3 Projects To Use Computer Downtime While Re-Installing Windows

Tina Sieber 21-01-2014

It’s creeping up on you like the dark and suddenly you notice it has happened again: It’s time to re-install Windows!


When the lack of speed becomes unbearable, you can try to speed up Windows with a RAM upgrade How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step Is your laptop old, slow, and has the hardware never been upgraded? Working on a slow computer can be a real drag. Before you buy a completely new one, however, you should consider ways to... Read More or by removing the malware 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More you might have picked up. The most thorough way to bring your computer back to speed, however, is to re-install the operating system; or restore, refresh, or reset Windows 8 How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More .

Or maybe it’s not a speed issue at all, but you regret upgrading to Windows 8.1 and just found out that the only way to downgrade to Windows 8 How To Upgrade To Windows 8.1 & How To Downgrade Back To Windows 8 The Windows 8.1 update is free, easy, and gives you access to new and improved features. It is, however, impossible to simply downgrade to Windows 8, unless you plan to before updating. Let us show... Read More is to re-install it.

In any case, you’ll be stuck at your desk for a while! Rather than letting the computer waste even more of your time, do something productive, while watching over the installation process. Here are some ideas.

Clean Your Computer

When was the last time you wiped your screen or cleaned your mouse and keyboard? Chances are, your computer hardware is dirtier than your toilet. After all, you don’t wash your hands before you use it, you touch it all the time, and if you eat at your desk, you probably have crumbs and spots all over it. And you were worried about a virus? What about all those bacteria?

Tech Germs Infographic


While you’re re-installing your operating system, you can’t do much with the associated hardware, but you could give it a quick cleaning. If possible, disconnect and turn off the units you want to clean. If you have a laptop, use lightly dampened cloths only and — obviously — make sure no liquids drip into your device.

We have previously explained how to clean an LCD screen The Best Way To Effectively Clean LCD Monitor Screens Read More . While you’re at it, you might also want to clean the touchscreen How to Safely Clean Your Tablet or Mobile Phone Touchscreen Grime and dirt can impact touchscreen performance. Here's how stop that by cleaning your mobile phone or tablet touchscreen. Read More on your smartphone or tablet. In my PC Spring Cleaning Checklist A Spring Cleaning Checklist For Your PC Part 1: Hardware Cleaning With the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, houses across the globe get a nice cleaning to rid them of dirt and clutter that has accumulated over the past year. Dust and junk also... Read More , I wrote about cleaning a keyboard:

You can carefully vacuum the keyboard to remove loose particles and dust. Afterwards, wipe the keys with a lint-free cloth that is lightly dampened. Finally, disinfect the keyboard using alcohol wipes or spray some alcohol-containing cleaner on your cloth.

Use the same procedure for cleaning your mouse and carefully wipe the light diode with a Q-tip. Just don’t use aggressive cleaning agents; water, household vinegar or a bit of cleaning alcohol will do just fine.

Clean Up Cable Clutter

Have a look under your desk. What do you see?


Nobody is save from cable clutter. And with the growing number of devices and no affordable wireless charging solution in sight, the issue spreads like an epidemic across households and rooms. Certainly your desk is affected. So while Windows is doing its thing, maybe you have a chance to crawl under the desk and do some cleaning.

If you have a laptop, plug it directly into an available wall socket. Then you can unplug and rearrange all your other devices and power strips. If you have a desktop computer, simply unplug everything you don’t need and sort those cables; you can do the computer and monitor cables last. This article has some tips for cleaning up the cable clutter 5 Ways to Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk Cable clutter is one of technology's biggest annoyances. Here's how to organize and arrange the cables under your desk. Read More underneath your desk.

sort cable clutter

Sort Your Cable Storage

We all have a drawer or box/es full of random tech gear. Do/es yours contain an ungodly amount of cables? You probably get frustrated every time you need to get one. Well guess what? There is an easy solution to tidy up that mess!


All it takes is a bunch of empty toilet paper rolls and a smaller box to hold them. Yes, you will be collecting toilet paper rolls for a few weeks, but the next time you have to re-install your computer, you will also sort out your cable clutter Drowning In Cable Clutter? Cable Storage Tips To Tidy Your Home Read More  – once and forever.

Anti Cable Clutter Box

I arranged my own cable box (pictured above) so that both ends of each cable poke out. This way I can immediately tell different cables apart and it only takes a second to find the one I’m looking for. Kudos to berserk, who shared the toilet paper organizer box idea on Instructables.

