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What You Said: The First Things to Do After Installing a New OS

Earlier this week we asked you to share the steps you went through after installing a new operating system. You responded and we rounded up your responses.

Our Ask the Readers series gives you, the awesome How-To Geek reader, a chance to share your tips, trick, and technological know-how with your fellow readers right on the front page. Every week we ask a question and every week we round up your tips to share. This week we’re taking a look at your tips and tricks from What’s the First Thing You Do After Installing a New OS.

Image the Clean Installation

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Depending on your OS and your hardware, a virgin OS load can range from easy to maddening. To preserve things in case updates and driver installations go awry, many of you imaged the drive immediately after you created a fresh install. HTG reader Nick explains:

First thing? I backup the operating system image on a 2nd drive – so when something goes wrong as I load drivers, etc. I can revert to the clean install. Then after I’ve installed drivers and a few programs (AV, etc.) [I perform]another system image backup.

If you have the extra hard drive space for two images it’s a great convenience to have a virgin install image and a freshly tweaked and updated install image on hand for future restoration needs. If you’ve never imaged a hard drive before check out our guide to using an Ubuntu Live CD to image your hard drive for safe keeping.

Decrapify Your Installation

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Not everyone is lucky enough to do clean install from pure OS disc; sometimes you have to do a reinstall using the crapware loaded recovery disk that came with your computer. In that case readers, like Daryl, turned to tools like PC Decrapifier to remove all the share, nag, and crapware that computer companies insist on loading up. After you’ve gone to the work of exorcising the crapware demons, it’s definitely time to image that clean installation.

Armor Up with a Firewall and Antivirus

Although specific combinations varied, almost every reader wisely secured their computer by checking the default firewall or installed a 3rd party one and then installing an antivirus application. Two of the more popular choices were Avast! Free and Microsoft Security Essentials. This is where having a copy of your favorite antivirus software on a flash drive or a network drive is handy as it allows you to armor up before even connecting your computer to the greater internet.

Install Drivers and Updates

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Once your OS is installed, the vast majority of you go right for driver installation and OS updates to ensure a solid foundation for the rest of your tweaks. Readers almost universally worked through drive installations from the most critical to the least critical (video, network card, and motherboard drives before audio and peripheral drivers, for example). Reader Matti has a technique for speeding up this phase of the process:

I disable system restore first. After that installing updates and software go a lot faster because Windows won’t create a restore point for them. After all installations I put it back on.

If you’re confident you’re not going to need the system restore during this portion of your post-OS installation work, it’s a major timer saver.

Grab All Your Favorite Apps with Ninite

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The comments on the original post were overflowing with praise for Ninite. Ninite is a service available for Windows and Linux that makes it simple to bundle apps and download them for one-shot installation. Edvin was one of the many, many, readers who used Ninite:

  1. Create a software bundle with Ninite, download the bundle to install all my programs in one run with out a hassle. (I have all my files on separate HDDs and in Dropbox so the system disk is clean of important files and has only the OS).
  2. Log into Dropbox to get my documents (after installation in prev. step) and sometimes, if needed, copy my user home directory in place to get all my settings back.
  3. Tweak my programs.

This usually takes around an hour, and after I have a fully working desktop.

Rather than download Chrome, Skype, Thunderbird, VLC, Flash, Java, Adobe Reader, Dropbox, and dozens of other applications one-by-one as you visit their respective web sites, Ninite rolls them all into one. You simply check the apps you want to include in the bundle and click Get Installer at the bottom of the page when you’re done. Grabbing popular apps and installing them quickly has never been easier.


For more great tips and tricks hit up the comments on the original post and the responses on the How-To Geek Facebook page. Have something to add to the fresh OS install conversation? Let’s hear about it in the comments. Have a great idea for the next Ask the Readers post? Shoot us an email at tips@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to get it on the front page.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/18/11

Comments (23)

  1. Carlos Ferrari

    So basically you just cover a Windows install in this article.
    Does that mean that Linux and OSX are easier and trouble-free..?

  2. trm96

    @Carlos Ferrari
    No, it takes me about a month to get a Linux box running the way I want when I install fresh. And as fas as OSX, It only takes me like a few days. To answer your question Linux is nor easer than windows but (at lest for me) OSX is.

  3. Carlos Ferrari

    @trm96: actually I was just joking with a little sarcasm because there is no mention of both in the article. :P
    But yeah you’re right, to me is almost like that too the difference being that because I ain’t really a power user in Linux it’s kinda easy for me to set it up. And about OSX is easy-peasy. :)

  4. Freak Andelle

    a baby can ‘set up’ Linux Mint within a day…

  5. Freak Andelle

    the simple fact that there’s a program for windows that’s called ‘Decrapifier’ pretty much sums it all up… what a blast!

  6. Freak Andelle

    Oh and yes, tux might as well be removed from the banner. ;)

  7. Rogue

    I’m not a big fan of MSE. I prefer Comodo Internet Security Premium. It’s free but may be intimidating to a beginner.

  8. Carlos Ferrari

    @Freak Andelle: you’re absolutely right about this Decrapifier sh1t, I didn’t even thought about it. lol :D

  9. Tim

    Decrapifier is to be used for a “restore” of a factory disk’s from say compaq, not a fresh install of the os……

  10. J Seeger

    Takes me less than 3 hours to install Kubuntu Linux, get all updates, and install my apps and configure things to my liking. 4 hours if you count the time it takes to down load the .iso for the install.

  11. gyffes

    I wish there was a Ninite for the Mac… and the App Store doesn’t count.

    I had to rebuild an imac, 2 MBPs and 3 Win7 machines this week (yes, it was a hellish week) and while the restores of the macs went great (thanks, Time Machine!), the one machine that needed a clean install took longer than the Win7 machine solely b/c of Ninite.

