Curious about when you installed Windows and how long you’ve been chugging along without a system refresh? Read on as we show you a simple way to see how long-in-the-tooth your Windows installation is.

Dear How-To Geek,

It feels like it has been forever since I installed Windows 7 and I’m starting to wonder if some of the performance issues I’m experiencing have something to do with how long ago it was installed. It isn’t crashing or anything horrible, mind you, it just feels slower than it used to and I’m wondering if I should reinstall it to wipe the slate clean. Is there a simple way to determine the original installation date of Windows on its host machine?


Worried in Windows

Although you only intended to ask one question, you actually asked two. Your direct question is an easy one to answer (how to check the Windows installation date). The indirect question is, however, a little trickier (if you need to reinstall Windows to get a performance boost). Let’s start off with the easy one: how to check your installation date.

Windows includes a handy little application just for the purposes of pulling up system information like the installation date, among other things. Open the Start Menu and type cmd in the run box (or, alternatively, press WinKey+R to pull up the run dialog and enter the same command).

At the command prompt, run:


Editor’s note: Helpful reader mjso74 pointed out in the comments section, that a more efficient command to use would be systeminfo | find /i "install date"  as it returns only one line with the exact information we’re looking for.

Give the application a moment to run; it takes around 15-20 seconds to gather all the data. You’ll most likely need to scroll back up in the console window to find the section at the top that lists operating system stats. What you care about is Original Install Date:

We’ve been running the machine we tested the command on since August 23 2009. For the curious, that’s one month and a day after the initial public release of Windows 7 (after we were done playing with early test releases and spent a month mucking around in the guts of Windows 7 to report on features and flaws, we ran a new clean installation and kept on trucking).

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Now, you might be asking yourself: Why haven’t they reinstalled Windows in all that time? Haven’t things slowed down? Haven’t they upgraded hardware? The truth of the matter is, in most cases there’s no need to completely wipe your computer and start from scratch to resolve issues with Windows and, if you don’t bog your system down with unnecessary and poorly written software, things keep humming along. In fact, we even migrated this machine from a traditional mechanical hard drive to a newer solid-state drive back in 2011.

Even though we’ve tested piles of software since then, the machine is still rather clean because 99% of that testing happened in a virtual machine. That’s not just a trick for technology bloggers, either, virtualizing is a handy trick for anyone who wants to run a rock solid base OS and avoid the bog-down-and-then-refresh cycle that can plague a heavily used machine.

So while it might be the case that you’ve been running Windows 7 for years and heavy software installation and use has bogged your system down to the point a refresh is in order, we’d strongly suggest reading over the following How-To Geek guides to see if you can’t wrangle the machine into shape without a total wipe (and, if you can’t, at least you’ll be in a better position to keep the refreshed machine light and zippy):

Armed with a little knowledge, you too can keep a computer humming along until the next iteration of Windows comes along (and beyond) without the hassle of reinstalling Windows and all your apps.

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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