Don’t Waste Your Time

Generally, re-installing Windows is worth the time invested. You’ll end up with a clean and responsive operating system. And if you productively use the time it takes to get through the installation process, you’ll even have a physically cleaner computer and an organized desk.


Once you have a fresh setup, customized to your needs and preferences, be smart and clone your hard drive How to Use Clonezilla to Clone Your Windows Hard Drive Here's all you need to know about how to use Clonezilla to clone your hard drive in the easiest way. Read More . It’s much easier to restore your computer from an image of a working Windows installation, than to start from scratch. And whatever you do, always make backups of your files 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More !

What do you usually do while you’re installing the operating system?

Image Source: Lisa Brewster via Flickr, Tech Germs Infographic via Keeping It Kleen

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Workspace.

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    February 2, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    With an ssd, 16gb of ram, an i7 processor, and a fast flash drive it takes about 20 minutes. 10 If I have the iso on a partition on the ssd.

    • Tina Sieber
      February 2, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Sounds fast. Not much time to do much.

  2. James V
    March 8, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Don't waste time reinstalling Windows. Linux is a lot cleaner and takes less than 20 minutes, so you can clean your keyboard in that time.

  3. Gord
    January 22, 2014 at 6:02 am

    If I were to re-install windows, the time spent for reinstalling would not go to cleaning my computer and its peripherals. I never clean these items...NEVER! My desk top or laptop(whatever I happen to have at the time) never ever look dirty....and I never get catch anything from them because I never get sick.

  4. Manuth C
    January 22, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Windows 8 installation can go through as fast as 20 minutes, you can't do things described above

  5. likefunbutnot
    January 22, 2014 at 3:27 am

    @Bruce E.

    It's not that hard, man. Windows install .ISO files can be copied to a flash drive with a tool that is free from Microsoft. No, Sysprep doesn't actually make the image, but you can do that with ImageX or True Image or CloneZilla.

    There are tools for building a better Windows install. You can actually add drivers and Windows updates with a little patience using RT 7 Lite (or Microsoft's Automated Install toolkit, but that is awful) and the readily available collections of drivers from Dissimilar hardware is really not a major factor these days; for the most part every PC made in the last four years uses one of just a couple core configurations, so it's pretty simple to build an image that will install on numerous hardware arrangements.

    It would probably take me about two and a half hours to build a relatively universal Intel-based Windows install image from scratch, including app installs and a customized default user profile. I deploy enough machines in a given month that doing the leg work ahead of time is entirely worthwhile. As it stands all I really have to do I occasionally folds .msu files in to my existing image. I'd consider it a worthwhile use of time even if I were only doing it for three machines.

    Finally, I haven't deployed a system that did not have an SSD since late 2012. They are inexpensive , mainstream components now.

    • Tina S
      January 22, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Well, I guess you were not the target audience for this article. Our audience is diverse. So if you ever have some spare time, maybe you could turn your process into a guest article for us. You have my email address.

  6. Tika maya
    January 22, 2014 at 3:13 am

    Knowing the fact that i need to re-install window , i become quite uncomfortable because all i need to do during these period was to wait until the installing process completed . I really wanted to do some productive work during these waiting period , but can't been able to leave laptop alone (as it requires to do little process for moving forward). Above given tips are great ideas to do during such periods without leaving the system at all . Thank-you :)

  7. likefunbutnot
    January 21, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Windows can be loaded from a Flash drive. Even on some crummy old Celeron with a marginal amount of RAM, it's going to install in something around or under 20 minutes.

    IT-pros and more-than-casual system builders who do this stuff a lot know that there's such a thing as Sysprep - basically the process of building and configuring a perfect Windows installation including Drivers and Applications so that all the user-specific data is discarded while the overall system configuration is retained for a disk image. I can lay down an 11GB Windows 7 disk image that includes Office and a very functional set of freeware applications on an SSD-equipped client machine in about seven minutes. Seven minutes is just enough time for me to go make a decent cup of tea. It's hardly a major inconvenience.

    • Bruce E
      January 22, 2014 at 2:09 am

      Sysprep is the tool used to make an installation image generic, it doesn't make the image itself. That is a much more involved process that the vast majority of users don't (and probably never want to) do. They also don't know how to make a bootable flash drive that contains the required installation image. They don't have SSD-equipped systems either. So all of the things that are required for you to do this 7 minute install do not apply to the average user.