    I concur, though: if you start with Mint or Zorin, your linux install is nearly done. One “sudo apt-get install htop conky geany bluefish” and a manual LibreOffice install (2 simple to type bits of code THEY provide for you) later and the machine is ready.

  12. Carlos Ferrari

    @Tim: oh I see! I didn’t knew that ’cause I’ve never had any of those “restore” disk’s… But that name “Decrapifier” still funny. :P

  13. shane

    Being an experienced linux admin its actually a pretty simple process for me to install linux. Over the past 10 years I have developed my own bash script similar to ninite. After a very basic cli only install, generally taking less than 30 minutes, I run my script and it will download and install all apps and programs I generally desire and also setup my environment the way I like. As I do tend to stick with debian-based distros most of the work is performed with a simple apt-get command, though setup of my environment and installation of some apps and services are done with svn to ensure I have the most up to date patches. And since I have a standalone firewall with builtin antivirus scanner, and a very strict policy on foreign data storage being brought into my internal network I don’t worry a whole lot about antivirus software on individual workstations. All in all install takes me just under a couple hours, 85% of which is compiling software from source. Although this could be argued as I still learn new stuff about the apps I use everyday, so you could say that my install is never complete and ever evolving!

  14. cam2644

    Recently installed Ubuntu on a second PC and it was easy and fast.Much easier than Windows.Of course,there is a lot more you can do with a Linux OS after installation

  15. Brian

    3-4 hours for Ubuntu for me. I add a whole bunch of apps and customization so maybe 5 total. Considering how much freedom I have to tweak and adapt the OS to my needs that is a good time and trying to do the same on my wife’s macbook and OS X is not possible as Apple doesn’t have nearly the same level of customization. Windows never gets on my computers!!

  16. Anon

    I’m waiting to reinstall fresh with my newly created Win7 x64 Slipped-streamed SP1 disc so I can image backup the OS. Usually that’s the first thing I do. But with that SP1 for Win7 just came out, I just slipstreamed the disc a month ago. Takes 12-15 min to install Win7 on my Vertex 2 SSD. To image backup takes 6 min. To restore the image takes 3 to 4 min.

    Then install my AMD video drivers.

    Then after I install firefox, I unrar my backed up Firefox profile and restore it @ C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla.

    Then I install Comodo firewall as it is the only true x64 firewall vs any other firewall besides Windows firewall.

    I don’t use anti virus.

    Then DXSetup.

    Then I install PC games.

    Then PBSetup & xfire, amsn.

    By now, only an hour goes by.

    @brian

    Most PC gamers needs Win7. People that have an SSD needs Win7 as it is the only OS that supports trim.

    I for one, Linux will never touch my SSD. Have absolutely no need for linux anyways.

  17. linuxadore

    Ordinary (non-professional) Linux user experience:

    1. There is no need for me to backup fresh install in Ubuntu, because I create separate /home partition.
    That allows me to make fresh install whenever I want, with preserved data and settings on /home; especially like possibility to install another OS alongside and share /home betwen two/several OS.
    I made /backup partition to hold secure device settings (android phone etc). I tweak all new apps easilly for a few hours.

    2. There is no need for antivirus software in Ubuntu if you don’t share data with Windows users often, or with your other, own Windows partition in case of dual boot.

    3. Linux drivers are tested with Live CD before installing. No fear at all for me.

    4. Preserving data to stay secure, I take care about my hardware – regularly clean CPU fan and whole machine with compressed air to avoid overheating and hard disc failure (I already paid my mistake 2 years ago about backup). More than a year I used various Linux live CDs to be online and find solutions for recovery on my own…and it worked – 90% data solved and I learned a lot for free!

    5. Whenever something goes wrong – there are my Linux live CDs to save me, especially RIPLinux (my Slackware based rescue kit), which works on Windoze platform also…(No way to use MS products at home nevermore)

  18. Phil

    I wonder how the majority of people manage their computers. To keep a windows computer runing properly requires about an hour of time every week installing all of the patches and updates. the service packs can take several hours. Then keeping your registry clean and getting rid of all the junk that accumulates on a daily basis. It is really a chore. There has to be a better and easier way. As for a new OS, setting up your computer with all of your software and activating and deactivating becomes a real pain in the “a”. If I want to use my purchased copy of Windows 7 on another machine, it first have to deactivate on is exisiting computer before I can install it on another. What a pain.

  19. Mike

    Can’t we all get along? Let’s stick to the subject. What is the best way to find a missing driver? Let’s say you reinstall windows on an old machine but for one of other reason can’t find information about the motherboard how will you find the driver you need?

  20. Jack

    I was a professional unix geek back when… I went to interview for a consulting company that asked what I thought about windows (baiting me, in front of both windows and unix admins and DBAs, … My answer was wonderfully truthful. My response? … As a consultant, I consider Windows a wonderful billing opportunity… everyone got a laugh. Oh yes, I did get the gig!

    IMHO, all OSes have their plusses and minuses. Personally, I like understanding the OS all the way down to the hardware . Not everyone has that need, and they can be happy and comfortable without being able to get the knowledge of how every nut an bolt works.

    Use the tool you like, tell us of the advantages, many of us really are interested, but please, don’t put down those of us that march to a different drummer.

    You can point out the differences in a compare/contrast but don’t put anything or anyone down … that kind of activity doesn’t bring you up a notch in many eyes.

  21. shreyas

    shane can u please tell me how to install linux(red hat)

  22. pitman

    After a fresh install I always visit http://www.blackviper.com/ and disable unnecessary Windows services.
    Also registry tweaking for great justice.

  23. paul

    shreyas, dont worry about red hat, get fedora, its the free version. you can get it free here http://fedoraproject.org

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