Commentary: Computer reloads and pitfalls

September 14, 2011 

Computer problems come in many forms. When the hardware checks out and there are still issues, the operating system and software can be the culprits. A technician can check for missing device drivers, corrupt installations, viruses and conflicts between applications. Hours can be spent combing through the system for potential problems.

A complete and standard approach to ironing out software issues is an operating system reload, also known as a recovery or reinstall. A reload requires a legitimate copy of Windows, with the product key from the sticker which is displayed on the computer. A reload is complete and effective way to resolve software issues and the work will take a predictable amount of time. Trying to fix unknown software issues can take hours, even days of a technician’s bench time. If a virus is the cause of the software corruption, the challenge can be even more time consuming. So while there is an inconvenience to users in having a reload, the service charge for trying to find and resolve the problem without doing a reload could be excessive and could leave unresolved issues.

A reload is like spring cleaning for your computer. Every year to 18 months, an average user should consider reloading the operating system in order to optimize the computer’s performance. While the computer will run more quickly and efficiently, the user will notice many significant changes. When a tech recommends a reload, it is time to stop and consider exactly what your computer will look like after the reload.

Imagine that you are bringing the computer home all over again, as if you just purchased it. After a reload, anything you have saved or downloaded will be gone. Email archives and address book, favorites, personalization, special settings, saved files, saved photos, music or video, all will be erased. To keep any saved files, a backup must be performed before the reload. If a technician saves the files for you, they can be presented to you on disks, or can be placed back on your computer after the reload is completed.

Windows requires software to be reinstalled and not backed up. Software must be put back on the computer after the reload is complete. It must be reinstalled with your disk and product key, or by download online. Common software that may be missed after a reload includes Java, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Office (including Word), other accounting, word processing or photo editing software, DVD player/burner software, third party applications and anti-virus software.

If you still possess the recovery disks provided at purchase, the software that came with the computer can be put back on during the course of the reload. Some computer manufacturers instruct users to create recovery disks immediately after purchasing the computer. Other manufacturers use a partitioned hard drive to provide recovery capability. If you do not have recovery disks or a partition for recovery, a reload performed by a technician will provide a very clean, very basic set of applications, including Internet Explorer for web browsing and Microsoft Live Mail for email.

After reload, the system must be reconnected to peripherals, devices and internet access. Email may need to be reconfigured. Local security settings and passwords must be reset.

Before any recovery is started, talk with your trusted computer technician about what to expect when the process is complete.

Michael Shaffer, of Computer Renaissance of Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277 or at

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