      BTW, how much time did you spend setting up this installation image? The last one I did was on a upper-midrange system a few years ago and it took just over 3 hours. How many people are going to want to take this route with their one desktop and 2 laptops, all from different manufacturers requiring different custom drivers?

  8. dragonmouth
    January 21, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Who designed the graphic, Howard Hughes? Looks like it was a pathological germophobe. Next you'll be telling us to wear a Type IV containment suit while working on our PCs.

  9. James
    January 21, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Isn't it fun to read all this bull___t?

  10. def
    January 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    ...On a decent rig, the reinstallation process takes only a few minutes, and actually it's quite ok, to spend this time to simply lie down with closed eyes and enjoy that tranquility, lack of new information to process.

    Nowadays, in addition to usual Rat Race we have yet another one: it screams "stop wasting your time, do something productive, why won't you meditate, don't just BE, what's wrong with you, " etc.

    I'm sorry, I know the author didn't mean to bring any harm while writing this article, but it doesn't change a thing. As an alternative my suggestion is: simply do nothing. Waste some time, from time to time - it's yours, and you can't save it, you can't put it on some account and withdraw later.

    • Bruce E
      January 22, 2014 at 2:00 am

      If you stop to consider that MOST people are not running Windows 8.x, are not reimaging a machine, are doing this from either a recovery partition on their hard disk or a CD/DVD set that was (hopefully) burned after unboxing and initially setting up the machine and the machine is most likely a few years old at a minimum, it takes more than a few minutes. And that is not even looking at the time spent bringing all of that software up to date with service packs, hotfixes and other updates which in almost every case will take far longer than the initial reinstall.

      I just did this for a client about 2 weeks ago. The machine is about 3 1/2 years old running Windows 7 Home Premium. Backing up their existing data (primarily pictures) took about 10 minutes. Reimaging the drive from the recovery partition took about 10 minutes to get it to its initial out-of-box state. Running OOBE took about 7 minutes. Half an hour is gone already

      From this initial working state, I removed the crap (MS Office that would not be used by the client, Java, preinstalled toolbars) that was not required on the system as well as those that were severely outdated (Flash, etc). This took about 5 minutes.

      Next, I used a WSUS Offline DVD I created to install Win 7 SP1 & all of the then-current updates for the OS. This took just over 2 hours which is much faster than it would have been if I had done it through Windows Update and been required to download all of the patches before installing them with even more reboots than the DVD required. Again, most users don't have this advantage simply because they don't know how to do it or even that it is possible.

      Now I finally connected it to the Internet (via 3G modem) and updated to the latest version of their licensed security suite and downloaded all of the latest software and definition updates. This took another 15 minutes or so.

      Next, I installed the latest version of Flash, CCleaner, Malwarebytes & TeamViewer and updated all other preinstalled software on the system which took about 15 minutes.

      After that were the drivers and associated software for their AIO printer. That alone took about 20 minutes. The updater for this one required an update of its own and after that was done there was still another for the USB communications driver. Another 3 minutes or so there.

      Luckily for me, they did not have any additional software they needed to have installed on the system that did not already come with it otherwise it would have taken much longer than this.

      Here, I ran disk cleanup to get rid of unnecessary SP1-related files, ran CCleaner to get what disk cleanup misses, analyzed the registry for any obvious errors, and optimized the sytem settings for speed and security. About 10 minutes.

      With a freshly installed, stable and relatively clean system, I created a system image for future rebuilds using Microsoft's backup tool. Another 15 minutes gone.

      After restoring their data (around 10 minutes) and setting up scheduled backups, the end result was more than 4 hours of my time consumed. An older (and slower) machine would have required even more time and XP machines tend to take even longer simply because of the even larger number of updates needed.

      The only way this can be done in less than an hour is if you already have a fairly recent system image to use along with current backups of your data. If you are one of the majority of Windows users out there, you don't have either of these and it will show in the amount of time it takes to do a proper rebuild of the machine.

    • Tina S
      January 22, 2014 at 9:10 am

      I appreciate your notion, def. "Wasting time" to relax and do nothing definitely is important. I just don't think sitting in front of your computer and waiting until the system asks you to perform the next keystroke is a great time to relax. I'd rather do something productive than feel like I wasted that time.