get into nliteos so I could build an XP install CD which incl the proper drivers (SATA controller, etc…) for my wife’s new Dell. From skimming the doc, it seems to be fairly easy to use.

    Any hints or tips for using it ?

    • July 13, 2007 at 12:26 pm
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      I last used it in December but it was pretty straightforward and I found the documentation to be accurate. I didn’t succeed in creating the 60-megabyte Windows 2000 install that they say is possible, so I’ll have to try again. Windows 2000 in 60 megs sounds pretty good. The smallest I ever got Win95 down to was 17. ๐Ÿ™‚

      But for me, it was just a matter of copying the files off the CD, copying the service packs and hotfixes into place along with the drivers I wanted, and the program took care of the rest.

      • July 17, 2007 at 8:08 am
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        Cool, I’ll let you know how it goes… (gonna be awhile, we’re moving to a new house in about a week and things are kinda busy ๐Ÿ˜‰

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